This week's menus
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.
Start your Easter celebration with Peach-Glazed Baked Ham. Roast a fully cooked, 12- to 16-pound ham (boneless or bone-in), fat side up, at 325 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes per pound until internal temperature is 140 degrees. Use a pastry brush to coat the ham with peach preserves the last 15 minutes of baking. Make Spicy Grits (see recipe) to accompany the ham. Add asparagus spears and crusty bread. For dessert, Easter Bunny Pie (see recipe) is as fresh as spring.
Plan ahead: Save leftover ham for Monday and Tuesday (and other meals to come) and enough pie for Monday.
Be a penny-pincher but not a flavor miser with Savory Rice and Ham (see recipe). Add some crunch with a mixed green salad. You'll want to make corn bread from a mix. Leftover pie will be a welcome dessert.
Plan ahead: Save half the ham and rice for Tuesday.
Tuesday/Heat and Eat
Dinner will be ready in a flash with Ham and Rice Stuffed Pitas. Warm Monday's leftover ham and rice, and stuff in whole-wheat pitas. Serve with canned black-eyed peas; add a splash of hot sauce if desired. Sprinkle cinnamon over store-bought chunky applesauce to accompany the meal. Add cookies for dessert.
Plan ahead: To save time tomorrow, make Wednesday's soup tonight.
Tip: To reduce sodium, rinse and drain black-eyed peas.
Try Wyler's Soup Starter for the ultimate store-bought soup. We tried the beef vegetable flavor. You'll need 1 pound lean beef cubes or lean ground beef to add to the mix. I added extra water toward the end of the cooking time to thin the mixture. You can toss in any available leftover vegetables the last 15 minutes of cooking to freshen the flavor. Serve with a green salad and crusty bread. Fresh fruit is an easy dessert.
It's burger night for the kids. Make their favorite burgers with all the trimmings. Serve with Cheesy Fries. For dessert, help the kids make Marshmallow Sandwiches. Prepare 1 (18-ounce) package chocolate chip cookie dough according to directions; cool completely. Place a large marshmallow on 1 cookie and microwave at medium (50 percent power) 10 to 20 seconds or until marshmallow expands. Top with second cookie. Cool 1 minute or so (if you can wait that long).
"Eat your veggies" won't be a problem with Rosemary Roasted Vegetables (see recipe). You'll climb the food pyramid two steps at a time. Serve the flavorful melange over couscous and top with crumbled feta cheese. Add a green salad and sesame bread sticks.
Saturday/ Easy Entertaining
We loved this Mexican Chicken Casserole (see recipe) and so will your guests. If we had not been guests ourselves, we would have eaten the whole thing. For really hearty eaters, serve with rice. Add a dollop of store-bought guacamole and reduced-fat sour cream to a shredded lettuce salad. Add extra tortillas on the side. You'll want a light dessert, and lemon sherbet is just that.
Tip: Up the "heat" in the casserole by using hot green chilies and enchilada sauce.
What you'll need for this week's menus (consult recipes for exact amounts)
fully cooked ham
reduced-fat shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
canned jalapeno pepper
3.4-ounce packages of instant vanilla pudding and pie filling
frozen lemonade concentrate
reduced-fat whipped topping
store-bought reduced-fat graham cracker pie crust
red bell pepper
fat-free chicken broth
canned stewed tomatoes
canned black-eyed peas
store-bought chunky applesauce
Wyler's Soup Starter
lean beef cubes or lean ground beef
favorite burger ingredients
frozen steak fries
packaged chocolate chip cookie dough
red wine vinegar
bell peppers (red, yellow or orange)
sesame bread sticks
fat-free chicken broth
canned chopped green chilies (mild to hot)
boneless, skinless chicken breasts
evaporated skim milk
shredded Monterey Jack cheese
tub-style light cream cheese
canned enchilada sauce (mild to hot)
shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
baked corn chips
reduced-fat sour cream