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7-Day Menu Planner

by Susan Nicholson | August 25, 2021 at 1:59 a.m.
Herbed Walnut Potato Salad (Courtesy of California Walnuts)

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

SUNDAY: Prepare Grilled Pork Chops for a simple family meal. Marinate 4 (¾-inch-thick) boneless pork chops in ¾ cup Italian dressing and 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce for at least 20 minutes or up to 12 hours. Grill chops (discard marinade), turning once, 8 to 11 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 145 degrees. Serve with Herbed Walnut Potato Salad (see recipe). Add deli coleslaw and whole-grain rolls. For dessert, Strawberry Shortcake Trifle is worth every bite. In a large bowl, mix together 1 quart sliced strawberries and ¼ cup sugar. In a medium bowl, stir together 8 ounces frozen whipped topping (thawed) and 1/3 cup strawberry topping (such as Smuckers). Cut a marbled or other pound cake (13 ounces) into 1-inch cubes. Place half the cake cubes in a large glass bowl. Spoon half the berries and juice evenly over cake. Spread half the topping over berries. Repeat once. Cover and refrigerate 4 hours to overnight. Garnish with more berries, if desired.

Plan ahead: Prepare enough potato salad and save some strawberries for Monday.

MONDAY: Take it easy today and pick up a rotisserie chicken. Serve it with leftover potato salad and sesame rolls. Add a platter with sliced tomatoes, lettuce, celery sticks, pickles and hearts of palm. For dessert, enjoy leftover strawberries and brownies.

TUESDAY: It's always time for chili, especially an easy no-meat version like this Three-Bean Chili (see recipe). Serve over brown rice. Add mixed greens and cornbread. Slice watermelon for dessert.

Plan ahead: Save enough chili for Thursday and enough watermelon for Friday.

WEDNESDAY: We liked the flavor of Chipotle Chicken Pasta (see recipe), and you will, too. Serve it with a spinach salad and garlic bread. How about cantaloupe for dessert?

THURSDAY: You'll have minimal work tonight because you will just heat the leftover chili and serve it over toasted biscuits. Add a packaged green salad. For dessert, take advantage of fresh, local peaches.

FRIDAY: Treat the kids to Taco Dogs tonight. Cook 8 hot dogs in boiling water; drain. In a microwave-safe bowl, combine 1 cup canned refried beans, 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese and ½ cup salsa; mix well. Cover and microwave on 100% power for 2 minutes or until heated; stir once. Spread mixture on 1 side of 8 (8-inch) flour tortillas; place hot dogs on tortillas. Top dogs with shredded lettuce and chopped tomatoes, and roll. Serve with oven fries. Slice the leftover watermelon for dessert.

SATURDAY: The family will feel special when you serve them Baked Dijon Tilapia. Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, mix 1 tablespoon each Dijon mustard and olive oil, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill, ½ teaspoon pepper and ½ teaspoon garlic powder. Spread mixture over top of 4 (6-ounce) tilapia filets. Sprinkle each filet with some panko breadcrumbs and sliced almonds. Bake 12 minutes or until tilapia is opaque throughout. Serve with corn on the cob, a Boston lettuce salad and sourdough bread. Buy a Key lime pie for dessert.


Herbed Walnut Potato Salad

1 ½ pounds small Yukon gold potatoes

1 ½ pounds small red potatoes

1 medium red bell pepper, chopped

¾ cup sliced green onions

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

¼ cup white balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

¼ teaspoon coarse salt (or to taste)

Ground black pepper to taste

1 cup California walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons snipped fresh basil

Quarter potatoes and place in a large saucepan fitted with a steamer basket. Steam for 20 to 25 minutes or until potatoes are tender when pierced with a sharp knife; set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combined cooled potatoes, bell pepper and green onions.

In a separate bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and black pepper. Drizzle over potatoes and vegetables; lightly toss to coat with dressing, then cover and refrigerate until ready to serve (at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours). Just before serving, stir in walnuts and basil.

Makes 8 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 239 calories, 4 g protein, 17 g fat, 21 g carbohydrate, no cholesterol, 110 mg sodium and 4 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 1 ½

Three-Bean Chili

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 tablespoons chili seasoning

2 medium red, orange or yellow bell peppers, chopped

1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced ¼ inch crosswise

1 (14.5-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes

1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce

¼ cup ketchup

½ teaspoon dried oregano

1 (15-ounce) can black beans (rinsed)

1 (15-ounce) can small white beans (rinsed)

1 (15-ounce) can red kidney beans (rinsed)

Shredded cheddar cheese for garnish

Heat oil in a Dutch oven on medium. Add onion, garlic and chili seasoning; cook 3 minutes. Add peppers and zucchini; cook 5 minutes. Stir occasionally. Stir in tomatoes (and their liquid), tomato sauce, ketchup and oregano. Cook 8 minutes. Gently stir in all beans. Cover; cook 3 minutes. Ladle into bowls; garnish with cheese.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving (prepared with reduced-sodium beans and served without cheese) contains approximately 275 calories, 15 g protein, 3 g fat, 55 g carbohydrate, no cholesterol, 560 mg sodium and 18 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 3 ½

Chipotle Chicken Pasta

8 ounces whole-wheat rotelle (wagon wheels) or rotini pasta

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces

½ medium red onion, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 (14 ½-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained

¾ cup whole milk

2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, seeded and chopped

¼ teaspoon coarse salt

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain, reserving ½ cup pasta water.

Heat oil in a large skillet on medium until hot. Add chicken; cook 5 minutes, stirring once or twice. Add onion and garlic; cook 3 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, milk, chipotles and salt. Simmer, uncovered, 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in cilantro. Toss pasta with sauce; add reserved water as needed to thin sauce.

Makes 8 cups.

Nutrition information: Each cup contains approximately 243 calories, 23 g protein, 5 g fat, 26 g carbohydrate, 57 mg cholesterol, 315 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:

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