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A guide to preparing a week's worth of meals

THE BALTIMORE SUN

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.

SUNDAY / Family

Prepare your own baked ham for the family today. Along side, serve Couscous Salad With Dried Cherries. Add steamed fresh green beans and dinner rolls. Buy a deep-dish apple pie for dessert. Plan ahead: Save enough ham and pie for Monday.

Couscous Salad and Dried Cherries

Makes 8 servings

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: couscous, pine nuts

1 cup fat-free chicken broth

3 / 4 cup couscous

1/2 cup dried tart cherries

1/2 cup coarsely chopped carrots

1/2 cup chopped unpeeled, seeded cucumber

1 / 4 cup thinly sliced scallions

1 / 4 cup toasted pine nuts

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon each olive oil and Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

6 cups salad greens

In a medium saucepan, bring broth to boil; stir in couscous. Remove from heat; let stand, covered 5 minutes. Fluff with fork. Uncover and let cool 10 minutes. In a large bowl, combine cooked couscous, cherries, carrots, cucumber, scallions and pine nuts; toss to mix. In a small bowl, combine vinegar, oil and mustard; mix well. Pour dressing over couscous mixture; stir to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Place salad greens on a serving platter. Spoon couscous over greens.

Per serving: 135 calories, 4 grams protein, 4 grams fat (24 percent calories from fat), 0.6 grams saturated fat, 23 grams carbohydrate, no cholesterol, 119 milligrams sodium, 3 grams fiber.

MONDAY/ Heat and Eat

With Sunday's leftover ham, make Ham and Three-Bean Salad.

All you need to add to your meal is crusty bread and, of course, leftover pie.

Makes 6 servings.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

1 1/2 cups well-trimmed chopped ham (see note)

8 ounces fresh sliced mushrooms

1 7-ounce jar drained roasted red peppers, cut into strips

1 15-ounce can rinsed and drained cannellini beans

1 15-ounce can rinsed and drained kidney beans

1 15-ounce can rinsed and drained black beans

2 ribs sliced celery

1/2 cup coarsely shredded Parmesan cheese, divided

2 / 3 cup reduced-fat Italian dressing

1 / 4 cup chopped fresh parsley

8 cups salad greens

In a large bowl, combine ham, mushrooms, peppers, all the beans, celery and 1 / 4 cup of the cheese. Add dressing and parsley; toss to coat well. Spoon on to serving platter covered with salad greens. Serve topped with remaining cheese.

Note: To reduce the sodium, use less ham or substitute cooked chicken for the ham.

Per serving: 299 calories, 23 grams protein, 6 grams fat (18 percent calories from fat), 2.2 grams saturated fat, 39 grams carbohydrate, 22 milligrams cholesterol, 1724 milligrams sodium, 13 grams fiber.

TUESDAY / Budget

Lighten your food expenditures and calories with this Open-Faced Turkey Reuben Sandwich. Serve with deli German potato salad and dill pickles. Add fruit for dessert.

Open-Faced Turkey Reuben Sandwich

Makes 4 sandwiches

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: about 2 minutes

1 / 4 cup low-fat mayonnaise

1 1/2 tablespoons ketchup

1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish

2 cups refrigerated sauerkraut (see note)

4 slices rye bread

8 thin slices Swiss cheese

8 thin slices turkey (see note)

Heat oven to 350. In a medium bowl, combine mayonnaise, ketchup and relish and mix well. Rinse and squeeze dry sauerkraut and add to dressing; toss together to mix well. Arrange bread on a cookie sheet. On each slice, layer half the cheese (cut to fit bread), all the turkey and 1/2 cup sauerkraut mixture; top each slice with remaining Swiss cheese. Bake 2 minutes or until the cheese melts. Note: To reduce the sodium, rinse the sauerkraut and use your own baked turkey instead of deli turkey.

Per serving: 263 calories, 16 grams protein, 11 grams fat (36 percent calories from fat), 5.3 grams saturated fat, 27 grams carbohydrate, 36 milligrams cholesterol, 1243 milligrams sodium, 4 grams fiber.

WEDNESDAY / Express

Make Orange and Black Bean Salad for a quick meal tonight. In a large bowl, toss together 1 package romaine lettuce, 1 9- or 10-ounce package grilled chicken breast strips, cut into chunks, 2 15-ounce cans rinsed and drained black beans, 1 11-ounce can drained Mandarin orange sections, 1/3 cup thinly sliced red onions and 1/2 cup (or more to taste) fresh sliced mushrooms with 1/3 cup light vinaigrette. Divide among 4 plates. Serve with any muffins. Instant vanilla pudding made with skim milk makes dessert easy.

THURSDAY / Kids

Surprise the kids (and adults)with this easy Chicken Noodle Skillet with a secret ingredient -- radishes! Serve with a spinach salad and whole wheat rolls. Lime sherbet is a cool dessert. Plan ahead: Save enough sherbet for Saturday.

Chicken Noodle Skillet

Makes 4 servings

Preparation time: less than 15 minutes

Cooking time: less than 15 minutes

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks

Salt and pepper to taste

3 cups fat-free chicken broth

4 cups medium no-yolk egg noodles

1 10-ounce package frozen peas in low-fat butter sauce

1 6-ounce package radishes cut in halves or quarters

In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil until hot. Add chicken and salt and pepper to taste. Cook 3 to 4 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink.

Remove chicken to a plate, cover and keep warm. To same skillet, add broth and bring to boil. Add noodles; return to boil and cook 4 minutes or until almost tender. Stir in peas, radishes and reserved chicken; cook 3 minutes or until noodles are tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Per serving: 343 calories, 30 grams protein, 6 grams fat (16 percent calories from fat), 1.2 grams saturated fat, 40 grams carbohydrate, 52 milligrams cholesterol, 542 milligrams sodium, 5 grams fiber.

FRIDAY/Meatless

Pimento Cheese Sandwiches have always been high on my list of favorites (it's a Southern thing). When I was little, my mother rewarded me with my favorite sandwich from People's Drug store in Harrisonburg, Va., if I had a no-whine shopping day.

These days, I look for the refrigerated low-fat version of the cheesy experience. Add some seeded, chopped jalapeno peppers to the cheese, fill the sandwich with lots of lettuce and tomato slices, and eat it on whole-wheat bread or toast. You can add no-fat potato chips and sweet pickles on the side. Serve with your favorite canned soup. Add fresh fruit for dessert.

SATURDAY/ Easy entertaining

Kay Goodwin of Austin, Texas, served us her Chicken Enchilada Casserole, and we all went back for seconds. All you need to serve with Kay's specialty is a green salad and some extra baked corn chips.

For dessert, serve leftover lime sherbet with butter cookies.

Kay Goodwin's Chicken Enchilada Casserole

Makes 6 servings

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: about 45 minutes

2 cups fat-free chicken broth

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 small chopped onion

Salt and pepper to taste

1 crushed garlic clove

1 4-ounce can chopped green chilies (see note)

1 10 1/2 -ounce can reduced-fat cream of mushroom soup

12 corn tortillas cut into quarters

8 ounces reduced-fat grated sharp cheddar cheese

Heat oven to 325. In a shallow pan or skillet, bring broth to boil and add chicken. Reduce heat to low and cook chicken 8 to 10 minutes or until no longer pink; cool chicken in the broth (for better flavor).

When cool, remove chicken and reserve broth. Cut chicken into bite-size pieces. Wipe skillet with paper towel; coat with cooking spray and heat to medium. Add onion and cook 5 minutes or until softened. Add 1 cup reserved chicken broth, salt and pepper to taste, garlic, cooked chicken, chilies and soup and mix well. Cook 5 minutes or until heated throughout. In a 2 1/2 - or 3-quart casserole coated with cooking spay, layer with half chicken mixture, tortillas and cheese and repeat layers. Cover and bake 35 minutes or until heated throughout.

Notes: Use mild, medium or hot chilies according to taste. Store, label and freeze remaining chicken broth.

Per serving: 351 calories, 33 grams protein, 10 grams fat (27 percent calories from fat), 5.6 grams saturated fat, 30 grams carbohydrate, 66 milligrams cholesterol, 928 milligrams sodium, 4 grams fiber.

Shopping List

What you'll need for this week's menus (consult recipes for exact amounts)

Sunday

ingredients for ham to bake

fat-free chicken broth

couscous

dried tart cherries

carrots

cucumbers

scallions

pine nuts

balsamic vinegar

olive oil

Dijon mustard

salt

pepper

salad greens

fresh green beans

dinner rolls

store-bought deep dish apple pie

Monday

fresh sliced mushrooms

jar roasted red peppers

canned cannellini beans

canned kidney beans

canned black beans

celery

Parmesan cheese

reduced-fat Italian dressing

parsley

salad greens

crusty bread

Tuesday

low-fat mayonnaise

ketchup

sweet pickle relish

refrigerated sauerkraut

rye bread

sliced Swiss cheese

sliced turkey

deli German potato salad

dill pickles

fruit

Wednesday

packaged romaine lettuce

packaged grilled chicken breast strips

canned dried beans

canned Mandarin orange sections

red onions

fresh sliced mushrooms

light vinaigrette

any muffins

instant vanilla pudding

skim milk

Thursday

vegetable oil

boneless

skinless chicken breasts

salt

pepper

fat-free chicken broth

no-yolk medium noodles

frozen peas in low-fat butter sauce

packaged radishes

fresh spinach

whole wheat rolls

lime sherbet

Friday

low-fat pimento cheese

jalapeno pepper

lettuce

tomatoes

whole wheat bread

no-fat potato chips

sweet pickles

any canned soup

fresh fruit

Saturday

fat-free chicken broth

boneless skinless chicken breasts

onion

salt

pepper

garlic

canned chopped green chilies

reduced-fat cream of mushroom soup

corn tortillas

reduced-fat grated sharp cheddar cheese

cooking spray

salad greens

baked corn chips

butter cookies

sorbet

Susan Nicholson is an Atlanta-based cookbook author and regis- tered dietitian. She can be reached by e-mail: menuplanner @mindspring.com.

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