7 Day Menu Planner: Skillet primavera is a low-cost, high-flavor meal

Courtesy of Cattlemens Beef Board
Courtesy of Cattlemens Beef Board

SUNDAY (Family) -- Splurge on family day and prepare your own leg of lamb along with these herb-roasted dijon potatoes: Heat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together 5 tablespoons Dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 clove minced garlic and ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning. Add 2 pounds red potato chunks; toss to coat. Spoon into a shallow baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake, stirring occasionally, 35-40 minutes or until fork-tender.

Add a grape tomato and broccoli floret salad (halve the tomatoes and toss both vegetables with a light vinaigrette) and dinner rolls on the side. For dessert, top slices of angel food cake with strawberries.

PLAN AHEAD: Save enough lamb, tomato-broccoli salad and cake for Monday. Save enough strawberries for Tuesday.

SHOPPING LIST: leg of lamb, Dijon mustard, olive oil, garlic, Italian seasoning, red potatoes, cooking spray, grape tomatoes, fresh broccoli, light vinaigrette, dinner rolls, angel food cake, strawberries.

MONDAY (Heat and Eat) -- Make lamb sandwiches on rosemary (or another) bread. Brush the bread with olive oil and layer it with lamb slices, roasted red peppers, goat cheese and arugula. Serve with leftover tomato-broccoli salad. Drizzle chocolate syrup over the leftover cake for dessert.

SHOPPING LIST: rosemary (or another) bread, olive oil, roasted red peppers, goat cheese, arugula, chocolate syrup.

TUESDAY (Meatless) -- Prepare tomato soup with orzo and white beans for a flavorful no-meat soup. In a medium pot over medium heat, cook 1 large chopped onion, 1 small chopped green bell pepper, 2 minced cloves garlic, 1 teaspoon dried oregano and 1 tablespoon olive oil for 6 minutes or until softened. Add ⅓ cup orzo, 2 (14½-ounce) cans diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and onions (with liquid), 1 (15-ounce) can rinsed reduced-sodium white beans, 2 (14-ounce) cans unsalted vegetable broth, and coarse salt and pepper to taste; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook 7-9 minutes or until orzo is tender but still firm. Stir 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan into the soup and ladle into bowls.

Serve with grilled cheese sandwiches. For dessert, spoon leftover strawberries over vanilla ice cream.

PLAN AHEAD: Save enough ice cream for Friday.

SHOPPING LIST: onion, green bell pepper, garlic, dried oregano, olive oil, orzo, canned diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and onions, canned reduced-sodium white beans, unsalted vegetable broth, coarse salt, pepper, Parmesan cheese, bread and cheese for sandwiches, vanilla ice cream.

WEDNESDAY (Budget) -- Ground beef and pasta skillet primavera (see recipe) is a low-cost, high-flavor meal. Add a mixed green salad and crusty bread. Tropical fruit is good for dessert.

SHOPPING LIST: 96 percent lean ground beef, reduced-sodium beef broth, whole-wheat rotini pasta, zucchini or yellow squash, canned no-salt-added diced tomatoes, Italian seasoning, mixed greens, crusty bread, tropical fruit.

THURSDAY (Express) -- Pick up a rotisserie chicken or two and serve with baked potatoes topped with broccoli and cheese sauce (from frozen). Add whole-grain rolls. Stop by the bakery for brownies for something sweet.

PLAN AHEAD: Save 2 cups chopped chicken and enough brownies for Friday.

SHOPPING LIST: rotisserie chicken(s), potatoes to bake, frozen broccoli and cheese sauce, whole-grain rolls, brownies.

FRIDAY (Kids) -- Let the kids help prepare tex-mex chicken pot pie (see recipe). The whole family will enjoy it with deli carrot-raisin salad. Then, everyone will line up for warmed leftover brownies topped with a dollop of leftover ice cream and chocolate sprinkles.

SHOPPING LIST: large tortillas, canned condensed less-fat less-sodium cream of mushroom soup, frozen vegetables for soup, canned chopped mild green chiles, fresh cilantro, cooking spray, deli carrot-raisin salad, chocolate sprinkles.

SATURDAY (Easy Entertaining) -- Our guests enjoyed thai shrimp with pasta (see recipe). Serve the combo with a bibb lettuce salad and a baguette. For dessert, buy fruit tarts to keep it simple.

SHOPPING LIST: dried lemongrass stalks, dry white wine, garlic powder, coarse salt, Szechwan seasoning, cornstarch, fresh or frozen cooked shrimp, angel hair pasta, fresh spinach, salted nuts (such as cashews or almonds), bibb lettuce, baguette, fruit tarts.

THE RECIPES

Ground beef and pasta skillet primavera (Wednesday)

Servings: makes 4 servings

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 15-18 minutes

INGREDIENTS

1 pound 96 percent lean ground beef

1 (14½-ounce) can reduced-sodium beef broth

1 cup uncooked whole-wheat rotini pasta

2 zucchini or yellow squash, cut in half lengthwise, then crosswise into 1/2-inch slices

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

1½ teaspoons Italian seasoning

Heat large nonstick skillet on medium. Add ground beef; cook 6-7 minutes, breaking into ¾-inch crumbles and stirring occasionally. Pour off drippings. Stir in broth, pasta, squash, tomatoes and Italian seasoning; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and cook 9-11 minutes or until pasta and squash are almost tender and sauce is slightly thickened, stirring occasionally.

Per serving: 264 calories, 29 grams protein, 5 grams fat (18 percent calories from fat), 2 grams saturated fat, 28 grams carbohydrate, 66 milligrams cholesterol, 138 milligrams sodium, 4 grams fiber.

Carb count: 2.

Tex-mex chicken pot pie (Friday)

Servings: makes 6 servings

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 45 minutes

INGREDIENTS

2 large tortillas, warmed (see NOTE)

1 (10¾-ounce) can condensed less-fat less-sodium cream of mushroom soup

2 cups cooked chicken or 1 (12-ounce) can drained chicken breast

1 (16-ounce) package frozen vegetables for soup, thawed and drained

1 (4-ounce) can mild chopped green chiles

⅓ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate with a tortilla. In a large bowl, mix soup, chicken, vegetables, chiles and cilantro. Spoon into lined pie plate. Top with the other tortilla. Coat with cooking spray. Cover with foil and bake 20 minutes. Uncover and bake 25 more minutes or until top is golden and filling is hot. Cut into 6 wedges and serve immediately.

NOTE: To warm tortillas, roll them in damp paper towels and microwave on high (100 percent power) for 20 seconds.

Per serving: 203 calories, 17 grams protein, 4 grams fat (20 percent calories from fat), 1.1 grams saturated fat, 24 grams carbohydrate, 37 milligrams cholesterol, 412 milligrams sodium, 4 grams fiber.

Carb count: 1.5.

Thai shrimp with pasta (Satruday)

Servings: makes 4 servings

Preparation time: about 25 minutes

Cooking time: about 10 minutes, plus pasta

INGREDIENTS

3 dried lemongrass stalks (see NOTE)

3 cups hot water

½ cup dry white wine

1 teaspoons garlic powder

¼ teaspoon coarse salt

2 teaspoons Szechwan seasoning

2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons water

1 pound fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined, or cleaned frozen cooked shrimp (thawed and tails removed)

6 ounces angel hair pasta

5 cups torn fresh spinach leaves

¼ cup salted nuts (such as cashews or almonds)

Place lemongrass and hot water in a 1-quart microwave-safe glass measuring cup; cover and microwave on high (100 percent power) for 5 minutes; cool. Remove lemongrass to cutting board, reserving water. Slice lemongrass lengthwise and finely chop. In a large nonstick skillet, combine lemongrass, reserved water, wine, garlic powder, salt and Szechwan seasoning; bring to a boil. Stir in cornstarch mixture; cook and stir 1-2 minutes or until mixture thickens slightly. Add shrimp and cook 3-4 minutes or until it turns pink. (If using frozen shrimp, cook 2 minutes.) Meanwhile, cook pasta according to directions; drain and rinse. Return pasta to cooking pot. Add spinach and shrimp mixture to pasta; toss. Garnish with nuts before serving.

Note: Look for lemongrass stalks in the spice aisle.

Per serving: 327 calories, 28 grams protein, 5 grams fat (15 percent calories from fat), 1 gram saturated fat, 40 grams carbohydrate, 159 milligrams cholesterol, 332 milligrams sodium, 2 grams fiber.

Carb count: 2.5.

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 7daymenuplanner.com. Read Susan's blog: makingthemenu.com. And check out Susan's book! "7-Day Menu Planner for Dummies" is on shelves now.