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7-Day Menu Planner

by Susan Nicholson | October 14, 2020 at 1:52 a.m.
Cheesy Lentils and Rice Courtesy of Cabot Creamery

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

SUNDAY: Celebrate family day with your favorite recipe for leg of lamb. Accompany it with colorful Broccoli-Walnut Noodles (see recipe). For more color and flavor, add Lemony Stewed Tomatoes: With a vegetable peeler, remove a strip of the yellow part of a lemon peel. Add peel and a squeeze of lemon juice (to taste) to canned stewed tomatoes and heat. Remove peel and serve. Add whole-grain rolls. For dessert, make or buy a red velvet cake.

Plan ahead: Save enough lamb and cake for Monday.

MONDAY: Make delicious Mediterranean Lamb Stew with Sunday's leftovers. In a saucepan, combine 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 cups cooked chopped lamb, 1 (16-ounce) can chickpeas (rinsed), 1 (14 ½-ounce) can diced tomatoes with liquid, 1 (7-ounce) can caponata (eggplant appetizer). Mix well. Heat through and serve. Add couscous, cucumber spears and flatbread. Leftover cake works for dessert.

TUESDAY: What kid wouldn't like Beany Roll-Ups? Mix 1 (16-ounce) can refried beans, ½ cup mild salsa and ¼ teaspoon chile powder in a small saucepan. Heat on medium about 5 minutes or until warm. Spread about ¼ cup mixture along center of each of 8 (8- to 10-inch) whole-grain flour tortillas. Top with shredded lettuce and 1 tablespoon shredded Monterey Jack cheese. Fold over sides and ends and serve with additional salsa. Add rice cooked with shredded carrots. The kids can make Celery Boats with cream cheese and dried cranberries or cherries. Pears make a dandy dessert.

WEDNESDAY: Little time to cook tonight? Here's where canned Lentil Soup and Grilled Chili-Cheese Sandwiches on whole-grain bread come to the rescue. Drain 1 (4-ounce) can whole green chiles. Put 1 chile between 2 slices (any) cheese on whole-grain bread. Coat both sides of bread with cooking spray and grill in skillet until cheese melts. Slice diagonally and serve with pickles. For dessert, strawberry ice cream is easy.

Plan ahead: Cook Thursday's brown rice and lentils today. Save enough ice cream for Friday.

THURSDAY: When the food budget is tight, Cheesy Lentils and Rice (see recipe) will keep you afloat. Serve with Tomato and Sweet Onion Salad: Slice 2 pounds ripe, cored tomatoes (any kind) into 1-inch chunks. Tear 20 fresh mint leaves into small pieces. Thinly slice a medium sweet onion. Place tomatoes, mint and onions in a medium bowl. Add juice of one lemon, 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon coarse salt and some pepper. Combine, gently toss and serve. Add toasted English muffins. Peaches are an economical dessert.

FRIDAY: Skipping meat tonight couldn't be easier with Savory Bean and Pasta Salad (see recipe). Serve with a lettuce wedge and garlic bread. Scoop the leftover ice cream for dessert.

SATURDAY: The family will love Pepper-Lime Chicken. Place 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (flattened to an even thickness) on unheated rack (coated with cooking spray) of broiler pan. Broil 4 to 5 inches from heat about 6 minutes or until lightly browned, turning once. Meanwhile, mix together ½ teaspoon lime zest (green part only), 1 tablespoon canola oil, 2 cloves minced garlic, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, ½ teaspoon cracked black pepper and ¼ teaspoon coarse salt. Brush both sides of chicken with glaze. Broil 5 to 15 minutes more, until chicken is tender or internal temperature reaches 165 degrees, brushing often during the last 5 minutes. Serve with brown rice tossed with toasted pistachio nuts, French-cut green beans and sourdough bread. Make dessert light with orange sorbet and chocolate wafer cookies.


Broccoli-Walnut Noodles

6 ounces wide or medium curly egg noodles

1 pound fresh bite-size broccoli florets

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ cup chopped walnuts

Zest and juice of ½ lemon

Juice of ½ orange

Coarse salt and ground black pepper to taste

Cook noodles according to package directions; drain. Microwave broccoli on 100% power for 4 minutes or until tender.

In a small skillet, heat oil on medium-high and add walnuts; cook 1 minute.

In a large bowl, combine cooked noodles and cooked broccoli. Add walnut-oil mixture to broccoli mixture; toss to mix. Add lemon zest, lemon juice, orange juice, and salt and pepper to taste; toss again. Serve immediately.

Makes 8 servings.

Cheesy Lentils and Rice

2 cups uncooked brown lentils

1 cup uncooked brown rice

1 cup unsalted chicken broth

2 (10-ounce) cans diced tomatoes and green chiles, with liquid

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons cumin

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon coarse salt

½ teaspoon pepper

8 ounces shredded pepper jack cheese, divided use

Chopped cilantro for garnish

Sour cream for garnish

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cook lentils and rice according to package directions.

In a large bowl, combine lentils, rice, broth, tomatoes and green chilies, garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper and half the cheese. Mix well and spoon into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top with remaining cheese. Cover with nonstick foil; bake 40 minutes or until bubbly. Let stand 5 minutes; garnish with cilantro and sour cream before serving.

Makes about 10 cups.

Savory Bean and Pasta Salad

6 ounces medium shell or penne pasta

2 (15-ounce) cans three-bean salad, lightly drained

1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

¾ cup provolone cheese, cut into ½-inch cubes (about 3 ounces)

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon minced garlic

¼ teaspoon pepper

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and rinse.

In a large bowl, combine cooked pasta and all remaining ingredients; toss to mix. Cover and chill until serving time.

Makes 5 servings.

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


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