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story.lead_photo.caption Courtesy of Cattlemen’s Beef Board

SUNDAY: Family night

Celebrate family time with Cajun beef pepper steak with rice (see recipe). Alongside, add mixed greens and crusty bread. Buy a Boston cream pie for dessert.

PLAN AHEAD: Prepare enough steak and save some pie for Monday.

SHOPPING LIST: Cajun or Creole seasoning blend, boneless sirloin steaks, green or red bell peppers, canola oil, packaged Cajun or Creole rice mix with seasonings, mixed greens, crusty bread, Boston cream pie.

MONDAY: Heat and eat

A delicious way to use the leftover steak is in beef, rotini and artichoke salad with balsamic vinaigrette (see recipe). All you need is sourdough bread to go alongside. Slice the leftover pie for dessert.

SHOPPING LIST: tri-colored rotini (corkscrew) pasta, canned quartered water-packed artichokes, red bell pepper, pitted black olives, fresh basil, balsamic vinaigrette, sourdough bread.

TUESDAY: Meatless meal

Dinner couldn't be easier than using your slow cooker for seasoned black beans (see recipe). Serve the beans over brown rice and add carrot and celery sticks on the side, along with whole-grain rolls. For dessert, enjoy red and green grapes.

SHOPPING LIST: dried black beans, onion, green bell pepper, garlic, bay leaves, canned no-salt-added diced tomatoes, unsalted vegetable broth if desired, olive oil, cumin, fresh jalapeno pepper, coarse salt, red onion, eggs, cilantro, reduced-fat sour cream, brown rice, carrots, celery, whole-grain rolls, red and green grapes.

WEDNESDAY : Express cooking

Fix a quick barbecue pizza for dinner tonight: Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place a large ready-to-heat pizza crust on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with 1 cup (of 2 cups total) shredded 50 percent light cheddar cheese. Top with one (15-ounce) container refrigerated fully cooked shredded beef with barbecue sauce and four red onion rings. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake 15-20 minutes or until hot.

Add a packaged green salad and sliced kiwis, and dinner is prepared.

SHOPPING LIST: large ready-to-heat pizza crust, shredded 50 percent light cheddar cheese, refrigerated fully cooked shredded beef with barbecue sauce, red onion, packaged green salad, kiwis.

THURSDAY: Budget dining

Pasta, beans and tuna are all money-savers, and this fettuccine with tuna and white beans adds good flavor to the equation. Cook 12 ounces fettuccine; drain. In a large bowl, combine two (6-ounce) cans drained, flaked, water-packed albacore tuna, one (15-ounce) can rinsed reduced-sodium cannellini beans and 2 cups marinara sauce. Toss with the fettuccine.

Serve with a spinach salad and Italian bread. Plums make a simple dessert.

SHOPPING LIST: fettuccine, canned water-packed albacore tuna, canned reduced-sodium cannellini beans, marinara sauce, fresh spinach, Italian bread, plums.

FRIDAY: Kids favorite

The children will be excited for soft bean tacos. Spread warmed corn tortillas with heated canned fat-free refried beans. Top with salsa, shredded lettuce and shredded 50 percent light cheddar cheese. Serve with canned Mexican-style corn on the side, along with sliced avocados. For dessert, apple slices go well with peanut butter for dipping.

SHOPPING LIST: corn tortillas, canned fat-free refried beans, salsa, lettuce, shredded 50 percent light cheddar cheese, canned Mexican-style corn, avocados, apples, peanut butter.

SATURDAY: Entertain the family

Pork medallions with dijon-dill sauce make a family meal special. Cut a 1- to 11/4-pound pork tenderloin into eight pieces. Place each piece on flat surface; cover pork pieces with waxed paper and flatten gently with heel of hand to about 1/4-inch thickness. Cook in a nonstick skillet on medium heat in two batches, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove to warm platter; season with garlic salt and black pepper on both sides; cover to keep warm. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup plain yogurt, 4 teaspoons Dijon mustard, 2 teaspoons fresh dill leaves and 2 teaspoons sugar; mix well. Serve sauce with pork.

On the side, add couscous, fresh green beans, a Boston lettuce salad and a baguette. Buy an apple pie for dessert and top with light whipped cream.

SHOPPING LIST: pork tenderloin, garlic salt, black pepper, plain yogurt, Dijon mustard, fresh dill, sugar, couscous, fresh green beans, Boston lettuce, baguette, apple pie, light whipped cream.

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. Order yours on Amazon.com today!

** ** **

CAJUN BEEF PEPPER STEAK WITH RICE (Sunday)

Makes: 4 servings (save half of beef for later)

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 7-13 minutes

2 teaspoons Cajun or Creole seasoning blend, divided

2 (1-pound) boneless sirloin steaks, 3/4 inch thick

2 medium green or red bell peppers, cut into quarters

2 teaspoons canola oil

1 (5.5- to 8-ounce) package Cajun or Creole rice mix with seasonings

Press 1 1/2 teaspoons seasoning blend evenly into steaks. Toss peppers with oil and remaining seasoning blend. Place steak in center of grid over medium, ash-covered coals; arrange peppers around steak. Grill, covered, 7-11 minutes for medium-rare to medium doneness (on preheated gas grill: medium heat, 8-13 minutes) and until peppers are tender, turning occasionally. Meanwhile, prepare rice blend according to directions, omitting oil or margarine. Carve steak into slices. Serve with peppers and rice.

Per serving: 294 calories, 26 grams protein, 6 grams fat (20 percent calories from fat), 1.7 grams saturated fat, 33 grams carbohydrate, 56 milligrams cholesterol, 504 milligrams sodium, 2 grams fiber. Carb count: 2.

** ** **

BEEF, ROTINI AND ARTICHOKE SALAD WITH BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE (Monday)

Makes: 8 servings

Preparation time: 10 minutes; refrigeration time: 2 hours

Cooking time: for the pasta

4 cups (about 12 ounces) tri-colored rotini (corkscrew) pasta

1 pound boneless cooked sirloin steak, cut into thin 2-inch strips

1 (14-ounce) can quartered water-packed artichokes, drained

1 large red bell pepper, cut into thin strips

1 cup pitted black olives

2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil

1/2 cup balsamic vinaigrette

Cook pasta according to directions; rinse and drain. In a large bowl, combine steak, cooked pasta, artichokes, bell pepper, olives and basil. Add vinaigrette; toss. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours before serving.

Per serving: 356 calories, 22 grams protein, 12 grams fat (31 percent calories from fat), 3.2 grams saturated fat, 38 grams carbohydrate, 33 milligrams cholesterol, 410 milligrams sodium, 2 grams fiber. Carb count: 2.5.

SEASONED BLACK BEANS (Tuesday)

Makes: 8 servings

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 6-8 hours on high

1 pound dried black beans, sorted and rinsed

1 large onion, chopped

1 large green bell pepper, chopped

5 cloves garlic, minced

2 bay leaves

1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, with liquid

5 cups unsalted vegetable broth or water

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 teaspoons cumin

1 tablespoon seeded and finely chopped fresh jalapeno pepper

1 teaspoon coarse salt

Chopped red onion, chopped hard-cooked eggs, chopped cilantro and reduced-fat sour cream for garnish

In a 4-quart or larger slow cooker, combine beans, onion, bell pepper, garlic, bay leaves, tomatoes, broth or water, olive oil, cumin, jalapeno pepper and salt. Cover and cook on high 6-8 hours or until beans are tender and most of the liquid is absorbed. Remove bay leaves. Garnish as desired and serve.

Per serving: 268 calories, 12 grams protein, 4 grams fat (13 percent calories from fat), 0.5 gram saturated fat, 45 grams carbohydrate, no cholesterol, 374 milligrams sodium, 6 grams fiber. Carb choices: 3.

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