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/ 11 -- Family Sunday

Serve the family your own ROAST CHICKEN (5 to 7 pounds). Alongside, try these easy AU GRATIN POTATOES. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Coat an 8-by-12-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Scrub and thinly slice 2 pounds red potatoes. Arrange half the potatoes in dish, drizzle with 1 tablespoon (of 2 tablespoons total) melted butter, and season to taste with coarse salt and pepper. Top with 1/4 cup (1/2 cup total) shredded Gruyere cheese; repeat layers. In small saucepan, bring 1 cup 2 percent milk to a simmer; pour over potatoes. Coat top of potatoes with cooking spray. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Add SLICED TOMATOES and CRUSTY ROLLS to the meal. Buy or make a PEACH COBBLER for dessert.

PLAN AHEAD: Save enough chicken and cobbler for Monday.

8/ 12 -- Budget Monday

You’ll receive rave reviews on economical RANCHO CHICKEN (see recipe). Serve the flavorful casserole with a MIXED GREEN SALAD and extra TORTILLAS, if desired. Warm the leftover COBBLER for dessert.

PLAN AHEAD: Save enough Rancho Chicken and tortillas for Tuesday.

8/ 13 -- Heat-and-Eat Tuesday

Sit back and relax, because dinner is ready as soon as you reheat the leftover RANCHO CHICKEN. Serve with a LETTUCE WEDGE and leftover TORTILLAS. Slice WATERMELON for dessert.

PLAN AHEAD: Save enough watermelon for Wednesday.

8/ 14 -- Express Wednesday

Try a fully cooked BEEF POT ROAST for an easy meal tonight. Serve with your own or refrigerated MASHED POTATOES and fresh ZUCCHINI. Add WHOLE-GRAIN ROLLS. Leftover WATERMELON is your dessert.

8/ 15 -- Meatless Thursday

LENTIL SALAD (see recipe) makes a perfect no-meat dinner. Drizzle TOMATO WEDGES with balsamic vinaigrette and thinly sliced fresh basil to accompany the high-fiber entree. Add BREAD STICKS. For dessert, enjoy NECTARINES.

8/ 16 -- Kids Friday

Lucky kids! CHICKEN AND BLACK BEAN “PIZZAS” are on the menu. Heat oven to 350 degrees. In medium bowl, combine 1/2 cup mild salsa, 1 (10- to 12-ounce) can drained chicken breast, 1 cup rinsed reduced-sodium canned black beans, 1/4 cup chopped cilantro and 1/4 teaspoon cumin; mix well. Spread on 5 or 6 halved whole-grain English muffins. Divide and top with 1 cup shredded 50 percent reduced-fat cheddar cheese. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until hot. Garnish with reduced-fat sour cream and guacamole.

Serve with BABY CARROTS and RED BELL PEPPER STRIPS with ranch dressing for dipping. For dessert, fat-free CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM with MARSHMALLOW TOPPING is a kid-friendly dessert.

8/ 17 -- Easy Entertaining Saturday

Start your entertaining evening with GAZPACHO (your own or store-bought). Follow the refreshing cold soup with FILET MIGNON AU POIVRE. Press 2 tablespoons crushed black pepper into 6 (4-ounce) filet mignons. Cook steaks in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat 4 minutes per side or until desired doneness. Remove from skillet; to same skillet add 1/2 cup lower-sodium beef broth, 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar and 3 tablespoons red currant jelly; cook 5 minutes on medium or until thickened. Pour over steaks.

Serve with FARRO SALAD (see recipe). Add GREEN BEANS and SOURDOUGH BREAD. Buy FRUIT TARTS for dessert.



Makes 8 servings

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: about 50 minutes; standing time: 10 minutes


1 (10 3/4-ounce) can reduced-fat and reduced-sodium condensed cream of mushroom soup

1 (10 3/4-ounce) can reduced-fat and reduced-sodium condensed cream of chicken soup

1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chiles with liquid

1 medium red bell pepper, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

12 (6- to 7-inch) corn tortillas, cut into bite-size strips

1 1/2 cups leftover cooked chicken breast, chopped

8 ounces shredded 50 percent reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese, divided

Sliced tomatoes and sliced green onions for garnish

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine 2 soups, tomatoes with chiles and liquid, bell pepper, onion, chili powder and black pepper; mix well. Set aside. To assemble: Sprinkle about a third of the tortilla strips over bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Layer half of the chicken over tortilla strips; continue with half the soup mixture, half the cheese and another third of tortilla strips. Layer with remaining chicken, soup mixture and tortilla strips. Bake, tightly covered with nonstick foil, 45 minutes or until bubbly around edges and center is hot. Increase heat to 400 degrees. Uncover; sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake 4 to 5 minutes or until cheese is melted. Remove from oven. Top with sliced tomatoes and onions. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Per serving: 267 calories, 22 grams protein, 9 grams fat (28 percent calories from fat), 3.9 grams saturated fat, 28 grams carbohydrate, 51 milligrams cholesterol, 741 milligrams sodium, 4 grams fiber.

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Makes 8 servings

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: lentils, about 20 minutes; chilling time: 2 to 6 hours


4 cups water

2 cups dried lentils

3/4 teaspoon coarse salt

2 large bay leaves

2 medium cucumbers, peeled, seeded and chopped

1 cup celery, finely chopped

1 medium red onion, finely chopped

3/4 cup orange juice

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1/2 cup crumbled, reduced-fat feta cheese for garnish

Combine water, lentils, salt and bay leaves in a large saucepan. Bring to boil; cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 20 minutes or until lentils are tender. Drain and discard bay leaves. Combine the lentils, cucumber, celery and onion in a medium bowl. Whisk together orange juice, vinegar and mustard in separate bowl. Add to lentil mixture. Cover and chill 2 to 6 hours. Garnish individual servings with feta cheese.

Per serving: 223 calories, 17 grams protein, 1 gram fat (5 percent calories from fat), 0.7 gram saturated fat, 39 grams carbohydrate, 3 milligrams cholesterol, 374 milligrams sodium, 8 grams fiber.

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FARRO SALAD (Saturday)

Makes 10 servings

Preparation time: about 20 minutes

Cooking time: for the farro


3 cups water

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, divided

1 cup farro (see NOTE)

1 cup oil-cured pitted olives

1/2 cup red onion, diced

1/2 cup carrot, diced

1/2 cup celery, diced

1/2 cup fennel, trimmed and diced

1/2 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced

1 cup plum tomatoes, sliced

2 tablespoons rinsed capers

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons flatleaf parsley

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

2 tablespoons fresh mint

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup reduced-fat crumbled feta cheese

Combine water, 1/4 teaspoon salt and farro in a 2-quart saucepan; bring to boil; reduce heat to low and simmer 20 minutes. Strain farro and return to the warm saucepan. Cover and let stand 10 minutes to finish cooking. In a large bowl, combine the farro with the olives, onion, carrot, celery, fennel, cucumber, tomatoes, capers and garlic. Add the oil, vinegar, parsley, basil, mint and pepper. Season with the remaining salt. Garnish with feta. (Adapted from “Mediterranean Cooking,” by Lynne Gigliotti and the Culinary Institute of America, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.)

NOTE: Farro is an ancient form of wheat. Substitute quinoa or brown rice for the farro, if desired.

Per serving: 177 calories, 4 grams protein, 10 grams fat (50 percent calories from fat), 1.5 grams saturated fat, 18 grams carbohydrate, 1 milligram cholesterol, 441 milligrams sodium, 2 grams fiber.