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story.lead_photo.caption Courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen

SUNDAY: Family day

Prepare a large (4-6 pounds) baked chicken for the family and serve with roasted fanned potatoes. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Peel four medium baking potatoes and halve lengthwise. Lay cut sides down on cutting board and cut thin slices in a row crosswise (do not cut through). Carefully bend to separate each section, not to break, but to form a fan. In a shallow dish, mix together 1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Drizzle the potatoes with 2 more tablespoons olive oil, roll tops of each potato in crumb mixture and sprinkle with paprika. Arrange in baking dish lined with nonstick foil; bake 30 minutes. Remove foil; continue baking 15 minutes or until crumbs are browned and potatoes are tender.

Add fresh broccoli florets, a lettuce wedge and dinner rolls. Cool off with lime sherbet for dessert.

PLAN AHEAD: Save enough chicken for Monday; save enough sherbet for Friday.

SHOPPING LIST: large chicken to bake, baking potatoes, Italian breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, paprika, fresh broccoli, lettuce, dinner rolls, lime sherbet.

MONDAY: Heat and eat

Smoky Mountain chicken and rice casserole (see recipe) makes great use of leftover chicken. Add a mixed green salad and whole-wheat bread. Plums are a simple dessert.

SHOPPING LIST: cooking spray, reduced-fat sour cream, canned condensed reduced-fat cream of chicken soup, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, coarse salt, black pepper, rice, smoked cheddar cheese, mixed greens, whole-wheat bread, plums.

TUESDAY: Kids favorite

Make meatball tacos for kid fare tonight. Cook frozen meatballs according to directions. Dice and heat them in canned taco sauce. Spoon into heated taco shells. Top with reduced-fat sour cream and 50 percent reduced-fat cheddar cheese. Serve with no-yolk buttered noodles and green beans. For dessert, banana pudding (instant banana pudding made with 1 percent milk and sliced bananas) is a favorite among children.

SHOPPING LIST: frozen meatballs, canned taco sauce, taco shells, reduced-fat sour cream, 50 percent reduced-fat cheddar cheese, no-yolk noodles, butter, green beans, instant banana pudding mix, 1 percent milk, bananas.

WEDNESDAY: Express cooking

Buy deli tuna salad and make a tuna platter on leaf lettuce with tomato wedges, hard-cooked egg slices and pickled beets surrounding the tuna. Sprinkle all with paprika. Serve with reduced-fat Italian dressing. Add baked potato chips and whole-wheat pita bread. Light strawberry ice cream is a good dessert.

SHOPPING LIST: deli tuna salad, lettuce, tomatoes, eggs, jar pickled beets, paprika, reduced-fat Italian dressing, baked potato chips, whole-wheat pita bread, light strawberry ice cream.

THURSDAY: Budget dining

Tilapia is economical and easy to season, as with this sauteed tilapia with cilantro chimichurri (see recipe). Serve with O'Brien potatoes (from frozen), deli coleslaw and cornbread (from mix). You'll love nectarines for dessert.

SHOPPING LIST: tilapia fillets, coarse salt, canola oil, lemon, red wine vinegar, dried oregano, parsley, cilantro, garlic, crushed red pepper, olive oil, frozen O'Brien potatoes, deli coleslaw, cornbread mix, nectarines.

FRIDAY: Meatless meal

Buy a frozen no-meat lasagna for dinner.

Alongside, try this antipasto salad: Arrange marinated artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, olives, sliced celery and cherry tomatoes on lettuce. Serve with reduced-fat Italian dressing. Add garlic bread. Scoop leftover sherbet for dessert.

SHOPPING LIST: any no-meat frozen lasagna, marinated artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, olives, celery, cherry tomatoes, lettuce, reduced-fat Italian dressing, garlic bread.

SATURDAY: Easy entertaining

Invite guests for delicious Cajun pecan pork chops (see recipe). Serve with roasted sweet potato wedges, fresh snow peas, a spinach salad and sourdough bread. Buy a cheesecake and top with any fresh berries for dessert.

SHOPPING LIST: pecan halves, plain dry breadcrumbs, coarse salt, paprika, dried oregano, cayenne pepper, flour, buttermilk, lean boneless pork loin chops, cooking spray, sweet potatoes to roast, fresh snow peas, fresh spinach, sourdough bread, store-bought cheesecake, any fresh berries.

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:

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Makes: 8 servings

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 20-25 minutes

1 cup reduced-fat sour cream

1 (10 3/4-ounce) can condensed reduced-fat cream of chicken soup

2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

4 cups cooked rice

2 cups shredded cooked chicken

1 cup shredded smoked cheddar cheese

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. In a large bowl, stir together sour cream, soup, chipotles, salt and black pepper until well-blended. Stir in rice, chicken and cheese. Spoon into baking dish. Bake uncovered 20-25 minutes or until bubbly, then broil 2 to 3 minutes to lightly brown top.

Per serving: 291 calories, 18 grams protein, 11 grams fat (34% calories from fat), 4.9 grams saturated fat, 29 grams carbohydrate, 60 milligrams cholesterol, 621 milligrams sodium, 1 gram fiber. Carb count: 2.


Makes: 4 servings

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: less than 10 minutes


4 (6- to 8-ounce) skinless tilapia fillets, split lengthwise down natural seam

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 lemon, quartered into wedges


2 tablespoons hot water

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 cup minced fresh parsley

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

Sprinkle tilapia with salt and let sit at room temperature 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare chimichurri. Combine in a bowl: water, vinegar and oregano; let stand 5 minutes. Add parsley, cilantro, garlic, salt and red pepper; stir to combine. Whisk in olive oil. Refrigerate until time to serve.

Pat tilapia dry with paper towels. Heat canola oil in a large nonstick skillet on high until just smoking. Add thick halves of fillets to skillet and cook, tilting skillet occasionally to distribute oil, 2-3 minutes or until golden brown. Using two spatulas, flip fillets and cook 2-3 minutes or until second sides are golden brown. Transfer to serving platter. Return skillet to high heat. When oil is just smoking, add thin halves of fillets and cook 1 minute or until golden. Flip and cook 1 minute or until second sides are brown. Serve with lemon wedges and chimichurri. (Adapted from "Foolproof Fish," America's Test Kitchen.)

Per serving (tilapia only): 252 calories, 40 grams protein, 10 grams fat (37 percent calories from fat), 1.7 grams saturated fat, no carbohydrate, 99 milligrams cholesterol, 343 milligrams sodium, no fiber. Carb count: 0.

Per serving (chimichurri only): 123 calories, no protein, 14 grams fat (97 percent calories from fat), 1.9 grams saturated fat, 1 gram carbohydrate, no cholesterol, no sodium, no fiber. Carb count: 0.


Makes: 6 servings

Preparation time: 15 minutes; chilling time: 1 hour

Cooking time: about 20 minutes

1/2 cup pecan halves, toasted (see note)

1/2 cup plain dry breadcrumbs

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 cup flour

1/2 cup buttermilk

6 (4-ounce) lean boneless pork loin chops

Process pecans, breadcrumbs, salt, paprika, oregano and cayenne pepper in a blender until pecans are finely chopped. Place flour, buttermilk and pecan mixture into three separate shallow containers. Coat pork chops in flour, dip in buttermilk and coat in pecan mixture. Chill 1 hour.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange pork on a rack coated with cooking spray. Place rack in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Coat pork evenly with cooking spray. Bake 15 minutes. Turn; coat pork with cooking spray. Bake 5 more minutes or until internal temperature reaches 155 degrees. Remove from oven and serve.

NOTE: Spread pecans evenly on a flat baking sheet; toast in a 350-degree oven for 5-8 minutes or until golden.

Per serving: 266 calories, 25 grams protein, 13 grams fat (46% calories from fat), 3.4 grams saturated fat, 10 grams carbohydrate, 65 milligrams cholesterol, 195 milligrams sodium, 1 gram fiber. Carb count: 0.5.

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