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story.lead_photo.caption Chickpea Salad With Carrots, Arugula and Olives Courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen

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

SUNDAY: Fire up the grill for Flatiron Steaks (also called shoulder top blade steaks). Grill the 6- to 8-ounce steaks on medium 13 to 15 minutes for medium-rare to medium. While you're at it, grill some fresh asparagus and potatoes for some add-ons, and serve mixed greens and sourdough bread alongside. Buy or make chocolate eclairs for dessert.

Plan ahead: Cook an extra pound of steak for Monday and save enough eclairs for Tuesday.

MONDAY: Make this quick Beef Stew for an easy meal and let the grilled flavor of the leftover steak perk up the stew. Combine 2 cups water with 2 (0.87-ounce) packages brown gravy mix; mix well. Pour mixture into a Dutch oven and add 1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce and 1 (16-ounce) package frozen vegetables for stew (potatoes, carrots, celery and onion); bring to a boil on medium-high. Add chopped steak; reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Season to taste with coarse salt and pepper. For something different, serve the stew in bread bowls (follow directions on bread dough package), or serve with refrigerated crusty French loaf. Add a fresh spinach salad. For dessert, red and green grapes are simple.

TUESDAY: Teach the kids some Spanish tonight with Tortas de Huevos con Aguacate (Egg and Avocado Torta). A torta is a warm and filling sandwich. Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, mash 1 peeled avocado with 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice; set aside. In a medium bowl, beat 3 eggs with ¼ teaspoon coarse salt; fold in 1 (4-ounce) can drained chopped chiles. In medium skillet, melt 2 teaspoons butter over medium-high heat. Add eggs and chiles; cook, stirring until desired consistency. Spread avocado mixture on inside surfaces of 4 split, soft sandwich rolls. Spoon hot eggs onto rolls. Top each with a tomato slice and cover with tops of rolls. Place tortas on baking sheet; bake 5 minutes or until rolls begin to toast. Serve with deli carrot salad. Leftover eclairs for dessert will make the kids even happier.

WEDNESDAY: We're always in the mood for a low-cost meal, especially when the slow cooker does most of the work, so Italian Chicken-Lentil Soup (see recipe) fits the bill. Serve it with deli broccoli salad and whole-grain rolls. Try kiwis for dessert.

Plan ahead: Save enough soup for Friday.

THURSDAY: Chickpea Salad With Carrots, Arugula and Olives (see recipe) offers lots of flavor without meat. Serve it with a packaged Italian salad and garlic bread. Cool your palate with lime sherbet for dessert.

FRIDAY: Heat the leftover soup and serve it over brown rice tonight. Munch on celery sticks on the side. Make cornbread (from mix). Juicy plums are good for dessert.

SATURDAY: Your family will enjoy simple Baked Tilapia With Dill Butter. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a 7-by-11-inch baking dish in oven. Place 4 (4- to 6-ounce) tilapia filets in dish; turn to coat. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon dried dill and coarse salt and pepper to taste. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until fish is opaque throughout. Meanwhile, melt 1 ½ teaspoons butter in small skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons unseasoned dry bread crumbs; cook until crumbs are light golden brown, stirring constantly. Sprinkle over fish during the last 3 minutes of baking. Serve with Sweet and Spicy Vegetable Couscous (see recipe). Add sliced cucumbers in sour cream and flatbread. Dessert is fresh strawberries over chocolate ice cream.

THE RECIPES

Italian Chicken-Lentil Soup

1 medium onion, chopped

2 medium zucchini, chopped (about 3 cups)

3 cups sliced carrots

12 ounces dried lentils, sorted and rinsed

6 ¼ cups unsalted chicken broth

1 teaspoon coarse salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

1 ½ pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs

8 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms

3 (14.5-ounce) cans fire-roasted or regular tomatoes, with liquid

5 teaspoons dried basil

Shredded parmesan, if desired

In a 4-quart or larger slow cooker, mix onion, zucchini, carrots, lentils, broth, salt and pepper. Top with chicken. Cover; cook on low 5 to 6 hours. Remove chicken from cooker to plate. Shred, using 2 forks; return chicken to cooker. Stir in mushrooms and tomatoes. Cover; cook about 15 minutes longer or until thoroughly heated. Top each serving with basil and parmesan.

Makes 8 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 336 calories, 29 g protein, 5 g fat, 42 g carbohydrate, 79 mg cholesterol, 442 mg sodium and 9 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 3.

Chickpea Salad With Carrots, Arugula and Olives

2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, rinsed

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

¾ teaspoon coarse salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Pinch ground red (cayenne) pepper

3 carrots, peeled and shredded

½ cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped

1 cup baby arugula, chopped

In a medium bowl, microwave chickpeas on 100% power about 1 ½ minutes or until hot. Stir in oil, juice, salt, black and cayenne pepper and let sit 30 minutes. Add carrots and olives and toss to combine. Bring to room temperature before adding arugula. Toss and serve. (Adapted from "The Complete Summer Cookbook," America's Test Kitchen.)

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 408 calories, 12 g protein, 20 g fat, 45 g carbohydrate, no cholesterol, 737 mg sodium and 10 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 3.

Sweet and Spicy Vegetable Couscous

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ cup chopped red onion

1 large carrot, shredded

2 ½ cups unsalted chicken broth

1 (11-ounce) can Mexican-style corn, rinsed

1 (9-ounce) package frozen tiny green peas

2 tablespoons golden raisins or dried cranberries

1 ½ teaspoons curry powder

1 teaspoon cumin

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 ½ cups couscous

2 tablespoons toasted slivered almonds

Heat oil in Dutch oven on medium. Add onion and carrot; cook and stir 2 to 3 minutes or until softened. Increase heat to medium-high. Add broth, corn, peas, raisins (or cranberries), curry powder, cumin and red pepper; mix well. Bring to a boil. Stir in couscous. Cover, remove from heat and let stand 5 to 7 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Garnish with almonds.

Makes 10 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 185 calories, 6 g protein, 3 g fat, 33 g carbohydrate, no cholesterol, 167 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:

susan@7daymenu.com

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