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7-Day Menu Planner

by Susan Nicholson | October 5, 2022 at 1:58 a.m.
Western Burgers (Cattlemen’s Beef Board)

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

SUNDAY: Buy a ham to bake for the family, and accompany it with this Rice, Zucchini and Corn Casserole (see recipe). Add a romaine salad and whole-grain bread. Make or buy an apple pie for dessert and top it with vanilla ice cream.

Plan ahead: Save enough ham for Monday, enough pie for Tuesday and some ice cream for Saturday.

MONDAY: Be money-wise and prepare Chicken Cordon Bleu Bake (see recipe) for a low-cost entree. Serve it with mixed greens and sourdough bread. For dessert, fresh pineapple is light.

Plan ahead: Save enough chicken bake for Tuesday.

TUESDAY: Heat the leftover chicken bake, and dinner is ready in no time. Add green beans and whole-grain rolls to round out the meal. A slice of leftover pie would be good for dessert.

WEDNESDAY: I'm always looking for an easy recipe for risotto, and this microwave recipe for Tomato-Basil Risotto (see recipe) caught my attention. Serve it with a spinach salad with hard-cooked egg wedges and red bell pepper rings. Add cheese toast. For an easy dessert, try orange sections.

THURSDAY: You can have a quick dinner with Asian Sauce Over Penne Pasta. Cook a 16-ounce package of frozen Asian vegetables according to package directions. Stir in 1 cup bottled peanut stir-fry sauce; spoon over cooked penne pasta. Serve with a packaged green salad and bread sticks. Kiwis are good for dessert.

FRIDAY: Have fun with the kids by making a Sloppy Hot Dog night. Heat 1 tablespoon canola oil in a skillet on medium. Cook ½ cup chopped yellow bell pepper for 3 minutes or until tender. Stir in ½ cup barbecue sauce, 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce and 1 pound hot dogs (cut into ¼-inch pieces). Simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Spoon into 8 split whole-grain hot dog buns. Serve with carrot and celery sticks. Enjoy a Mixed Berry Smoothie for dessert. Combine 1 pint raspberry sorbet, ¾ cup fresh or frozen raspberries, ¾ cup blackberries, ½ cup blueberries and 2 cups 1% milk in a blender. Puree until smooth, strain seeds and serve.

SATURDAY: Make it a casual entertaining evening with Western Burgers on the menu. In a large bowl, combine 1 pound very lean ground beef, 1 jalapeno pepper (seeded and minced), 2 teaspoons minced onion, 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh cilantro, 1/8 teaspoon coarse salt and 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper, mixing lightly but thoroughly. Lightly shape into four ½-inch-thick patties. Place patties on grill over medium, ash-covered coals. Grill, covered, turning occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees (7-9 minutes on medium heated gas grill). Place each burger on a large lettuce leaf. Evenly top with onion, tomato, and avocado. Wrap lettuce around burgers. On the side, add Dilly Potato Salad. Cook 1 ½ pounds quartered red potatoes in boiling water 5 to 6 minutes. Cut ¼ pound fresh green beans into 1-inch pieces; add to potatoes. Cook 2 minutes more; drain. In a large bowl, toss potatoes and beans, 1 (2-ounce) can sliced black olives (drained), ¼ cup thinly sliced celery and ¼ cup chopped onion. In a small bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon less-sodium seasoned salt, ¼ cup fresh chopped dill and 1 teaspoon ground mustard. Add to vegetables; toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate 2 to 4 hours; toss again before serving. Serve with pickles, mayonnaise and dijon mustard for the burgers, and add some deviled eggs on the side. Make Butterscotch Sundaes for dessert with leftover ice cream and butterscotch topping.


Rice, Zucchini and Corn Casserole

  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1 pound grated zucchini
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 2 eggs PLUS 2 egg whites
  • 3 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1 (7-ounce) can corn, rinsed
  • 2 (4-ounce) cans chopped green chiles, drained
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 4 ounces crumbled queso fresco or Greek feta cheese

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet on medium until hot. Add zucchini and onion; cook, stirring often, 5 minutes or until zucchini is softened. Remove from heat; set aside.

In a large bowl, beat eggs and egg whites with a fork; stir in cooked rice, corn, chiles, cheeses and zucchini mixture. Mix well. Pour into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Serve.

Makes 8 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving (prepared with reduced-fat cheddar) contains approximately 254 calories, 16 g protein, 9 g fat, 29 g carbohydrate, 66 mg cholesterol, 342 mg sodium and 3 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 2

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Chicken Cordon Bleu Bake

  • 1 pound small red potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 (10.75-ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 pound cooked chicken breast tenders or strips, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 12 ounces fresh broccoli florets
  • 4 ounces cooked ham, cut into ½-inch chunks
  • 1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine potatoes and water in a large bowl; microwave on 100% power for 3 or 4 minutes or until potatoes are tender; drain.

In a small bowl, stir together soup and milk until smooth. Add soup mixture, chicken and remaining ingredients to potatoes; mix well. Transfer mixture to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake, uncovered, 50 to 55 minutes or until internal temperature of chicken reaches 165 degrees.

Makes 8 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving (prepared with reduced sodium and reduced fat soup and 1% milk) contains approximately 223 calories, 24 g protein, 7 g fat, 16 g carbohydrate, 63 mg cholesterol, 376 mg sodium and 2 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choice: 1

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Tomato-Basil Risotto

  • 2 (14-ounce) cans unsalted vegetable broth (see note)
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ¾ cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, divided use
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 3 medium tomatoes (about 1 ½ pounds)
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt
  • ¼ teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat broth and wine over medium-high until bubbles form around edge of pan.

Meanwhile, coarsely chop basil.

In a large microwave-safe dish, combine ¼ cup basil, oil and shallot. Cook, uncovered, on high 1 minute or until shallot softens. Add rice and stir to coat. Cook on high 1 minute. Stir broth mixture into rice. Cover and cook on 50% power 15 minutes or until most of liquid is absorbed, stirring once. Meanwhile, chop tomatoes. Stir tomatoes, salt and pepper into rice mixture. Cover and cook on high 3 to 4 minutes or until rice is tender but still firm; stir once. Stir in Parmesan and remaining basil. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

Note: To reduce sodium, use water instead of broth.

Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 454 calories, 10 g protein, 6 g fat, 83 g carbohydrate, 9 mg cholesterol, 599 mg sodium and 3 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 5 ½

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


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