Seven-Day Menu Planner

Susan Nicholson is an Atlanta-based cookbook author and registered dietician. She can be reached by email at Look for Susan's new book, "The 7-Day Menu Planner for Dummies," in bookstores. The Menu Planner is also accessible at Read Susan's blog at

8/ 4 -- Family Sunday

Prepare your own LEG OF LAMB for the family. On the side, serve LEMON COUSCOUS. Cook 1 1/2 cups couscous according to package directions; fluff with a fork. Stir in 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (yellow part only) and 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley. Add fresh ZUCCHINI SQUASH and DINNER ROLLS to your meal. For dessert, make PEACH SHORTCAKE by layering sliced angel food cake with fresh peaches and fat-free vanilla ice cream.

PLAN AHEAD: Save enough lamb and peaches for Monday. Save enough ice cream for Wednesday and Saturday. Prepare Monday’s gazpacho if time permits.

8/ 5 -- Heat-and-Eat Monday

No stove-time will be needed tonight for LAMB SANDWICHES. Spread focaccia with a thin layer of low-fat mayonnaise. Top with sliced lamb, roasted red peppers (from a jar), reduced-fat crumbled feta cheese and a red-tipped lettuce leaf.

Serve with WHITE GAZPACHO. In a blender, add 2 medium peeled, seeded cucumbers cut into chunks, 1 cup fat-free chicken broth, 1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, 1/8 teaspoon coarse salt, 1 (16-ounce) container fat-free sour cream and 1 crushed garlic clove. Pulse 3 or 4 times or until coarsely chopped. Chill 3 hours or more. Ladle soup into bowls and top with chopped tomatoes and chopped green onions. Dessert is leftover PEACHES topped with light whipped cream.

8/ 6 -- Express Tuesday

Tonight’s CHILI WITH GREEN SALSA (see recipe) is quick, and it hit the spot at our house. Serve it with deli COLESLAW and WHOLE-GRAIN ROLLS. Enjoy FRESH PLUMS for dessert.

8/ 7 -- Budget Wednesday

Keep food costs down and serve SPAGHETTI WITH BROCCOLI. Cook 1 pound broccoli florets in boiling water 2 to 3 minutes or until tender; set aside. Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add 1 medium sliced onion; cook 5 minutes or until golden. Add 2 ounces sliced prosciutto (cut into strips); mix well. Add 4 1/4 cups water and bring to boil. Stir in 12 ounces broken spaghetti; bring to boil and cook 4 minutes; turn off heat and add drained broccoli; cover and let stand 3 minutes. Drain until preferred consistency. (Mixture will be “soupy.”) Ladle into bowls; top with freshly grated pecorino cheese. (Adapted from “Fresh Italian Cooking,” Academia Barilla; The Taunton Press, 2013.)

Add a MIXED GREEN SALAD and GARLIC BREAD on the side. Leftover VANILLA ICE CREAM is a quick dessert.

8/ 8 -- Kids Thursday

Watch your angels line up for QUESADILLAS. Combine 1 cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese, 1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese, 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon chili powder and 1 (15-ounce) can rinsed reduced-sodium black beans. Spread 3/4 cup bean mixture over each of 4 (6-inch) fat-free whole-grain tortillas. Top with another tortilla; press down lightly. In a nonstick skillet, heat each quesadilla 2 minutes on each side on medium-high or until browned. Cut each one into wedges.

Serve with deli CARROT RAISIN SALAD. For dessert, make instant CHOCOLOTE PUDDING with 1 percent milk and stir in MINI MARSHMALLOWS.

8/ 9 -- Meatless Friday

Try CHEESE-STUFFED CREPES for a no-meat adventure. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Spoon 1 cup (of 2 cups) red pasta sauce into bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. In a bowl, mix 4 cups low-fat ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Divide and spread mixture into center of 8 crepes. Roll; place crepes, seam-side down, into prepared dish. Spread 1 cup pasta sauce over crepes. Cover dish loosely with foil and bake 20 minutes. Remove foil. Bake 5 more minutes or until bubbly.


TIP: Look for the crepes in the produce section (often near the fresh berries).

8/ 10 -- Easy Entertaining Saturday

Treat your guests to SALMON WITH PESTO (see recipe). Serve with FETTUCCINE tossed with extra pesto and add FRESH YELLOW SQUASH. Serve with BIBB LETTUCE SALAD and WHOLE-GRAIN ROLLS. For dessert, make BANANA SUNDAE SAUCE (see recipe) and serve it warm over leftover VANILLA ICE CREAM.



Makes about 5 1/2 cups

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: about 10 minutes

1 tablespoon canola oil

12 ounces chicken breast tenders, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

2 (15- to 19-ounce) cans rinsed white beans

1 3/4 to 2 cups mild to medium green salsa (see NOTE)

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1/2 cup fat-free chicken broth or water

1 cup grape tomatoes, cut into quarters

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet on medium-high. Cook chicken 3 to 4 minutes or until it is no longer pink; stir constantly. Add beans, salsa, cilantro and broth or water; cook 5 minutes longer to blend flavors, stirring occasionally. Top with tomatoes and serve.

NOTE: Green salsa is made with tomatillos, a Mexican vegetable that looks like a green tomato and grows in a papery husk. Look for it in the ethnic food section of your market.

Per cup: 247 calories, 20 grams protein, 5 grams fat (19 percent calories from fat), 0.6 gram saturated fat, 29 grams carbohydrate, 40 milligrams cholesterol, 742 milligrams sodium, 6 grams fiber.

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Makes 4 servings

Preparation time: less than 10 minutes

Cooking time: about 10 minutes

4 (5- or 6-ounce) salmon fillets

3 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise

2 tablespoons basil pesto

2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs

1 tablespoon freshly grated parmesan cheese

Place salmon, skin-side down, on the rack of broiler pan coated with cooking spray; tuck under thinner ends. Broil 4 inches from heat, 4 to 6 minutes per half-inch of salmon. (If salmon is 1 inch thick or more, start with skin-side down and turn halfway through cooking time.)

Meanwhile, combine mayonnaise and pesto. Combine panko bread crumbs and cheese separately. Spoon mayonnaise mixture over fish; sprinkle with crumb mixture. Broil 1 to 2 more minutes.

Per serving: 244 calories, 31 grams protein, 10 grams fat (39 percent calories from fat), 1.8 grams saturated fat, 5 grams carbohydrate, 67 milligrams cholesterol, 325 milligrams sodium, no fiber.

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Makes 8 servings

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: less than 10 minutes

2 tablespoons butter

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Pinch of ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon water

4 ripe medium bananas, peeled, cut crosswise in half, then lengthwise in half

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a large nonstick skillet, melt butter on medium-high heat. Add sugar, juice, cinnamon and water; stir until sugar begins to melt. Place bananas in single layer in skillet; cook 1 minute or until slightly softened. Shake skillet occasionally. Remove from heat, swirl in vanilla extract. Serve warm.

Per serving: 159 calories, 1 gram protein, 3 grams fat (17 percent calories from fat), 1.9 grams saturated fat, 34 grams carbohydrate, 8 milligrams cholesterol, 32 milligrams sodium, 2 grams fiber.