A week's worth of quick, healthful meals for budget-minded families.
SUNDAY: There's no better way to celebrate family day than with this Chicken Wild Rice Casserole (see recipe). Serve the comfort food combo with fresh broccoli spears, mixed greens and dinner rolls. Buy a lemon meringue pie for dessert.
Plan ahead: Save enough casserole and pie for Monday.
MONDAY: Prepare Chicken Rice Soup for tonight using Sunday's leftovers. Shred any leftover chicken and thin the casserole with unsalted chicken broth. Add any leftover cooked vegetables such as carrots, peas or squash. Serve with a spinach salad with red onion slices and whole-grain rolls. Slice the leftover pie for dessert.
TUESDAY: Bring the kids off the range for Cowboy Macaroni. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Prepare 1 (14-ounce) package macaroni and cheese according to package directions. Brown 1 pound lean ground beef and 1 small onion (chopped) in a nonstick skillet on medium for 6 minutes or until meat is no longer pink; drain. In a 2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray, combine the macaroni and cheese and the ground beef mixture, along with 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste, 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce and 1 cup frozen shoe peg corn (thawed); mix well. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until heated through. Top with 3 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese. Serve with deli carrot salad and soft rolls. Kiwifruit is an easy dessert.
WEDNESDAY: For a low-cost meal, Mediterranean Tuna Salad is hard to beat. In a medium bowl, combine 2 (6-ounce) cans drained and flaked light tuna, ¾ cup dried tart cherries, and ½ cup each shredded carrots and chopped celery. Add ½ cup balsamic vinaigrette, ½ cup crumbled feta cheese and 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard. Refrigerate 2 to 3 hours for flavors to blend. Just before serving on red-tip lettuce, sprinkle with toasted pine nuts. Serve with any tomato basil soup and bread sticks. For dessert, pears are good.
THURSDAY: Let someone else do all the work and serve refrigerated fully cooked beef pot roast (any brand). On the side, add mashed potatoes (refrigerated), cauliflower au gratin (frozen) And whole-grain bread. Fresh citrus fruits are a light dessert.
FRIDAY: Enjoy the hearty flavors of "Meaty" Skillet Mac (see recipe). Serve it with a lettuce wedge and a baguette. Peaches are your dessert.
SATURDAY: Colorful Orange-Tomato Shrimp Veracruz (see recipe) is worthy of any guest. Serve it over yellow rice (from a mix), along with a Boston lettuce salad and baguettes. Buy a frozen Key lime layer cake for dessert (such as Pepperidge Farm or another brand).
Chicken Wild Rice Casserole
- 1 (6-ounce) package long-grain and wild rice
- 1/3 cup wild rice
- 2 ¼ cups unsalted chicken broth
- 2 teaspoons canola oil
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into six pieces
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 1 (8-ounce) package cremini mushrooms
- 2 medium chopped onions
- 2 ribs thinly sliced celery
- 1 (10 ½-ounce) can cream of mushroom soup
- 1 (10 ½-ounce) can cream of celery soup
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Combine the wild and long-grain rice mixture (discard seasoning packet; it's high-sodium) and wild rice with broth. Microwave on 100% power for 10 minutes; stir after 5 minutes; set aside.
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet on medium-high until hot. Add chicken; cook 2 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove from heat; sprinkle with garlic powder and pepper; set aside. Spoon rice mixture into baking dish. Add mushrooms, onions, celery and soups; mix well. Top with chicken. Cover tightly with foil and bake 50 minutes or until most of liquid is absorbed. Remove from oven. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.
Makes 6 servings.
Nutrition information: Each serving (prepared with less-sodium less-fat mushroom soup and 98% fat-free celery soup) contains approximately 326 calories, 24 g protein, 6 g fat, 43 g carbohydrate, 57 mg cholesterol, 452 mg sodium and 4 g fiber.
Carbohydrate choices: 3
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"Meaty" Skillet Mac
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 finely chopped onion
- 1 finely chopped red bell pepper
- ½ teaspoon coarse salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 12 ounces plant-based ground such as Beyond Beef or Impossible Burger
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 (29-ounce) can tomato sauce
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 2 cups (8 ounces) elbow macaroni
- 4 ounces cheddar cheese
Heat oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, bell pepper, salt and pepper and cook 5 to 7 minutes or until softened. Stir in plant-based meat and cook 3 minutes, breaking it up, until firm crumbles form. Stir in garlic and oregano and cook 30 seconds or until fragrant. Stir in tomato sauce, broth and macaroni and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until macaroni is tender. Remove from heat; let sit 5 minutes or until sauce is thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with cheddar. (Adapted from "Plant Based Meat," Adam Kowit; America's Test Kitchen.)
Makes 4 servings.
Nutrition information: Each serving (prepared with no-salt added tomato sauce, unsalted broth and plant-based cheese) contains approximately 485 calories, 36 g protein, 9 g fat, 73 g carbohydrate, no cholesterol, 1,075 mg sodium and 13 g fiber.
Carbohydrate choices: 5
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Orange-Tomato Shrimp Veracruz
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 pound uncooked, peeled and deveined medium shrimp
- 2 shallots, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons fresh orange zest (orange part of skin only)
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 (14 ½-ounce) can lightly drained fire-roasted or regular diced tomatoes with green chiles
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- ¼ teaspoon coarse salt to taste
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet on medium-high. Cook shrimp, shallots, orange zest and thyme for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Stir in tomatoes. Cook about 5 minutes or until shrimp are opaque, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with lime juice and salt; serve immediately.
Makes 4 servings.
Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 132 calories, 16 g protein, 3 g fat, 8 g carbohydrate, 143 mg cholesterol, 597 mg sodium and 1 g fiber.
Carbohydrate choices: ½
Susan Nicholson is an Atlanta-based cookbook author and registered dietitian. She can be reached by email: [email protected]