7 Day Menu Planner: Save money with a spicy brown rice taco bowl

Gwynn Galvin, SwirlsOfFlavor.com

SUNDAY (Family) -- Buy a spiral-sliced ham and pair it with rice, zucchini and corn casserole (see recipe). Add a romaine salad and whole-grain bread. Your apple crisp is good for dessert, especially with a little vanilla ice cream on top.

PLAN AHEAD: Save enough ham and crisp for Tuesday; save some ice cream for Saturday.

SHOPPING LIST: spiral-sliced ham, canola oil, zucchini, onion, eggs, brown rice, no-salt-added canned corn, canned chopped green chiles, shredded 50 percent light cheddar cheese, crumbled queso fresco or reduced-fat feta cheese, romaine, whole-grain bread, ingredients for apple crisp, vanilla ice cream.

MONDAY (Budget) -- Be money-wise and prepare spicy brown rice taco bowls (see recipe) for a low-cost entree. Serve with mixed greens. Enjoy flan (from mix) for dessert.

SHOPPING LIST: brown rice, lean ground beef, chili powder, cumin, coarse salt, garlic powder, salsa, avocados, tomatoes, shredded 50 percent light cheddar cheese, red onion, reduced-fat sour cream, green onion, mixed greens, flan mix.

TUESDAY (Heat and Eat) -- Leftover ham makes a great sandwich. Spread basil pesto on Italian bread and layer with arugula, brie and the ham. Add broccoli slaw on the side. Leftover crisp would be good for dessert.

SHOPPING LIST: basil pesto, Italian bread, arugula, brie, broccoli slaw.

WEDNESDAY (Meatless) -- I'm always looking for an easy risotto recipe, and this microwave recipe for tomato-basil risotto (see recipe) caught my attention. Serve it with a spinach salad with hard-boiled egg wedges and red bell pepper rings. Add cheese toast. For an easy dessert, try orange sections sprinkled with toasted coconut.

SHOPPING LIST: unsalted vegetable broth, dry white wine, fresh basil, olive oil, shallot, arborio rice, tomatoes, coarse salt, pepper, Parmesan cheese, fresh spinach, eggs, red bell peppers, cheese and bread for cheese toast, oranges, coconut.

THURSDAY (Express) -- You can have a quick dinner with beefy Korean sandwiches. For one sandwich: Spread 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish on both sides of a split 6-inch baguette. Layer with 3 ounces thinly sliced deli roast beef. Top one side with 2 tablespoons drained, chopped kimchi and 2 cups baby arugula; close sandwich. Serve with sweet potato chips. Kiwis are good for dessert.

SHOPPING LIST: prepared horseradish, sandwich baguettes, sliced deli roast beef, kimchi, arugula, sweet potato chips, kiwis.

FRIDAY (Kids) -- Have fun with the kids and plan a sloppy hot dog night. Heat 1 tablespoon canola oil on medium. Cook ½ cup chopped yellow bell pepper for 2 minutes or until tender. Stir in ½ cup barbecue sauce, 1 (8-ounce) can no-salt-added tomato sauce and 1 pound lowest-fat lowest-sodium hot dogs (cut into ¼-inch pieces). Simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Spoon into 8 split whole-grain hot dog buns.

Serve with carrot and celery sticks. Add a mixed berry smoothie: Combine 1 pint raspberry sorbet, ¾ cup raspberries, ¾ cup blackberries, ½ cup blueberries and 2 cups 1 percent milk in a blender. Puree until smooth; strain seeds and serve.

TIP: Use fresh or frozen berries (no need to thaw frozen ones).

SHOPPING LIST: canola oil, yellow bell pepper, barbecue sauce, no-salt-added tomato sauce, lowest-fat lowest-sodium hot dogs, whole-grain hot dog buns, carrots, celery, raspberry sorbet, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, 1 percent milk.

SATURDAY (Easy Entertaining) -- Make it a casual entertaining evening with grilled burgers on the menu. On the side, add barbecue potato salad. In a large bowl, combine 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons unsalted chicken broth, ½ cup ketchup, ¼ cup cider vinegar, 1½ teaspoons ground mustard, 1 teaspoon black pepper and ½ teaspoon coarse salt; mix well. Add 3 pounds warm, cooked, quartered red potatoes, 1 cup thinly sliced celery, 1 cup coarsely chopped red bell pepper and ½ cup chopped red onion; toss gently to coat. Serve immediately.

Add your deviled eggs, sliced tomatoes, lettuce, pickles, low-fat mayonnaise and mustard. Make butterscotch sundaes for dessert with leftover ice cream and butterscotch topping.

SHOPPING LIST: hamburger, buns, olive oil, unsalted chicken broth, ketchup, cider vinegar, ground mustard, black pepper, coarse salt, red potatoes, celery, red bell pepper, red onion, ingredients for deviled eggs, tomatoes, lettuce, pickles, low-fat mayonnaise, mustard, butterscotch topping.


The recipes

Rice, zucchini and corn casserole (Sunday)

Servings: makes 8 servings

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: about 1 hour


2 teaspoons canola oil

1 pound grated zucchini

½ cup chopped onion

2 whole eggs

2 egg whites

3 cups cooked brown rice

1 cup no-salt-added canned corn

2 (4-ounce) cans chopped green chiles, drained

2 cups shredded 50 percent light cheddar cheese

4 ounces crumbled queso fresco or reduced-fat feta cheese

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet on medium. Add zucchini and onion; cook, stirring often, 5 minutes or until zucchini is softened. Remove from heat; set aside. In a large bowl, beat eggs with a fork; stir in egg whites, cooked rice, corn, chiles, cheeses and zucchini mixture. Mix well. Pour into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake 45-50 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Serve.

Per serving: 254 calories, 16 grams protein, 9 grams fat (31 percent calories from fat), 4.5 grams saturated fat, 29 grams carbohydrate, 66 milligrams cholesterol, 342 milligrams sodium, 3 grams fiber.

Carb count: 2.


Spicy brown rice taco bowls (Monday)

Servings: makes 4 servings

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: fewer than 10 minutes plus brown rice


1 cup uncooked brown rice (3 cups cooked)

1 pound lean ground beef

2-3 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

¼ teaspoon coarse salt

½ teaspoon garlic powder

1 cup salsa

2 avocados, pitted, peeled and sliced

1 cup chopped tomatoes

1 cup shredded 50 percent light cheddar cheese

2 tablespoons chopped red onion

4 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream

1 green onion, sliced on bias

Cook rice according to directions. Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet, cook beef, chili powder, cumin, salt and garlic powder on medium-high, 6 minutes or until beef is no longer pink. Stir in salsa; cook 2 minutes or until heated through. To assemble: Divide ingredients evenly among four bowls, beginning with brown rice. On top of rice, compose beef mixture, avocado, tomatoes, cheese and red onion around the edge of bowls. Top with sour cream and sliced green onions for garnish. Serve with additional salsa if desired. (Adapted from Swirls of Flavor, www.SwirlsOfFlavor.com.)

Per serving: 619 calories, 39 grams protein, 30 grams fat (42 percent calories from fat), 9.5 grams saturated fat, 53 grams carbohydrate, 88 milligrams cholesterol, 664 milligrams sodium, 10 grams fiber.

Carb count: 3.5.


Tomato-basil risotto (Wednesday)

Servings: makes 8 servings

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: about 20 minutes


2 (14-ounce) cans unsalted vegetable broth

½ cup dry white wine

¾ cup loosely packed fresh basil

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium shallot, minced

2 cups arborio rice

3 medium tomatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)

¼ teaspoon coarse salt

¼ teaspoon coarsely ground pepper

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat broth and wine over medium-high until bubbles form around edge of pan. Meanwhile, coarsely chop basil. In a large microwave-safe dish, combine ¼ cup basil, oil and shallot. Microwave on high, uncovered, 1 minute or until shallot softens. Add rice and stir to coat. Cook on high 1 minute. Stir broth into rice. Cover and cook on medium (50 percent power) 15 minutes or until most of liquid is absorbed, stirring once. Meanwhile, chop tomatoes. Stir tomatoes, salt and pepper into rice mixture. Cover and cook on high 3-4 minutes or until rice is tender but still firm; stir once. Stir in Parmesan and remaining basil. Serve immediately.

Per serving: 227 calories, 5 grams protein, 3 grams fat (13 percent calories from fat), 1 gram saturated fat, 42 grams carbohydrate, 4 milligrams cholesterol, 239 milligrams sodium, 2 grams fiber.

Carb count: 3.

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.