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7-Day Menu Planner

by Susan Nicholson | September 21, 2022 at 2:00 a.m.
Pork Chop Saute With Cherry Balsamic Reduction (Gwynn Galvin,

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

SUNDAY: Enjoy Pork Chop Saute With Cherry Balsamic Reduction (see recipe) on family day. Serve the sweet and savory entree with brown rice, sugar snap peas and crusty bread. Buy a Boston cream pie for dessert.

Plan ahead: Save enough Boston cream pie for Tuesday.

MONDAY: Treat the kids (and adults) to Chicken With Carrots and Potatoes. Into a 4-quart or larger slow cooker, place 8 medium potatoes (cut into ¼-inch slices), 1 small onion (sliced) and 2 cups baby carrots. Combine ½ cup chicken broth, 1 teaspoon minced garlic and ½ teaspoon dried thyme; pour over vegetables. Combine 1 teaspoon paprika and ½ teaspoon salt; rub over 8 skinless bone-in chicken thighs. Place chicken on top of vegetables. Cover and cook on low 5 hours or until chicken is done and vegetables are softened. Serve with green beans. Slice kiwis for dessert.

Plan ahead: Save enough chicken and vegetables for Tuesday.

TUESDAY: Heat the leftover chicken and vegetables and serve over biscuits. Add a spinach salad. The leftover Boston cream pie will be good for dessert.

WEDNESDAY: Make it quick tonight with Lemony Shrimp Salad With Couscous. Place 1 cup couscous in a large bowl. Pour 1 cup boiling water, ¼ teaspoon coarse salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper over couscous. Cover; let stand 5 minutes and fluff with fork. Meanwhile, into a medium bowl, place 1 ½ pounds cooked and deveined shrimp, 8 ounces trimmed fresh snap peas (cut into bite-size pieces), 1 pint grape tomatoes (halved), ¾ cup torn fresh basil leaves, 2 thinly sliced green onions, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 teaspoons lemon zest and 3 tablespoons lemon juice; toss to combine. Serve over couscous. Add sliced cucumbers and flatbread. For dessert, top blueberries with light whipped cream.

THURSDAY: Skip meat tonight for Pasta Pesto With Goat Cheese. Cook 12 ounces gemelli or other short pasta according to package directions; drain and return to pot. To the pasta, add ½ cup prepared pesto, 4 ounces crumbled goat cheese, ½ cup torn fresh basil leaves, ½ teaspoon coarse salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper; toss to coat. Serve alongside a red-tipped lettuce salad with hard-cooked egg wedges and garlic bread to round out the meal. Fresh tropical fruit is an easy dessert.

FRIDAY: Oven-Fried Chicken With Crunchy Broccoli Slaw (see recipe) holds the line on food costs. Serve with steamed zucchini and whole-grain bread. Serve plums for dessert.

SATURDAY: Tonight would be a great night to invite friends for Top Loin Steaks and Mushrooms. For the rub: In a small bowl, combine 3 large cloves garlic (minced), 2 ½ teaspoons lemon pepper seasoning and 1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano. In a medium bowl, combine 1 pound medium whole fresh mushrooms, 1 medium onion (cut into 1-inch pieces), 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 teaspoons of the rub; toss. Alternately, thread mushrooms and onion onto six (12-inch) metal skewers. Finish with a lemon wedge. Press remaining rub onto 2 (about 1 ½ pounds total) boneless top loin steaks (1 inch thick). Place steaks and kebabs on grill over medium. Grill steaks, uncovered, 15 to 18 minutes for medium-rare to medium doneness, turning occasionally. Grill kebabs 6 to 8 minutes or until mushrooms are tender, turning occasionally. Remove vegetables from skewers; toss with ¼ cup crumbled Greek feta cheese. Carve steaks. Season steaks and vegetables with salt and pepper; serve. Add Creamy Potato Salad (see recipe), snow peas, a romaine salad and whole-grain bread. For dessert, pair any sorbet with butter cookies.


Pork Chop Saute With Cherry Balsamic Reduction

  • 4 bone-in, center-cut pork loin chops, (about 1 ¾ pounds total)
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme, divided use
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt, divided use
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided use
  • 2 large shallots, finely chopped (about ½ cup)
  • ½ cup dried tart red cherries
  • ½ cup unsalted chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

Heat a large nonstick skillet on medium-high. Sprinkle chops with ¼ teaspoon thyme, ¼ teaspoon salt and the pepper. Cook chops 5 to 6 minutes per side or until internal temperature reaches 145 degrees. Transfer to serving dish; keep warm.

In same skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Add shallots, cherries and remaining thyme and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes or until shallots are just tender. Add broth and vinegar. Boil until mixture reduces slightly, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add remaining butter and sugar, stirring continuously, until butter is melted and sauce forms. Serve sauce with pork chops.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 341 calories, 40 g protein, 11 g fat, 18 g carbohydrate, 122 mg cholesterol, 388 mg sodium and 1 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 1

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Oven-Fried Chicken With Crunchy Broccoli Slaw

  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 ¼ cups buttermilk, divided use
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 8 well-trimmed boneless skinless chicken thighs (2 to 2 ¼ pounds)
  • 1 cup crushed whole-grain crackers
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 (12-ounce) package broccoli slaw
  • 2 green onions, chopped

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place a wire rack inside a rimmed baking pan and lightly coat with cooking spray.

In a shallow baking dish, combine paprika, 1 cup buttermilk and salt and pepper. Add chicken; turn to coat. Place crushed crackers in a pie plate. Remove chicken from buttermilk mixture; coat with crackers, pressing gently to help them adhere. Place chicken on rack; bake 30 to 35 minutes, turning halfway through, until crispy and temperature reaches 165 degrees in the center of thickest piece of chicken.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, vinegar and remaining ¼ cup buttermilk. Add broccoli slaw and onions to dressing; toss to combine. Serve dressing with chicken.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving (prepared with reduced-fat crackers and low-fat mayonnaise) contains approximately 436 calories, 43 g protein, 17 g fat, 26 g carbohydrate, 209 mg cholesterol, 645 mg sodium and 4 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 2

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Creamy Potato Salad

  • 3 pounds small new potatoes
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 ribs celery, thinly sliced
  • 6 medium radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, diced
  • ¾ cup roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh tarragon (optional)

In a large saucepan, cover potatoes with cold water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 12 to 15 minutes or until tender. Drain and run under cold water to cool. Cut into quarters.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together sour cream, mayonnaise, vinegar, salt and black pepper. Add potatoes, celery, radishes and bell pepper; toss to coat. Fold in the parsley and tarragon, if using.

Makes about 11 cups.

Nutrition information: Each cup (prepared with low-fat sour cream and mayonnaise) contains approximately 110 calories, 4 g protein, 1 g fat, 20 g carbohydrate, 2 mg cholesterol, 166 mg sodium and 3 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 1 ½

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


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