Your Weeknight Meal Planner: What to Cook Before the Holidays

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

If you’re one of those multitasking planners who tackles to-do lists with ease, the final days before the holidays should be a total breeze. If, like the rest of us, you’ve still got a bit of last-minute shopping, stocking stuffing, and house cleaning to do, this week is going to be a bit…busy. Either way, we’ve got you covered with a weeknight meal planner that will get you in a festive mood and offer some pre-holiday relief from the decadent meals ahead. On Monday, enjoy an elegant, bountiful plate of roasted vegetables and chicken thighs, topped off with sautéed apples. Next, kick up the heat with a spicy Italian shrimp pasta. Pumpkin transforms ooey, gooey grilled cheese on Wednesday. Embrace warm Indian spices with roasted salmon the next night, then finish the week with a good-for-you quinoa and vegetable bowl that’ll even out all those extra cookies.

Here’s to a delicious holiday with family and friends! Now, on to the recipes:

Monday: Dijon-Apple Chicken Thighs with Roasted Brussels sprouts and Sweet Potatoes

(Serves 4)

3 sweet potatoes
8 chicken thighs
6 ounces baby spinach
1 Gala apple
1 pound Brussels sprouts
1 red onion
⅓ cup white wine
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
olive oil
kosher salt
black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 450ºF. Halve sweet potatoes lengthwise; cut crosswise on a diagonal into ½-inch half-moons. On a foil-lined baking sheet, toss sweet potatoes with 1 tablespoon olive oil, ¾ teaspoon salt, and pepper. Pat chicken dry with paper towel; add to sheet with sweet potatoes. Season chicken all over with ¾ teaspoon salt and pepper; arrange skin-side up.

2. Roast chicken and sweet potatoes until chicken skin is crisp, chicken is cooked through and no longer pink, and sweet potatoes are tender, 25–35 minutes. Meanwhile, pat spinach dry with paper towel. Slice off rounded sides of apple and cut into ½-inch cubes, discarding core. Halve Brussels sprouts lengthwise through roots. Peel onion and cut into small dice.

3. On a separate foil-lined baking sheet, toss Brussels sprouts with 1 tablespoon olive oil, ¾ teaspoon salt, and pepper. Arrange cut-side down in a single layer (this allows them to caramelize and brown evenly without burning). Roast (with chicken and sweet potatoes) until tender and beginning to brown, 15-18 minutes.

4. While Brussels sprouts roast, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. When oil is shimmering, add onion; sauté, stirring, until soft and translucent, 4–5 minutes. Add white wine and apple; sauté until softened, 4–6 minutes. Stir in Dijon mustard and ⅓ cup water; cook until liquid is almost fully evaporated and apple is tender, 1–2 minutes more.

5. Add butter to pan with sauce, still over medium-high heat. Adding 1 tablespoon at a time, gradually stir in up to ⅓ cup water until sauce is smooth and pourable. Season with ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper; remove pan from heat. Use any remaining downtime to set the table. Once chicken, sweet potatoes, and Brussels sprouts are roasted, transfer chicken to a plate; add Brussels sprouts to sheet with sweet potatoes, along with spinach; toss to combine.

6. Divide roasted Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes among serving plates and top with chicken thighs. Spoon over Dijon-apple pan sauce.

Tuesday: Shrimp Fra Diavolo with Angel Hair Pasta and Asiago-Garlic Bread

(Serves 4)

½ ounce basil, divided
1 yellow onion
6 cloves garlic, divided
1¼ pounds shrimp
⅓ cup white wine
2 cans crushed tomatoes
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
8 ounces angel hair pasta
2 demi-baguettes
2 ounces shredded Asiago cheese
olive oil
kosher salt
black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Rinse basil and roughly chop leaves, discarding stems. Peel onion and cut into small dice. Mince garlic. Pat shrimp dry with paper towel and season all over with ½ teaspoon salt and black pepper as desired.

2. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a separate large pot over medium heat. When oil is shimmering, add half of minced garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 30 seconds. Transfer garlic oil to a small bowl and reserve for Step 5. Return pot to medium heat with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add onion and remaining garlic and cook, stirring, until softened, 2 minutes.

3. Add white wine, crushed tomatoes, crushed red pepper (feel free to use less, but the spice is what makes it diavolo!), half of basil, ¾ teaspoon salt, and black pepper as desired to pot with aromatics, still over medium heat, and simmer until flavors have melded, 8–10 minutes. Add shrimp to sauce and cook, stirring occasionally, until opaque and cooked through, 3–5 minutes more. Remove pot from heat and set aside.

4. While sauce simmers, season boiling water generously with salt. Stir in angel hair pasta and cook until al dente, 4–5 minutes. Reserve 1 cup pasta cooking water, then drain and return to pot, off heat.

5. Halve baguettes lengthwise and place cut-side up on a baking sheet. Use a spoon to drizzle garlic oil over bread, then sprinkle over Asiago. Bake until cheese begins to bubble and brown slightly, 3–5 minutes. Meanwhile, add tomato sauce and shrimp to pot with pasta, still off heat, and toss to coat. Stir in pasta cooking water, 2 tablespoons at a time, until sauce is silky and clings to noodles.

6. Once baked, cut Asiago-garlic bread in half crosswise. Divide shrimp fra diavolo among serving bowls and serve with bread. Garnish with remaining basil.

Wednesday: Pumpkin and White Cheddar Grilled Cheese with Apple, Pecan, and Spinach Salad

(Serves 4)

1½ tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Gala apple
⅛ ounce sage
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons chopped pecans
8 slices sourdough bread
¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
⅓ cup pumpkin purée
6 ounces shredded white Cheddar cheese
2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
9 ounces baby spinach
olive oil
kosher salt
black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 450ºF. Unwrap butter, place in a small bowl, and set aside to soften at room temperature. Slice off rounded sides of apple and thinly slice, discarding core. Thinly slice sage leaves, discarding stems. Mince garlic. Place pecans on a small piece of foil. Bring edges of foil together and seal to form a pouch. Line a baking sheet with foil.

2. Spread softened butter over 1 side of bread slices, then arrange butter-side up on prepared baking sheet. Add pecan pouch to sheet and bake until bread is lightly toasted, 2 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, stir together pumpkin pie spice, pumpkin purée, white Cheddar, Parmesan, sage, garlic, ¼ teaspoon salt, and pepper as desired to combine.

3. Flip bread on baking sheet and spread pumpkin-Cheddar filling over plain sides of 4 bread slices. Return to oven (with pecans) and bake until cheese is melted and bread is golden, 2 minutes more. Bake the pumpkin-Cheddar–topped bread slices and the remaining bread slices separately before assembling the sandwiches. This helps the cheese melt and the bread become golden and crisp. Meanwhile, in a separate medium bowl, whisk together white wine vinegar, 2½ tablespoons olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper as desired. Add apple and toss to coat. Set aside for Step 5.

4. Remove baking sheet from oven. Top pumpkin-Cheddar filling with remaining plain bread slices, butter-side up. Return to oven (with pecans) and bake until tops of sandwiches are golden and pecans are toasted and fragrant, 1–2 minutes more.

5. While grilled cheese sandwiches bake, pat spinach dry with paper towel, add to bowl with apple and dressing, and toss to combine. Once toasted, carefully open pecan pouch. Add pecans to bowl with salad and toss to combine.

6. Divide apple, pecan, and spinach salad among serving plates. Cut pumpkin and white Cheddar grilled cheese sandwiches in half on a diagonal and serve with salad.

Thursday: Garam Masala Salmon with Carrots, Pistachios, and Orzo

(Serves 4)

8 ounces carrots
¼ ounce parsley
¼ cup pistachios
2 red onions
3 cloves garlic
2 navel oranges
1 cup orzo
1¼ pounds salmon
2 half sticks unsalted butter
2 teaspoons garam masala
olive oil
kosher salt
black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425ºF. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil over high heat. Thinly slice carrots crosswise on a diagonal. Roughly chop parsley leaves and stems. Roughly chop pistachios, or leave in bag and gently crush with the bottom of a heavy pan. Peel onions, halve, and thinly slice. Thiny slice garlic. Using a knife, peel oranges, discarding skins and pith. Halve oranges, then cut crosswise into ¼-inch half-moons.

2. Season boiling water generously with salt. Stir in orzo and cook until al dente, about 12 minutes. Drain and return to pot, off heat. Meanwhile, on a foil-lined baking sheet, toss carrots, onions, and garlic with 1 tablespoon olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on 1 half of baking sheet (leaving room for salmon in the next step).

3. Pat salmon dry with paper towel and add to other half of baking sheet, skinside down. Season tops of salmon with 1 teaspoon salt and pepper, then drizzle over 1 tablespoon olive oil and rub in seasoning. Roast until salmon is cooked through and opaque, carrots are tender, and onions are browned and softened, 12–14 minutes.

4. While salmon and vegetables roast, heat butter, garam masala, and pistachios in a medium pan over medium heat. Swirl pan occasionally until butter turns golden and fragrant and nuts are toasted, 7–8 minutes. Season with ½ teaspoon salt and pepper as desired. Remove pan from heat and set aside until ready to serve.

5. To pot with orzo, still off heat, stir in parsley, orange pieces, and roasted vegetables to combine. Season orzo with ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper as desired. 6. Plate salmon and orzo Divide orzo among serving plates. Top with roasted salmon, then spoon over garam masala–brown butter and pistachios.

Friday: Roasted Broccoli and Quinoa Bowls with Pepitas and Chile-Lime Yogurt

(Serves 4)

1 cup quinoa
1½ pounds broccoli florets
½ pint grape tomatoes
½ ounce cilantro, divided
3 limes, divided
4 cloves garlic
1 jalapeño
¼ cup pumpkin seeds
¼ teaspoon ancho chile powder
½ teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ cup Greek yogurt
1 packet honey
2 avocados
olive oil
kosher salt
black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 450°F. In a medium pot, combine quinoa, 2 cups water, and ½ teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium low, cover pot, and simmer until water is absorbed and quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes. Remove pot from heat and set aside, still covered, until ready to serve.

2. While quinoa cooks, rinse all produce. Cut broccoli into ½-inch florets, if needed. Halve tomatoes (feel free to leave whole to save time). Roughly chop cilantro, keeping leaves and stems separate. Halve 2 limes and set aside for yogurt sauce; cut 1 lime into wedges for serving. Mince garlic. Halve jalapeño lengthwise. Using a knife tip, discard seeds and stem, and mince.

3. Prepare pepitas and broccoli On a baking sheet, toss pumpkin seeds with chili powder, coriander, cumin, 1 teaspoon olive oil, and ½ teaspoon salt and arrange in a single layer. On a separate baking sheet, toss broccoli with 1½ tablespoons olive oil, ¾ teaspoon salt, and pepper as desired.

4. Transfer both baking sheets to oven and roast until pepitas are lighty browned and fragrant, 2–4 minutes. Remove pepitas from oven. Continue roasting broccoli until lightly charred, 8–10 minutes more. Set aside until ready to serve.

5. Make chile-lime yogurt While broccoli roasts, in a blender or food processor, combine yogurt, honey, cilantro stems, juice of 2 limes, garlic, half of cilantro leaves, up to half of jalapeño (it’s spicy, so feel free to use less), ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper as desired, and pulse to combine If you don’t have a blender, stir everything together in a medium bowl until fully combined. If sauce is too thick, add up to 1 tablespoon water until smooth and pourable.

6. Halve avocados and discard pits. Using a spoon, carefully scoop out flesh, discarding skins, then thinly slice. Divide quinoa among shallow bowls and top with roasted broccoli, tomatoes, and avocados. Drizzle over chile-lime yogurt. Garnish with pepitas and remaining cilantro leaves. Serve with lime wedges.

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