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7-Day Menu Planner

by Susan Nicholson | March 24, 2021 at 1:58 a.m.
Chicken Parmesan Pasta Bake (Courtesy of Perdue)

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

SUNDAY: Mark family day with a feast of Italian Roasted Pork Tenderloin. Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, mash together (with the back of a spoon) 1 teaspoon olive oil, ½ teaspoon coarse salt, ½ teaspoon crushed fennel seeds, ¼ teaspoon pepper and 1 clove minced garlic. Rub over 2 pork tenderloins (about ¾ to 1 pound each). Bake on a rack, coated with cooking spray, placed in a shallow roasting pan. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 150 degrees. Remove from oven, tent with foil and let stand 10 minutes. Slice pork and garnish each plate with orange slices if desired. Serve with parsley buttered spaghetti, steamed baby carrots, a romaine salad and crusty bread. Buy a Boston cream pie for dessert.

Plan ahead: Save enough pork and Boston cream pie for Monday.

MONDAY: Use the leftover pork for Pork Paninis. Spread 1 tablespoon pesto on each of 8 slices Italian bread. Top 4 slices bread with sliced leftover pork and sliced provolone cheese; top with remaining bread. Coat outer surfaces of bread with cooking spray. Grill on medium-high in nonstick skillet or panini pan until browned on each side. Serve with bean soup and mixed greens. Leftover Boston cream pie is your dessert.

TUESDAY: We really liked the flavor of Chicken Parmesan Pasta Bake (see recipe) and its low cost. Add a spinach salad and a baguette. Pears are the perfect dessert.

Plan ahead: Save enough Chicken Parmesan Pasta for Thursday.

WEDNESDAY: Black Beans and Rice (see recipe) has lots of flavor and no meat. Serve it with a lettuce wedge with hard-cooked egg slices and Cuban rolls. Sliced kiwis are an easy dessert.

THURSDAY: Make it a quick meal tonight with leftover Chicken Parmesan Pasta. Serve with packaged salad greens and whole-grain rolls. Fresh pineapple chunks are good for dessert.

FRIDAY: Kids will come running for Meatball Sandwiches. Heat canned condensed tomato soup (thin with water, if desired) with ¼ teaspoon each garlic powder, Italian seasoning and pepper; add a package of cooked meatballs (thaw first if frozen). Divide among hero rolls or other sandwich rolls and top with shredded part-skim mozzarella. Broil until the cheese is melted. Serve with carrot sticks. For dessert, how about some apple slices?

SATURDAY: Your family will enjoy delicious Fire-Roasted Tomato Shrimp Veracruz (see recipe). Serve it over rice. Add sliced avocados garnished with sour cream. For dessert, enjoy mango sorbet and butter cookies.


Chicken Parmesan Pasta Bake

  • 12 ounces orecchiette pasta
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
  • ¾ teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley

Cook orecchiette according to package directions.

Heat oil in a deep straight-sided skillet on medium. Crumble the chicken; cook 5 minutes or until no longer pink. Add onion, garlic, Italian seasoning and salt. Cook, stirring often, 5 minutes or until softened. Add tomatoes and bay leaf; bring to boil. Simmer, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes or until reduced. Toss the cooked pasta with the tomato mixture. Transfer to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Toss the mozzarella with the parmesan and parsley, sprinkle over pasta. Broil 5 minutes or until cheese is melted and lightly browned.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 386 calories, 26 g protein, 8 g fat, 52 g carbohydrate, 51 mg cholesterol, 574 mg sodium and 4 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 3.5.

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Black Beans and Rice

  • 1 ¼ cups uncooked brown rice
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, with liquid
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed
  • Sour cream for garnish
  • Lime wedges for garnish

Cook rice, without salt, according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a 2-quart sauce pan, heat onion, bell pepper, carrots, juice, paprika, coriander, crushed red pepper, garlic and tomatoes to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer about 45 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Stir in beans. Using an immersion blender, purée the mixture just a bit to thicken, or transfer 1 cup of the mixture to a blender or food processor, and purée until smooth. Stir blended mixture into bean mixture in pan. Cook on medium 3 minutes or until hot. Serve over rice; garnish with sour cream. Sprinkle with additional paprika, if desired. Serve with lime wedges.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving (prepared with reduced-sodium beans and served without garnish) contains approximately 411 calories, 14 g protein, 2 g fat, 86 g carbohydrate, no cholesterol, 287 mg sodium and 11 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 5.5.

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Fire-Roasted Tomato Shrimp Veracruz

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound uncooked medium shrimp, deveined and tails removed
  • ¼ cup sliced green onions
  • 1 fresh jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, with liquid

In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium. Add shrimp; cook 3 minutes or until opaque. Remove to a plate; keep warm. Add onions and jalapeño; cook 2 minutes. Add orange zest and thyme; cook 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes; heat to a boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer uncovered about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add shrimp; cook 2 more minutes or until heated through.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 146 calories, 17 g protein, 5 g fat, 10 g carbohydrate, 143 mg cholesterol, 510 mg sodium and 2 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 0.5.

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


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