Flavorful Dinners | Meal Plan Menu
Fresh ingredients, flavorful dishes, and easy to make dinners brighten this week’s meal plan. Comforting and refreshing, these healthy meals make dinnertime a delight.
We’re eagerly awaiting spring and all the seasonal produce that comes with it, like asparagus, peas, radishes, and artichokes . . . But until then, we’ll be adding vibrant flavors, fresh textures, and colorful veggies to our winter weekly meal plans!
You don’t have to stick with stews and soups all winter long. Our meal plan for this week will show you how to add brightness to your weeknight dinners without eating the same thing over and over again. Here’s how:
1. ADD SWEETNESS
A bit of sweetness is a warm balance to savory flavors. It perks up a dish with its bright flavors and can make your tastebuds feel energized. We’re giving this weekly menu a boost with a variety of ingredients that contain some form of sweetness – hoisin sauce (a sweet-savory Asian condiment), pineapples, dried cranberries, maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, and vegetables that get caramelized when roasted.
2. EAT SALADS
When you think of salads, it’s easy to think of their freshness and coolness as something reserved for warmer months. But as we have shown in our 50 Simple Salads for Every Season infographic, salads can be enjoyed year-round!
Ingredients that have crunch – like nuts or crisp lettuces – give punchy texture and provide contrast to warm elements that are comforting and hearty. This week, we’re adding warm pulled pork and warm vinaigrette to a crisp lettuce salad, and a warm pasta salad tossed with pistachios and fresh herbs.
3. INCORPORATE FUN FAVORITES
Fun does not have to be saved for summer. And there is nothing that brightens dinnertime more than fun foods that you normally eat at restaurants. We like to take these fun favorites and make them home-kitchen-friendly.
Homemade pizza and fresh noodle bowls that can be made during the weeknight? Yes! You can have pizza on a Thursday (you will be this week, in fact) without having to pay for delivery or pick-up. We also make it easy for you with the cooking tutorials that are included in all of our weekly meal plans, so you can make these kinds of meals easily and simply in your own kitchen.
If you’re ready to enjoy more healthy meals that are filled with a variety of flavors and encourages you and your family to try new things, then join our cooking community here:
“Thanks, Cook Smarts, for showing me how to combine simple ingredients to make awesome dishes. The variety of herbs and flavourings in your recipes has given me the courage to step out of my comfort zone and try new things.”
– Lucie B. (Member since Apr 2016)
All meals come with gluten-free, paleo, and vegetarian options, as well as a grocery list and optional weekend prep steps.
Meal Planning Tips
- Cooking once and eating twice saves so much time in the kitchen! Doubling up on a recipe doesn’t take up too much additional time to prep and cook, and you can transform one dish into two unique meals. This week, enjoy Slow Cooker Hoisin Pork over noodles on Monday, then top on a Hawaiian-inspired salad on Wednesday.
- Roasted butternut squash is also something that benefits from cooking once, eating twice, since it can take 30 minutes to bake. Use half in a warm pasta salad for Tuesday’s dinner, then use up the leftovers for pizza night on Thursday.
- If you’ve got time over the weekend, get your hoisin pork in the slow cooker! It will give you a fantastic head start on Monday and make the rest of your weeknight cooking a breeze.
- Butternut squash can also be roasted over the weekend. It reheats well and will save you time in the kitchen.
- Love fusion food? Try making an Asian burrito with leftover hoisin pulled pork. Wrap pork in a tortilla with cooked rice, kimchi or coleslaw mix, cilantro leaves, and Sriracha mayo.
- Blend leftover roasted butternut squash with some stock or water for an easy pureed soup. Use this recipe as inspiration and add white beans for a hearty, protein-packed, meatless dinner.
On the Menu
This Asian-inspired pulled pork gets its sweet and savory flavors from hoisin sauce, a Chinese condiment that adds a unique flavor to Asian dishes. The slow cooker makes the pork super tender and pretty much does most of the cooking for you! All you have to do is cook the noodles, saute some bok choy, and your noodle bowls are ready to eat. Top with sesame seeds, some lime juice and hot sauce, and this is just as good as your favorite take-out.
Although paleo folks can’t have hoisin sauce, they can still enjoy pulled pork marinated in a delicious Asian sauce made with honey and coconut aminos. Instead of noodles, they’ll have sauteed broccoli and bok choy with their pork. Vegetarians will be enjoying Hoisin Tofu Rice Bowls, so they can double up the rice for fried rice later on in the week.
If we had to choose a signature Cook Smarts dish, it would be this panko-crusted salmon. It has long been one of our community’s favorites ever since it was first featured in 2013 and it remains a favorite to this day. The salmon topping is crunchy and flavorful, and the whole dish is very easy to cook. This week, we’re serving it with a warm Israeli couscous salad, tossed with roasted butternut squash, sweet-tart dried cranberries, crunchy pistachios, and a delicious balsamic vinaigrette.
Gluten-free folks swap out the Israeli couscous for gluten-free orzo and can either do the salmon topping with gluten-free breadcrumbs or almond meal. Paleo members’ salmon will be topped with a flavorful almond meal crust, and their side dish will include roasted cauliflower rather than pasta. Vegetarians will have a hearty and filling Israeli couscous salad with all the colorful fixin’s as well as chickpeas for some protein.
Leftover warm pulled pork is a tasty contrast to crisp, cool lettuce in this Hawaiian-inspired salad. We love the Asian flavors of the hoisin pulled pork, so we’re adding sweet pineapples, crunchy bell peppers, and toasted cashews for a tropical meal that is a great fit for cooler weather. Tie it altogether with a warm honey soy vinaigrette, and you’ll surely feel like you’re dining on the sands of Hawaii!
Instead of a salad, our vegetarian meal plan recipe features a Pineapple Fried Rice that is filled with just as much sweet-savory flavors and tropical feelings.
This is another meal that gets rave reviews from our cooking community. The unique combination of roasted butternut squash, hummus, and shallots sounds like an unusual topping for pizza, but we assure you, it is very delicious! That’s why we’re bringing back this dish, but with a shortcut – pita bread instead of pizza dough. We love how flatbread makes this dinner come together quickly, and the sauteed zucchini on the side is just as simple and flavorful to make.
Our paleo recipe is for Spiced Chicken Lettuce Cups topped with avocado. Leftover roasted squash and cauliflower from Tuesday gets transformed into a tasty pureed soup.