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7-Day Menu Planner

by Susan Nicholson | June 16, 2021 at 1:55 a.m.
Easy Chicken Piccata (Courtesy of Perdue)

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

SUNDAY: Surprise dear old Dad with a special meal of Baked Shrimp, Corn and Zucchini (see recipe). Serve the medley with a bowl of mixed greens and some sourdough bread. Buy a banana cream pie for dessert.

Plan ahead: Save enough pie for Tuesday.

MONDAY: Kids will come running for Sloppy Joe Pizza: Heat oven to 425 degrees. Heat a large nonstick skillet on medium. Cook 1 pound very lean ground beef 6 minutes or until no longer pink; drain. Stir in 1 package sloppy Joe seasoning mix, 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste and 1 cup water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in 1 cup corn kernels. Place 1 (12-inch) ready-to-heat pizza crust on a baking sheet. Spoon beef mixture over top. Sprinkle with 2 cups shredded colby-jack cheese. Bake 12 to 15 minutes until hot and cheese melts. Serve with celery sticks. Enjoy mangoes for dessert.

TUESDAY: Skip meat for Layered Enchilada Casserole: Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a 7-by-11-inch baking dish, spoon ½ cup fire-roasted diced tomatoes from 1 (28-ounce) can. Arrange three 6-inch corn tortillas (of 10 total) over tomatoes, overlapping slightly. (Tear tortillas to fit dish.) Sprinkle with ½ cup (of 2 cups total) shredded Monterey Jack cheese; top with one-third of two (15-ounce) cans rinsed reduced-sodium black beans. Spread 1 cup more tomatoes over beans. Repeat layers twice, ending with tomatoes; sprinkle 1 cup cheese on top. Cover loosely with nonstick foil; bake 35 minutes or until bubbly. Serve with a spinach salad. Slice the leftover pie for dessert.

WEDNESDAY: We're always in the mood for chili, and this White Chili (see recipe) is especially good. Serve it with a crisp lettuce wedge and cornbread. Lighten up with fresh strawberries for dessert.

Plan ahead: Save enough chili and cornbread for Thursday.

THURSDAY: Heat the leftover chili and serve it over rice. Add a green salad and leftover cornbread. Plums are a light dessert.

FRIDAY: A Louisiana chef created this Muffuletta Panini: Coat both sides of 8 slices rustic or sourdough bread with cooking spray or softened butter. Layer 1 slice provolone or mozzarella cheese over each of 4 of the slices; top with olive spread or tapenade, thinly sliced deli ham, mortadella, Genoa salami and another slice of cheese. Top with remaining 4 slices bread. Cook sandwiches in a heated panini maker about 3 minutes or until golden and cheese is melted. Serve with deli coleslaw. Cut a papaya for dessert.

Tip: Sandwiches can be cooked in a ridged grill pan or skillet over medium heat. Place heavy skillet on top of sandwiches to flatten; cook 3 minutes. Turn; continue to cook 3 to 4 minutes or until golden.

SATURDAY: Serve the family Easy Chicken Piccata (see recipe) with rice for dinner tonight. Add green beans with slivered almonds, a Caesar salad and crusty bread. Buy fruit tarts for dessert.


Baked Shrimp, Corn and Zucchini

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 medium zucchini, cut into 1 ½- to 2-inch chunks (about 3 cups)
  • 4 ears corn on the cob, cut into 1 ½- to 2-inch pieces
  • 1 pound uncooked shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 8 thin slices lemon

Heat oven to 450 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine oil, garlic, thyme and salt. Add zucchini, corn and shrimp; toss.

On each of four (14-by-18-inch) sheets of heavy-duty foil, place one-fourth of the shrimp mixture in center. Top with lemon slices. Bring long sides together and fold, leaving room for steam to circulate; seal ends. Place packets in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes; remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes before opening. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 295 calories, 27 g protein, 12 g fat, 23 g carbohydrate, 183 mg cholesterol, 639 mg sodium and 3 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 1.5

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White Chili

  • 1 (1-pound) boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into ¾-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper
  • Pinch crushed red pepper
  • 2 (4-ounce) cans chopped green chiles, drained
  • ¼ cup minced fresh jalapeno peppers
  • 1 pound dried navy beans, rinsed
  • 5 cups unsalted chicken broth, heated
  • ¾ cup chopped onion
  • Coarse salt, to taste
  • 1 1/2 ounces cilantro, chopped, divided use

In a 4-quart or larger slow cooker, toss the chicken with the flour until evenly coated.

In a small bowl, mix together the garlic, cumin, oregano and black, white and red peppers; add to slow cooker and mix well. Add the green chiles, jalapeno peppers, beans, hot broth and onion. Cover and cook on low 8 to 9 hours or until beans are tender. Salt and pepper to taste. Stir in half the cilantro. Ladle into bowls and garnish with remaining cilantro.

Makes about 8 cups.

Nutrition information: Each cup contains approximately 296 calories, 26 g protein, 2 g fat, 41 g carbohydrate, 36 mg cholesterol, 258 mg sodium and 15 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 3

■ ■ ■

Quick and Simple Chicken Piccata

  • 2 chicken breasts (8 to 10 ounces each)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white wine
  • ½ cup unsalted chicken stock
  • 2 lemons, one juiced, one thinly sliced for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons chopped parsley

Place chicken on cutting board. Place hand flat on top of breast. Use a sharp knife to slice into one side of breast, starting at thicker end and ending at thin point. (Be careful not to cut all the way through to other side.) Open breast so it looks like a butterfly. Cover breast with plastic wrap and pound with meat pounder or rolling pin to create even thickness. Slice in half lengthwise to create two equal pieces of chicken breast. Repeat with second breast.

Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium high. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Coat chicken in flour, shaking off excess. Cook breasts 2 to 3 minutes per side, until chicken is browned. Transfer chicken to plate. (You may have to cook in batches to prevent crowding in skillet.) After removing chicken, add wine and bring to a boil, scraping browned bits from bottom of pan. When wine has reduced by half, add stock, lemon juice and capers. Return chicken to pan, reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Transfer chicken to serving platter. Whisk butter and parsley into skillet sauce. Pour sauce over chicken and garnish with lemon slices.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 325 calories, 26 g protein, 16 g fat, 14 g carbohydrate, 88 mg cholesterol, 509 mg sodium and 1 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 1

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


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