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7-Day Menu Planner

by Susan Nicholson | February 10, 2021 at 2:03 a.m.
Raspberry Gratin (Jacques Pepin Quick & Simple/HMH/Tom Hopkins)

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

SUNDAY: Prepare something special for your sweetheart on Valentine’s Day, such as this Honey-Ginger Grilled Salmon (see recipe). Serve with couscous, sugar snap peas and a baguette. Treat your honey to Raspberry Gratin: Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place 1 (16-ounce) bag frozen (or fresh) unsweetened raspberries in a 5-cup gratin dish. Place 3 croissants or Danish pastries or leftover cake, cut into ½-inch pieces (2 cups), in a bowl. Add 3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter and ½ cup packed light brown sugar to bowl; mix well. Sprinkle on berries. Bake about 25 minutes or until browned. Serve warm with creme fraiche or sour cream. Garnish each serving with fresh mint. (Adapted from “Jacques Pepin Quick & Simple,” HMH.)

Plan ahead: Save enough creme fraiche or sour cream for Monday.

MONDAY: Thanks to your slow cooker, you’ll have an easy meal for the family with Creamy Country Chicken and Vegetables (see recipe) on the menu. Serve the comfort-food combo with a lettuce wedge and biscuits. Top strawberries with leftover creme fraiche or sour cream for dessert.

TUESDAY: Perk up your no-meat dinner with Lean Bean Bake (see recipe). Serve with guacamole on shredded lettuce with tomato wedges. Keep dessert easy and enjoy some peaches.

WEDNESDAY: You’ll have a hearty dinner in a hurry when you prepare Spanish Rice and Beef Soup. In a Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons butter on medium-high until melted. Add 1 pound beef cube steak (cut into 1-inch cubes) and 1 clove garlic (crushed); stir-fry 2 to 3 minutes or until outside of beef is no longer pink (do not overcook). Remove from pan; season beef with 2 teaspoons seasoning mixture from 1 (6.8-ounce) package Spanish rice mix. In same pan, combine rice mix, remaining seasoning mixture, 5 cups water and 1 (14 ½-ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chiles with liquid; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover tightly and simmer 15 to 17 minutes or until rice is tender. Return beef to soup, heat through and stir in chopped fresh cilantro if desired. Serve immediately with a mixed green salad and whole-grain rolls. For dessert, plums are a sweet treat.

THURSDAY: Pass up high-calorie, high-fat frozen chicken fingers for these Baked Taco Chicken Fingers. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Blend ½ package mild taco seasoning with 1 tablespoon flour and 2 tablespoons cornmeal in a shallow dish. Line a baking sheet with nonstick foil. With water, moisten 1 pound boneless chicken tenders. Coat each tender with seasoning mixture. Place tenders on baking sheet 1 inch apart. Coat chicken with cooking spray. Bake 15 minutes. Serve with oven fries (from frozen), deli carrot salad and soft rolls. Make Chocolate Sundae Cupcakes for dessert: Top chocolate cupcakes with 1 teaspoon caramel topping and 1 tablespoon whipped cream. Garnish with a maraschino cherry. Refrigerate until serving time.

FRIDAY: Keep the budget under control with Fettuccine With White Beans and Tuna. Drain 2 (6-ounce) cans water-packed albacore tuna and 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans. Combine tuna and beans with 2 cups marinara sauce; heat. Toss with hot cooked fettuccine. Serve with a green salad and garlic bread. Pineapple spears are an easy dessert.

SATURDAY: Treat the family to Broiled Herbed Lamb Chops. Heat broiler. With a fork, mash together 1 teaspoon coarse salt, 1 teaspoon minced garlic and 1 teaspoon dried rosemary. Stir in 2 teaspoons olive oil. Spread on 4 (4- to 6-ounce) loin, rib, arm or blade lamb chops. Broil 4 inches from heat source 7 to 11 minutes for medium-rare to medium. Serve with baked potato wedges sprinkled with freshly grated parmesan cheese, green beans, a bibb lettuce salad and whole-grain rolls. Buy a cheesecake for dessert.


Honey-Ginger Grilled Salmon

  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • ½ cup sliced green onions
  • ¾ pound salmon filet with skin (1 inch thick in center), cut into 2 servings

In a large resealable plastic bag, combine ginger, garlic powder, soy sauce, orange juice, honey and green onions; mix well. Add salmon. Refrigerate 15 to 30 minutes (longer for a stronger flavor), turning bag occasionally.

Coat grill rack with cooking spray. Heat grill to medium.

Remove salmon from marinade; reserve marinade. Pat salmon dry with paper towels and coat salmon with cooking spray. Place salmon on grill, skin-side up. Grill 10 to 12 minutes per inch of thickness or until fish is opaque throughout; turn once. Brush with reserved marinade last 5 minutes of cooking. Discard leftover marinade. Serve immediately.

Makes 2 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 264 calories, 36 g protein, 8 g fat, 11 g carbohydrate, 80 mg cholesterol, 326 mg sodium and no fiber.

Carbohydrate count: 1.

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Creamy Country Chicken and Vegetables

  • 1 ½ pounds peeled potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • ½ pound baby carrots
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 to 2 ½ pounds bone-in skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 (0.87-ounce) packages chicken gravy mix
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon poultry seasoning or ground sage
  • ½ teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1 cup sour cream

In a 4-quart or larger slow cooker, place potatoes, carrots and onion. Top with chicken. In a small bowl, combine gravy packages, 1 ½ cups water, thyme, poultry seasoning or sage and seasoned salt. Pour mixture over chicken and vegetables. Cover and cook 6 hours on low or until chicken is done and vegetables are tender. Place chicken and vegetables on platter and cover to keep warm. Whisk sour cream into drippings in cooker; pour over chicken and vegetables and serve.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving (prepared with less-sodium gravy mix and reduced-fat sour cream) contains approximately 354 calories, 25 g protein, 13 g fat, 32 g carbohydrate, 138 mg cholesterol, 564 mg sodium and 4 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 2.

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Lean Bean Bake

  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 ½ cups chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 (14 ½-ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chiles, with liquid
  • ¾ cup picante sauce or salsa
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed
  • 12 (6-inch) corn tortillas, divided use
  • 8 ounces shredded pepper jack cheese, divided use
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 cups shredded lettuce
  • Sliced green onions and black olives, if desired
  • ½ cup sour cream

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large nonstick skillet, combine onion, bell pepper, tomatoes with liquid, picante sauce or salsa, garlic and cumin. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes. Stir in beans.

In a 9-by-13-inch dish, spread one-third of bean mixture over bottom. Top with half the tortillas, overlapping as necessary, and half the cheese. Add another one-third bean mixture, remaining tortillas and remaining bean mixture. Cover and bake 30 to 35 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Let stand 10 minutes. Top with tomatoes and lettuce (and green onions and black olives, if desired). Cut into squares and serve with sour cream.

Makes 8 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving (prepared with reduced-sodium beans and reduced-fat sour cream) contains approximately 309 calories, 15 g protein, 12 g fat, 36 g carbohydrate, 33 mg cholesterol, 907 mg sodium and 9 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 2.5.

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


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