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7-Day Menu Planner

by Susan Nicholson | April 21, 2021 at 1:52 a.m.
Black Bean Corn Chili (Courtesy of Tomato Wellness Council)

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

SUNDAY: Make family day special with Ginger Pork Loin (see recipe). Serve it topped with Mango Salsa: In a small bowl, combine 1 peeled and finely chopped mango, ½ cup finely chopped red onion, ½ finely chopped cucumber, 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, ½ teaspoon lime zest and ¼ teaspoon cumin. Cover and let stand at least 1 hour or up to 4 hours before serving. Add brown rice, snow peas and whole-grain rolls to round out the meal. Buy a carrot cake for dessert.

Plan ahead: Save enough pork, rice and cake for Monday.

MONDAY: Use the leftover pork for Pork and Broccoli Stir-Fry. In a small bowl, mix together 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 1 tablespoon less-sodium soy sauce and 1 tablespoon dry sherry; add to ¾ pound cooked leftover pork (cut into strips); stir to coat. In a large nonstick skillet or wok, heat 2 tablespoons canola oil on medium-high heat. Add pork mixture and stir-fry 2 minutes. Stir in 2 cloves minced garlic, 2 tablespoons minced ginger root and 3 cups broccoli florets; stir-fry 2 minutes. Add ¼ cup water; cover and steam 2 minutes or until broccoli is softened. Stir in 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce if desired. Serve over hot leftover rice and add bread sticks on the side. For dessert, slice the leftover cake.

TUESDAY: Treat the kids to the Ultimate Chicken Fingers: Heat oven to 450 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick foil. In a resealable plastic bag, combine 2/3 cup baking mix (such as Bisquick), ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, ¼ teaspoon coarse salt and ½ teaspoon paprika. Dip 1 pound chicken tenders (several tenders at a time) into 2 lightly beaten egg whites and then toss in bag. Shake off excess coating mixture and place tenders on baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake 12 to 14 minutes, turning after 6 minutes. Serve with oven fries and green beans. Peaches are your dessert.

Plan ahead: Soak Wednesday’s black beans overnight.

WEDNESDAY: Black Bean Corn Chili (see recipe) makes an excellent no-meat meal. Serve with a red-tipped lettuce salad and whole-grain rolls. Enjoy pears for dessert.

THURSDAY: Fettuccine With Cherry Tomatoes will be on the table in no time. Cook a 9-ounce package refrigerated fettuccine according to package directions; drain and return it to pot. To pot, add ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 (6- to 10-ounce) package refrigerated cooked chicken breast strips. Return pot to low heat; toss to coat and heat through. Remove from heat. Stir in 1 pint cherry tomatoes (halved) and ½ cup pitted ripe olives (halved). Season with coarse salt and pepper to taste; toss again and serve. Add a packaged green salad and garlic bread. Fresh tropical fruit is a light dessert.

FRIDAY: For a low-cost meal, try this upscale tuna salad and make Tuna Paninis: In a medium bowl, combine 3 tablespoons minced red onion, 3 tablespoons mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon lemon zest, ¼ teaspoon crushed fennel seeds, ¼ teaspoon pepper, 3 slices cooked and crumbled bacon and 2 (5-ounce) cans albacore tuna in water, drained and flaked. Mix well and spread on 4 slices sourdough bread. Top tuna with 1 slice provolone cheese and another slice of bread. Heat a large skillet on medium high; lightly coat each sandwich with cooking spray. Grill sandwiches until lightly browned, pressing flat with another heavy skillet throughout cooking time. Halve sandwiches and serve. Add baked chips and apple slices. Enjoy a sugar cookie for dessert.

SATURDAY: Dijon Chicken (see recipe) has a great flavor. Serve it with mashed potatoes to catch the sauce and add sugar snap peas, a romaine salad and a baguette on the side. For a special dessert, enjoy Key lime pie.


Ginger Pork Loin

  • 2 tablespoons orange marmalade
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger root
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons less-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 (3- to 4-pound) boneless pork loin, well-trimmed

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients except pork; mix well.

Place pork in a large resealable plastic bag; pour marinade over pork and turn to coat. Refrigerate 4 hours to overnight, turning occasionally.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Remove roast; discard marinade. Place pork on a rack in roasting pan. Bake 20 minutes per pound or until internal temperature reaches 150 degrees. Remove from oven, tent with foil and let stand 10 minutes before slicing.

Makes 12 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 175 calories, 23 g protein, 8 g fat, 1 g carbohydrate, 66 mg cholesterol, 58 mg sodium and no fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 0.

■ ■ ■

Black Bean Corn Chili

  • 1 pound dried black beans
  • 2 cups unsalted vegetable broth
  • 2 cups frozen sweet corn
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ tablespoon agave nectar
  • 1 tablespoon barbecue sauce
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chile powder
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cumin

Soak black beans overnight in a pot filled with water. Discard water. Place drained, soaked beans in a large pot. Add 4 cups water and remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer and then reduce heat to medium. Cook for about 60 to 70 minutes, until chili is thick and beans are tender. Serve warm.

Makes 8 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 263 calories, 13 g protein, 1 g fat, 50 g carbohydrate, no cholesterol, 139 mg sodium and 7 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 3.5.

■ ■ ■

Dijon Chicken

  • 6 boneless skinless chicken cutlets (about 1 ½ pounds)
  • ¼ teaspoon coarse salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 medium sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 ¾ cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet on medium. Add chicken and cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Remove chicken to plate; cover to keep warm. Add bell pepper to skillet along with onion; cook 5 to 6 minutes or until softened. Return chicken and accumulated liquid to skillet. Whisk together broth, flour and mustard; pour over chicken. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through; serve.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 190 calories, 26 g protein, 6 g fat, 7 g carbohydrate, 73 mg cholesterol, 401 mg sodium and 1 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 0.5.

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


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