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7-Day Menu Planner

by Susan Nicholson | February 3, 2021 at 1:49 a.m.
Best-Ever Chili (Courtesy of Gwynn Galvin/

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

SUNDAY: Gather the family for the Super Bowl and start the fun by passing around a deli vegetable tray with dips. At halftime, serve Best-Ever Chili (see recipe) and cornbread. For an easy dessert, buy brownies.

Plan ahead: Save enough chili and brownies and make enough cornbread for Monday.

MONDAY: Serve the leftover chili over leftover toasted cornbread. Split and broil the cornbread 1 to 2 minutes or until lightly toasted. Spoon the heated leftover chili over the cornbread. On the side, deli coleslaw goes well. Leftover brownies and sliced peaches make a good dessert.

Plan ahead: Save enough peaches for Tuesday.

TUESDAY: Make Spaghetti With White Clam Sauce for a quick meal. In a saucepan, heat 2 teaspoons olive oil; add 1 teaspoon minced garlic and cook 1 minute. Add 1 (10.5- or 12-ounce) can or jar clam sauce; heat through. Toss sauce with cooked spaghetti. Serve with a packaged green salad and garlic toast. Leftover sliced peaches are an easy dessert.

WEDNESDAY: Soup is always a good way to stretch the budget, and Ham and Black Bean Soup fits the bill: In a saucepan, combine 1 cup cubed cooked ham, 1 cup salsa, 2 (15-ounce) cans black beans (rinsed) and 1 (14-ounce) can chicken broth. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and cover; simmer 10 minutes. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with sliced green onions. Serve with a spinach salad and crackers. Try sliced apples for dessert.

THURSDAY: These Hot Dog Smiley-Face Sandwiches will surely win the kids over. For each serving, cut 1 hot dog at ½-inch intervals almost completely through (leave ¼ inch intact). Cook in small nonstick skillet on medium 3 to 4 minutes on each side until browned and hot dog has curled; remove from skillet. Meanwhile, for each serving, place 1 slice cheese on a slice of bread. Place in skillet. Cover and cook 1 to 2 minutes over low or until cheese melts. Remove from skillet. Place hot dog on bread for mouth of "face." To complete the face, use sliced pimento-stuffed olives for eyes, cherry tomato halves for the nose, small potato chips for ears and finely shredded lettuce for hair. Serve with baked waffle fries (from frozen). Tropical fruit is easy for dessert.

FRIDAY: Your no-meat dinner will be delicious tonight with Italian White Beans (see recipe). Serve over sliced polenta. Add a lettuce and tomato salad and crusty bread. Pears are a simple dessert.

SATURDAY: Serve the family Broiled Flounder With Lemon: Heat broiler. Coat baking rack with cooking spray. Lay fish on rack and brush with olive oil; sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper. Broil 2 to 3 inches from heat, 2 to 4 minutes (depending on thickness), until fish is just cooked through and edges flake with fork. Squeeze fresh lemon juice over filets and serve immediately. On the side, Creamy Blue Cheese Rice With Spinach and Walnuts (see recipe) is a worthy accompaniment. Add a Boston lettuce salad and a baguette. Raspberry sorbet with butter cookies is a simple dessert.


Best-Ever Chili

  • 1 ½ pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chile powder
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 (28-ounce) can red kidney beans
  • 1 (15.5-ounce) jar salsa
  • 1 (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chiles
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • Sour cream, cilantro leaves, sliced green onion, shredded cheddar cheese and jalapeno slices for garnish

In a Dutch oven, cook beef, onion, garlic, cumin, chile powder and salt on medium high 8 minutes or until beef is no longer pink and onions are softened. Stir in beans, salsa, green chiles and tomato paste; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve with garnishes.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving (without garnishes) contains approximately 310 calories, 32 g protein, 6 g fat, 34 g carbohydrate, 62 mg cholesterol, 796 mg sodium and 10 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 2.

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Italian White Beans

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups finely chopped onion
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans
  • 4 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil on medium-high. Add onion; cook 6 minutes. Add red pepper, garlic and bay leaves; cook 4 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons water and beans. Cook 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Stir in vinegar, salt and pepper. If mixture seems a little dry, stir in more water. Discard bay leaves and serve.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 178 calories, 7 g protein, 6 g fat, 25 g carbohydrate, no cholesterol, 207 mg sodium and 7 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 1.5.

■ ■ ■

Creamy Blue Cheese Rice With Spinach and Walnuts

  • 1 (8-ounce) package Neufchatel cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and undrained
  • 1 (4-ounce) package crumbled blue cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 cups cooked rice
  • ½ cup toasted chopped walnuts (see note)

In a large skillet on medium, heat cream cheese and ¼ cup water; cook and stir 3 or 4 minutes or until cheese is melted. Add spinach, blue cheese and pepper; cook 2 minutes. Add rice; cook 3 to 5 minutes or until heated through, Remove from heat. Stir in walnuts and serve.

Makes 8 servings.

Note: To toast walnuts, heat oven to 350 degrees, spread on flat baking sheet and bake 5 to 10 minutes or until golden.

Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 256 calories, 10 g protein, 15 g fat, 21 g carbohydrate, 31 mg cholesterol, 346 mg sodium and 2 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 1.5.

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


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