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7-Day Menu Planner

by Susan Nicholson | March 15, 2023 at 2:00 a.m.
Loaded Nachos (America’s Test Kitchen/Kevin White)

A week's worth of quick, healthful meals for budget-minded families.

SUNDAY: It takes a little extra time, but Apple Glazed Pork Loin Roast With Pineapple Stuffing (see recipe) is worth the effort. Serve the combo meal with Roasted Red Potatoes With Bacon: Wrap partially cooked, bite-size red potatoes in a half slice bacon each; secure with wooden pick. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until tender and bacon is done. Add a romaine salad and whole-grain bread. Buy a Boston cream pie for dessert.

Plan ahead: Save enough pork roast, stuffing and potatoes for Monday; save enough Boston cream pie for Tuesday.

MONDAY: Yesterday's pork is good enough for an encore performance tonight. On the side, add leftover potatoes along with fresh broccoli, a lettuce wedge and whole-grain rolls to round out the meal. Plums are an easy dessert.

TUESDAY: You will like this delectable Creamy Chicken and Pasta: Cook 12 ounces penne pasta according to package directions; drain, reserving ½ cup pasta cooking water. Meanwhile, heat 1 (14-ounce) can chicken broth in a large nonstick skillet on medium; add 1 pound chicken tenders and cook 5 minutes or until no longer pink. Stir in 1 (8-ounce) package Neufchatel cream cheese (cut into cubes) and 1 (5-ounce) package fresh spinach leaves. Return to a simmer and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until chicken is cooked through (internal temperature of 165 degrees). Stir in 10 halved cherry tomatoes and cook 3 more minutes. In a large bowl, mix together the pasta and sauce, adding as much as the reserved cooking water as needed. Let stand a few minutes and then serve immediately. Add green beans and bread sticks. Slice the leftover Boston cream pie for dessert.

WEDNESDAY: Make a no-meat meal of Tex-Mex Stuffed Potatoes: Bake 4 (8-ounce) potatoes at 450 degrees for 45 to 55 minutes. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon canola oil in a large skillet on medium. Add 1 onion (chopped), 1 red bell pepper (chopped) and 1 teaspoon minced garlic; cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1 (15- or 16-ounce) can chili beans in spicy sauce (with liquid), 1 tablespoon less-sodium Worcestershire sauce and ½ teaspoon minced pickled jalapeno peppers. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer 5 minutes. Split potatoes, fluff with fork and top with bean mixture. Sprinkle with shredded Monterey Jack cheese; top with sour cream. Serve with a romaine salad and tortillas. Make instant chocolate pudding with for dessert.

THURSDAY: This version of Loaded Nachos (see recipe) is perfect for the kids to prepare themselves. Serve it with the usual toppings of chopped tomatoes, shredded lettuce and salsa. Add rice. Dessert is vanilla ice cream.

Plan ahead: Save enough ice cream for Saturday.

FRIDAY: There's little to prepare for dinner tonight beyond adding some halved grapes and some chopped apple to deli chicken salad. If you have any walnuts or pecans, toss in a few of those, too. Spoon the salad on lettuce and serve. For a little warmth, serve with any vegetable soup and flatbread. Fresh pineapple spears are a perfect dessert.

SATURDAY: Treat your lucky guests to Herb-Braised Chicken With Mushrooms and Tomatoes (see recipe); this recipe is going into my keeper file! Serve it over brown rice and add steamed fresh zucchini on the side. Add sourdough bread. Buy or make cherry cobbler for dessert and top it with leftover vanilla ice cream.


Apple Glazed Pork Loin Roast With Pineapple Stuffing

  • For the stuffing:
  • 1/3 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 (20-ounce) can crushed pineapple with juice
  • 12 slices dense white bread, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • For the roast:
  • 1 (3- to 4-pound) top loin pork roast
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • Coarse salt and pepper to taste
  • For the apple glaze:
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce

For the stuffing: In a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar about 30 seconds to 1 minute or until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated before adding the next egg. Add pineapple with juice and bread pieces; stir until evenly coated with egg mixture. Pour into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake 50 minutes to 1 hour or until browned on top; cool 10 minutes before serving.

Meanwhile, rub pork with basil, salt and pepper. Place roast, fat side up, in a roasting pan.

In a bowl, combine apple juice, brown sugar, soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce; mix well. Using a basting brush, baste roast with apple glaze. Place roast in oven and cook 20 minutes per pound or until internal temperature of pork has reached 145 degrees. Let stand 5 minutes. Slice pork and serve alongside stuffing.

Makes about 12 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving of stuffing contains approximately 193 calories, 4 g protein, 8 g fat, 27 g carbohydrate, 75 mg cholesterol, 169 mg sodium, and 1 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 2

Each serving of pork with glaze (prepared with less-sodium soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce) contains approximately 166 calories, 21 g protein, 5 g fat, 9 g carbohydrate, 59 mg cholesterol, 190 mg sodium and no fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: ½

Loaded Nachos

  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ teaspoons chile powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon coarse salt
  • 8 ounces very lean ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ½ teaspoon packed brown sugar
  • 5 ounces tortilla chips (4 to 5 cups), divided use
  • ½ cup refried beans
  • 1 ½ cups (6 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack or colby jack cheese

These directions are for children:

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat to 400 degrees.

Heat oil in 12-inch skillet on medium about 2 minutes (hot but not smoking). Add garlic, chile powder, cumin, oregano, salt and beef; cook, stirring often with wooden spoon to break up meat into small pieces, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and sugar and cook 1 minute. Add ¼ cup water and cook until skillet is almost dry, 1 to 3 minutes. Turn off heat and slide skillet to a cool burner. Spread half the chips in even layer in 8-inch square baking dish. Use a spoon to dollop half of refried beans over chips. Sprinkle with half of cooked beef mixture. Sprinkle evenly with half of cheese. Repeat layering with remaining chips, beans, beef and cheese. Place dish in oven. Bake 9 to 11 minutes or until cheese is melted and just beginning to brown. Use mitts to remove baking dish and place on cooling rack (ask for help). Serve with favorite toppings. (Adapted from "Kids Can Cook Anything," Molly Birnbaum, America's Test Kitchen.)

Makes 8 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving (prepared with 90% lean beef) contains approximately 242 calories, 13 g protein, 14 g fat, 16 g carbohydrate, 35 mg cholesterol, 381 mg sodium and 2 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 1

Herb-Braised Chicken With Mushrooms and Tomatoes

  • 2 strips bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 (8-ounce) package sliced crimini mushrooms
  • 1 large sweet onion (such as Vidalia), halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried basil
  • ¾ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt
  • ¼ teaspoon chipotle chile powder
  • 6 bone-in skinless chicken thighs (about 2 pounds)
  • 1 (14 ½-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with liquid

In a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven, cook bacon on medium for 4 minutes or until lightly browned but not crisp and some fat has been rendered, turning frequently. Add mushrooms and onion; cook and stir about 8 minutes or until onion is softened, stirring occasionally. Mix basil, oregano, salt and chipotle pepper together; sprinkle evenly over both sides of chicken. Add chicken and tomatoes (and their liquid) to the skillet. Bring to a boil, stirring to get all the browned bits from skillet. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 15 minutes. Turn chicken and cook 15 more minutes or until chicken is cooked through, stirring occasionally and spooning sauce over chicken; serve.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving (prepared with no-salt added tomatoes) contains approximately 233 calories, 25 g protein, 11 g fat, 9 g carbohydrate, 121 mg cholesterol, 325 mg sodium and 2 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: ½

Susan Nicholson is an Atlanta-based cookbook author and registered dietitian. She can be reached by email: [email protected]


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