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7-Day Menu Planner

by Susan Nicholson | September 8, 2021 at 1:54 a.m.
Crab Louis Salad (America's Test Kitchen)

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

SUNDAY: Celebrate family time with Grilled Ancho-Rubbed Flank Steak: In a small bowl, mix together ½ teaspoon coarse salt, ½ teaspoon brown sugar, ½ teaspoon ancho chile powder, ¼ teaspoon cumin and 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper. Rub mixture all over surface of 1 (1- to 1 ½-pound) flank steak. Grill 17 to 21 minutes for medium-rare to medium doneness. Remove from grill; let stand 5 minutes before carving across the grain. Serve with roasted red potatoes, green beans, mixed greens and a baguette. Strawberry ice cream is good for dessert.

Plan ahead: Prepare extra steak and save some ice cream for Monday.

MONDAY: Make Steak Salad with the leftover steak: Mix a packaged green salad with cannellini beans (rinsed and well drained), sliced beets (from can or jar) and crumbled blue cheese; toss with a light vinaigrette and top with slices of leftover steak. Add heat-and-serve or deli tomato basil soup and bread sticks. For dessert, scoop the leftover ice cream.

TUESDAY: Enjoy Chile-Orange Chicken (see recipe) for its flavor and lower cost. Serve it with brown rice, a lettuce wedge and whole-grain rolls. For dessert, try fresh tropical fruits.

WEDNESDAY: Round up the kids for Cowboy Casserole (see recipe). Serve with crunchy carrot sticks and soft rolls. For dessert, serve your li'l pardners Nutella Fruit Tarts: Spread Nutella on graham crackers and top with sliced strawberries and peaches.

THURSDAY: For a no-meat dinner, try Caramelized Onion Stuffed Potatoes. Bake 4 potatoes. Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet on medium. Add 2 thinly sliced onions, ½ teaspoon brown sugar and ¼ teaspoon coarse salt. Cook, covered, about 20 minutes or until tender. Stir occasionally. Uncover, cook and stir over medium-high heat for 3 to 5 minutes or until onions are golden. Slash potato tops; stuff with onions. Garnish with chopped parsley. Serve with a spinach salad with hard-cooked egg wedges and whole-grain bread. Make instant chocolate pudding for dessert. Stir some sliced bananas into the pudding to boost the flavor.

FRIDAY: We're always in the mood for a quick Turkey Reuben Sandwich: Heat broiler. Place 8 slices rye bread on a baking sheet. Coat one side of each slice with cooking spray; turn slices. Top evenly with Thousand Island dressing. On 4 slices, divide and layer ½ pound deli sliced turkey, ½ pound sliced Swiss cheese and 1 cup refrigerated rinsed (squeezed dry) sauerkraut. Top with remaining bread, placing dressing side next to sauerkraut. Broil 2 minutes or until browned, turning once. Serve with pickled beets. Munch on apple slices for dessert.

SATURDAY: Crab Louis Salad (see recipe) looks as good as it tastes. Serve the pretty salad with roasted asparagus and small red potatoes. Add whole-grain bread. Buy a cheesecake for dessert and top it with strawberry sauce.


Chile-Orange Chicken

  • ¾ cup mild enchilada sauce
  • ¼ cup barbecue sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 pound bone-in skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 to 2 ½ pounds bone-in skinless chicken thighs, well-trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons orange marmalade
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest

In a 4-quart or larger slow cooker, mix together enchilada sauce and barbecue sauce.

In a small bowl, mix together chile powder and cumin. Rub all over chicken. Add chicken to slow cooker and turn to coat. Cover and cook on low 5 to 7 hours or until chicken is cooked through. Turn off cooker; remove chicken to serving platter (discarding bones). Skim fat from sauce. Stir marmalade into sauce until blended. Stir in cilantro and zest. Pour over chicken on platter.

Makes 8 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 195 calories, 26 g protein, 5 g fat, 10 g carbohydrate, 108 mg cholesterol, 338 mg sodium and 1 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: ½

■ ■ ■

Cowboy Casserole

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 small green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans navy beans, rinsed
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 4 slices cooked crumbled bacon, divided use
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large nonstick skillet, cook beef, onion and bell pepper for 10 minutes or until beef is no longer pink and vegetables are softened; drain well. Stir in beans and salsa. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer 10 minutes or until slightly thickened. Spoon half the mixture into a 2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with half the bacon and half the cheese. Pour remaining bean mixture over cheese. Top with remaining bacon and cheese. Bake, uncovered, 30 minutes or until bubbly; serve immediately.

Makes 8 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving (prepared with 95% lean beef and reduced-fat cheese) contains approximately 269 calories, 26 g protein, 7 g fat, 26 g carbohydrate, 43 mg cholesterol, 750 mg sodium and 6 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 2

■ ■ ■

Crab Louis Salad

  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup finely chopped green bell pepper
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pitted green olives
  • 2 tablespoons chili sauce
  • 5 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon
  • ¼ teaspoon coarse salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 pound fresh crabmeat, picked over for shells and pressed dry between paper towels
  • 2 heads bibb lettuce (1 pound), leaves separated and torn into 1 ½-inch pieces
  • 8 ounces grape tomatoes, halved
  • 3 hard-cooked eggs, sliced
  • 1 ripe avocado, halved, pitted, quartered and sliced thin

In a bowl, whisk mayonnaise, sour cream, bell pepper, onions, olives, chili sauce, lemon juice, tarragon, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper; set aside.

In another bowl, gently toss crabmeat with ½ cup dressing. Mound lettuce in center of serving platter; arrange tomatoes, sliced eggs, and avocado over top. Top with dressed crab and serve, passing remaining dressing separately. (Adapted from "Foolproof Fish," America's Test Kitchen)

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving (prepared low-fat mayonnaise and reduced-fat sour cream) contains approximately 255 calories, 22 g protein, 12 g fat, 16 g carbohydrate, 156 mg cholesterol, 769 mg sodium and 4 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 4

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


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