Sunday Strategist: Add some Spring to your week
Here, another week’s worth of fast, healthy, and tasty menus. It’s not the love of cooking that deters so many of us from the kitchen each night – it’s actually deciding what to cook from the millions of options bombarding us from so many different places. Here, we’ve done the planning for you. Not just menus, but healthy menus that are fast – on the table in less than 45 minutes. Sound good? It does to me, too.
Monday: If you were lucky enough to have a fresh ham on the table for Easter Sunday brunch, you’ve likely got some leftovers that need to be finished off. Fresh ham is a different creature from the cured ham you might be used to. Fresh ham is bright and juicy, full of rich pork flavor and much less salty. It’s a special occasion sort of thing – perfect for Easter Sunday. Our Serrano, Manchego, and Apple Sandwiches would be delicious with all that leftover ham. No ham this Sunday? Just use the serrano or prosciutto called for in the recipe. You’ll find it in the grocery deli. Ask them to slice it up nice and thin for you. Roasted turkey works, too. We’ll use more of the arugula called for in the recipe later this week, so load up.
In case you’re just wondering, here’s the link to our Test Kitchen’s favorite Maple Mustard Glazed Fresh Ham. It is totally worth the time and effort involved. (You’ll get rave reviews when you post the results on Facebook or Instagram. Trust me.). I know… I promised you meals that come in under 45 minutes, so just keep this one in your back pocket for a do-it-yourself project day. It’s delicious.
Tuesday: There’s still a bit of nip in the air, but the pollen is out in full force down here in the South! I’m thinking something on the verge of comfort food and spring-fresh! The juicy Roasted Chicken Thighs are just the right dish -- and coated in a bright Mustard-Thyme Sauce that’s made delicately delicious with just a touch of butter. They’re bone-in thighs, which means they’ll cook up extra moist and tender. Cook a few extra thighs if you’ve got a spare minute or two, and we’ll use them in tomorrow night’s dish!
We’ll “spring” this dish up even further with a side of Roasted Potatoes and Green Beans. You’ve already got that oven heated up for the chicken, so throw these spring veggies in there while the oven is good and hot. I like a little extra garlic in my roasted potatoes, so feel free to add a few cloves if you’re feeling adventurous.
A balanced plate that’s delicious and ridiculously easy? Yep, and it’s ready in just 40 minutes. The chicken and veggies both cook at 425°F, so you can toss them all in the oven together. It’s okay. They like each other.
Wednesday: Is there such thing as having a case of the Wednesdays? I kind of like Wednesdays myself. I like to think of it as a relaxing midway point in the week. In an effort to wind down, I think you should try our Lemony Orzo-Veggie Salad with Chicken. It combines crunchy cucumber, bell pepper, and green onion with the bright flavors of lemon and dill. Even better? It’s sprinkled with goat cheese. (I have a hard time parting from the beloved chevre, but feta cheese works fine and dandy here, too. Whichever one you choose, we’ll use it again tomorrow night). If you roasted some extra chicken thighs for last night’s meal, they’ll be a perfect fit for tonight’s salad. If not, rotisserie chicken will do the trick, too. The best part? This meal is ready in 15 minutes. Superfast!! My recommendation to you: Make it as soon as you get home, and let it sit in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or so. If you’ve got some extra arugula from Monday’s sandwich, feel free to toss it into the salad. Grape tomatoes are another lovely addition.
Here’s where I also invite you to enjoy a bright, crisp white wine while you let all those flavors meld. They don’t call it Wine Down Wednesday for nothing!
Thursday: Let’s get fancy. Not crazy fancy -- just the kind of upgrade that’ll give you a little confidence boost. A restaurant quality meal in the comfort of your own home – made by YOU. It’ll be a fraction of the price and off the charts healthier than the restaurant version.
Crab Cakes! I have one strong warning about these cakes. Once you make, taste, and experience these gourmet gems, you’re going to become addicted and amazed at how easy, tasty, and healthy crab cakes can really be. Restaurant crab cakes are typically deep-fried and can contain over 700 calories and 1200 milligrams of sodium! Our version is both lighter and brighter, with just 320 calories and 555 milligrams of sodium -- and that includes our Spicy Rémoulade (which can be turned down a notch on the heat factor by omitting or reducing the amount of red pepper). Ready to go in just 20 minutes!
Serve alongside a fresh, crisp salad -- maybe something that highlights all those crunchy radishes that are inundating the market right about now. I'm thinking our Radish Salad with Goat Cheese. This green salad uses a touch of honey in the dressing, which pleasantly complements the peppery radish. Spinach makes for a mild salad base, but if you want some extra peppery punch, you can substitute arugula. As mentioned earlier, I love goat cheese, but feta makes an easy substitute in this salad.
Quick storage tip: When you bring radishes home from the garden or market, chop off the greens – they pull moisture from the root. After rinsing and scrubbing, store the roots in a produce bag in your crisper for up to a week. (Fresh radishes are also great to snack on. Try slicing and dipping into hummus. Mmmm. I love hummus.)
Friday: How about a Fried Rice Friday? Now the recipe I’m going to share with you calls for shrimp. If you splurged for crab cakes last night, some of you may not be up for another seafood dish. The beauty of this Shrimp Fried Rice is that it is truly versatile. Pork, tofu, or chicken would make great substitutions for the shrimp in this recipe. So if you do choose to sub in a different protein, cook it first. Just put a little canola oil in the pan and sear your protein on each side until it’s cooked through. Pull it off the heat and cover with a little foil to keep it warm. Then, toss it into the pan where the recipe calls for the shrimp to be added. It might add a few minutes to the total cook time, but you’ll still be under our 45-minute mark!
The recipe also calls for cooked, chilled rice. There are dozens of boil-in-bag and pouched precooked rice varieties available in the market that cook up quickly. Heat or make the rice the night before (or first thing in the morning). Let chill overnight or throughout the day. Up your whole grain numbers, and use brown rice instead of white.
Dessert: Here’s one more recipe to satisfy the sweet tooth: Balsamic Strawberries over Angel Food Cake. This time of year, these berries are out in full force – see if you can find some local strawberries in your area. The taste of a fresh spring strawberry is something special, a beautiful balance of intense sweetness and just enough tartness to lift the flavor. This simple recipe uses store-bought angel food cake and a simple balsamic-brown sugar sauce. The berries macerate a bit (translation: the berries are soaked in sugar to draw out that naturally sweet fruit juice – making for an even better sauce!) to create this fabulous tart-sweet sauce. Spoon over cake slices and enjoy. There’s no better way to enjoy a fresh strawberry!
Alright, your Sunday Strategist, signing off. Cheers to a week of happy, healthy eating!
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