A guide to preparing a week's worth of meals

MENU PLANNER

January 07, 2001|By Susan Nicholson | Susan Nicholson,Universal Press Syndicate

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.

SUNDAY / Family

Enjoy a family gathering with Braised Beef with Mushrooms and Barley on the menu. Serve with a romaine salad and whole wheat rolls. It has a funny name, but everyone will like Aunt Boojie's Chocolate Box Cake (see recipe) for dessert.

Plan ahead: Save enough beef and cake for Monday.

Braised Beef with Mushrooms and Barley

Makes 8 servings

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 1 hour 15 minutes to 2 hours

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

3 pound trimmed, boneless beef chuck roast (arm, blade or shoulder)

1 teaspoon salt

1 / 4 teaspoon pepper

8 ounces medium halved cremini or white mushrooms (see note)

1 medium chopped onion

3 large crushed garlic cloves

1 1 / 4 cups beef broth

1 bay leaf

1/2 cup medium pearl barley (see note)

1 cup frozen and thawed green peas

Heat oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven until hot. Add beef; brown evenly; remove from pan. Season with salt and pepper. In same pan, add mushrooms, onion and garlic. Cook and stir 6 to 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Add beef, broth and bay leaf. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer 1 1/2 hours. Add barley. Cover and continue simmering 45 to 60 minutes or until beef and barley are tender. Remove beef to cutting board; keep warm. Remove bay leaf. Add peas to barley mixture. Cook and stir 3 minutes or until heated through. Slice beef into thin slices; serve with barley mixture.

Notes: Cremini mushrooms are a darker brown, slightly firmer and richer-tasting than white mushrooms. Pearl barley is medium, long-cooking barley; it is not interchangeable with quick barley.

Per serving: 316 calories, 41 grams protein, 9 grams fat (27 percent calories from fat), 2.9 grams saturated fat, 15 grams carbohydrate, 102 milligrams cholesterol, 594 milligrams sodium, 4 grams fiber.

Aunt Boojie's Chocolate Box Cake

Makes 20 servings

Preparation time: less than 15 minutes

Cooking time: 30 to 35 minutes Refrigeration time: 30 minutes Standing time: 30 minutes

For cake:

5 egg whites

1 1 / 3 cups buttermilk

1 / 3 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 18 1 / 4 -ounce package chocolate cake mix

For frosting:

3 cups powdered sugar

2 / 3 cup cocoa

6 tablespoons light butter (softened)

1 / 3 cup skim milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. In a large bowl, beat egg whites with an electric mixer on high for 1 minute or until foamy. Add buttermilk and applesauce and mix 1 minute on medium or until combined. Add cake mix and mix 2 minutes. Scrape into baking dish. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean and cake is pulling away from sides of pan. Cool completely in pan.

For the frosting: in a small bowl, combine sugar and cocoa; stir to remove lumps. In a medium bowl, use electric mixer and beat butter on high until fluffy. Gradually mix in the cocoa mixture, milk and vanilla extract . Beat until smooth; spread over cooled cake. As soon as the cake is frosted, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Let stand at room temperature about 30 minutes before serving. Cut and serve.

Note: The icing hardens as it sits. If it gets too thick to spread, microwave on medium (50 percent power) 15 to 30 seconds or until softened.

Adapted from "A More Healthy Homestyle Cooking," by Evelyn Tribole (Rodale, $29.95, 2000).

Per serving: 217 calories, 4 grams protein, 6 grams fat (22 percent calories from fat), 2.7 grams saturated fat, 40 grams carbohydrate, 13 milligrams cholesterol, 239 milligrams sodium, 1 gram fiber.

MONDAY Heat and Eat

Make good use of leftovers and prepare beef and onion soup. In a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray, cook 1 large chopped onion 4 minutes; sprinkle with 2 tablespoons flour, mix well and continue cooking 5 more minutes or until onions are softened. In another pan, heat 3 14 1/2 -ounce cans beef broth Add onions and 2 cups chopped cooked (leftover) beef to broth. Heat through. When ready to serve, ladle soup into bowls and drop 1 cube Swiss cheese into each bowl. Serve with mixed greens and crusty bread. Bring out the leftover cake for dessert.

TUESDAY / Kids

These Chicken Tacos are just the incentive the kids need to get their homework done before dinner. Serve with canned vegetarian refried beans. Let your angels dip carrot sticks into fat-free ranch dressing on the side and serve them pineapple chunks for dessert.

Chicken Tacos

Makes 12 tacos

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: about 10 minutes

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts

3 / 4 cup mild barbecue sauce, divided

1 11-ounce can corn, rinsed and drained

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