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7-Day Menu Planner

by Susan Nicholson | December 1, 2021 at 1:49 a.m.
Lemon-Herb Roasted Cod With Crispy Garlic Potatoes (Courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen)

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

SUNDAY: Family day is a perfect time to serve your own roast chicken. Serve with brown rice, gravy, steamed broccoli and whole-grain bread. For dessert, present strawberry ice cream in pretty dessert dishes.

Plan ahead: Save enough chicken and ice cream for Monday and cook enough rice for Monday and Wednesday.

MONDAY: Take advantage of the leftover chicken and rice when you prepare Spicy Thai Chicken Salad. In a large bowl, combine 2 cups chopped cooked chicken, 3 cups cooked brown rice, 6 cups coleslaw mix and ¼ cup chopped cilantro. In medium bowl, whisk together 1 ¼ cups Thai peanut sauce (bottled), ¼ cup canola oil and ¼ cup water. Add to rice mixture and toss to coat. Garnish with ½ cup coarsely chopped dry roasted peanuts and serve. Serve with onion soup and bread sticks. Scoop the leftover ice cream for dessert.

TUESDAY: Pork Goulash (see recipe) is easy on the budget and easy on the cook! Serve with whole-grain noodles, mixed greens and whole-grain rolls. Enjoy fresh pineapple chunks for a light dessert.

Plan ahead: Save enough goulash for Thursday.

WEDNESDAY: Kids will love helping prepare Diego's Meatball Mountain Range (see recipe), inspired by the cousin of Dora the Explorer. Add a chopped lettuce salad and soft rolls. For dessert, instant chocolate pudding will continue their cooking lesson.

THURSDAY: Heat the leftover goulash and spoon it over couscous. Add a packaged green salad and whole-grain bread. For a light dessert, try kiwis.

FRIDAY: Penne With Bean Sauce is a no-fuss, no-meat entree. Cook a 10-ounce package of frozen chopped spinach. Stir in 1 (16-ounce) can cannellini beans (rinsed and well drained) and 2 cups marinara sauce. Heat through and stir into any cooked pasta. Serve with a lettuce wedge and garlic bread. Munch on oatmeal cookies for dessert.

SATURDAY: Invite guests for Lemon-Herb Roasted Cod With Crispy Garlic Potatoes (see recipe). Serve with steamed green beans, an arugula salad and a baguette. Buy fruit tarts for dessert.


Pork Goulash

  • 2 pounds well-trimmed boneless pork shoulder or loin, cut into bite-size chunks
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, with liquid
  • 1 (1.1-ounce) packet beef-onion soup mix
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh dill

In a 4-quart or larger slow cooker, place pork. Add tomatoes, soup mix, paprika, garlic and caraway seeds. Cover and cook on low 7 to 8 hours or until pork is tender. Stir in sour cream and top each serving with dill.

Makes 8 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving (prepared with reduced-fat sour cream) contains approximately 243 calories, 27 g protein, 10 g fat, 9 g carbohydrate, 88 mg cholesterol, 509 mg sodium and 2 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: ½

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Diego's Meatball Mountain Range

  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons dry breadcrumbs
  • 5 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese, divided use
  • ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • ¼ teaspoon coarse salt
  • ½ cup cooked brown rice
  • ¾ pound very lean ground beef
  • 2 ½ cups meatless pasta sauce
  • 8 ounces whole-grain spaghetti
  • 1 to 2 cups large fresh broccoli florets, cooked

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 2 ½-quart rectangular baking dish with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine egg, onion, breadcrumbs, 1 tablespoon parmesan, Italian seasoning and salt. Add rice and beef; mix well. On a piece of waxed paper, flatten meat mixture into a 1-inch-thick square. Cut the square into a grid to make 20 equal pieces. (Kids can help here.) Roll each piece into a meatball. Arrange in prepared dish and bake about 15 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, heat pasta sauce on low. Transfer cooked meatballs to sauce and wipe out baking dish. Cook spaghetti according to directions; drain. Transfer spaghetti to baking dish. Add about ½ cup sauce without meatballs; toss to coat. Arrange remaining sauce and the meatballs on spaghetti in center of dish. (Kids can help here.) Arrange broccoli around edge to look like trees. Loosely cover with nonstick foil and bake 5 minutes. Top with remaining cheese and serve. Cut broccoli into smaller pieces before serving.

Makes 6 servings.

Adapted from "Dora & Diego: Let's Cook" (2010, Wiley)

Nutrition information: Each serving (prepared with 95% lean beef) contains approximately 325 calories, 22 g protein, 7 g fat, 44 g carbohydrate, 66 mg cholesterol, 449 mg sodium and 7 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 3

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Lemon-Herb Roasted Cod With Crispy Garlic Potatoes

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided use
  • 1 ½ pounds russet potatoes, unpeeled, sliced into ¼-inch rounds
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¾ teaspoon coarse salt, divided use
  • ½ teaspoon pepper, divided use
  • 4 (6-to 8-ounce) skinless cod filets, 1 inch thick
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ¼-inch pieces
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 4 thin lemon slices

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Brush rimmed baking sheet with 1 tablespoon oil.

In a large bowl, combine potatoes, garlic, remaining oil, ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Cover; microwave on 100% power for 12 to 14 minutes or until potatoes are just tender.

Stack potatoes in a shingle pattern in 4 rectangular piles that measure roughly 4 by 6 inches on prepared sheet. Pat cod dry with paper towels, sprinkle with remaining salt and pepper and lay 1 filet, skinned side down, on each potato pile. Place butter, thyme sprig and 1 lemon slice on top. Roast 15 to 18 minutes or until fish flakes apart when gently prodded with paring knife and internal temperature is 135 degrees. Slide spatula underneath potatoes and cod to gently transfer to individual plates and serve. (Adapted from "One-Hour Comfort," American's Test Kitchen.)

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 411 calories, 34 g protein, 17 g fat, 31 g carbohydrate, 96 mg cholesterol, 464 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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