A week's worth of quick, healthful meals for budget-minded families
SUNDAY: Family day is a good time for Grilled Balsamic Pork Chops. Combine 8 boneless pork chops (¾ inch thick) with 1 ½ cups balsamic vinaigrette in a resealable plastic bag. Refrigerate 2 to 24 hours. Remove chops, pat dry and discard marinade. Grill over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes, turning once. On the side, (packaged) rice pilaf and green peas (from frozen) make a pretty plate. Add whole-grain rolls. For dessert, make or buy a carrot cake and go easy on the frosting.
Plan ahead: Save enough pork chops for Monday; save enough cake for Tuesday.
MONDAY: Reinvent those leftover pork chops as Grilled Pork and Provolone Paninis: Spread 1 teaspoon pesto on each of 8 slices Italian bread. Top 4 slices with thinly sliced cooked pork and 4 (1-ounce) slices provolone cheese. Top with remaining 4 bread slices. Lightly brush outer surface with olive oil; grill in skillet on medium until toasted on each side. Serve with deli coleslaw and chips. Sprinkle cinnamon on sliced apples for dessert.
TUESDAY: We liked this Black Bean Lasagna (see recipe) for a no-meat dinner. Serve it with a crisp lettuce wedge and garlic bread. Leftover cake is your dessert.
WEDNESDAY: When I was a kid, no dinner made me happier than grilled franks on buns and baked beans. Of course, you'll want mustard and relish on the hot dogs. It's easy to munch on celery sticks. For dessert, there were the Purple Cows to laugh about: Put scoops of vanilla ice cream into tall glasses; fill with grape soda. Slurp with a straw.
THURSDAY: This Chicken-Corn Chowder (see recipe) is a delicious way to save money. Serve with grilled-cheese sandwiches, sweet pickles and deli carrot salad. Fresh blueberries are good for dessert.
FRIDAY: You can have Chili Cheese Pierogies for a quick meal tonight. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Layer 1 package (thawed) frozen onion pierogies in a 7-by-11-inch baking dish; top with 1 (15-ounce) can vegetarian chili and bake 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle with 4 ounces shredded cheddar cheese and bake 5 more minutes or until cheese is melted. Garnish with sour cream before serving. Serve with deli broccoli salad and tortilla chips. Fresh tropical fruits make a quick dessert.
SATURDAY: The family always enjoys grilled chicken. Garnish it with Mango, Black Bean and Corn Salsa. Add Lemon and Herb Red Potato Salad (see recipe). Serve with fresh steamed zucchini and a baguette. Buy a cheesecake for dessert.
Black Bean Lasagna
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 medium onion, chopped
½ cup chopped green bell pepper
½ cup medium salsa
1 teaspoon chile powder
½ teaspoon cumin
1 cup skim-milk ricotta cheese
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
10 no-cook-style lasagna noodles
6 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
In large bowl, mash beans slightly. Stir in tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, salsa, chile powder and cumin; mix well.
In small bowl, combine ricotta, garlic powder and egg; blend well.
Spread 1 cup of tomato mixture over bottom of dish. Top with half of noodles, overlapping slightly. Top with half of remaining tomato mixture. Spoon ricotta mixture over top; spread carefully. Top with half of cheddar cheese, then with remaining noodles, tomato mixture and cheddar cheese. Cover with nonstick foil; bake 40 to 45 minutes or until noodles are tender. Uncover; let stand 15 minutes before serving.
Makes 8 servings.
Nutrition information: Each serving (prepared with reduced-sodium beans and tomatoes and reduced-fat cheese) contains approximately 271 calories, 17 g protein, 6 g fat, 37 g carbohydrate, 42 mg cholesterol, 244 mg sodium and 5 g fiber.
Carbohydrate choices: 2.5.
1 tablespoon butter
½ cup chopped onion
¼ cup finely chopped celery
1 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups 2% milk
2 cups chopped cooked chicken breast OR 1 (10- to 12-ounce) can chicken breast, drained
1 ½ cups frozen corn
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon ground red (cayenne) pepper
1/8 teaspoon coarse salt
1 (14 ¾-ounce) can no-salt-added cream-style corn
Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, celery and jalapeno pepper; cook 4 minutes or until vegetables are softened, stirring often. Add flour and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in milk, chicken, frozen corn, thyme, cayenne pepper, salt and creamed corn. Bring to a boil; cook 5 minutes or until thickened.
Makes 6 servings.
Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 266 calories, 21 g protein, 7 g fat, 30 g carbohydrate, 55 mg cholesterol, 162 mg sodium and 3 g fiber.
Carbohydrate choices: 2.
Lemon and Herb Red Potato Salad
3 pounds red potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons lemon zest PLUS 3 tablespoons juice
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon coarse salt, plus salt for cooking potatoes
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup finely chopped green onion, rinsed
3 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
3 tablespoons minced fresh chives
2 tablespoons capers, minced
Combine potatoes, 8 cups water, the vinegar and 1 teaspoon salt in Dutch oven; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and cook 10 to 15 minutes at a strong simmer until potatoes are just tender.
Meanwhile, whisk lemon zest and juice, pepper and ½ teaspoon salt together in large bowl. Slowly whisk in oil until emulsified; set aside.
Drain potatoes thoroughly, then transfer to rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle 2 tablespoons dressing over hot potatoes and gently toss until evenly coated. Let potatoes cool about 30 minutes, stirring once hallway though cooling. Whisk dressing to recombine; stir in onions, tarragon, parsley, chives and capers. Add cooled potatoes to remaining dressing and gently stir to combine. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature. (Adapted from "The Complete Summer Cookbook," America's Test Kitchen)
Makes 8 servings.
Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 209 calories, 4 g protein, 10 g fat, 29 g carbohydrate, no cholesterol, 232 mg sodium and 3 g fiber.
Carbohydrate choices: 2.
Susan Nicholson is an Atlanta-based cookbook author and registered dietitian. She can be reached by email: