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7-Day Menu Planner

by Susan Nicholson | June 7, 2023 at 1:48 a.m.
Quick Bean Chili (America's Test Kitchen/Daniel J. van Ackere)

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

SUNDAY: Make family day special and serve Italian Roast Pork Loin. Pour 1 cup Italian salad dressing into a resealable plastic bag; add 1 (2- to 3-pound) boneless pork loin. Seal and refrigerate overnight. Remove pork; discard dressing marinade. Pat pork dry and sprinkle it with 1 teaspoon garlic pepper seasoning blend. Place in a shallow pan and roast 1 hour at 350 degrees or until internal temperature reaches 145. Remove from oven; let stand 5 minutes before slicing. Serve with roasted red potatoes, green beans, mixed greens and sourdough bread. Make or buy a blueberry cobbler and top it with some vanilla ice cream.

Plan ahead: Save enough pork and cobbler for Monday.

MONDAY: Use the leftover pork in Pork and Mushroom Quesadillas (see recipe). Serve with a leaf lettuce salad. Top the leftover cobbler with light whipped cream for dessert.

TUESDAY: Let the kids celebrate with (any) Burger night. They might want to add cheese along with their favorite trimmings. How about some corn-on-the-cob and baby carrots, too? Make s'mores in the microwave for dessert.

WEDNESDAY: Make a no-meat night special with Quick Bean Chili (see recipe). Add whole-grain bread. Sprinkle fresh strawberries with confectioners' sugar for dessert.

THURSDAY: For a festive dinner, try Baked Beans-Tuna Chef Salad. Divide among 4 dinner plates: 1 (12-ounce) bunch romaine, cut into ½-inch pieces. On top, arrange 2 to 4 hard-cooked eggs (cut into 6 pieces each), 2 (5-ounce) cans (drained and flaked) albacore tuna, 1 cup halved grape tomatoes and 1 (16-ounce) can vegetarian baked beans (such as Bush's). Drizzle with 4 tablespoons Italian dressing (or your favorite flavor). Serve with crusty bread. Sprinkle fresh peaches with nutmeg for an easy dessert.

FRIDAY: Make Garden BLTs for a quick meal. Spread 8 slices whole-grain toast with mayonnaise. For each sandwich, layer 1 slice toast with 2 slices each cooked bacon and tomatoes, 8 thin slices cucumber, 1 thin slice sweet onion, 1 medium lettuce leaf and coarse salt and pepper to taste. Top with remaining toast. Cut in half on the diagonal. Serve with hash brown potatoes (refrigerated). Fresh blueberries with whipped cream will satisfy your sweet tooth.

SATURDAY: Extend an invitation to special friends for Arroz con Pollo (see recipe). Serve it with a red-tip lettuce salad and baguettes. A simple dessert, meringue cookies and raspberry sorbet, is a perfect ending.


Pork and Mushroom Quesadillas

  • 12 ounces cooked (leftover) pork, sliced ¼-inch thick
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided use
  • 6 ounces sliced fresh crimini mushrooms
  • 1/3 cup sliced green onions
  • 4 ounces shredded Swiss cheese
  • 4 (9- to 10-inch) flour tortillas

Stack pork slices and cut crosswise in half, then cut each stack lengthwise into matchstick-size pieces; set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet on medium-high until hot. Add mushrooms and onions; stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes or until softened. Remove from skillet; add pork and stir-fry 1 minute. Remove pork and wipe skillet with paper towels.

To assemble, sprinkle 2 tablespoons cheese over half of each tortilla. Top each with pork and mushroom mixture. Sprinkle each with remaining cheese. Fold in half, pressing gently. Add 1 teaspoon oil to skillet. Cook quesadillas, 2 at a time, on medium heat for 2 to 4 minutes or until golden and cheese is melted, turning once. Remove quesadillas from skillet; loosely cover with foil to keep warm. Repeat with remaining oil and quesadillas. Cut quesadillas into wedges and serve.

Makes 4 quesadillas.

Nutrition information: Each quesadilla contains approximately 456 calories, 37 g protein, 18 g fat, 36 g carbohydrate, 89 mg cholesterol, 568 mg sodium and 4 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 2 ½


Quick Bean Chili

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder (seasoning blend)
  • 1 to 3 teaspoons minced canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 4 (10-ounce) cans Original Ro-Tel Tomatoes & Green Chiles
  • 4 (15-ounce) cans beans (a variety of pinto, chili, black, cannellini, navy or kidney beans), rinsed
  • Coarse salt and black pepper to taste
  • Chopped onion, diced avocado, cilantro, lime wedges, sour cream for garnishing, as desired

Heat oil in Dutch oven on medium-high until shimmering. Add onion, cook 5 minutes or until softened. Stir in chili powder, chipotle and cumin and cook 30 seconds or until fragrant. Stir in tomatoes and their juices and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer gently, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes. Process 2 cups chili in blender until smooth, about 1 minute. Stir puree and beans into pot and bring to brief simmer. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish as desired with chopped onion, diced avocado, cilantro, lime wedges and sour cream. (Adapted from "The Complete Modern Pantry," America's Test Kitchen)

Makes 8 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving (prepared with reduced-sodium beans) contains approximately 207 calories, 12 g protein, 2 g fat, 41 g carbohydrate, no cholesterol, 981 mg sodium and 15 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 3


Arroz con Pollo

  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds bone-in skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 ½ pounds bone-in skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 red bell pepper cut into 2-inch strips
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup long-grain rice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (14-ounce) can unsalted chicken broth
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed saffron or turmeric
  • 1 ½ cups frozen tiny green peas, thawed
  • ¼ cup sliced Spanish olives with pimentos

Mix salt, paprika and pepper. Sprinkle evenly over chicken.

Heat oil in a large skillet on medium. Add chicken; cook 5 to 6 minutes per side or until golden. Remove chicken from skillet. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from skillet. Add bell pepper and onion; cook and stir about 5 minutes or until softened. Stir in rice and garlic. Continue to cook about 1 minute. Stir in broth and saffron or turmeric. Bring to boil. Return chicken to skillet; cover. Reduce heat to low and cook 20 minutes or until chicken is 165 degrees and rice is tender. Remove from heat. Stir in peas; cover. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with olives.

Makes 12 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 218 calories, 24 g protein, 6 g fat, 16 g carbohydrate, 87 mg cholesterol, 307 mg sodium and 1 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 1

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

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