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7-Day Menu Planner

by Susan Nicholson | August 3, 2022 at 2:00 a.m.
Grilled Monterey Chicken shown here topped with diced tomatoes. (Courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen)

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

SUNDAY: Our family thought Grilled Monterey Chicken (see recipe) was super delicious. Serve it with potato salad, coleslaw and crusty rolls for a wonderful summer meal. Buy a Boston cream pie for dessert.

Plan ahead: Save enough chicken breast, coleslaw and Boston cream pie for Monday.

MONDAY: Make Chicken Sandwiches With Brie on ciabatta bread using the leftover chicken. Serve with leftover coleslaw. Leftover Boston cream pie is your dessert.

TUESDAY: You'll be happy to skip meat for Ravioli With Asparagus and Walnuts: Cook 1 (14- to 16-ounce) package cheese ravioli (fresh or frozen) according to package directions. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium nonstick skillet. Add 2 cloves garlic (sliced) and ½ cup roughly chopped walnuts; cook 4 to 5 minutes, stirring often, or until nuts are lightly toasted and fragrant. Add 1 pound asparagus, trimmed and thinly sliced on the diagonal; cook 2 minutes or until just tender. Serve over ravioli and sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese. Add a spinach salad and Italian bread. Strawberry ice cream is dessert.

WEDNESDAY: Stay cool with a quick meal of Tuna Stuffed Avocados. Buy tuna salad from the deli and spoon into ripe halved avocados (see tip). Add a bowl of gazpacho along with sesame bread sticks. Enjoy fresh tropical fruit for dessert.

Tip: Sprinkle the avocados with a little lemon juice to prevent darkening.

THURSDAY: Pasta Fagioli (see recipe) is easy on the budget and full of flavor. Serve it with a lettuce wedge and whole-grain bread. Fresh blueberries make a good dessert.

FRIDAY: No kid will be able to resist Layered Mexican Casserole: Heat oven to 350 degrees. In an ungreased 8-inch-square baking dish, spread 2 ½ cups of Corn Chex (or similar) cereal. Spoon 2 cups well-drained pinto beans (from 19-ounce can) over cereal. Sprinkle with 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese. Spoon 1 ½ cups salsa over cheese. Sprinkle with 2 more cups cereal and 1 more cup cheese. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until hot and cheese is melted. Serve with sour cream. Add guacamole on shredded lettuce. How about fresh peaches for dessert?

SATURDAY: Show off your skills and invite guests for grilled steaks. Serve them with Sweet Onion Casserole (see recipe), green beans, a romaine salad and crusty rolls. Fruit tarts are a perfect dessert.

THE RECIPES

Grilled Monterey Chicken

  • ½ cup Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 5 (6- to 8-ounce) boneless skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
  • 4 slices bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 ½ cups shredded pepper jack cheese
  • 4 (½ inch thick) slices red onion
  • Lime wedges

In a medium bowl, whisk together the mustard, honey, salt and pepper. Reserve ¼ cup mixture for basting. Transfer remaining honey mustard mixture to large resealable plastic bag.

Working with one breast at a time, starting on thick side, cut chicken in half horizontally, stopping ½ inch from edge so halves remain attached. Open breast like a book, creating single flat piece. Place chicken in bag with honey mustard mixture, toss to coat and refrigerate 30 to 60 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook bacon on medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper-towel-lined plate. Reserve bacon fat. Once bacon is cool, toss it with pepper jack. Remove chicken, discard marinade. Grill chicken on hotter side of grill 5 to 6 minutes per side or until meat thermometer inserted into thickest part registers 165 degrees. Skewer each onion slice so the rings hold together; brush lightly with bacon fat. Grill 5 minutes or until tender. Brush chicken with reserved honey mustard. Remove onions from grill; remove skewers. Divide onion rings over 4 chicken. Divide bacon-cheese mixture over onions. Cover and cook until cheese is melted. Transfer to platter; tent with foil for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve with lime wedges. (Adapted from "The Chicken Bible," America's Test Kitchen.)

Makes 5 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 392 calories, 49 g protein, 18 g fat, 8 g carbohydrate, 162 mg cholesterol, 637 mg sodium and 1 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: ½

■  ■  ■

Pasta Fagioli

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 ½ cups unsalted chicken broth
  • 1 (8-ounce) can no-salt-added tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 8 ounces uncooked ditalini pasta
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, rinsed and well-drained
  • 4 ounces diced ham
  • 1/8 teaspoon coarse salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese for garnish

Heat oil in a Dutch oven on medium high.

Meanwhile, microwave carrots with 2 tablespoons water for 3 minutes 100% power; drain and set aside.

Add garlic to Dutch oven; cook 1 minute. Stir in broth, 2 cups water, tomato sauce and Italian seasoning. Bring to a boil. Add pasta and carrots; simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in beans, ham, salt and pepper. Heat through. Garnish with cheese and serve. (Adapted from Family Circle magazine.)

Makes 9 cups.

Nutrition information: Each cup contains approximately 218 calories, 10 g protein, 3 g fat, 36 g carbohydrate, 7 mg cholesterol, 408 mg sodium and 5 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 2 ½

■  ■  ■

Sweet Onion Casserole

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 4 cups (about 1 ¾ pounds) chopped sweet onions such as Vidalia
  • 1 cup cooked white rice
  • 2/3 cup shredded Jarlsberg or gruyere cheese
  • 1/8 teaspoon coarse salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, if desired

Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet on medium. Add onions; cook 10 minutes or until softened. Place in a large bowl. Stir rice, cheese, salt, pepper and allspice into onions. Spoon mixture into an 8-by-8-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle evenly with Parmesan. Cover and bake 40 minutes. Uncover; bake 5 more minutes. Top with parsley, if desired.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 153 calories, 7 g protein, 6 g fat, 18 g carbohydrate, 10 mg cholesterol, 145 mg sodium and 2 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 1

Susan Nicholson is an Atlanta-based cookbook author and registered dietitian. She can be reached by email: susan@7daymenu.com


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