A week's worth of quick, healthful meals for budget-minded families.
SUNDAY: Mother will be so proud of you when you present her with Baked Eggs With Spinach: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat an 8-by-8-inch baking dish with cooking spray. In a medium bowl, combine 2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach (squeezed dry) and 8 ounces Neufchatel cream cheese until thoroughly mixed. Spread evenly in dish. Using a serving spoon, make 6 indentations in spinach mixture. Break one egg into each indentation. In a small bowl, combine ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan and ½ cup panko crumbs. Sprinkle all over top, making sure to cover the eggs. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until eggs are desired doneness. Serve each egg with spinach mixture. Round out the meal with Canadian bacon, fresh strawberries and toasted whole-grain English muffins.
Tip: Don't forget to buy Mom some lovely flowers.
MONDAY: Treat the kids to Crispy Chicken Bites. Heat oven to 425 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine 1/3 cup low-fat buttermilk or other milk, ¼ teaspoon coarse salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Place 1 ½ cups crushed unsweetened whole-grain cereal flakes in a separate shallow container. Cut 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast into bite-size pieces and dip into milk mixture (drain off excess), then into cereal. Place chicken on foil-lined rimmed baking pan. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden. Serve with honey-mustard dip. Add oven fries, green beans and celery sticks. Have some chunky applesauce for dessert.
TUESDAY: It's budget-friendly and taste-friendly, so Braised Steak With Peppers and Onions (see recipe) was a hit at our house. Serve it over brown rice. Add coleslaw and whole-grain rolls to round out the meal. Fresh pineapple spears are good for dessert.
Plan ahead: Save enough beef and peppers for Thursday.
WEDNESDAY: Skip meat for Chipotle Chayote Twice-Baked Potatoes (see recipe). Serve with steamed carrots, a spinach salad and whole-grain flour tortillas. For dessert, fresh blueberries are calling.
THURSDAY: There's nothing shabby about Steak Tacos for a quick meal. Shred the leftover beef and heat along with the peppers and sauce. Spoon into taco shells and top with shredded romaine, sour cream and chopped cilantro. Add canned pinto beans on the side. Make flan (from mix) for dessert.
FRIDAY: Pasta With Pesto, Tuna and Roasted Red Peppers is almost ready. Toss any drained cooked pasta with some pesto, water-packed canned albacore tuna (drained and flaked) and some chopped roasted red peppers (from jar). Serve with freshly grated parmesan, a mixed green salad and garlic bread. Try plums for dessert.
SATURDAY: Entertain good friends with Creamy Parmesan Shrimp (see recipe). Add a Boston lettuce salad and a baguette. For dessert, buy a coconut cream pie.
Braised Steak With Peppers and Onions
- 1 onion, cut into 10 wedges
- 1 red bell pepper, cut into ½-inch slices
- 2 (14-ounce) cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes, drained
- 2 teaspoons chile powder
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon coarse salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 ½ pounds top round or flank steak, cut into 6 pieces (see note)
- Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish
In a 5-quart or larger slow cooker, combine onion, bell pepper, tomatoes, chile powder, cinnamon, salt and black pepper; mix well. Nestle the beef among the vegetables and cover. Cook 7 to 8 hours on low. Remove beef and shred, if desired; return to slow cooker. Mix well. Sprinkle with cilantro as you serve.
Makes 6 servings.
Note: I used top round steak because it was less expensive.
Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 184 calories, 27 g protein, 3 g fat, 10 g carbohydrate, 57 mg cholesterol, 268 mg sodium and 2 g fiber.
Carbohydrate choices: ½
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Chipotle Chayote Twice-Baked Potatoes
- 2 teaspoons light butter-flavored spread
- 1 cup chopped onion
- ¼ cup canned black beans, rinsed
- ¼ cup frozen corn
- ¼ cup chopped fresh chayote or zucchini
- 4 (5- to 6-ounce) baking potatoes
- ½ cup plain yogurt
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon coarse salt
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- ½ cup shredded Mexican-blend cheese
- 1/3 cup chipotle or other salsa
- Sliced avocado for garnish
Heat oven to 425 degrees.
Melt spread in a medium nonstick skillet. Add onion, beans, corn and chayote. Cook 10 minutes or until onion is softened.
Meanwhile, pierce and microwave potatoes 6 minutes per pound (total weight of all potatoes) on 100% power. Remove from microwave, wrap in terry towel and let rest 3 minutes. Remove from towel; let cool slightly. Cut in half lengthwise; carefully scoop out potato pulp, leaving ¼-inch shell. Mash potato pulp; stir in cooked vegetables, yogurt, garlic powder, salt, pepper, cheese and salsa. Place potato skins on rimmed baking sheet. Spoon potato mixture into shells. Bake 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Garnish with avocado and serve.
Makes 4 servings.
Nutrition information: Each serving (prepared with reduced-sodium beans, nonfat yogurt and reduced-fat cheeses) contains approximately 232 calories, 10 g protein, 5 g fat, 39 g carbohydrate, 9 mg cholesterol, 428 mg sodium and 4 g fiber.
Carbohydrate choices: 2 ½
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Creamy Parmesan Shrimp
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 ½ pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
- ½ teaspoon coarse salt, plus more to taste
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- Ground black pepper to taste
- Chopped parsley for garnish
In a large skillet, melt butter on medium-high. Season shrimp with salt; add to skillet. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes or until shrimp are opaque. Transfer shrimp to a plate and cover. Add garlic to skillet. Cook 30 seconds. Add cream. Bring to a simmer. Cook about 1 minute. Add shrimp back to skillet. Stir in parmesan and add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately. (Adapted from "Scrumptious," Christy Denney, Shadow Mountain Publishing)
Makes 4 servings.
Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 309 calories, 25 g protein, 21 g fat, 4 g carbohydrate, 254 mg cholesterol, 779 mg sodium and no fiber.
Carbohydrate choices: 0
Susan Nicholson is an Atlanta-based cookbook author and registered dietitian. She can be reached by email: email@example.com