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7-Day Menu Planner

by Susan Nicholson | September 15, 2021 at 2:04 a.m.
Southwestern Black Bean Salad (Courtesy of America's Test Kitchen)

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

SUNDAY: The family is in for a treat with your roasted chicken on the menu today. Pair it with Macaroni Salad: Cook 8 ounces macaroni according to package directions; rinse and drain. In a large bowl, mix together ½ cup mayonnaise, 1 carrot (grated), 1 rib celery (chopped), 1 ½ tablespoons cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon pickle relish, 1 teaspoon sugar and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Stir mixture into macaroni; toss to mix and refrigerate. Sprinkle with paprika before serving. Add steamed asparagus, a green salad and dinner rolls. No-Bake Cheesecake is a great hot-weather dessert: Beat 2 (8-ounce) packages of softened cream cheese, 5 tablespoons sugar and 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract with an electric mixer until smooth. Fold in 2 cups frozen whipped topping (thawed) until blended. Spoon into 1 (6-ounce) graham cracker pie crust. Cover lightly and refrigerate 3 hours or until set. Top with fresh blueberries.

Plan ahead: Save 2 cups chicken and some cheesecake for Tuesday.

MONDAY: Try not to lick your plate when you finish this Cheesy Pasta (see recipe). It's that good. Serve with a spinach salad and garlic bread. Enjoy nectarines for dessert.

Plan ahead: Save enough Cheesy Pasta for Tuesday.

TUESDAY: Cheesy Chicken Pasta will be ready in no time. Mix the leftover pasta and the leftover chicken and heat on medium low. Add a little unsalted chicken broth or water to thin, if desired. Serve with mixed greens and Italian bread. How about a slice of leftover cheesecake for dessert?

WEDNESDAY: When the kids hear that Sloppy Joe Meatball Subs (see recipe) are for dinner, they will be at the table with big appetites. Serve the quick and easy meal with carrot salad. Kiwis are for dessert.

THURSDAY: For an economical dinner, Southwestern Black Bean Salad (see recipe) works just fine. Serve it with gazpacho and warm corn tortillas. For dessert, a bowl of fresh peaches is good.

FRIDAY: Make it quick tonight with Baked Tomatoes With Tuna Salad for dinner. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Core large tomatoes; stuff with deli tuna salad and top with buttered panko breadcrumbs and sliced almonds. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until slightly browned. Add a packaged green salad and bread sticks. Apricots are an easy dessert.

SATURDAY: Beef lovers will swoon for simple and delicious Steak With Golden Onions and Horseradish Sauce: Heat a nonstick skillet on medium high. Sprinkle a 1-pound boneless trimmed sirloin steak with a little pepper; add to skillet. Scatter 2 medium sliced yellow onions around steak. Cook, turning steak once and stirring onions often, 12 minutes or until steak is medium-rare and onions are tender. Transfer steak to cutting board; let stand 5 minutes. Meanwhile, combine ½ cup sour cream, 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish, 2 tablespoons sliced green onions, ¼ teaspoon pepper and ¼ teaspoon sugar. Slice steak thinly against the grain; serve with grilled onions and sauce. Add roasted red potatoes, green beans and sourdough bread. Buy a blackberry cobbler for dessert and top with vanilla ice cream.


Cheesy Pasta

  • 12 ounces whole-wheat or regular penne or bow tie pasta
  • 6 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • ¾ cup dry white wine
  • 1 (10 ¾-ounce) can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 cup shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese (4 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • Freshly chopped chives or green onion tops for garnish

Cook pasta according to package directions; add broccoli the last 3 minutes of boiling. Drain and return to pot.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet on medium. Add onion and cook, stirring, 5 minutes or until softened. Add wine; cook 1 minute or until reduced slightly. Add soup. Bring to a boil on medium high, stirring frequently. Cook, stirring, 1 minute or until slightly thickened. Reduce heat to low and stir in cheese until smooth. Stir in mustard; cook 1 minute or until heated through.

Spoon sauce over pasta and broccoli. Toss to mix. Garnish each serving with chives or green onion tops.

Makes 8 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving (prepared with less-fat, less-sodium soup) contains approximately 289 calories, 13 g protein, 8 g fat, 42 g carbohydrate, 17 mg cholesterol, 240 mg sodium and 8 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 3

■ ■ ■

Sloppy Joe Meatball Subs

  • 1 pound ground beef sirloin
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, divided use
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 (1.31-ounce) package sloppy Joe seasoning mix
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 4 (6-inch) submarine or other sandwich rolls
  • ½ cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

In a large bowl, mix beef, garlic powder, ¾ of the Italian seasoning and pepper. Shape into 16 (1 ½-inch) meatballs. Brown meatballs in a large nonstick skillet on medium heat 10 minutes or until cooked through. Add seasoning mix, tomato paste, 1 ½ cups water and remaining Italian seasoning; stir until smooth. Simmer 5 minutes. Place meatballs on rolls. Spoon sauce over meatballs; top with cheese and serve.

Makes 4 subs.

Nutrition information: Each sub (prepared with ground sirloin and no-salt added tomato paste) contains approximately 516 calories, 38 g protein, 13 g fat, 63 g carbohydrate, 70 mg cholesterol, 1,317 mg sodium and 9 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 4

■ ■ ■

Southwestern Black Bean Salad

  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided use
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen (thawed) corn kernels
  • 4 green onions, sliced thinly
  • Juice of 3 limes
  • 1 tablespoon minced canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed
  • 2 ripe avocados, halved, pitted and chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, cored and chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro or parsley

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet on medium-high until shimmering. Add corn and cook 5 minutes until spotty brown; cool slightly.

In a large bowl, whisk together green onions, lime juice, minced chipotle, honey, salt and black pepper. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in remaining 2 tablespoons oil until emulsified. Add beans, avocados, tomatoes, cilantro and corn; toss to combine. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste; serve. (Adapted from "The Complete Salad Cookbook" from America's Test Kitchen.)

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving (prepared with reduced-sodium beans) contains approximately 385 calories, 11 grams protein, 19 grams fat (43% calories from fat), 2.7 grams saturated fat, 46 grams carbohydrate, no cholesterol, 207 milligrams sodium, 13 gram fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 3

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


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