Each day of the week offers a menu aimed at a different aspect of meal planning. There's a family meal, a kids' menu aimed at younger tastes, a heat-and-eat meal that recycles leftovers, a budget meal that employs a cost-cutting strategy, a meatless or "less meat" dish for people who may not be strict vegetarians but are trying to cut down on meat, an express meal that requires little or no preparation, and an entertaining menu that's quick.
Prepare your own ham steak for the family and serve with Mixed Rice Pilaf With Dried Cherries, Apricots and Cinnamon (see recipe). Add a Boston lettuce salad and sourdough rolls for a delicious meal.
Plan ahead: Prepare enough ham and save half the pilaf for Monday.
Tip: Substitute raisins for the cherries if desired.
Monday/Heat and Eat
Tonight's ham pilaf is quick and easy. Dice Sunday's leftover ham and mix with leftover pilaf. If necessary, add a little water to moisten. Cover and heat mixture in the microwave on high (100 percent power) about 1 minute per cup. Serve a mixed green salad with your sweet-and-savory entree. Add crusty bread for a complete meal.
Make a quick Cincinnati chili tonight. Cook 12 ounces spaghetti according to directions. Top with canned low-fat turkey chili or other low-fat chili. Top the chili-spaghetti mixture with shredded reduced-fat sharp Cheddar cheese. Look for a packaged Italian salad in produce as an accompaniment. Slide on over to the bakery for sesame bread sticks. While you're there, you'll want some oatmeal cookies for dessert.
Plan ahead: Buy enough cookies for Wednesday.
The kids will want to prepare their own barbecue chicken sandwiches using one of the many prepared brands of chicken. Serve the chicken on toasted Kaiser rolls. The adults might like sliced dills with their sandwiches. Accompany this easy meal with frozen oven-fried potatoes and a store-bought or homemade carrot and pineapple salad. For dessert, serve leftover oatmeal cookies with fat-free frozen strawberry yogurt.
Plan ahead: Save enough yogurt for Thursday.
Savory Linguine Alla Marinara is easy to prepare and just right for this busy season (see recipe). Serve with a spinach salad and Italian bread.
Plan ahead: If you have time, prepare Friday's Christmas French Toast and refrigerate overnight.
It's Christmas! Before the family feast and all the festivities, start the big day with Christmas French Toast (see recipe). Serve with Canadian bacon and your own ambrosia. Munch on a few Christmas cookies for dessert.
Eric Ripert, the chef at Le Bernardin in New York City, created this easy shrimp recipe. Pretend you're in the Big Apple and make Eric's Broiled Shrimp With Garlic Butter (see recipe) for your lucky guests. Serve the shrimp with angel hair pasta tossed with fresh chopped herbs and a little unsalted butter. Steamed julienne bell peppers make a colorful side dish. Add baguettes. For dessert, serve fresh fruit with lemon cookies.
What you'll need for this week's menus (consult recipes for exact amounts)
reduced-sodium chicken broth
dried pitted cherries
canned low-fat turkey chili or other low-fat chili
reduced-fat sharp Cheddar cheese
packaged Italian salad
sesame bread sticks
prepared barbecue chicken
sliced dill pickles
frozen oven fried potatoes
prepared carrot and pineapple salad or ingredients to make your own
fat-free frozen strawberry yogurt
red pepper flakes
canned plum tomatoes
1 percent milk
pure vanilla extract
margarine or butter
dark corn syrup
pecans or walnuts
ingredients for ambrosia
fresh Italian parsley
fine sea salt or other salt
uncooked large shrimp
angel hair pasta
any fresh herbs
frozen julienne bell peppers
Mixed Rice Pilaf With Dried Cherries, Apricots and Cinnamon (Sunday)
Makes 8 servings
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: A little over an hour; standing time: 10 minutes
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup chopped sweet onions
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 1/2 cups brown rice
1/2 cup wild rice
1 cinnamon stick
1 orange zest strip, 3 inches by 1/2 inch wide, plus extra for garnish
4 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup dried apricots, cut into pieces
1/2 cup dried pitted cherries
1/2 cup sliced natural almonds
In a large, wide saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Add onions and saute, stirring until golden, about 5 minutes. Add curry powder and stir to blend. Stir in brown rice, wild rice, cinnamon stick and zest. Cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add broth, apricots and cherries, and raise heat to high. Bring to a boil, stirring once. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until broth is absorbed and rice is tender, about 55 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 10 minutes.
Toast almonds in a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat about 3 minutes or until golden. Stir constantly. Spoon pilaf into warmed serving bowl; discard cinnamon stick and orange zest. Sprinkle with almonds and additional orange zest. Serve immediately. (Adapted from "Holiday Celebrations," Williams-Sonoma, TimeLife, 1998, $18.95.)
Per serving: 269 calories, 8 grams protein, 6 grams fat (19 percent calories from fat), 1.4 grams saturated fat, 49 grams carbohydrate, 4 milligrams cholesterol, 259 milligrams sodium, 4 grams fiber.
Linguine Alla Marinara (Thursday)
Makes 6 servings
Preparation time: under 10 minutes
Cooking time: about 15 minutes plus time to cook the pasta
1 pound linguine
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves minced garlic
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 (28-ounce) can plum tomatoes, drained
salt to taste
12 to 16 basil leaves, torn into small pieces
Cook linguine according to directions; drain. In a large saute pan, heat oil over medium heat about 30 seconds. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and saute 1 minute. Add tomatoes and salt to taste. Raise heat to medium-high, bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring often, breaking apart tomatoes until they form a sauce, about 7 or 8 minutes. Add a little water if the sauce is too thick. Puree in food processor. Return to pan and add basil. Simmer gently 5 minutes to blend flavors; taste, adjust seasonings. Remove from heat. Return pasta to pot. Add sauce and toss. (Adapted from "Classic Pasta at Home," Williams-Sonoma, TimeLife, 1998, $18.95.)
Per serving: 328 calories, 11 grams protein, 4 grams fat (10 percent calories from fat), 0.5 grams saturated fat, 63 grams carbohydrate, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 201 milligrams sodium, 3 grams fiber.
Christmas French Toast (Friday)
Makes 8 servings
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: about 1 hour
12 slices French bread, 1 inch thick
4 whole eggs
8 egg whites
2 cups 1 percent milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup softened margarine or butter
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons dark corn syrup
1/2 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts)
Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray; place bread in dish. In a large bowl, beat eggs, egg whites, milk, vanilla extract and cinnamon; pour over bread. Cover and refrigerate a few hours (if you didn't make ahead and refrigerate overnight on Thursday). Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a small mixing bowl, cream margarine or butter, sugar and syrup until smooth. Spread over bread. Sprinkle with nuts. Bake uncovered 1 hour or until golden brown.
Per 1 1/2-slice serving: 369 calories, 13 grams protein, 15 grams fat (36 percent calories from fat), 2.7 grams saturated fat, 47 grams carbohydrate, 109 milligrams cholesterol, 427 milligrams sodium, 2 grams fiber.
Makes 8 servings
Preparation time: under 30 minutes
12 navel oranges, peeled and sectioned (reserve juice that drips)
6 sliced bananas
1 (3-pound) fresh pineapple, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (2 1/2 to 3 cups)
2/3 cup sweetened, dried coconut
Place orange sections and juice in a large bowl. Add bananas, pineapple and coconut and carefully combine. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Per serving: 260 calories, 4 grams protein, 4 grams fat (12 percent calories from fat), 2.7 grams saturated fat, 60 grams carbohydrate, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 24 milligrams sodium, 9 grams fiber.
Broiled Shrimp With Garlic Butter (Saturday)
Makes 4 servings
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: about 4 minutes
3 tablespoons room-temperature unsalted butter
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon each: chopped shallots and fresh Italian parsley
juice of 1/2 lemon
fine sea salt or other salt to taste
24 uncooked large shrimp, shell and tail on
1/2 cup water
Heat broiler. In a small bowl, place butter and stir in garlic, shallots, parsley, lemon juice and salt. Butterfly shrimp lengthwise, leaving tails attached. Spread the shrimp open and arrange them in a shallow, oval casserole dish. Top shrimp with dabs of the butter mixture and pour water into the dish. Broil until the shrimp are cooked through, about 4 minutes. Arrange shrimp among 4 plates, so that the tail of each shrimp fits inside the shrimp in front of it. Whisk the liquid in the casserole dish and pour over the shrimp. Serve immediately. (Adapted from "Le Bernardin Cookbook," by Maguy LeCoze and Eric Ripert, Doubleday, 1998, $49.95.)
Per serving: 149 calories, 15 grams protein, 9 grams fat (57 percent calories from fat), 5.5 grams saturated fat, 1 gram carbohydrate, 158 milligrams cholesterol, 157 milligrams sodium, 0 grams fiber.
Susan Nicholson is an Atlanta-based cookbook author and registered dietitian. She can be reached by e-mail: menuplanneindspring.com.
Pub Date: 12/20/98