7-Day Menu Planner

Spicy Portuguese Beef Kebabs (Courtesy of Cattlemens Beef Board)

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

SUNDAY: Gather the family for Spicy Portuguese Beef Kebabs on family day. Cut beef top sirloin steak (1 ¼ inch thick) into 1 ¼-inch pieces. In a medium bowl, combine 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce, 1 teaspoon minced garlic and ¼ to ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional). Add beef; toss. Cut 1 large red bell pepper into 1-inch square pieces. Thread beef and bell pepper pieces onto 6 (10-inch) skewers. Place kebabs on grill over medium ash-covered coals. Grill, covered, 8 to 11 minutes over medium heat for medium-rare to medium doneness, turning once. Season with coarse salt to taste. Serve over brown rice. Add steamed fresh green beans along with dinner rolls. Buy a carrot cake for dessert.

Plan ahead: Buy enough beef for Monday and save enough cake for Tuesday.

MONDAY: Use the beef leftovers for hefty Italian Beef Sandwiches: Place 4 split hoagie buns on a cookie sheet and brush lightly with Italian salad dressing. Broil 1 to 2 minutes. In a small skillet over medium heat, pour 3 tablespoons of the salad dressing over 8 ounces thinly sliced beef and brush to coat; heat 2 minutes. Divide meat mixture among bottoms of buns. Add roasted red pepper strips, sliced artichoke hearts and sliced part-skim mozzarella cheese. Broil 2 or 3 minutes or until cheese is melted. Add tops and cut sandwiches in half. Serve with a mixed green salad. Pears are dessert.

TUESDAY: For a meatless meal, try flavor- and fiber-packed Moroccan Vegetable Stew With Couscous (see recipe). Serve with sliced cucumbers in plain yogurt. Add flatbread. Leftover cake is waiting for dessert.

WEDNESDAY: Make it quick tonight with Chili-Cheese Pierogies. In a 9-by-9-inch baking dish, combine any flavor (16.9-ounce) package frozen pierogies and ½ cup water. Cover and microwave on 100% power for 5 minutes; mix well and drain. Spoon 1 (15-ounce) can turkey chili over pierogies. Cover and microwave on high 5 minutes or until hot. Sprinkle with shredded cheddar cheese and let stand, covered, 3 minutes. Sprinkle with sliced green onions and serve. Add a packaged green salad and crusty bread. Enjoy some crunchy apple slices for dessert.

Plan ahead: To save time, assemble Thursday's Baked Spaghetti tonight.

THURSDAY: Baked Spaghetti's (see recipe) mild flavor is totally kid-friendly. Serve with a chopped lettuce salad and add garlic toast. Orange sections are dessert.

Tip: Adults might want to sprinkle crushed red pepper over their spaghetti.

FRIDAY: Chicken and Vegetable Udon Soup (see recipe) is easy on the budget. Serve with sesame bread sticks. Add Asian pears for dessert.

SATURDAY: Everyone enjoyed this easy Flounder With Pesto entree. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place 4 flounder filets (4 to 6 ounces each), skin side down, on waxed paper. Divide 4 teaspoons basil pesto and spread on each filet; sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon coarse salt. Starting at narrow end, roll filets jelly-roll style. Place roll-ups seam side down in an 8-by-8-inch glass baking dish. Pour ¼ cup dry white wine (or unsalted chicken broth) over filets and top with 4 chopped, seeded plum tomatoes. Cover and bake 18 to 20 minutes or until fish is opaque throughout. Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley and serve with orzo tossed with additional pesto. Add steamed carrots, a Boston lettuce salad and sourdough bread. Dessert is easy when you serve raspberry sorbet and butter cookies.


Moroccan Vegetable Stew With Couscous

1 tablespoon canola oil

2 medium zucchini, coarsely chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

1 large carrot, chopped

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 ½ cups vegetable broth, divided use

1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger

1 ½ teaspoons cumin

¾ teaspoon ground coriander

½ teaspoon coarse salt

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, rinsed

1 (14 ½-ounce) can stewed tomatoes, with liquid

1 cup couscous

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet on medium-high. Add zucchini, onion, carrot and garlic; cook 5 minutes. Stir in 1 cup broth, ginger, cumin, coriander, salt, cinnamon, pepper, chickpeas and tomatoes with liquid; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, 8 minutes or until vegetables are softened.

Meanwhile, bring remaining broth (can use water, if desired) to a boil in medium pot. Remove from heat; add couscous and stir. Cover and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with fork. Serve stew over couscous.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving (prepared with reduced-sodium chickpeas and unsalted broth) contains approximately 293 calories, 12 g protein, 5 g fat, 51 g carbohydrate, no cholesterol, 707 mg sodium and 9 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 3 ½

Baked Spaghetti

8 ounces dried spaghetti

1 tablespoon butter

1 (24-ounce) carton low-fat cottage cheese

¾ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, divided use

3 cups red pasta sauce with meat

4 ounces shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cook spaghetti according to package directions; drain and mix with butter to coat.

Meanwhile, coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Arrange spaghetti in an even layer in dish. Spread cottage cheese over spaghetti. Sprinkle with ¼ cup parmesan cheese. Heat pasta sauce until bubbly. Spoon sauce over cheeses. Top with mozzarella cheese and remaining Parmesan cheese. Cover with nonstick foil.

Bake 30 minutes. Remove cover and bake 15 more minutes or until cheese is lightly browned. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 8 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 307 calories, 20 g protein, 10 g fat, 34 g carbohydrate, 30 mg cholesterol, 851 mg sodium and 2 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 2 ½

Chicken and Vegetable Udon Soup

7 ounces Japanese-style udon noodles

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger

8 ounces chicken strips, cut into bite-size pieces

4 cups unsalted chicken stock or broth

1 cup diced carrots

2 tablespoons less-sodium soy sauce

¼ teaspoon coarse salt

1 ½ cups julienned fresh snow peas

½ cup sliced fresh mushrooms

2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions

Cook noodles as directed on package. Drain well.

Meanwhile, heat oil in large saucepan on medium-high heat. Add garlic and ginger; cook for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add chicken; cook 3 to 5 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink. Add stock, carrots, soy sauce and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes or until carrots are tender-crisp. Stir in snow peas and mushrooms; cook for 2 minutes or until snow peas are tender-crisp. Divide noodles into 6 soup bowls. Ladle soup into each bowl and garnish with green onions.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 218 calories, 15 g protein, 4 g fat, 28 g carbohydrate, 28 mg cholesterol, 710 mg sodium and 3 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: 2

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

[email protected]