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story.lead_photo.caption Cajun Beef Pepper Steak With Rice Courtesy of Cattlemen’s Beef Board

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

SUNDAY: Celebrate family time with Cajun Beef Pepper Steak With Rice (see recipe). Alongside, add mixed greens and crusty bread. Buy a Boston cream pie for dessert.

Plan ahead: Prepare enough steak and save some Boston cream pie for Monday.

MONDAY: A delicious way to use the leftover steak is in Beef, Rotini and Artichoke Salad With Balsamic Vinaigrette (see recipe). All you need is sourdough bread to go alongside. Slice the leftover cream pie for dessert.

TUESDAY: Dinner couldn't be easier than using your slow cooker for Seasoned Black Beans (see recipe). Serve the beans over brown rice and add carrot and celery sticks on the side, along with whole-grain rolls. For dessert, enjoy red and green grapes.

WEDNESDAY: Fix a quick Barbecue Pizza for dinner tonight: Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place a large ready-to-heat pizza crust on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with 1 cup (of 2 cups total) shredded cheddar cheese. Top with 1 (15-ounce) container refrigerated fully cooked shredded beef with barbecue sauce and 4 red onion rings. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until hot. Add a packaged green salad and sliced kiwis, and dinner is prepared.

THURSDAY: Pasta, beans and tuna are all money-savers, and this Fettuccine With Tuna and White Beans adds good flavor to the equation. Cook 12 ounces fettuccine; drain. In a large bowl, combine 2 (6-ounce) cans drained, flaked, water-packed albacore tuna, 1 (15-ounce) can rinsed reduced-sodium cannellini beans and 2 cups marinara sauce. Toss with the fettuccine. Serve with a spinach salad and Italian bread. Plums make a simple dessert.

FRIDAY: The kids will be excited for Soft Bean Tacos. Spread warmed corn tortillas with heated refried beans. Top with salsa, shredded lettuce and shredded cheddar cheese. Serve with canned Mexican-style corn on the side, along with sliced avocados. For dessert, apple slices go well with peanut butter for dipping.

SATURDAY: Pork Medallions With Dijon-Dill Sauce make a family meal special. Cut a 1- to 1 ¼-pound pork tenderloin into 8 pieces. Place each piece on flat surface; cover pork pieces with waxed paper and flatten gently with heel of hand to about ¼-inch thickness. Cook in a skillet on medium heat in two batches, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove to warm platter; season with garlic salt and black pepper on both sides; cover to keep warm. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine ½ cup plain yogurt, 4 teaspoons Dijon mustard, 2 teaspoons fresh dill leaves and 2 teaspoons sugar; mix well. Serve sauce with pork. On the side, add couscous, fresh green beans, a Boston lettuce salad and a baguette. Buy an apple pie for dessert and top with light whipped cream.

THE RECIPES

Cajun Beef Pepper Steak With Rice

2 teaspoons Cajun or Creole seasoning blend, divided use

2 (1-pound) boneless sirloin steaks, ¾ inch thick

2 medium green or red bell peppers, cut into quarters

2 teaspoons canola oil

1 (5.5- to 8-ounce) package Cajun or Creole rice mix with seasonings

Prepare grill for medium heat.

Press 1 ½ teaspoons seasoning blend evenly into steaks.

Toss peppers with oil and remaining seasoning blend.

Place steak in center of grill over, ash-covered coals; arrange peppers around steak. Grill, covered, 7 to 11 minutes for medium-rare to medium doneness (on gas grill: medium heat, 8 to 13 minutes) and until peppers are tender, turning occasionally. Meanwhile, prepare rice blend according to directions, omitting oil or margarine. Carve steak into slices. Serve with peppers and rice.

Makes 4 servings (save half of beef for later).

Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 294 calories, 26 g protein, 6 g fat, 33 g carbohydrate, 56 mg cholesterol, 504 mg sodium, 2 g fiber.

Carbohydrate count: 2.

Beef, Rotini and Artichoke Salad With Balsamic Vinaigrette

12 ounces tri-colored rotini (corkscrew) pasta

1 pound boneless cooked sirloin steak, cut into thin 2-inch strips

1 (14-ounce) can quartered water-packed artichokes, drained

1 large red bell pepper, cut into thin strips

1 cup pitted black olives

2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil

½ cup balsamic vinaigrette

Cook pasta according to package directions; rinse and drain.

In a large bowl, combine steak, cooked pasta, artichokes, bell pepper, olives and basil. Add vinaigrette; toss. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours before serving.

Makes 8 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 356 calories, 22 g protein, 12 g fat, 38 g carbohydrate, 33 mg cholesterol, 410 mg sodium and 2 g fiber.

Carbohydrate: 2.5.

Seasoned Black Beans

1 pound dried black beans, sorted and rinsed

1 large onion, chopped

1 large green bell pepper, chopped

5 cloves garlic, minced

2 bay leaves

1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, with liquid

5 cups unsalted vegetable broth or water

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 teaspoons cumin

1 tablespoon seeded and finely chopped fresh jalapeno pepper

1 teaspoon coarse salt

Chopped red onion, chopped hard-cooked eggs, chopped cilantro and reduced-fat sour cream for garnish

In a 4-quart or larger slow cooker, combine beans, onion, bell pepper, garlic, bay leaves, tomatoes, broth or water, olive oil, cumin, jalapeno pepper and salt. Cover and cook on high 6 to 8 hours or until beans are tender and most of the liquid is absorbed. Remove bay leaves. Garnish as desired and serve.

Makes 8 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 268 calories, 12 g protein, 4 g fat, 45 g carbohydrate, no cholesterol, 374 mg sodium and 6 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 3.

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

susan@7daymenu.com

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