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A week's worth of quick, healthful meals for budget-minded families

SUNDAY: Serve the family your own roast chicken today, and you'll have plenty of leftovers for later. Alongside, try these easy Au Gratin Potatoes: Heat oven to 400 degrees. Coat an 8-by-12-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Scrub and thinly slice 2 pounds red potatoes. Arrange half the potatoes in dish, drizzle with 1 tablespoon (of 2 tablespoons total) melted butter, and season to taste with coarse salt and pepper. Top with ¼ cup (of ½ cup total) shredded Gruyere cheese; repeat layers. In small saucepan, bring 1 cup 2% milk to a simmer; pour over potatoes. Coat top of potatoes with cooking spray. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until potatoes are tender; serve. Add sliced tomatoes and crusty rolls to the meal. Buy or make a raspberry cobbler for dessert.

Plan ahead: Save enough chicken and cobbler for Monday.

MONDAY: You'll receive rave reviews on economical Rancho Chicken (see recipe). Serve the flavorful casserole with a mixed green salad and extra tortillas, if desired. Warm the leftover cobbler for dessert.

Plan ahead: Save enough Rancho Chicken and tortillas for Tuesday.

TUESDAY: Sit back and relax, because dinner is ready as soon as you reheat the leftover Rancho Chicken. Serve with a lettuce wedge and leftover tortillas. Slice watermelon for dessert.

Plan ahead: Save enough watermelon for Wednesday.

WEDNESDAY: Buy a fully cooked beef pot roast for an easy meal tonight. Serve with your own mashed potatoes and fresh sliced zucchini. Add whole-grain rolls. Leftover watermelon is your dessert.

THURSDAY: Lentil Salad (see recipe) makes a perfect no-meat dinner. Drizzle tomato wedges with balsamic vinaigrette and finely chopped fresh basil to accompany the high-fiber entree. Add bread sticks. For dessert, enjoy nectarines.

FRIDAY: Lucky kids! Chicken and Black Bean Pizzas are on the menu. Heat oven to 350 degrees. In medium bowl, combine ½ cup mild salsa, 1 (10- to 12-ounce) can chicken breast (drained), 1 cup canned black beans (rinsed), ¼ cup chopped cilantro and ¼ teaspoon cumin; mix well. Spread on 5 or 6 halved whole-grain English muffins. Top with 1 cup (divided) shredded cheddar cheese. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until hot. Garnish with sour cream and guacamole. Serve with baby carrots and red bell pepper strips with ranch dressing for dipping. For dessert, chocolate ice cream with marshmallow topping is a kid-friendly dessert.

SATURDAY: Start your entertaining evening with gazpacho (your own or store-bought). Follow the refreshing cold soup with Filet Mignon au Poivre: Rub 2 tablespoons crushed black pepper into 6 (4-ounce) filets mignons. Cook steaks in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat 4 minutes per side or until desired doneness. Remove from skillet and cover to keep warm; to same skillet add ½ cup reduced-sodium beef broth, ⅓ cup balsamic vinegar and 3 tablespoons red currant jelly; cook 5 minutes on medium or until thickened. Pour over steaks and serve. Add Warm Roasted Potato Salad (see recipe), green beans and sourdough bread. Buy fruit tarts for dessert.


Rancho Chicken

1 (10 ¾-ounce) can cream of mushroom soup

1 (10 ¾-ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup

1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chiles with liquid

1 medium red bell pepper, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

1 ½ teaspoons chile powder

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

12 (6- to 7-inch) corn tortillas, cut into bite-size strips

1 ½ to 2 cups chopped leftover cooked chicken breast

8 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided use

Sliced tomatoes for garnish

Sliced green onions for garnish

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine soups, tomatoes, bell pepper, onion, chile powder and black pepper; mix well. Set aside.

Arrange about a third of the tortilla strips over bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Layer half of the chicken over tortilla strips; continue with half the soup mixture, half the cheese and another third of tortilla strips. Layer with remaining chicken, soup mixture and tortilla strips. Bake, tightly covered with nonstick foil, 45 minutes or until bubbly around edges and center is hot. Increase heat to 400 degrees. Uncover; sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake 4 to 5 minutes or until cheese is melted. Remove from oven. Top with sliced tomatoes and onions. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 8 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving (prepared with reduced-fat and reduced-sodium soups and reduced-fat cheese) contains approximately 276 calories, 22 g protein, 9 g fat, 28 g carbohydrate, 50 mg cholesterol, 647 mg sodium and 4 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 2.

Lentil Salad

2 cups dried lentils

¾ teaspoon coarse salt

2 large bay leaves

2 medium cucumbers, peeled, seeded and chopped

1 cup finely chopped celery

1 medium red onion, finely chopped

¾ cup orange juice

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 ½ tablespoons Dijon mustard

½ cup crumbled Greek feta cheese, divided use

Combine 4 cups water, lentils, salt and bay leaves in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 20 minutes or until lentils are tender. Drain and discard bay leaves.

Combine the lentils, cucumbers, celery and onion in a medium bowl.

Whisk together orange juice, vinegar and mustard in separate bowl. Add to lentil mixture. Cover and chill 2 to 6 hours. Top each serving with a tablespoon crumbled feta cheese.

Makes 8 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 223 calories, 17 g protein, 1 g fat, 39 g carbohydrate, 3 mg cholesterol, 374 mg sodium and 8 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 2.5.

Warm Roasted Potato Salad

2 pounds yellow potatoes, washed, scrubbed and dried

1 medium red bell pepper, chopped

1 small onion, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil or avocado oil

½ teaspoon coarse salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

Juice of half a lemon

½ cup crumbled Greek feta cheese

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cut each potato into bite-size pieces. Place potatoes on baking sheet and add chopped pepper and onion. Drizzle with oil; toss with salt and pepper. Bake 55 minutes or until potatoes are soft and start to crisp. Remove from oven. Squeeze lemon juice over potatoes; add feta cheese and parsley. Toss all ingredients together and transfer into medium serving bowl and enjoy while warm.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 204 calories, 5 g protein, 7 g fat, 30 g carbohydrate, 11 mg cholesterol, 311 mg sodium and 4 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 2.

Susan Nicholson is an Atlanta-based cookbook author and registered dietitian. She can be reached by email:

Food on 08/07/2019

Print Headline: 7-day menu planner


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