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7 Day Menu Planner

12/ 24

Family Sunday

Gather the family for White Christmas Chili (see recipe) for a casual meal. Serve the chili with mixed greens and cornbread (from a mix). Christmas cookies make an appropriate dessert. Tuck the kids in early.

Plan ahead: Save enough cookies for Monday and enough chili for Tuesday.

12/ 25

Family Monday

Start the big day with Southwest Brunch Casserole (see recipe). To round out the meal, add broiled tomato halves to the plate. Heat broiler to 450 degrees. Cut 3 large tomatoes in half; place cut side up on shallow baking dish. Stick garlic slivers from 3 cloves into tomatoes. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons fresh chopped rosemary leaves, coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Broil about 3 inches from heat, 8 to 12 minutes, or just until tomatoes release their juices and garlic begins to brown. Spoon pan juices over tomatoes just before serving. Finish the meal with a mixture of halved grapes and orange sections along with leftover Christmas cookies.

12/ 26

Heat-and-Eat Tuesday

Spoon the leftover Chili over brown rice for a simple meal. Garnish with shredded 50 percent light cheddar cheese. Add a romaine salad and whole-grain rolls. Enjoy strawberries for dessert.

12/ 27

Express Wednesday

Make a quick meal of Vegetable Chowder tonight. In a 2- or 3-quart microwaveable dish, combine 1 tablespoon butter, 1/2 cup chopped onion, 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper and 1 cup chopped carrots. Microwave on high (100 percent power) 5 minutes or until softened. Stir in 1 (10 3/4-ounce) can condensed cream of potato soup, 1 cup 1 percent milk and 1 (16-ounce) can cream-style corn. Cover and microwave on high 8 to 10 minutes or until hot. Let stand covered 2 minutes; serve. Add grilled cheese sandwiches with sweet pickles and cherry tomatoes on the side. For dessert, try peaches.

12/ 28

Meatless Thursday

Black sesame seeds add color, texture and flavor to a Sesame Peanut Noodle Bowl (see recipe). Serve with sliced cucumbers and bread sticks. Apricots are an easy dessert.

12/ 29

Budget Friday

It’s time to save money with (frozen) Veggie Burgers With Avocado Topping. For the topping: In a small bowl, mash 1 ripe Hass avocado until creamy. Mix in 1/2 cup diced seeded cucumber, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, 1 teaspoon chopped green onions and 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt. Arrange a lettuce leaf on each of 4 whole-grain hamburger buns. Place a cooked burger on each leaf; top with sliced tomatoes, additional cucumber slices and the avocado mixture. Serve with oven fries (from frozen). Fresh pears are your dessert.

12/ 30

Easy Entertaining Saturday

Any guest will like the mild flavor of Baked Fish Fillets. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Coat a baking sheet with nonstick foil. In a shallow dish, combine 1/2 cup cornflake crumbs or crushed baked corn chips, 2 tablespoons cornmeal, 2 teaspoons grated parmesan cheese, 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper. In another shallow dish, whisk together 2 egg whites until frothy. Dip 4 tilapia, sole or flounder fillets (about 6 ounces each) in egg white and then in crumb mixture to coat evenly all over. Place on baking sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until opaque throughout.

Serve with roasted red potatoes, asparagus, mixed greens and whole-grain bread. For dessert, chocolate mousse with light whipped cream is always a favorite.

** ** **

White Christmas Chili (Sunday)

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 ribs celery, thinly sliced

3 (14-ounce) cans unsalted chicken broth

3 (16-ounce) cans reduced-sodium great northern beans, rinsed (or 4 1/2 cups cooked)

3 (4-ounce) cans chopped green chilies

1 teaspoon cumin

1 bay leaf

Coarse salt to taste

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 cups shredded cooked chicken breast

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro


baked tortilla chips

shredded 50 percent light cheddar cheese

reduced-fat sour cream


Heat oil in a Dutch oven to medium; add onion and celery and cook 6 minutes or until softened. Add broth, beans, chilies, cumin, bay leaf, salt and cayenne pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 50 minutes or until thickened; add chicken. Cook 10 more minutes or until heated through. Remove bay leaf; stir in cilantro just before serving. Serve with desired toppings. Makes about 13 cups.

Per cup: 154 calories (percent calories from fat, 14), 15 grams protein, 16 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams fiber, 2 grams fat (0.4 gram saturated fat), 28 milligrams cholesterol, 278 milligrams sodium.

** ** **

Southwest Brunch Casserole (Monday)

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 small red bell pepper, chopped

1 (8-ounce) loaf Italian bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 5 cups)

1 (15-ounce) can reduced-sodium black beans (or 1 1/2 cups cooked)

2 cups shredded 50 percent light sharp cheddar cheese

1 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese

6 eggs

2 cups 2 percent milk

1 tablespoon chili powder

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet to medium. Add onion and pepper; cook and stir 3 minutes or until softened. Spread half of the bread cubes in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Layer with half of each of onion mixture, beans, cheddar and Monterey jack. Repeat layers. Beat eggs in a medium bowl until foamy. Add milk, chili powder, oregano, cumin and salt; beat until blended. Pour evenly over top layer. Press remaining bread cubes lightly into egg mixture until completely covered. Let stand 10 minutes before baking. Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until center is set and top is golden. Serves 8.

Per serving: 367 calories (percent calories from fat, 43), 24 grams protein, 31 grams carbohydrate, 5 grams fiber, 18 grams fat (8 grams saturated fat), 172 milligrams cholesterol, 712 milligrams sodium.

** ** **

Sesame Peanut Noodle Bowl (Thursday)

1 tablespoon black sesame seeds

8 ounces spaghetti

1/4 cup peanut butter

3 tablespoons light soy sauce

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons light or dark sesame oil

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 cup coarsely shredded carrots

2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions (green part only)

Heat a small skillet to medium. Add sesame seeds; cook and stir about 2 minutes or until fragrant. Immediately pour out of hot pan to avoid over-toasting. Cook spaghetti according to directions. Meanwhile, mix peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, oil, sugar, ginger and red pepper in large bowl with wire whisk until smooth. Stir in carrots and sesame seeds. Drain spaghetti, reserving 1/4 cup cooking water. Add spaghetti and water to sesame seed mixture; toss to coat well. Sprinkle with green onion tops. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Per serving: 417 calories (percent calories from fat, 32), 13 grams protein, 59 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams fiber, 15 grams fat (2.6 grams saturated fat), no cholesterol, 444 milligrams sodium.

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