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.
Gather the family for a meal of easy boneless Smothered Pork Loin Chops (see recipe). Serve the chops with baked sweet potatoes and garnish with fresh orange slices. Add frozen sugar snap peas and sourdough bread. For dessert, how about a store-bought coconut custard pie? Your family will give you another gold star for this delicious meal.
Plan ahead: Save two pork chops and any leftover pie for Monday.
Monday/Heat and Eat
Make a pork stir-fry with Sunday's leftover chops. Slice the chops and combine with a package of frozen stir-fry vegetables. Mix the pork-vegetable combo with prepared stir-fry sauce and serve the mixture over rice. Add crusty bread. If you're lucky, leftover pie is waiting for you for dessert.
Run into the store and wrap up tonight's dinner: Ranch Wraps (see recipe). Serve canned pinto beans on the side. For dessert, oatmeal cookies and sliced peaches are easy.
You'll be happy as a clam with the money you save serving -- what else? -- Clam Chowder tonight (see recipe). Just add a green salad and multigrain rolls to this easy meal. For dessert, fresh fruit is light.
Plan ahead: To save time on Thursday, cook 1 1/2 cups brown rice in 3 cups vegetable broth tonight.
Enjoy the nutty flavor of brown rice in Vegetable Pilaf (see recipe). Serve the flavorful rice-vegetable melange with a mixed green salad and crusty bread. Fat-free frozen strawberry yogurt is a perfect dessert.
Plan ahead: Save half the pilaf and enough frozen yogurt for Friday.
The kids will think you're cool when you serve them Stuffed Pitas using leftover pilaf. Line pita bread with lettuce leaves. Combine the leftover pilaf with a 10-ounce package of cooked, carved chicken breasts. Add a little broth or water to moisten if necessary. Heat the mixture and stuff the pitas. Serve them with baked corn chips. For dessert, you probably noticed that the leftover strawberry yogurt needs some chocolate sauce.
Your guests will be happy when you serve them Filets Mignons With Bleu Cheese (see recipe). Baked potatoes and steamed fresh spinach are easy, low-fat accompaniments. Add dinner rolls. For dessert, sorbet with gourmet cookies is a delicious finish to a company meal.
What you'll need for this week's menus (consult recipes for exact amounts)
canned beef broth
boneless pork loin chops
frozen sugar snap peas
coconut custard pie
frozen stir-fry vegetables
sliced, cooked turkey breast
shredded Cheddar cheese
reduced-fat ranch salad dressing
canned pinto beans
reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 percent milk
canned minced clams
fat-free frozen strawberry yogurt
carved, cooked chicken breasts
baked corn chips
cracked black pepper
canned beef broth
dry red wine
package of gourmet cookies
Smothered Pork Loin Chops (Sunday)
Makes 6 servings
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: under 25 minutes
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 (14 1/2 -ounce) can beef broth
1/8 teaspoon pepper
6 boneless pork loin chops, 1/2 inch thick
1 medium sliced onion
In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch, broth and pepper; set aside. Coat a large, nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-high 1 minute. Cook chops until browned or about 5 minutes per side. (Cook in 2 batches if necessary.) Remove skillet from heat; remove chops. Wipe skillet with paper towel and recoat with cooking spray. Add onion and cook over medium heat until softened or about 5 minutes. Stir cornstarch mixture and add to skillet. Cook until mixture boils and thickens, about 4 or 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Return chops to pan. Cover and cook over low heat 5 minutes or until chops are tender.
Per serving: 227 calories, 31 grams protein, 9 grams fat (36 percent calories from fat), 3.2 grams saturated fat, 4 grams carbohydrate, 73 milligrams cholesterol, 345 milligrams sodium, trace fiber.
Ranch Wraps (Tuesday)
Makes 4 wraps
Preparation time: 10 minutes
8 thin slices cooked turkey breast
4 (7- or 8-inch) flour tortillas
1 large, thinly sliced tomato
1 cup each: shredded carrots and shredded lettuce
2 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup reduced-fat ranch salad dressing
Place 2 slices turkey on each tortilla; layer with tomato, carrots, lettuce and cheese. Drizzle with salad dressing. Roll tightly, slice and serve.
Per serving: 317 calories, 14 grams protein, 13 grams fat (37 percent calories from fat), 4.3 grams saturated fat, 36 grams carbohydrate, 28 milligrams cholesterol, 773 milligrams sodium, 3 grams fiber.
Clam Chowder (Wednesday)
Makes 4 servings
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
1 (14 1/2 -ounce) can reduced- sodium chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon white or black pepper
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 stalk celery, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups 1 percent milk
2 tablespoons flour
2 (6 1/2 -ounce) cans minced clams
In a saucepan, mix broth, thyme, pepper, potatoes, celery and onion. Bring to boil; cover and cook on low 15 minutes or until vegetables are soft. In a medium bowl, gradually mix milk into flour until mixture is smooth. Slowly add mixture to broth. Add clams. Cook until boiling and liquid begins to thicken, stirring constantly. Serve immediately.
Per serving: 192 calories, 13 grams protein, 2 grams fat (7 percent calories from fat), 0.6 grams saturated fat, 31 grams carbohydrate, 19 milligrams cholesterol, 649 milligrams sodium, 2 grams fiber.
Vegetable Pilaf (Thursday)
Makes 8 servings
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 8 to 12 minutes, plus time to cook rice and pecans
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cups fresh broccoli, coarsely chopped
3 medium carrots, julienne
1 large onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups fresh mushrooms, sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 teaspoon each: dried thyme, basil and salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
5 cups cooked brown rice (1 1/2 cups uncooked, prepared in 3 cups vegetable broth)
1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans (see note)
freshly grated Parmesan cheese for garnish
In a large, nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat until hot. Add broccoli, carrots and onion. Cook and stir 5 to 7 minutes or until broccoli and carrots are soft and onion is beginning to brown. Add mushrooms, garlic, thyme, basil, salt and pepper. Cook and stir 2 to 3 minutes or until mushrooms are tender. Add rice and pecans; cook 1 to 2 minutes, stirring until well-blended and thoroughly heated. Just before serving, sprinkle with cheese if desired.
Note: To toast pecans, place on baking sheet and bake 5 to 7 minutes at 350 degrees or until nuts are just beginning to darken and are fragrant.
Per serving: 234 calories, 5 grams protein, 8 grams fat (30 percent calories from fat), 0.8 grams saturated fat, 37 grams carbohydrate, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 241 milligrams sodium, 5 grams fiber.
Filets Mignons Topped With Bleu Cheese (Saturday)
Makes 4 servings
less than 10 minutes
Cooking time: 16 to 20 minutes
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
4 filets mignons, 1 inch thick (4 to 5 ounces)
1/2 cup beef broth
1/4 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup crumbled bleu cheese
Heat a large, nonstick skillet 5 minutes over medium heat. Combine garlic and pepper. Press evenly into both sides of each steak. Place steaks in skillet. Cook 10 to 13 minutes for medium-rare to medium. Turn occasionally. Remove from skillet; keep warm. In same skillet, add broth and wine; increase heat to medium-high. Cook and stir 1 to 2 minutes or until sauce is reduced by half. Spoon sauce over steaks and sprinkle with cheese.
Per serving: 221 calories, 26 grams protein, 11 grams fat (45 percent calories from fat), 5.3 grams saturated fat, 1 gram carbohydrate, 77 milligrams cholesterol, 296 milligrams sodium, no fiber.
Susan Nicholson is an Atlanta-based cookbook author and registered dietitian. She can be reached by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pub Date: 01/17/99