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7-Day Menu Planner

by Susan Nicholson | July 14, 2021 at 1:53 a.m.
Turmeric-Spiced Chicken With Tomato-Avocado Salsa (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)

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

SUNDAY: Bring the family together for a Marinated Flank Steak dinner: In a small bowl, mix together ¼ cup balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil, 1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard, 1 clove (minced) garlic and ½ teaspoon sugar; pour into a resealable plastic bag along with a 1 ½ pound flank steak. Refrigerate 6 hours to overnight, turning occasionally. Remove steak; discard marinade. Grill 17 to 21 minutes for medium-rare to medium doneness. Carve crosswise into thin slices. Serve the steak with corn on the cob, any grilled vegetables, mixed greens and whole-grain rolls. Fresh Berry Cream Tart is a pretty and delicious dessert: Bake a refrigerated pastry crust in a 9- or 10-inch tart pan according to package directions; cool. Blend 8 ounces softened Neufchatel cream cheese, 1/3 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon orange juice with an electric mixer; spread over the cooled pie crust. Top with 4 to 5 cups mixed berries, such as blueberries, raspberries or small strawberries. Spread fruit with melted red currant jelly or all-fruit blueberry spread. Refrigerate 2 hours before slicing.

Plan ahead: Save enough steak, grilled vegetables and tart for Monday.

MONDAY: Make a Beef Stir-Fry for a quick meal using the leftover steak and vegetables drizzled with stir-fry sauce. Serve over brown rice. Add a mixed green salad and bread sticks. Slice the leftover tart for dessert.

TUESDAY: Treat the kids to Taco Casserole (see recipe). Serve with guacamole and celery sticks. A juicy nectarine is a welcome dessert.

WEDNESDAY: How about a French Onion Burger for a quick meal? Combine 1 ½ pounds lean ground beef with 1 (1-ounce) packet onion soup mix in a small bowl. Form into 4 patties. Grill 5 to 6 minutes; turn. Divide ½ cup roasted red peppers among the burgers; top each with ½ slice Swiss cheese. Cook 4 more minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Place burgers on sesame seed buns to serve. Add oven fries and green beans. Cherries are a fun dessert.

Plan ahead: Save enough green beans for Thursday.

THURSDAY: Tuna Nicoise is a perfect summer meal: Drain and flake a 12-ounce can albacore tuna in water in a medium bowl. Mix tuna with 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar and 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard. Toss tuna mixture with 9 cooked bite-size new potatoes, leftover green beans, 3 or 4 sliced hard-cooked eggs and ¾ cup Kalamata olives. Serve on a bed of red-tipped lettuce. Add a chilled glass of tomato juice and a baguette. Enjoy a slice of cantaloupe for dessert.

FRIDAY: Skillet Tortellini Supper (see recipe) is a simple no-meat dinner. Serve it with mixed greens and garlic bread. How about mangoes for dessert?

SATURDAY: Turmeric-Spiced Chicken With Tomato-Avocado Salsa (see recipe) is a dish you'll be proud to serve company. Serve it with basmati rice, fresh or frozen green peas and sourdough bread. For dessert, Cherry Ice Cream Pie With Chocolate Cookie Crust will further wow your guests. Gently combine 3 cups softened vanilla ice cream and 1 cup pitted fresh or frozen cherries in a bowl. Transfer to a 9-inch chocolate cookie crumb pie crust. Garnish with chopped cherries and mini chocolate chips. Freeze until firm. Soften to slice.


Taco Casserole

  • 1 pound very lean ground beef
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ cup mild salsa or taco sauce
  • 1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles, drained
  • ½ cup sliced ripe olives, divided use
  • 1 (1.25-ounce) packet taco seasoning mix
  • 3 cups tortilla chips or taco shells, broken, divided use
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided use
  • ½ cup chopped tomatoes

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In large skillet over medium heat, cook beef, onion and garlic 7 minutes or until beef is no longer pink and onion is softened; drain if necessary. Stir in 1 cup water, taco sauce, chiles, ¼ cup olives and seasoning mix. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 3 to 4 minutes.

In a 7-by-11-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray, layer half the broken chips and half the meat sauce: sprinkle with 1 cup cheese. Repeat with remaining chips, meat sauce and cheese. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbly and cheese is melted. Top with remaining olives and the tomatoes.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving (prepared with reduced-sodium taco seasoning and reduced-fat cheddar) contains approximately 392 calories, 30 g protein, 16 g fat, 33 g carbohydrate, 63 mg cholesterol, 1,078 mg sodium and 3 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 2.

■ ■ ■

Skillet Tortellini Supper

  • 12 ounces dried cheese tortellini
  • Salt
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cups frozen peas, thawed
  • ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice

Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in large pot. Add pasta and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, 8 minutes, stirring frequently until not quite al dente. Reserve 1 cup cooking water, then drain; set aside.

In a large skillet, heat oil; add garlic and cook about 30 seconds or until fragrant. Stir in half-and-half, pepper, pasta and ½ cup reserved cooking water and bring to a simmer over medium. Cook 4 to 7 minutes, stirring often, until tortellini is al dente and sauce has thickened and coats pasta. Stir in peas, parmesan, lemon zest and lemon juice and cook 1 minute until warmed through, adjusting consistency with remaining reserved cooking water as needed. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, passing additional parmesan separately. (Adapted from "The Ultimate Meal Prep Cookbook," America's Test Kitchen)

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 329 calories, 15 g protein, 12 g fat, 40 g carbohydrate, 48 mg cholesterol, 435 mg sodium and 3 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 2.5.

■ ■ ■

Turmeric-Spiced Chicken With Tomato-Avocado Salsa

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 8 (4- or 5-ounce) chicken cutlets
  • For the salsa:
  • 2 ½ cups chopped ripe tomatoes
  • 1 ½ cups diced Hass avocados, (about 2)
  • ½ cup chopped red onion
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric

In a small bowl, combine oil, garlic powder, salt, turmeric and red pepper; mix well. Pour into a resealable plastic bag; add chicken. Turn to coat; marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes to 2 hours.

Meanwhile, for the salsa, in a medium bowl, mix salsa ingredients. Cover; refrigerate until ready to serve.

Remove chicken; discard marinade. Grill 2 to 3 minutes per side or until internal temperature is 165 degrees. Serve with salsa.

Makes 8 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 236 calories, 26 g protein, 11 g fat, 9 g carbohydrate, 73 mg cholesterol, 380 mg sodium and 5 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: .5

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


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