7 DAY MENU PLANNER: Impress your guests with poached salmon

America's Test Kitchen/Daniel van Ackere

SUNDAY (Family) -- Celebrate family day with grilled Southwestern steak with vegetables (see recipe) on the menu. Add a red-tipped lettuce salad and dinner rolls. Buy a Boston cream pie for dessert.

PLAN AHEAD: Save enough steak, some vegetables and some Boston cream pie for Monday.

SHOPPING LIST: lime, mild salsa, garlic, olive oil, cumin, black pepper, beef top round, red or green bell pepper, white mushrooms, zucchini, coarse salt, tomatoes, green onions, red-tipped lettuce, dinner rolls, Boston cream pie.

MONDAY (Heat and eat) -- Make beef stir-fry with the beef leftovers. Chop beef and vegetables; combine them with additional frozen stir-fry vegetables and stir-fry sauce. Spoon your creation over brown rice and add breadsticks on the side. A small piece of leftover Boston cream pie is dessert.

PLAN AHEAD: Prepare enough rice for Tuesday.

SHOPPING LIST: frozen stir-fry vegetables, stir-fry sauce, brown rice, breadsticks.

TUESDAY (Budget) -- Chicken and brown rice bake won't break the bank. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 3-quart baking dish with cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine 3 cups leftover rice, 1 (10-ounce) package frozen green peas (thawed), 2 cups chopped cooked chicken breast, ½ cup low-fat mayonnaise, ½ cup reduced-fat plain yogurt, 1/3 cup toasted slivered almonds, 2 teaspoons lower-sodium soy sauce, ½ teaspoon pepper, ½ teaspoon garlic powder and ½ teaspoon tarragon. Spoon into baking dish. Cover; bake 25-30 minutes or until hot throughout. Add a lettuce wedge and crusty rolls. For dessert, have some pears.

SHOPPING LIST: cooking spray, brown rice, frozen green peas, chicken breast, low-fat mayonnaise, reduced-fat plain yogurt, slivered almonds, lower-sodium soy sauce, pepper, garlic powder, tarragon, lettuce, crusty rolls, pears.

WEDNESDAY (Meatless) -- Meatless never tasted as good as linguine with cranberries and gorgonzola (see recipe). Serve with a packaged Caesar salad and whole-grain bread. Plums are dessert.

SHOPPING LIST: whole-grain or other linguine, butter, crumbled Gorgonzola cheese, half-and-half, sweetened dried cranberries, coarse salt, pepper, pistachios or walnuts, parsley, packaged Caesar salad, whole-grain bread, plums.

THURSDAY (Express) -- Make it quick tonight with a pan-fried ham steak, hash browns and spinach souffle (from frozen). Add whole-grain bread. Apple slices are your dessert.

SHOPPING LIST: ham steak, refrigerated hash browns, frozen spinach souffle, whole-grain bread, apples.

FRIDAY (Kids) -- The kids will run to dinner for chicken quesadillas: On one half of each of 4 (8-inch) whole-grain flour tortillas, spread ¼ cup shredded 50 percent light cheddar cheese, ½ cup shredded cooked chicken, 2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro and 1 teaspoon canned chopped mild green chiles. Fold over other half of each tortilla; press down gently. One at a time, brown in a large nonstick skillet on medium-high two minutes per side or until golden and cheese is melted.

Cut into wedges and serve with canned fat-free vegetarian refried beans and carrot sticks. Slice kiwis for dessert.

SHOPPING LIST: whole-grain flour tortillas, 50 percent light cheddar cheese, cooked chicken, fresh cilantro, canned chopped mild green chiles, canned fat-free vegetarian refried beans, carrots, kiwis.

SATURDAY (Easy entertaining) -- Treat your guests to perfect poached salmon (see recipe). On the side, add roasted red potatoes, green beans, a Boston lettuce salad and a baguette to complete the meal.

For dessert, add a touch of this Italy-inspired topping to pound cake: Mix 1 (18-ounce) jar apricot preserves with ¼ cup amaretto liqueur (or apricot nectar) and heat until warm. Drizzle over sliced pound cake. Add a dollop of light whipped cream and toasted sliced almonds for garnish.

SHOPPING LIST: lemon, fresh parsley, shallot, dry white wine, skinless salmon fillets, coarse salt, pepper, red potatoes, green beans, Boston lettuce, baguette, apricot preserves, amaretto liqueur or apricot nectar, pound cake, light whipped cream, sliced almonds.

The recipes

Grilled southwestern steak with vegetables

Servings: Six

Preparation time: 15 minutes; marinating time: six hours to overnight

Cooking time: 12-9 minutes; for vegetables: about eight minutes


¼ cup fresh lime juice

¼ cup mild salsa

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1¾ teaspoons cumin, divided

¾ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper, divided

1 beef top round, cut 1 inch thick (about 1½ pounds)

1 medium red or green bell pepper, cut into ¼-inch strips

8 ounces sliced white mushrooms

2 cups sliced zucchini

½ teaspoon coarse salt

1 cup finely chopped tomatoes

¼ cup chopped green onions

Combine lime juice, salsa, garlic, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 teaspoon cumin and ½ teaspoon black pepper in small bowl. Place steak and marinade in resealable plastic bag; turn steak to coat. Close bag securely and marinate in refrigerator six hours to overnight, turning occasionally. Remove steak; discard marinade. Place steak on grill over medium, ash-covered coals. Grill, covered, 12-14 minutes (or 16-19 minutes on medium preheated gas grill), turning once, for medium-rare doneness. Do not overcook.

Meanwhile, prepare vegetables: Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add bell pepper strips; cook and stir one to two minutes or until crisp-tender. Add mushrooms, zucchini, ¾ teaspoon cumin, salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper; cook and stir three to four minutes or until crisp-tender. Add tomatoes and green onions; cook and stir one minute.

Carve steak into thin slices; season with salt to taste. Serve with vegetables.

Per serving: 229 calories, 28 grams protein, 10 grams fat (40 percent calories from fat), 2.4 grams saturated fat, 6 grams carbohydrate, 70 milligrams cholesterol, 242 milligrams sodium, 2 grams fiber.

Carb count: 0.5.

Linguine with cranberries and Gorgonzola (Wednesday)

Servings: Four

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: about five minutes plus pasta


8 ounces whole-grain or other linguine

1 tablespoon butter

4 ounces crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

¼ cup half-and-half

½ cup sweetened dried cranberries

¼ teaspoon coarse salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

¼ cup shelled toasted pistachios or walnuts

Chopped parsley for garnish

Cook pasta according to directions. In a small saucepan, melt butter on low; add Gorgonzola and stir. Once cheese is melted, add half-and-half and cranberries. Season with salt and pepper. Let the sauce cook on low two to three minutes. Drain pasta and place in a large serving dish. Add sauce; toss to mix. Top with nuts and garnish with parsley. (Adapted from a recipe by Romina-Baritta De Franchi, GlobalDietitians.com.)

Per serving: 457 calories, 15 grams protein, 18 grams fat (34 percent calories from fat), 9.3 grams saturated fat, 62 grams carbohydrate, 38 milligrams cholesterol, 537 milligrams sodium, 9 grams fiber.

Carb count: 4.

Perfect poached salmon (Saturday)

Servings: Four

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 11-16 minutes


1 lemon, sliced into thin rounds

4 sprigs fresh parsley

1 shallot, thinly sliced

½ cup dry white wine

½ cup water

4 (6- to 8-ounce) skinless salmon fillets, 1 inch thick

½ teaspoon coarse salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

Arrange lemon slices in single layer across bottom of 12-inch skillet. Top with parsley sprigs and shallot; add wine and water. Pat salmon dry with paper towels; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place fish, skinned side down, on top of lemon slices in skillet. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook, adjusting heat as needed to maintain gentle simmer, 11-16 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 125 degrees (for medium-rare). Remove skillet from heat and carefully use spatula to transfer salmon and lemon slices to paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Discard poaching liquid. Carefully lift and tilt fillets to remove lemon slices and transfer to plates; serve. (Adapted from "Foolproof Fish," America's Test Kitchen.)

Per serving: 258 calories, 42 grams protein, 9 grams fat (33 percent calories from fat), 1.6 grams saturated fat, no carbohydrate, 93 milligrams cholesterol, 392 milligrams sodium, no fiber.

Carb count: 0.

Susan Nicholson is an Atlanta-based cookbook author and registered dietitian. She can be reached by email at [email protected].