Your Weeknight Meal Planner: Meals with Kapow!

Get inspired for the week ahead with our top picks from this week’s menu.

If this week’s menu was a comic book, the superheroes would be our Test Kitchen experts, and every page would be filled with action words like “Zing!” “Kapow!” and “Blam!”. Our chefs go above and beyond with big, bold flavors that already have our taste buds tingling. Begin the week with a vegetarian spin on a Southern barbecue plate, starring chickpeas. On Tuesday, amp up chicken Caesar with Sriracha-glazed chicken and candied peanuts. Next, flip the script on classic risotto with a coconut and bok choy version topped with roasted cod. On Thursday, load up homemade tortilla chips with every possible nacho topping (trust us, these are epic). Bring it home with a cheesy white pizza on Friday that’s studded with roasted cauliflower.

Get ready to fly into the kitchen (no capes required). Now, on to the recipes!

Monday: Barbecue Chickpeas

(Serves 4)

4 sweet potatoes
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas
¼ ounce chives
½ cup sliced dill pickles
⅔ cup barbecue sauce
4 ounces mascarpone cheese
3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 cup shredded red cabbage
1 cup shredded green cabbage
1 cup shredded carrots
olive oil
kosher salt
black pepper

Cooking with a helper tonight? They can arrange sweet potatoes on baking sheets in Step 2, whisk the dressing in Step 5, and garnish the finished plates in Step 6.

1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Rinse all produce. Halve sweet potatoes lengthwise, then cut crosswise on a diagonal into ¼-inch slices (this creates more surface area for browning). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment papers.

2. On 1 prepared baking sheet, toss sweet potatoes with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper as desired. Transfer half to other prepared sheet. Arrange in a single layer, spacing apart, and roast, rotating sheets halfway through, until golden brown and crisp, 20–25 minutes total.

3. While sweet potatoes roast, drain and rinse chickpeas. Cut chives crosswise into ½-inch pieces. Roughly chop pickles.

4. After 10 minutes of sweet potatoes roasting, heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. When oil is shimmering, add barbecue sauce and chickpeas; cook, stirring occasionally, until chickpeas are coated and warmed through and sauce is slightly reduced, 8–10 minutes. The barbecue sauce will thicken and cling to chickpeas as they cook together in the pan. If you prefer saucier chickpeas, reduce the cook time by about 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat and cover to keep warm until ready to serve.

5. While chickpeas cook, in a large bowl, whisk together mascarpone, Dijon, white wine vinegar, pickles, half of chives, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper as desired to combine. Add slaw mix to bowl with dressing and toss to coat.

6. Once roasted, divide sweet potatoes among serving plates, then top with barbecue chickpeas and creamy slaw. Garnish with remaining chives and dig in!

Tuesday: Sriracha-Lime Chicken Caesar

(Serves 4)

4 boneless skin-on chicken breasts
5 teaspoons Sriracha
2 heads little gem lettuce
8 ounces dinosaur kale
¾ pint grape tomatoes
¼ cup roasted salted peanuts
2 limes
1 clove garlic
4 ounces mayonnaise
1 tablespoon vegetarian Worcestershire
1 ounce grated Parmesan cheese
½ ounce honey
¾ cup shredded red cabbage
olive oil
kosher salt
black pepper

1. Pat chicken very dry with paper towel (patting the chicken very dry before
seasoning and searing will help the skin crisp up in the pan); season all over with 1 teaspoon salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. When oil is shimmering, add chicken skin-side down; sear until skin is golden and easily lifts from pan, 6 minutes. Flip; sear until no longer pink, 6 minutes more. Transfer chicken to a plate, skin-side up. Spread over 2 packets Sriracha. Feel free to use less Sriracha in Steps 1 and 3 if you prefer milder heat. Set aside.

2. While chicken cooks, rinse all produce. Halve little gem lengthwise and rinse thoroughly; thinly slice leaves crosswise, discarding tough stems. Pat kale dry with paper towel, stack leaves, and thinly slice, discarding long stems. Quarter tomatoes. Roughly chop peanuts, or leave in bag and gently crush with the bottom of a heavy pan. If you have a zester and want to infuse your peanuts with even more flavor, zest up to 1 lime, then halve limes.

3. Mince garlic and, still on cutting board, sprinkle over ⅛ teaspoon salt. Using a large knife, carefully scrape over mixture at a 45° angle, pressing down. Repeat until garlic is broken down and a paste forms. In a large bowl (big enough for the salad), whisk together mayonnaise, Worcestershire, Parmesan, garlic paste, juice of 1½ limes, and remaining Sriracha. Set aside. Save remaining lime to brighten a glass of water.

4. Heat a small nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Carefully hover your hand a few inches away from the pan—when you can easily feel heat, add peanuts. Toast, stirring, until warmed through, 1– 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat, then stir in honey until it melts and clings to peanuts. Stir in lime zest (if using) and ⅛ teaspoon salt. Transfer to a plate and set aside to cool.

5. Using your hands, massage kale on cutting board until beginning to soften, 1–2 minutes. Add kale to bowl with Caesar dressing, along with cabbage, little gem, and half of tomatoes; toss to fully combine.

6. Cut rested chicken into ¼-inch slices. Divide Caesar salad among serving bowls and top with sliced chicken and remaining tomatoes. Garnish with candied peanuts.

Wednesday: Apricot-Glazed Cod

(Serves 4)

2 5.46-ounce cans lite coconut milk
1 pound baby bok choy, divided
4 scallions, divided
¼ ounce ginger
4 cloves garlic
3½ tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1½ cups Arborio rice
¼ cup white wine
1¼ pounds cod
1 ounce coconut flakes
2 1-ounce jars apricot preserves
2 tablespoons gluten-free soy sauce
kosher salt
black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425ºF. Open coconut milk and pour into a medium pot, then add 2 cups water. Coconut milk solids naturally separate from the liquids during transit. No worries; it will come together during cooking. Vigorously shake the can before opening, or pierce the solids with a spoon before pouring into the pan to avoid a messy splatter. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then remove pot from heat and cover to keep warm until Step 4.

2. Prepare ingredients While coconut milk warms, halve bok choy lengthwise and rinse thoroughly (it tends to hide a lot of dirt between its leaves); cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces, keeping bulbs and leaves separate. Rinse scallions and trim and discard roots; halve lengthwise, then then cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces, keeping whites and light greens separate from dark greens. Trim and discard skin of ginger and mince. Mince garlic.

3. Sauté aromatics and toast rice In a large pot, heat 3 packets butter over medium-high heat. When butter is foamy, add ginger, garlic, bok choy bulbs, and scallion whites and light greens; sauté, stirring, until softened, 3– 4 minutes. Add Arborio rice and cook, stirring frequently to prevent burning, until toasted and translucent, 2–3 minutes. Stir in white wine and ¼ teaspoon salt and simmer until liquid is mostly absorbed, about 1 minute more.

4. Add warmed coconut milk to pot with rice and stir to combine. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid is mostly absorbed and rice is tender, 18–22 minutes (move on to Step 5—but don’t forget to come back!). Then, stir in bok choy leaves, scallion dark greens, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper as desired. Remove pot from heat.

5. While risotto simmers, line a baking sheet with foil. Pat cod dry with paper towel and place on 1 half of prepared sheet. Season with ¾ teaspoon salt and pepper as desired. Bake until cod is almost cooked through, 6–7 minutes. Then, add coconut flakes to other half of sheet and continue baking until cod is opaque and coconut is golden and fragrant, 1–2 minutes more.

6. While cod bakes, unwrap remaining butter packets, place in a medium heatproof bowl, and microwave in 30- second intervals until completely melted. Stir in apricot preserves and soy sauce to combine. Divide coconut risotto among serving plates. Top with cod, spoon over apricot glaze, and garnish with toasted coconut.

Smaller crowd tonight? Check out the 2-serving version of this dish.

Thursday: Beer-Braised Beef Nachos

(Serves 4)

3 ounces red radishes
2 limes
1 jalapeño
12 corn tortillas
1½ pounds ground beef
1 tablespoon Mexican spice mix
4 scallions
2 cans refried pinto beans
6 ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese
¾ pint grape tomatoes
2 avocados
4 ounces sour cream
4 ounces queso blanco
beer (optional)
olive oil
kosher salt
black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Rinse all produce. Thinly slice radishes into rounds, then stack and thinly slice into matchsticks. If you have a zester and want to infuse your crema with more flavor, zest up to 1 lime, then halve limes. Halve jalapeño lengthwise; using a knife tip, discard seeds and stem, then mince. Place radishes, juice of 1 lime, half of jalapeño, and ⅛ teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Set aside until Step 5.

2. Line a baking sheet with foil. Stack tortillas, cut into 8 equal wedges, and add to prepared sheet. Drizzle with 1½ tablespoons olive oil, season with ½ teaspoon salt, and toss to coat. Arrange in a single layer and bake until light golden and crisp, 15–20 minutes (extra crispy chips create a sturdy base for the toppings).

3. While tortilla chips bake, pat beef dry with paper towel. Heat ½ tablespoon olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. When oil is shimmering, add Mexican spice mix, beef, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Cook, breaking up, until beginning to brown, 2 minutes. Add ¾ cup beer and bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to medium-high and simmer until liquid is reduced by half and beef is browned, 6-8 minutes. A light, crisp beer such as Mexican lager will complement the spices in the beef. You can also use broth or water, or skip the braise and cook the beef until browned, 2–4 minutes.

4. While beef cooks, trim and discard scallion roots and thinly slice, keeping whites and light greens separate from dark greens. Using a slotted spoon, transfer beef to a bowl; wipe pan clean. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil. When oil is shimmering, add scallion whites and light greens and remaining jalapeño (or less, as desired). Cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Add refried beans and ¼ teaspoon salt; cook, stirring, until warmed through, 2–3 minutes. Remove pan from heat.

5. Once baked, top tortilla chips with beef, then refried beans, then Monterey Jack. Bake until cheese is melted, 8–9 minutes. Meanwhile, quarter grape tomatoes. Add to bowl with radishes and jalapeño, along with 2 tablespoons olive oil and ½ teaspoon salt, and toss to combine. Halve avocados and discard pits; carefully scoop out flesh, discarding skins, then cut into small dice.

6. In a blender or food processor, combine sour cream, lime zest (if using), juice of remaining lime, half of avocados, and ¼ teaspoon salt; blend until smooth. If you don’t have a blender or food processor, mash half of avocados in a small bowl, then stir in remaining crema ingredients. Top beef nachos with pico and remaining avocados. Drizzle over crema. Crumble over queso blanco and garnish with scallion dark greens. Divide among serving plates or serve right from the sheet.

Friday: Roasted Cauliflower Pizza

(Serves 4)

1½ pounds whole-wheat pizza dough
8 ounces curly kale
⅛ ounce rosemary
⅛ ounce thyme
1 pound cauliflower florets
1 yellow onion
6 cloves garlic
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
½ cup heavy cream
8 ounces ricotta cheese ounces shredded mozzarella and provolone cheese blend
6 ¼ cup flour
olive oil
kosher salt
black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425ºF. Remove pizza doughs from bags and let soften at room temperature. Pizza dough softens as it warms—the longer you let it sit at room temperature, the easier it’ll be to roll out. We recommend at least 15 minutes, so that once the sauce is ready, your dough is too. Rinse all produce. Roughly chop kale into bitesize pieces, discarding stems. Strip rosemary leaves, discarding stems, then mince. Cut cauliflower into 1 inch–wide florets. Peel onion, halve, and thinly slice. Thinly slice garlic, place on a small piece of foil, and drizzle over olive oil. Bring edges of foil together to form a pouch.

2. Line a baking sheet with foil. Add cauliflower and toss with crushed red pepper (skip or use half for less heat), rosemary, 2 tablespoons olive oil, ¾ teaspoon salt, and black pepper as desired. Arrange in a single layer, spacing apart. Add garlic pouch to sheet and roast until cauliflower is golden and almost tender (it will finish cooking on the pizza as it bakes) and garlic is soft, 13–15 minutes.

3. While cauliflower and garlic roast, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium high-sided pan over medium heat. When oil is shimmering, add whole thyme sprigs and onion; sauté, stirring, until soft, 6–8 minutes. Add cream, increase heat to medium-high; simmer until slightly reduced, 1–2 minutes. Remove pan from heat; remove and discard thyme sprigs. Stir in ricotta, mozzarella and provolone, kale, ½ teaspoon salt, and black pepper.

4. While onion cooks, sprinkle flour onto a clean, dry surface, coating a rolling pin or your hands with a thin layer. Roll or stretch doughs into rectangular shapes, rotating frequently and working from center to edges, until ¼-inch thick. Try lifting the dough with your hands, letting gravity help stretch it down. Using your fingers, gently pull the edges, feeling for thicker areas so the dough doesn’t tear. Once roasted, remove garlic pouch from sheet; carefully remove roasted garlic and roughly chop. Transfer cauliflower to a bowl for the next step. Discard foil, reserving sheet.

5. Line baking sheet from cauliflower (careful, it might still be hot) and another sheet with parchment papers and rub each with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Add pizza doughs, gently stretching to reach edges of sheets, and rub each all over with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Spread over cheese sauce, leaving a ½-inch border. Scatter over roasted cauliflower. Bake until crusts are crisp and golden and cheese is bubbling, switching halfway through if on different racks, 15–17 minutes total.

6. Use the downtime while the pizzas bake to get ahead on dishes or relax with a glass of wine. Sprinkle roasted garlic over roasted cauliflower pizzas. Cut into slices and dig in!

If you’re looking for some pizza making tips, check out Chef Shanna’s guide to homemade pizza.

Pizza for date night? Yes, please! Try the 2-serving version of this masterpiece.

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