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7-Day Menu Planner

by Susan Nicholson | November 16, 2022 at 1:54 a.m.
Spicy Maple Sweet Potatoes With Cinnamon Pepitas (Shadow Mountain Publishing/Ty Mecham)

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

SUNDAY: Aromatic and delicious, Mustard Pork Chops With Smashed Potatoes and Peas (see recipe) will be a family favorite. Serve the combination with green beans, mixed greens and whole-grain rolls. For dessert, have some strawberry ice cream.

MONDAY: Try this Veggie Chili (see recipe) for an easy, delicious no-meat dinner. Serve it with a lettuce wedge with blue cheese crumbles and cornbread. Fresh pineapple spears are a simple dessert.

Plan ahead: Save enough chili for Tuesday.

TUESDAY: Let the kids help you make Chili Tacos from the leftover chili for a kid-friendly meal. Serve with pinto beans, shredded lettuce and diced avocado to round out the meal. Peaches work for dessert.

WEDNESDAY: For a low-cost dinner, enjoy Rotini With Caramelized Onions and Broccoli: Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large nonstick skillet on medium. Add 2 large onions (cut into ½-inch-thick slices); cook 12 minutes or until browned. Add 1 cup water and 2 teaspoons dried tarragon; cook 5 to 7 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Meanwhile, cook 12 ounces rotini pasta according to package directions; add 5 cups fresh broccoli florets 3 minutes before the end of cooking time. Drain broccoli and pasta and return to pot. Add onion mixture to pot along with 2 (¾-ounce) wedges light sun-dried-tomato-and-basil cheese; stir until cheese is melted and well blended. Season with coarse salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with more oil if desired. Serve with a romaine salad with egg slices and whole-grain bread. Grapes are your dessert.

THURSDAY: Celebrate Thanksgiving with the family with the traditional turkey, these Spicy Maple Sweet Potatoes With Cinnamon Pepitas (see recipe), tiny green peas with pearl onions (from frozen) and this Home-Style Cranberry Sauce: Mix 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar in medium saucepan; bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Add 1 (12-ounce) package rinsed and drained fresh cranberries, ½ teaspoon cinnamon and ½ teaspoon orange zest; return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes or until cranberries burst and sauce begins to thicken. Remove from heat; stir in ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract. Cool to room temperature. Cover; refrigerate until ready to serve. Add dinner rolls. Finish the feast with a small piece of pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream.

Plan ahead: Save enough turkey for Friday and enough pie for Saturday.

Tip: Cranberry sauce can be made up to a week ahead. Refrigerate; stir before serving.

FRIDAY: Use the leftover turkey in Turkey and Bacon Ranch Pizza. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 10-by-15-inch cookie sheet with cooking spray. Unroll 1 (11-ounce) can refrigerated pizza dough on cookie sheet; starting at center, press dough into a 10-by-15-inch rectangle. Spread ½ cup ranch dressing over dough. Top with 2 cups chopped leftover turkey, 4 slices crisp cooked bacon (crumbled), ¼ cup finely chopped onion, 1 large plum tomato (chopped), 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese and 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese. Bake 13 to 16 minutes or until crust is golden and cheese is melted. Cut into 8 servings. Serve with carrot sticks. Enjoy plums for dessert.

SATURDAY: For a change of pace, try Stuffed Baked Potatoes tonight. Bake potatoes at 400 degrees until tender. Split and fill with your sauteed fresh spinach and some crumbled goat cheese. Sprinkle with toasted pecans. Serve with deli egg salad on a bed of red-tipped lettuce. Add whole-grain rolls. For dessert, slice the leftover pie.


Mustard Pork Chops With Smashed Potatoes and Peas

  • 1 pound medium red potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen green peas
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided use
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 (5- or 6-ounce) boneless pork chops (about ¾ inches thick)
  • ¾ cup dry white wine or unsalted chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Cook potatoes in boiling water for 10 to 12 minutes or until tender. Add peas during the last 2 minutes of cooking. Drain and gently smash with the onions, 1 tablespoon oil, salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, heat remaining oil in a large skillet on medium. Cook chops 4 to 6 minutes per side or until golden brown. Transfer to plates; keep warm. Add the broth or wine to skillet and simmer for 3 minutes, stirring to reduce by half. Whisk in mustard and spoon sauce over pork. Serve with potatoes and peas.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 409 calories, 34 g protein, 15 g fat, 30 g carbohydrate, 75 mg cholesterol, 564 mg sodium and 6 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 2

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Veggie Chili

  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 (1.25-ounce) packet chili seasoning
  • ½ cup no-salt-added tomato sauce
  • 1 ½ cups no-salt-added V-8
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, with liquid
  • 1 (15-ounce) can reduced-sodium black beans, rinsed
  • 1 (15-ounce) can Great Northern beans, rinsed
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 1 medium yellow squash, diced
  • ½ cup frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed
  • Chopped fresh cilantro, sour cream, chopped green onions, shredded cheddar cheese, chopped tomatoes, for topping as desired

Heat oil in a Dutch oven on medium. Add carrot and onion; cook 7 minutes. Stir in chili seasoning; cook 2 minutes. Stir in tomato sauce, V-8, tomatoes, both beans, both squash and corn. If too thick, add water as needed to achieve desired consistency. Bring to a boil; cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes. Serve with desired toppings.

Makes about 7 (1-cup) servings.

Nutrition information: Each cup contains approximately 167 calories, 8 g protein, 2 g fat, 30 g carbohydrate, no cholesterol, 213 mg sodium and 6 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 2

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Spicy Maple Sweet Potatoes With Cinnamon Pepitas

  • For the pepitas:
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red (cayenne) pepper
  • ½ cup hulled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • For the sweet potatoes:
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 medium sweet potatoes (about 2 ½ pounds), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • ¼ cup finely diced shallot or red onion
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2/3 cup unsalted chicken broth
  • ¼ teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red (cayenne) pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Line a baking sheet with parchment; set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine syrup, cinnamon and cayenne over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and add pepitas. Boil, stirring constantly 3 to 4 minutes or until syrup is almost gone and mixture is thick and getting darker in color. Remove from heat; pour glazed pepitas on prepared baking sheet. Working fast, spread seeds out in single layer using spatula or forks. Let cool completely, then break or chop into small clusters.

In a large nonstick skillet with lid, heat oil on medium-high. Add potatoes, shallot and salt; stir to coat with oil. Reduce heat to medium. Cook potatoes, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes or until softened. Add broth to skillet; cover. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook 12 to 14 minutes until potatoes are tender but not falling apart. Meanwhile, combine paprika, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, garlic powder and syrup in bowl. Pour glaze over potatoes and gently stir to coat; cook for 1 minute. Add butter and stir to coat. Remove from heat. Serve potatoes while warm, topped with candied pepitas. (Adapted from "Delicious Gatherings" by Tara Teaspoon, Shadow Mountain Publishing)

Makes 8 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 280 calories, 5 g protein, 12 g fat, 40 g carbohydrate, 8 mg cholesterol, 348 mg sodium and 5 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 2 ½

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


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