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7-Day Menu Planner

by Susan Nicholson | September 29, 2021 at 1:48 a.m.
Pan-Seared Tuna Steaks (Courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen)

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

SUNDAY: Add a little spice to family day with Barbecue Pork Tenderloin: Heat oven to 400 degrees. Mix together 2 tablespoons of your favorite barbecue sauce, 2 tablespoons orange marmalade and 2 teaspoons soy sauce. Spread over a 1- to 1 ¼-pound pork tenderloin. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches at least 145 degrees. Let stand 5 minutes before slicing. Serve with baked sweet potato wedges, broccoli, mixed greens and biscuits. For dessert, top angel food cake with chocolate ice cream.

Plan ahead: Bake an extra plain pork tenderloin and save enough cake for Monday and Wednesday. Save enough ice cream for Tuesday and Saturday.

MONDAY: Use the leftover pork for Pork Tacos. Shred pork and moisten with taco sauce. Heat and spoon into warm taco shells. Garnish with chopped avocados, tomatoes, onion, lettuce, sour cream and more taco sauce. Serve with baked beans. Dessert is leftover cake garnished with warm cherry pie filling and light whipped cream.

TUESDAY: Take it easy tonight and buy a rotisserie chicken. Serve with mashed potatoes (bought or your own). Add a packaged Caesar salad and whole-grain bread. Scoop leftover ice cream for dessert.

WEDNESDAY: The kids won't be able to resist Burger Fajitas. Season lean ground beef with a little chile powder and cumin (to taste). Shape into hot-dog-size logs and pan-fry. Roll logs in warmed whole-grain flour tortillas along with shredded lettuce, mild salsa and sour cream. Serve with rice and guacamole. For dessert, make a Chocolate Parfait: In parfait cups, layer cubed leftover angel food cake with instant chocolate pudding. Top each serving with a maraschino cherry.

THURSDAY: How about a simple no-meat dinner of Leek and White Bean Soup (see recipe)? Serve the delicious soup with Grilled Brie Sandwiches and a green salad. For dessert, keep it simple with pears.

FRIDAY: The flavor is there, but high cost isn't when you make Chicken With Spanish Rice and Tomatoes (see recipe). Add a lettuce wedge and bread sticks. For dessert, tapioca pudding (from mix) is always a favorite.

SATURDAY: "Yum, yum" was the response all around the table when we tasted Pan-Seared Tuna Steaks (see recipe). Serve the flavorful tuna entree with Orzo Salad: Toss cooked orzo with halved grape tomatoes, a little olive oil, lemon zest, crumbled Greek feta cheese and chopped fresh mint. Add a spinach salad and whole-grain bread. For dessert, top leftover ice cream with warm fudge sauce.


Leek and White Bean Soup

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 leeks, white and light green parts only, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups unsalted vegetable broth
  • 2 (15- to 19-ounce) cans cannellini beans, rinsed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • ½ cup couscous
  • 1 (5- or 6-ounce) package spinach leaves
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese for garnish

Heat oil in a Dutch oven on medium. Add leeks and garlic; cook 5 minutes or until softened. Stir in the broth, beans, bay leaves and cumin; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; stir in couscous. Cover and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in spinach until it wilts. Remove and discard bay leaves; ladle soup into bowls and garnish with parmesan cheese.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 245 calories, 9 g protein, 3 g fat, 45 g carbohydrate, no cholesterol, 436 mg sodium and 8 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 3

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Chicken With Spanish Rice and Tomatoes

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 (8-ounce) package yellow rice mix (see note)
  • 1 pound ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed
  • 1 to 3 teaspoons chopped pickled jalapeno peppers (or to taste)

In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil on medium. Add chicken; sprinkle with black pepper and cook 5 minutes or until almost cooked through; add garlic during last 2 minutes. Remove chicken to plate; set aside. To skillet, add rice mix and 2 ½ cups water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, 12 minutes or until water is almost absorbed. (Add more water if rice is not done.) Stir in tomatoes, bell pepper, beans and jalapenos. Top with chicken. Simmer, covered, 5 minutes or until rice is tender; serve.

Makes 6 servings.

Note: Place the uncooked rice mix in a strainer to sift out as much of the seasoning as possible to reduce the sodium.

Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 318 calories, 25 g protein, 5 g fat, 45 g carbohydrate, 55 mg cholesterol, 654 mg sodium and 6 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 3

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Pan-Seared Tuna Steaks

  • 4 (6- to 8-ounce) tuna steaks, 1 inch thick
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil

Pat tuna dry with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sprinkle sugar evenly over one side of each steak.

Heat oil in large skillet on medium-high until just smoking. Place steaks sugared side down in skillet and cook, flipping every 1 to 2 minutes, until center is translucent red when checked with tip of paring knife and internal temperature reaches 110 degrees, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer steak to cutting board and slice ½ inch thick; serve.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 209 calories, 37 g protein, 5 g fat, 1 g carbohydrate, 80 mg cholesterol, 303 mg sodium and no fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 0

Variation: Sesame Crusted Pan-Seared Tuna Steaks, omit sugar. Spread ¾ cup sesame seeds in shallow dish. After patting dry with towels, rub steaks all over with 1 tablespoon canola oil. Season with salt and pepper; press both sides of each steak in sesame seeds to coat. Proceed to heating oil in skillet as above. (Adapted from "Foolproof Fish," America's Test Kitchen)

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


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