A week of quick and healthy meals for budget-conscious families.
SUNDAY: Buy a ham to cook 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 ice cream for Saturday.
MONDAY: Be frugal and make Chicken Cordon Bleu Bake (see recipe) for a low-cost entrée. Serve it with mixed greens and sourdough bread. For dessert, fresh pineapple is light.
Plan ahead: save enough cooked chicken for Tuesday.
TUESDAY: Heat up leftover chicken and dinner is ready in no time. Add green beans and whole grain buns to round out the meal. 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 eye. Serve it with a spinach salad with quarters of hard-boiled eggs and slices of red peppers. Add cheese toast. For an easy dessert, try orange wedges.
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 packed green salad and bread sticks. Kiwis are good for dessert.
FRIDAY: Have fun with the kids by hosting a Sloppy Hot Dog party. Heat 1 tablespoon canola oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook ½ cup chopped yellow bell pepper for 3 minutes or until tender. Stir in ½ cup barbecue sauce, 1 (8 ounce) tomato sauce and 1 pound hot dogs (cut into ¼ inch pieces). Simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Divide among 8 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. Purée until smooth, strain out the seeds and serve.
SATURDAY: Make it a fun and casual evening with Western Burgers on the menu. In a large bowl, combine 1 pound very lean ground beef, 1 jalapeno pepper (seeded and chopped), 2 tsp chopped onion, 2 tsp 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 the patties on the grill over medium coals covered with ashes. Grill, covered, turning occasionally, 8-10 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees (7-9 minutes on gas grill on medium heat). Place each burger on a large lettuce leaf. Top evenly with onion, tomato and avocado. Wrap the lettuce around the burgers. On the side, add the potato salad with dill. Cook 1 ½ pounds of red potatoes in quarters in boiling water for 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, combine potatoes and beans, 1 can (2 ounces) sliced black olives (drained), ¼ cup thinly sliced celery and ¼ cup chopped onion. In a small bowl, whisk together 1 tbsp white wine vinegar, 1 tsp sodium-free seasoned salt, ¼ cup chopped fresh dill, and 1 tsp ground mustard. Add to vegetables; toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate 2 to 4 hours; mix 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 butterscotch ice cream and topping.
Rice, zucchini and corn casserole
- 2 teaspoons rapeseed oil
- 1 pound grated zucchini
- ½ cup chopped onion
- 2 eggs PLUS 2 egg whites
- 3 cups cooked brown rice
- 1 can (7 ounces) corn, rinsed
- 2 cans (4 ounces) chopped green chiles, drained
- 2 cups grated cheddar cheese
- 4 ounces crumbled queso fresco or Greek feta cheese
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. Add zucchini and onion; cook, stirring often, 5 minutes or until zucchini is softened. Remove from fire; put aside.
In large bowl, beat eggs and egg whites with fork; stir in cooked rice, corn, peppers, cheeses and zucchini mixture. Mix well. Pour into a 9 x 13 inch baking dish lined with cooking spray. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve.
Makes 8 servings.
Nutrition Information: Each serving (prepared with light cheddar) contains approximately 254 calories, 16 g protein, 9 g fat, 29 g carbohydrates, 66 mg cholesterol, 342 mg sodium and 3 g fiber.
Choice of carbohydrates: 2
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Chicken Cordon Bleu Gratin
- 1 pound small red potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 tablespoon of water
- 1 can (10.75 ounces) condensed cream of chicken
- ½ cup of milk
- 1 pound cooked chicken breasts or strips, cut into 1-inch piecesrooms
- 12 ounces fresh broccoli florets
- 4 ounces cooked ham, cut into ½ inch pieces
- 1 cup grated Swiss cheese
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1 clove garlic, minced
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Combine potatoes and water in large bowl; microwave on 100% power for 3-4 minutes or until potatoes are tender; drain.
In a small bowl, combine soup and milk until smooth. Add soup mix, chicken and remaining ingredients to potatoes; mix well. Transfer the mixture to a 9×13-inch baking dish lined with cooking spray. Bake, uncovered, for 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 fat soup and 1% milk) contains approximately 223 calories, 24 g protein, 7 g fat, 16 g carbohydrates, 63 mg cholesterol, 376 mg sodium and 2 g fiber.
Choice of carbohydrates: 1
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- 2 cans (14 ounces) 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, chopped
- 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 heat until bubbles form around edge of pan.
Meanwhile, coarsely chop the 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 the rice and stir to coat. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Stir broth mixture into rice. Cover and cook on 50% power 15 min. or until most of the liquid is absorbed, stirring once. Meanwhile, chop the 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 the 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 carbohydrates, 9 mg cholesterol, 599 mg sodium and 3 g fibre.
Choice of carbohydrates: 5 ½
Susan Nicholson is an Atlanta-based cookbook author and registered dietitian. She can be reached by email: [email protected]