A week's worth of quick, healthful meals for budget-minded families.
SUNDAY: Celebrate July Fourth the all-American, family way with (any) grilled burgers on whole-grain buns. Make your own potato salad and add lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, mustard and low-fat mayonnaise alongside. For a worthy festive dessert, try Red, White and Blue Cookies (see recipe).
Plan ahead: Save enough cookies for Monday.
MONDAY: You can put this Chicken and Melon Salad together in no time. In a large bowl, combine ¾ cup red wine vinaigrette and 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice; let stand 10 minutes. Meanwhile, soak 1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion in hot water to cover for 10 minutes; drain and pat dry. To vinaigrette mixture, add onion, 2 romaine lettuce hearts (chopped), an 8- to 12-ounce package grilled chicken breast (chopped), 1 ½ cups cubed cantaloupe, 1 ½ cups seeded and cubed watermelon, 2/3 cup crumbled feta cheese and ¼ cup chopped fresh basil; toss to coat and combine. Sprinkle with ½ cup toasted slivered almonds. Serve immediately. Serve with chilled vegetable juice and crackers. Enjoy leftover cookies for dessert.
Plan ahead: Save enough cantaloupe for Tuesday and enough watermelon for Wednesday.
TUESDAY: We didn't miss meat at all with Linguine Caponata on the menu. Add a 7.5-ounce can caponata (eggplant appetizer) to no-salt-added or regular marinara sauce. Heat; toss with cooked linguine. Top each serving with a dollop of part-skim ricotta. Serve it with a spinach salad and garlic bread. Enjoy some leftover cantaloupe for dessert.
WEDNESDAY: Save some money with easy, tasty Black Beans and Rice (see recipe) for dinner. Serve the combo with mixed greens and cornbread from a mix. Leftover watermelon is dessert.
Plan ahead: Save enough black beans and rice for Friday.
THURSDAY: Your little angels won't be able to resist Turkey Tostadas. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Coat 8 corn tortillas with cooking spray. Bake, turning once, until crisp. Mix 2 cups diced deli turkey and ½ cup each sour cream and salsa. Spoon over tortillas and sprinkle with shredded jack cheese. Heat until cheese is melted. Serve with corn on the cob. Fresh cherries make a great summer dessert.
FRIDAY: Use the leftover black beans and rice for Stuffed Peppers. Use your favorite bell peppers, hollow them, turn upside-down in a baking dish, cover and microwave on 100% power for 1 minute per pepper. Stuff them with heated beans and rice (moisten with a little unsalted chicken broth) and top with some crumbled feta cheese. Serve with fresh broccoli spears and whole-grain rolls. Plums are good for dessert.
SATURDAY: Invite friends for delicious Spicy Shrimp Alfredo (see recipe). Keep it simple and serve it with a red leaf lettuce salad and Italian bread. Dessert is as easy as lime sorbet.
Red, White and Blue Cookies
- 1 cup butter, at room temperature
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- Red gel food color
- Blue gel food color
- Clear cake sparkles
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until blended and fluffy. Add flour and vanilla and beat until well combined. Divide the dough into three equal pieces and color one piece red and another piece blue with food color gel. Shape each piece of dough (red, white and blue) into 2 logs, each 8 inches long, 1 ½ inches wide and about ¼ inch thick; you will have six logs. Place a blue dough log on a flat surface. Top with white dough, and then red dough. Roll in waxed paper or parchment paper and freeze 30 minutes or until dough is firm enough to slice. Repeat with remaining logs. Slice each chilled cookie dough log into 18 cookies (for 36 cookies total). Arrange on prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with cake sprinkles. Bake 15 minutes or until bottoms are golden. Cool 3 minutes on baking sheet. Transfer to wire rack and cool completely.
Makes 36 cookies.
Nutrition information: Each cookie contains approximately 86 calories, 1 g protein, 5 g fat, 9 g carbohydrate, 14 mg cholesterol, 45 mg sodium and no fiber.
Carbohydrate choices: ½
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Black Beans and Rice
- 1 cup brown rice
- 1 ½ teaspoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 4 ounces diced ham
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 (15-ounce) cans black beans (do not drain)
- 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Lime wedges and diced red onion for garnish
Cook rice according to package directions; set aside.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet on medium. Add onions and bell pepper; cook, stirring 8 minutes or until softened. Add ham; cook 2 minutes or until browned. Add garlic, cumin and oregano; cook, stirring 30 seconds or until fragrant. Stir in beans and ½ cup water; bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes to blend flavors. Remove from heat; stir in vinegar and cilantro. Serve over rice. Garnish with lime wedges and onion.
Makes 5 servings.
Nutrition information: Each serving (prepared with reduced-sodium beans) contains approximately 348 calories, 18 g protein, 4 g fat, 60 g carbohydrate, 12 mg cholesterol, 280 mg sodium and 9 g fiber.
Carbohydrate choices: 4
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Spicy Shrimp Alfredo
- 1 pound multigrain spaghetti
- 1 ½ cups frozen petite green peas, thawed
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 medium chopped onion
- 3 teaspoons Cajun seasoning, divided use
- 1 pound peeled and cooked medium shrimp
- 1 (10-ounce) package refrigerated Alfredo sauce
Cook pasta according to package directions; add peas the last 2 minutes of cooking. Drain and return to pot.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet on medium. Add onion; cook 4 minutes. Stir in 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning; cook 1 minute. Add shrimp; cook 2 minutes. Set aside. Cover and microwave Alfredo sauce and remaining Cajun seasoning 2 minutes on 30% power; stir and cook 2 more minutes or until heated throughout. For pasta in pot, stir in shrimp mixture and Alfredo sauce mixture. Toss to mix and coat. Serve immediately.
Makes 8 servings.
Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 352 calories, 26 g protein, 8 g fat, 47 g carbohydrate, 128 mg cholesterol, 798 mg sodium and 6 g fiber.
Carbohydrate choices: 3
Susan Nicholson is an Atlanta-based cookbook author and registered dietitian. She can be reached by email: email@example.com