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.
The family will enjoy the fresh flavor of your own boneless, skinless grilled chicken breast halves (2 to 2 1/2 pounds) served with Teriyaki-Lemon Sauce. In a small skillet, combine 1/4 cup each of fresh lemon juice and soy sauce, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 2 teaspoons brown sugar, 1 teaspoon water, 1 clove garlic (minced) and 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger. Cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves, about 2 or 3 minutes. Spoon over chicken.
Accompany the juicy chicken with brown rice tossed with toasted pine nuts. Add a spinach salad with a new twist: Toss raw spinach leaves, sliced fresh mushrooms, red onion slices and canned Mandarin orange sections together with a low-fat vinaigrette dressing. Add crusty bread to complete your meal.
Plan ahead: Grill 4 extra chicken breasts for Monday.
Monday/Heat and Eat
Chicken Caesar Salad makes a tasty main course (see recipe). Start your meal with your favorite canned soup and crackers. For dessert, put out a store-bought bread pudding.
Tonight's Three-Bean Pasta salad is packed with flavor and fiber (see recipe). Add crusty bread. Sliced peaches, sprinkled with a little nutmeg, is a light dessert.
Take it easy tonight and serve a grilled fish fillet and vegetables with a lemon herb sauce all in one package from the supermarket. I added extra frozen potato wedges to the pan, as the brand I chose directed. Each 15.7-ounce package serves 2 and works well for a quick meal. Don't overcook, or the fish will be dry and tough. Serve with a mixed green salad and multigrain bread.
Reader Sharon Starks of Charlotte, N.C., a mother of three sons, swears by her Potato Chili (see recipe), a real kid-favorite at her house. We lapped it up, too. Serve with a lettuce and tomato salad. For dessert, try a canned tropical fruit salad and cookies.
The flavor is rich, but the cost is not for Capellini With Two Cheeses (see recipe). Accompany the creamy pasta with a green salad and bread sticks. For dessert, fresh berries are light.
Invite your friends for a simple but savory Beef and Vegetable Stir-Fry (see recipe). Serve the vitamin-packed combo over rice. Sprinkle with sliced scallions and drizzle with dark sesame oil. A fresh pineapple salad goes well. Finish your meal with fat-free frozen vanilla yogurt garnished with toasted coconut and toasted sliced almonds.
Tip: Freeze steak 15 to 20 minutes to make slicing easier.
What you'll need for this week's menus (consult recipes for exact amounts)
boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
canned Mandarin orange sections
low-fat vinaigrette dressing
bottled low-fat Caesar dressing
medium or wide noodles
canned kidney beans
frozen green beans
red bell pepper
grilled fish fillet and vegetables with lemon herb sauce
frozen potato wedges
lean ground beef
canned diced tomatoes and green chilies
canned cream-style corn
shredded Monterey Jack cheese
canned tropical fruit salad
Asiago or Parmesan cheese
margarine or butter
fat-free half and half or milk
packaged frozen mixed vegetables (broccoli, green beans, pearl onions, red peppers or another combination)
bottled stir-fry sauce
dark sesame oil
fat-free frozen vanilla yogurt
Chicken Caesar Salad (Monday)
Makes 4 salads
Preparation time: less than
1/2 cup bottled low-fat Caesar dressing, divided
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
10 cups torn Romaine lettuce
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1 cup packaged, flavored croutons
4 cooked boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
freshly grated Parmesan cheese for garnish
In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup dressing with pepper. Set aside. In a large bowl combine Romaine with tomatoes and croutons and toss with 1/4 cup dressing. Divide among 4 plates. Slice chicken on diagonal; divide evenly and place on salads. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Serve with remaining dressing.