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A guide to preparing a week's worth of meals


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

Make it family time with Lamb Kebabs With Bacon and Cilantro. Serve the kebabs with orzo and a mixed green salad. For dessert, buy a coconut layer cake.

Plan ahead: Save 2 kebabs and leftover cake and prepare enough orzo for Monday.

Lamb Kebabs With Bacon and Cilantro

Makes 6 servings

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 6 to 8 minutes Standing: 5 minutes

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

1 1/2 teaspoons each cumin, paprika and black pepper

3 large crushed garlic cloves

2 tablespoons each olive oil and beef broth

1 1/2 pounds well-trimmed, 1-inch lamb cubes

12 whole white mushrooms

6 slices thick bacon, cut in 1-inch pieces

3 medium quartered onions

4 green, red or yellow bell peppers (any combination)

Heat grill. In a small bowl combine cilantro, cumin, paprika, black pepper, garlic, oil and broth to make a paste. Rub paste on all sides of lamb. Start (and end) 6 skewers with mushrooms. Alternately thread the lamb, bacon, onions and bell peppers on skewers. Grill 6 to 8 minutes for medium-rare to medium. Let kebabs stand 5 minutes before serving.

Per serving: 373 calories, 28 grams protein, 23 grams fat (56 percent calories from fat), 7.3 grams saturated fat, 13 grams carbohydrate, 88 milligrams cholesterol, 264 milligrams sodium, 3 grams fiber.

MONDAY / Heat and Eat

Make Lamb Pitas tonight. Line whole wheat pitas with lettuce leaves. Dice and heat the leftover kebabs and mix with 3 cups hot cooked orzo and a little beef broth; stuff pitas with mixture. Serve with grated carrots and chopped dried apricots moistened with fat-free vanilla yogurt. Leftover cake works for dessert.

TUESDAY / Express

We tried Uncle Ben's new Noodle Bowls. It's a quick fix for dinner but may be a little spicy for kids. (It may also be too salty for adults who are watching their sodium intake.) Serve the bowls with a packaged green salad and whole wheat rolls. Crunch on peanut butter cookies for dessert.

Plan ahead: Save enough cookies for Thursday.


Make Baked Tacos for kids night and serve with rice. Let the kids help prepare and layer instant chocolate and vanilla pudding (made with skim milk) in a pretty tall dessert dish and call it black and white parfait. (Use iced-tea spoons to fill the parfait glasses. Expect a mess, but the kids will have fun and so should you.)

Plan ahead: Save 3 cups cooked rice for Saturday.

Baked Tacos

Makes 8 tacos

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: about 20 minutes

cooking spray

1 teaspoon olive oil

12 ounces ground turkey breast

1 15-ounce can rinsed and drained pinto beans

1 cup mild salsa

4 teaspoons lower sodium taco seasoning

8 fat-free flour tortillas (6- or 7-inch)

shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, reduced-fat sour cream, reduced-fat shredded Monterrey Jack cheese for garnishes

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cover a cookie sheet with foil and coat with cooking spray. In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, heat oil. Add turkey and cook 4 or 5 minutes or until no longer pink; drain. Add beans, salsa and taco seasoning. Bring to boil, reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered 5 or 6 minutes, stirring and mashing some of the beans as you stir, until thickened. Spoon turkey mixture into center of each tortilla. Fold in half. Press down gently and place on prepared cookie sheet. Coat tortillas with cooking spray. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Garnish with lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, and cheese as desired.

Per taco: 195 calories, 15 grams protein, 1 gram fat (7 percent calories from fat), 0.2 grams saturated fat, 28 grams carbohydrate, 29 milligrams cholesterol, 596 milligrams sodium, 4 grams fiber.

THURSDAY / Meatless

Soup always tastes good on cool nights, as will this Lentil and Corn Soup. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, combine 2 19-ounce cans lentil soup, 1 10-ounce package frozen corn and 2 teaspoons curry powder and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 5 minutes or until heated through. Stir in 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro. Serve with grilled cheddar cheese sandwiches on dense white bread. (Use reduced-fat sharp cheese.) Add a mixed green salad.

For dessert, leftover cookies can go with fresh fruit chunks.

FRIDAY / Budget

Pinch a few pennies tonight and serve Spaghetti With Tuna and Spinach. Add a green salad and garlic bread. Serve pineapple sherbet for dessert.

Plan ahead: Save enough sherbet for Saturday.

Spaghetti With Tuna and Spinach

Makes 6 servings

Preparation time: about 15 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes plus pasta

12 ounces spaghetti

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cups sliced onion

4 minced garlic cloves

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 14 1/2 -ounce can chopped tomatoes

5 cups chopped fresh spinach

1 6-ounce can drained and flaked albacore tuna

salt and pepper to taste

freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Cook spaghetti according to directions without salt or oil; drain. In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Cook onion, garlic and red pepper flakes 5 minutes or until softened. Add tomatoes and cook 5 more minutes. Gradually add spinach. Cook 5 minutes or until spinach is tender. Add tuna. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss mixture with spaghetti and serve with Parmesan cheese if desired.

Per serving: 310 calories, 16 grams protein, 4 grams fat (12 percent calories from fat), 0.7 grams saturated fat, 51 grams carbohydrate, 12 milligrams cholesterol, 259 milligrams sodium, 4 grams fiber.

SATURDAY / Entertaining

It's OK to show off tonight with this Turkey Scallopine With Lemon Sauce. As a side, offer Savory Rice. Melt 1 tablespoon margarine in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 1 clove minced garlic and cook 2 or 3 minutes. Add 3 cups leftover cooked rice and cook until thoroughly heated (if chilled). Stir in 2 tablespoons each finely chopped scallions and chopped parsley and 1 / 4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese; mix well. Serve with a Boston lettuce salad. Spoon Blue Heaven Dressing over the salad. Add dinner rolls.

For dessert, take it easy with leftover sherbet and butter cookies.

Turkey Scallopine With Lemon Sauce

Makes 4 servings

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: about 15 minutes

1 1 / 4 pound turkey breast cutlets

1/3 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons margarine or butter, divided

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup dry white wine

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1 large crushed clove garlic

2 tablespoons rinsed and drained capers

fresh parsley sprigs and thinly sliced lemons for garnish

Flatten turkey to 1 / 4 inch between 2 pieces plastic wrap using a meat mallet or rolling pin. In a pie plate combine flour, salt and pepper. Coat both sides turkey with flour mixture; shake off extra flour. In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, melt 1 tablespoon margarine with oil; add turkey and cook in batches 3 minutes on each side or until golden. Remove cutlets from skillet and keep warm. Add remaining margarine, wine and juice and stir to incorporate browned bits that have stuck to the skillet. Cook until thoroughly heated. Stir in parsley, garlic and capers. Arrange cutlets on serving platter; spoon sauce over cutlets. Garnish with parsley and lemon. Serve immediately.

Per serving: 301 calories, 35 grams protein, 11 grams fat (32 percent calories from fat), 1.8 grams saturated fat, 10 grams carbohydrate, 96 milligrams cholesterol, 540 milligrams sodium, 1 gram fiber.

Blue Heaven Dressing

Makes 10 servings

Preparation time: less than 10 minutes

Chilling time: 1 to 4 hours

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup each low-fat mayonnaise, reduced-fat sour cream and crumbled blue cheese

1 tablespoon each minced garlic and minced scallions

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well. Chill 1 to 4 hours.

Per serving: 38 calories, 2 grams protein, 2 grams fat (53 percent calories from fat), 1.2 grams saturated fat, 3 grams carbohydrate, 6 milligrams cholesterol, 120 milligrams sodium, no fiber.

Shopping List

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





black pepper


olive oil

beef broth

lamb cubes

whole white mushrooms

thick bacon


green, red, or yellow bell peppers


salad greens

store-bought coconut layer cake


whole wheat pitas


beef broth

grated carrots

dried apricots

fat-free vanilla yogurt


Uncle Ben's (or another brand) Noodle Bowls

salad greens

whole wheat rolls

peanut butter cookies



cooking spray

olive oil

ground turkey breast

canned pinto beans

mild salsa

lower-sodium taco seasoning

fat-free flour tortillas

shredded lettuce


reduced-fat sour cream

reduced-fat shredded Monterrey Jack cheese

instant chocolate and vanilla puddings

skim milk


canned lentil soup

frozen corn

curry powder


dense white bread

reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese

salad greens

fresh fruit chunks



olive oil



red pepper flakes

canned chopped tomatoes

fresh spinach

canned albacore tuna



Parmesan cheese

salad greens

garlic bread

pineapple sherbet


turkey cutlets




margarine or butter

olive oil

dry white wine






Parmesan cheese

Boston lettuce


low-fat mayonnaise

reduced-fat sour cream

crumbled blue cheese

cayenne pepper

dinner rolls

butter cookies

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

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