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7-Day Menu Planner

by Susan Nicholson | September 1, 2021 at 1:52 a.m.
Sauteed Tilapia With Cilantro Chimichurri (Courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen)

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

SUNDAY: Prepare a large (4 to 6 pounds) baked chicken for the family and serve with Roasted Fanned Potatoes. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Peel 4 medium baking potatoes and halve lengthwise. Lay cut sides down on cutting board and cut thin slices in a row crosswise (do not cut through). Carefully bend to separate each section, not to break, but to form a fan. In a shallow dish, mix together ½ cup Italian breadcrumbs, ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Drizzle the potatoes with 2 more tablespoons olive oil, roll tops of each potato in crumb mixture and sprinkle with paprika. Arrange in baking dish lined with nonstick foil; bake 30 minutes. Remove foil; continue baking 15 minutes or until crumbs are browned and potatoes are tender. Add fresh broccoli florets, a lettuce wedge and dinner rolls. Cool off with lime sherbet for dessert.

Plan ahead: Save enough chicken for Monday; save enough sherbet for Friday.

MONDAY: Smoky Mountain Chicken and Rice Casserole (see recipe) makes great use of leftover chicken. Add a mixed green salad and whole-wheat bread. Plums are a simple dessert.

TUESDAY: Make Meatball Tacos for kid fare tonight. Cook frozen meatballs according to package directions. Dice and heat them in canned taco sauce. Spoon into heated taco shells. Top with sour cream and cheddar cheese. Serve with buttered noodles and green beans. For dessert, Banana Pudding (instant banana pudding and sliced bananas) is a favorite.

WEDNESDAY: Buy deli tuna salad and make a tuna platter on leaf lettuce with tomato wedges, hard-cooked egg slices and pickled beets surrounding the tuna. Sprinkle all with paprika. Serve with Italian dressing. Add baked potato chips and whole-wheat pita bread. Strawberry ice cream is a good dessert.

THURSDAY: Tilapia is economical and easy to season, as with this Sauteed Tilapia With Cilantro Chimichurri (see recipe). Serve with o'brien potatoes, deli coleslaw and cornbread. You'll love nectarines for dessert.

FRIDAY: Buy a frozen no-meat lasagna for dinner. Alongside, try this Antipasto Salad: Arrange marinated artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, olives, sliced celery and cherry tomatoes on lettuce. Serve with Italian dressing. Add garlic bread. Scoop leftover sherbet for dessert.

SATURDAY: Spice things up with Cajun Pecan Pork Chops (see recipe). Serve with roasted sweet potato wedges, fresh snow peas, a spinach salad and sourdough bread. Buy a cheesecake and top with any fresh berries for dessert.


Smoky Mountain Chicken and Rice Casserole

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 (10 ¾-ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 cups cooked rice
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 1 cup shredded smoked cheddar cheese

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, stir together sour cream, soup, chipotles, salt and black pepper until well-blended. Stir in rice, chicken and cheese. Spoon into baking dish. Bake uncovered 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbly, then broil 2 to 3 minutes to lightly brown top.

Makes 8 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving (prepared with reduced-fat sour cream and condensed soup) contains approximately 291 calories, 18 g protein, 11 g fat, 29 g carbohydrate, 60 mg cholesterol, 621 mg sodium and 1 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 2

■ ■ ■

Sauteed Tilapia With Cilantro Chimichurri

  • For tilapia:
  • 4 (6- to 8-ounce) skinless tilapia filets, split lengthwise down natural seam
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 lemon, quartered into wedges
  • For chimichurri:
  • 2 tablespoons hot water
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ cup minced fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • ¼ cup olive oil

Sprinkle tilapia with salt and let sit at room temperature 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare chimichurri. Combine in a bowl: water, vinegar and oregano; let stand 5 minutes. Add parsley, cilantro, garlic, salt and red pepper; stir to combine. Whisk in olive oil. Refrigerate until time to serve.

Pat tilapia dry with paper towels. Heat canola oil in a large nonstick skillet on high until just smoking. Add thick halves of filets to skillet and cook, tilting skillet occasionally to distribute oil, 2 or 3 minutes or until golden brown. Using 2 spatulas, flip filets and cook 2 or 3 minutes or until second sides are golden brown. Transfer to serving platter. Return skillet to high heat. When oil is just smoking, add the remaining fish and cook 1 minute or until golden. Flip and cook 1 minute or until second sides are brown. Serve with lemon wedges and chimichurri. (Adapted from "Foolproof Fish," America's Test Kitchen.)

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving of tilapia contains approximately 252 calories, 40 g protein, 10 g fat, no carbohydrate, 99 mg cholesterol, 343 mg sodium and no fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 0

Nutrition information: Each serving of chimichurri contains approximately 123 calories, no protein, 14 g fat, 1 g carbohydrate, no cholesterol, no sodium and no fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 0

■ ■ ■

Cajun Pecan Pork Chops

  • ½ cup pecan halves, toasted (see note)
  • ½ cup plain dry breadcrumbs
  • ¼ teaspoon coarse salt
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon ground red (cayenne) pepper
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 6 (4-ounce) lean boneless pork loin chops

Process pecans, breadcrumbs, salt, paprika, oregano and cayenne pepper in a blender until pecans are finely chopped. Place flour, buttermilk and pecan mixture into three separate shallow containers. Coat pork chops in flour, dip in buttermilk and coat in pecan mixture. Chill 1 hour.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange pork on a rack coated with cooking spray. Place rack in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Coat pork evenly with cooking spray. Bake 15 minutes. Turn; coat pork with cooking spray. Bake 5 more minutes or until internal temperature reaches 155 degrees. Remove from oven and serve.

Makes 6 servings.

Note: Spread pecans evenly on a flat baking sheet; toast in a 350-degree oven for 5 to 8 minutes or until golden.

Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 266 calories, 25 g protein, 13 g fat, 10 g carbohydrate, 65 mg cholesterol, 195 mg sodium and 1 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: ½

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


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