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7 DAY MENU PLANNER: Loaded nachos make fun meal for kids

by Andrews McMeel Syndication | March 8, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.
America's Test Kitchen/Kevin White

SUNDAY (Family) -- It takes a little extra time, but apple glazed pork loin roast with pineapple stuffing (see recipe) is worth the effort. Serve the combo meal with roasted red potatoes with bacon: Wrap partially cooked, bite-size red potatoes in ½ slice bacon each; secure with wooden pick. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until tender and bacon is done.

Add a romaine salad and whole-grain bread. Buy a boston cream pie for dessert.

PLAN AHEAD: Save enough pork roast, stuffing and potatoes for Monday; save enough pie for Tuesday.

SHOPPING LIST: top loin pork roast, dried basil, coarse salt, pepper, apple juice, brown sugar, less-sodium soy sauce, less-sodium Worcestershire sauce, dense white bread, canned crushed pineapple, evaporated skim milk, eggs, butter, white sugar, red potatoes, bacon, romaine, whole-grain bread, Boston cream pie.

MONDAY (Heat and Eat) -- Yesterday's pork with stuffing is good enough for an encore performance tonight. On the side, add leftover potatoes along with fresh broccoli, a lettuce wedge and whole-grain rolls to round out the meal. Plums are an easy dessert.

SHOPPING LIST: fresh broccoli, lettuce, whole-grain rolls, plums.

TUESDAY (Budget) -- You will like this delectable creamy chicken and pasta: Cook 12 ounces penne pasta according to directions (see TIP); drain. Meanwhile, heat 1 (14-ounce) can unsalted chicken broth in a large nonstick skillet on medium; add 1 pound chicken tenders and cook 5 minutes or until no longer pink. Stir in 1 (8-ounce) package reduced-fat cream cheese (cut into cubes) and 1 (5-ounce) package fresh spinach leaves. Return to a simmer and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in 10 halved cherry tomatoes and cook 3 more minutes. In a large bowl, mix together the pasta and sauce. Let stand a few minutes and then serve immediately.

Add green beans and bread sticks. Slice the leftover boston cream pie for dessert.

TIP: Reserve ½ cup pasta cooking water to thin pasta sauce mixture if necessary.

SHOPPING LIST: penne pasta, unsalted chicken broth, chicken tenders, reduced-fat cream cheese, packaged fresh spinach, cherry tomatoes, green beans, bread sticks.

WEDNESDAY (Meatless) -- Make a no-meat meal of tex-mex stuffed potatoes: Bake 4 (8-ounce) potatoes at 450 degrees for 45 to 55 minutes. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon canola oil in a large nonstick skillet on medium. Add 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped red bell pepper and 1 teaspoon minced garlic; cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1 (15- or 16-ounce) can chili beans in spicy sauce (with liquid), 1 tablespoon less-sodium Worcestershire sauce and ½ teaspoon minced pickled jalapeno peppers. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer 5 minutes. Split potatoes, fluff with fork and top with bean mixture. Sprinkle with shredded Monterey jack cheese; top with reduced-fat sour cream.

Serve with a romaine salad and tortillas. Make instant chocolate puddingwith 1 percent milk for dessert.

SHOPPING LIST: baking potatoes, canola oil, onion, red bell pepper, garlic, canned chili beans in spicy sauce, less-sodium Worcestershire sauce, pickled jalapeno peppers, Monterey jack cheese, reduced-fat sour cream, romaine, tortillas, instant chocolate pudding, 1 percent milk.

THURSDAY (Kids) -- This version of loaded nachos (see recipe) is perfect for the kids to prepare themselves. Serve it with the usual toppings of chopped tomatoes, shredded lettuce and salsa. Add rice. Dessert is vanilla ice cream.

PLAN AHEAD: Save enough ice cream for Saturday.

SHOPPING LIST: canola oil, garlic, chili powder, cumin, dried oregano, coarse salt, 90 percent lean ground beef, tomato paste, brown sugar, tortilla chips, refried beans, shredded Monterey jack or colby jack cheese, chopped tomatoes, lettuce, salsa, rice, vanilla ice cream.

FRIDAY (Express) -- There's little to prepare for dinner tonight beyond adding some halved grapes and some chopped apple to deli chicken salad. If you have any walnuts or pecans, toss in a few of those, too. Spoon the salad on lettuce and serve. For a little warmth, serve with any vegetable soup and flatbread. Fresh pineapple spears are a perfect dessert.

SHOPPING LIST: grapes, apples, deli chicken salad, walnuts or pecans, lettuce, any vegetable soup, flatbread, fresh pineapple spears.

SATURDAY (Easy Entertaining) -- Treat your lucky guests to herb-braised chicken with mushrooms and tomatoes (see recipe); this recipe is going into my keeper file! Serve it over brown rice and add steamed fresh zucchini on the side. Add sourdough bread. Buy or make cherry cobbler for dessert and top it with leftover vanilla ice cream.

SHOPPING LIST: bacon, packaged sliced cremini mushrooms, sweet onion (such as Vidalia), dried basil, dried oregano, coarse salt, chipotle chili pepper, bone-in skinless chicken thighs, canned no-salt-added diced tomatoes, brown rice, fresh zucchini, sourdough bread, cherry cobbler.




Servings: makes about 12 servings

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: roast: 1 hour to 1 hour 20 minutes; stuffing: 50 minutes; standing time: 5 minutes


For the stuffing:

⅓ cup butter, room temperature

⅓ cup sugar

4 eggs

1 (20-ounce) can crushed pineapple with juice

12 slices dense white bread, cut into 1-inch pieces

For the roast:

1 (3- to 4-pound) top loin pork roast

1 tablespoon dried basil

Coarse salt and pepper to taste

For the apple glaze:

1 cup apple juice

¼ cup brown sugar

¼ cup less-sodium soy sauce

¼ cup less-sodium Worcestershire sauce

For the stuffing: In a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar about 30 seconds to 1 minute or until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated before adding the next egg. Add pineapple with juice and bread pieces; stir until evenly coated with egg mixture. Pour into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake 50 minutes to 1 hour or until browned on top; cool 10 minutes before serving. Meanwhile, rub pork with basil, salt and pepper. Place roast, fat side up, in a roasting pan. In a bowl, combine apple juice, brown sugar, soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce; mix well. Using a basting brush, baste roast with apple glaze. Place roast in oven and cook 20 minutes per pound or until internal temperature of pork has reached 145 degrees. Let stand 5 minutes. Slice pork and serve alongside stuffing.


Per serving: 193 calories, 4 grams protein, 8 grams fat (36 percent calories from fat), 3.7 grams saturated fat, 27 grams carbohydrate, 75 milligrams cholesterol, 169 milligrams sodium, 1 gram fiber.

Carb count: 2.

Pork Roast with Glaze:

Per serving: 166 calories, 21 grams protein, 5 grams fat (26 percent calories from fat), 1.4 grams saturated fat, 9 grams carbohydrate, 59 milligrams cholesterol, 190 milligrams sodium, no fiber.

Carb count: 0.5.



Servings: makes 8 servings

Preparation time:15 minutes

Cooking time: 15 to 20 minutes


1 teaspoon canola oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1½ teaspoons chili powder

½ teaspoon cumin

¼ teaspoon dried oregano

¼ teaspoon coarse salt

8 ounces 90 percent lean ground beef

1 tablespoon tomato paste

½ teaspoon packed brown sugar

¼ cup water

5 ounces tortilla chips (4 to 5 cups), divided

½ cup refried beans

1½ cups (6 ounces) shredded Monterey jack or colby jack cheese

These directions are for children:

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat to 400 degrees. Heat oil in 12-inch skillet on medium about 2 minutes (hot but not smoking). Add garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt and beef; cook, stirring often with wooden spoon to break up meat into small pieces, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and sugar and cook 1 minute. Add water and cook until skillet is almost dry, 1 to 3 minutes. Turn off heat and slide skillet to a cool burner. Spread half the chips in even layer in 8-inch square baking dish. Use a spoon to dollop half of refried beans over chips. Sprinkle with half of cooked beef mixture. Sprinkle evenly with half of cheese. Repeat layering with remaining chips, beans, beef and cheese. Place dish in oven. Bake 9 to 11 minutes or until cheese is melted and just beginning to brown. Use mitts to remove baking dish and place on cooling rack (ask for help). Serve with favorite toppings. (Adapted from "Kids Can Cook Anything," Molly Birnbaum, America's Test Kitchen.)

Per serving: 242 calories, 13 grams protein, 14 grams fat (53 percent calories from fat), 5.6 grams saturated fat, 16 grams carbohydrate, 35 milligrams cholesterol, 381 milligrams sodium, 2 grams fiber.

Carb count: 1.



Servings: makes 6 servings

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: about 40 minutes


2 strips bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 (8-ounce) package sliced cremini mushrooms

1 large sweet onion (such as Vidalia), halved and thinly sliced

1½ teaspoons dried basil

¾ teaspoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon coarse salt

¼ teaspoon chipotle chili pepper

6 bone-in skinless chicken thighs (about 2 pounds)

1 (14½-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, with liquid

In a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven, cook bacon on medium for 4 minutes or until lightly browned but not crisp and some fat has been rendered, turning frequently. Add mushrooms and onion; cook and stir about 8 minutes or until onion is softened, stirring occasionally. Mix basil, oregano, salt and chipotle pepper together; sprinkle evenly over both sides of chicken. Add chicken and tomatoes to skillet. Bring to a boil, stirring to get all the browned bits from skillet. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 15 minutes. Turn chicken and cook 15 more minutes or until chicken is cooked through, stirring occasionally and spooning sauce over chicken; serve.

Per serving: 233 calories, 25 grams protein, 11 grams fat (42 percent calories from fat), 3.2 grams saturated fat, 9 grams carbohydrate, 121 milligrams cholesterol, 325 milligrams sodium, 2 grams fiber.

Carb count: 0.5.

Susan Nicholson is an Atlanta-based cookbook author and registered dietitian. She can be reached by email: [email protected] Follow Susan on Twitter: @7DayMenu. The Menu Planner is also accessible at Read Susan's blog: And check out Susan's book! "7-Day Menu Planner for Dummies" is on shelves now. Order yours on today!

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