The Foolproof Weeknight Meal Planning feature is a weekly series on Smells Like Home which maps out five fantastic family-friendly meal ideas for 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!
This week’s meal plan has a great balance of healthy, feel-good food and comfort food at it’s best. And since we’re mid-way through April, I thought it was about time to start thinking about some lighter, fresher meals as the weather warms up. Meatless Monday starts the week with a fantastic garlicky shrimp dish served over linguine followed by one of my favorite chicken salad recipes, a stick-to-your-ribs cheesy baked pasta to get you through hump day, a super quick and awesome carrot salad with warmly spiced turkey meatballs on Thursday, and our very favorite homemade pizza to cap off the week. This week’s dessert is a KILLER brownie that has me drooling as I type this. Enjoy!!
garlicky shrimp with buttered crumbs: Sautéed shrimp, an ample amount of garlic, and a light sherry sauce topped with toasted buttered bread crumbs and set over some linguine is the perfect meal for a busy weeknight or even to serve to guests. Fresh or frozen shrimp is one of those most healthy and wallet-friendly seafood options you can buy and since it takes a mere 5 minutes to cook up, it’s always a winner in my book.
Tip: Look for peeled and deveined uncooked shrimp to speed up your prep time at night since peeling and deveining two pounds of shrimp will take at least 10 minutes. If really nice fresh shrimp isn’t an option for you, go for frozen. To thaw quickly, add frozen shrimp to a large bowl of cold water or transfer to the fridge the night before you need it.
apple pecan chicken salad: This is the chicken salad recipe that converted me from chicken salad-hater to chicken salad-lover! Filled up with fresh, crisp apples, meaty yet almost sweet pecans, shredded chicken, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice all sandwiched within a toasty croissant. This is the time of year for chicken salad to shine and when a light dinner on a busy night is needed, this one hits the spot.
Tip: Store-bought rotisserie chicken is oftentimes my best friend when my work days get out of hand and I don’t end up at home until after 6:30. However, it only takes about 15 minutes to poach boneless skinless chicken breasts in some water on the stove top and maybe 20 minutes to roast them in the oven so both of these methods work equally well on weeknights.
creamy baked four-cheese pasta: Go ahead and indulge a little tonight with this four-cheese baked pasta! This is a sophisticated mac and cheese made up of bold Italian cheeses, a quick cream sauce, and lots of pasta. It’s baked at a high temp for just a few minutes to ensure the sauce stays creamy. 20 minutes is all you’ll need for this comforting weeknight meal!
Tips: While this pasta dish comes together fairly quickly, consider baking the pasta in individual ramekins or gratin dishes; this not only speeds up the baking time but it’s also way more fun to eat when everyone gets their own hot and bubbly dish of cheesy pasta! I also suggest shredding the cheeses up to three days ahead and storing them in an airtight container in the fridge – you’ll drastically cut your prep time during the week by taking this one little shortcut.
carrot salad with tahini dressing, crisped chickpeas, and sesame turkey meatballs: A surprisingly quick and shockingly outstanding meal, this one comes together in the time it takes to bake up a few meatballs – definitely do-able for a weeknight! A cool and creamy tahini dressing coats this fresh carrot-cilantro salad and with the addition of crunchy, spiced chickpeas and super flavorful turkey meatballs, this salad totally rocks it.
Tip: As with all meatballs, you can make these a few days in advance. It takes mere seconds to shred carrots in a food processor and no more than 5 minutes to make the dressing so the whole salad comes together really quickly. If you’re going the meatless route, falafel would be a great substitute for the meatballs.
friday night pizza
3 cheese rosemary and pepperoni pizza: If I could eat only one pizza for the rest of my life, this would be THE ONE. Loaded up with mozzarella, fontina, and ricotta, this pizza is one with bold flavors and simple ingredients. Add some old-school pepperoni and fresh rosemary which brings a brightness you wouldn’t expect from pizza then sit down to your favorite of-the-moment binge show on Netflix and indulge after a long week. Friday night perfection!
Tip: The hardest part about making pizza at home is waiting for the oven to preheat but don’t skip this step, especially if you’re using a pizza stone. Leave the stone in the oven while the oven preheats and then allow it to continue to heat for 30 minutes before adding the pizza. While the oven and stone preheat, prep your pizza toppings. My favorite pizza dough can be made in 7 minutes in the morning and allowed to rise all day in the fridge until you need it for dinner.
don’t forget about dessert!
salted caramel brownies: I’m a complete sucker for anything with salted caramel in it and these brownies are nothing to mess around with. The salted caramel sauce is baked directly into the brownies, leaving them perfectly fudgy and impossibly delicious. Top them with some vanilla ice cream and leftover caramel sauce and call dessert done.
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