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.
For a memorable family meal, serve Grilled Spiced Lamb (see recipe). Accompany the flavorful lamb with couscous. Marinated Vegetables are an easy side dish (see recipe). Add sourdough rolls. For dessert, blueberries with cream is summer-light. Place 1/2 cup fresh blueberries in a stemmed glass. Pour 1 tablespoon orange-flavored liqueur (or orange juice) over each. Top each serving with 2 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream. Sprinkle with brown sugar and serve.
Plan ahead: Make 2 cups extra couscous; save 2 servings of vegetables and enough lamb for Monday.
Tip: Ask your butcher to bone a 4-pound lamb leg shank half and slit meat lengthwise to spread open like a thick steak. Remove visible fat.
Monday/Heat and Eat
Serve lamb sandwiches on whole-wheat toast with lettuce and store-bought pesto for an easy meal. Make vegetable couscous by combining leftovers from Sunday. Moisten with a little fat-free chicken broth if necessary. For dessert, fat-free strawberry ice cream makes a sweet ending.
Plan ahead: Save enough ice cream for Tuesday.
Pass go, and proceed to your grocery store's refrigerated section and pick up two packages of four-cheese ravioli (look for a light version). Pick up a jar of marinara sauce to go with it. Get some Parmesan cheese to grate over the combo. Slide on over to produce for a packaged salad and to the bakery for breadsticks and sugar cookies. Dessert? Look in your freezer for leftover fat-free strawberry ice cream to go with the sugar cookies.
You can tighten your purse strings when you serve a low-cost meal of baked beans with sausage for a low-cost meal. Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a 2-quart casserole, combine 1 (28-ounce) can baked beans, 2 tablespoons each of molasses and cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard; mix well. Stir in 1/2 pound sliced, low-fat sausage. Bake 20 minutes or until hot. Serve with refrigerated sauerkraut (rinse well) and applesauce. Add rye bread.
Big kids, small kids, all the kids around will like Chickpea Burgers (see recipe) on toasted hamburger rolls. Serve these substantial burgers with tomato and avocado slices and salsa. Toss red potatoes in parsley and a little butter or margarine to accompany the burgers. For dessert, brownies from a mix are kid-friendly.
Plan ahead: Save enough brownies for Friday.
Tip: Tahini is a thick paste made of ground sesame seeds.
No one will care about meat when you serve Fettuccine With Creamy Tomato Sauce (see recipe). Serve with green beans and garlic bread. Top leftover brownies with light whipped cream for a delicious dessert.
We impressed our guests with Steamed Sea Bass with an oriental-style sauce (see recipe), thanks to a creation by Matt Sandtak, the chef at Atlanta's Arugula restaurant. Matt recommends serving the fish with basmati rice, an aromatic rice. We added sugar snap peas and crusty bread.
Caramelized peaches make a perfect finish to a light meal. Heat broiler. Peel, pit and halve 2 ripe peaches lengthwise. Arrange, cut- side up, in a small baking dish. Sprinkle hollowed centers with 2 tablespoons brown sugar and 1 1/2 tablespoons butter or margarine cut into bits. Broil 4 inches from heat 6 to 8 minutes or until sugar caramelizes. Top each peach with a dollop of reduced-fat sour cream.
Tip: Look for fish sauce and hoisin sauce in Asian-food markets or in the Asian-food section of large grocery stores.
What you'll need for this week's menus (consult recipes for exact amounts)
plain low-fat yogurt
butterflied lamb leg
reduced-fat Italian dressing
orange-flavored liqueur or orange juice
reduced-fat sour cream
fat-free chicken broth
fat-free strawberry ice cream
canned baked beans
toasted bread crumbs
butter or margarine
canned tomatoes in puree
mild goat cheese
fresh spinach fettuccine or other fettuccine
light whipped cream