The Foolproof Weeknight Meal Planning feature is a new weekly series on Smells Like Home which maps out five fantastic and family-friendly meal ideas for your busy weeknights. You’ll usually find at least one meatless option and you’ll always find a delicious dessert…because we all need a little sweetness in our lives!

Foolproof Weeknight Meal Planning - Week of 3.23.15

When the calendar says spring but the thermometer still reads winter, meal planning can be tough!  Check out these meal ideas that bridge winter comfort food with your yearning for lighter meals.  Start the week with a super easy one-pot creamy sausage pasta dish and finish it up with a Friday night pizza that just screams spring!  Don’t forget about dessert either – cookies are a must this week!


One-Pot Creamy Sausage Pasta
one-pot creamy sausage pasta: I’ve taken this pasta down a few different paths in my many iterations and can say that it’s fairly versatile.  Ground pork and fresh chicken sausage work equally well.  Any kind of marinara sauce will work but I’ve also used crushed tomatoes with an Italian herb mix in a pinch.  Half-and-half or Greek yogurt can easily replace the heavy cream; swap the wine with some chicken broth if you need to.  Adding some fresh greens like spinach, kale, or chard not only adds a whole lot of color, it boosts the nutritional factor as well.  You won’t believe how fast this pasta gets devoured!

Tip: This one-pot pasta dish yields enough for 4 to 6 servings. Consider doubling the recipe using a wide stock pot or 5 quart Dutch oven for leftovers later in the week or for lunches – this pasta reheats very well so you’re gonna want extra!


Grilled Chicken and Kale Caesar Salad Sandwiches with Bacon
grilled chicken and kale ceasar salad sandwiches with bacon: These sandwiches are piled high with baby kale gently tossed with a homemade lightened-up Caesar dressing, grilled chicken, and a slice of crispy applewood smoked bacon on fresh, chewy ciabatta. Heaven.

Tip: Cut down on busy weeknight cooking by using a store-bought rotisserie chicken and bottled dressing. But…if you have 5 minutes to spare, try making your own dressing – the recipe is SIMPLE and totally wholesome.  The food processor does all of the work!


Black Bean Soup
smoky black bean soup: A very basic weeknight soup recipe where smoky bacon deepens the flavor of what could otherwise be an boring bean soup.  A good dose of garlic, spices, cilantro, and lime round out this soup and make it completely worthy of the bread you’re dying to dip into it.  This is one of my all-time favorite soups!

Tip: Make this quick soup even quicker by chopping up the bacon, onions, and garlic up to 1 day ahead and storing them, covered, in the fridge.  You won’t believe how much time this saves on a crazy weeknight!


Shrimp Lo Mein
shrimp lo mein: Skip the take-out tonight and pull some shrimp out of the freezer for this take-out fake out shrimp lo mein. It’s a perfect departure from heavy and oftentimes greasy Chinese take out lo mein.  The flavors perfectly mimic take out lo mein but there’s something so satisfying about controlling all of the ingredients of a dish!

Tip: Lo mein noodles are sometimes tricky to find in local grocery stores. If you can’t find them in the ethnic/international section of your store, try an Asian market, a store like Whole Foods, or consider ordering them online!


steak shaved asparagus and gorgonzola pizza
flank steak, shaved asparagus, and gorgonzola pizza: Set atop your favorite pizza dough (this one is our favorite!), you’ll love how the ingredients all come together almost as if it’s a dinner at a pricey steakhouse.  The flank steak is tender, the fresh asparagus adds a little bitterness, the Gorgonzola (and some mozzarella) melts all over just like a decadent Gorgonzola sauce over filet mignon, and the béchamel sauce base is rich and silky.

Tip: Wash and trim your asparagus 1 to 2 days ahead but hold on shaving it until you’re ready to bake the pizza. The creamy pizza sauce base can also be made in advance – just reheat over low heat when you’re ready for it.

don’t forget about dessert!

Espresso Dark Chocolate Coconut Cookies
espresso dark chocolate coconut cookies: The name of these cookies definitely spell out what they’re about but the combination all baked up – toasted coconut, melted chocolate, and a punch of coffee flavor – is something to behold.  I couldn’t restrain from testing one straight from the oven and it nearly knocked my socks off.  I’m sure they’ll knock yours off too!

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