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May 5, 2014

Seven-day menu planner: Mother’s Day Breakfast Bento Box

Plan your meals a week at a time or pick and choose your favorites. Each meal comes with a shopping list.

SUNDAY (Family)

What mother wouldn’t love your homemade rainbow breakfast bento box (see recipe) made by her little darlings? Add 1 percent milk for the cereal, and serve with crisp bacon and toasted English muffins for Mom. Happy Mother’s Day to moms everywhere!

MONDAY (Budget)

Pasta and tuna are two of the most economical ingredients in the pantry, and pasta salad with black olives and tuna proves they can be delicious as well. Cook 2 cups (about 8 ounces) rotini (or other short pasta) according to directions; drain well and transfer to a large serving bowl. Toss with 1/2 cup reduced-fat Italian dressing. Stir in 2 cups (about 1 pound) chopped tomatoes, 2 cups salad greens in bite-size pieces, 2 (6-ounce) cans drained and flaked albacore tuna (packed in water) and 1/3 cup sliced black olives. Toss to mix and serve. Add garlic bread. Enjoy peach cobbler for dessert. Plan ahead: Save enough cobbler for Wednesday.

TUESDAY (Express)

Try this beef goulash (see recipe) for an easy dinner. Serve it with a packaged green salad and crusty bread. All you need are plums for dessert. Plan ahead: Save enough goulash for Wednesday.

WEDNESDAY (Heat and Eat)

Use Tuesday’s leftovers for spicy beef and beans. Prepare 1 (7- to 8 1/2-ounce) package corn muffin mix according to package directions, using the low-fat recipe on package; add 1 teaspoon chili powder to mix and make 6 muffins. Meanwhile, in a 1 1/2-quart baking dish, combine 2 (15-ounce) cans rinsed reduced-sodium pinto beans, 1 (10-ounce) can chopped tomatoes and green chiles, 1 cup chopped (leftover) cooked beef, 1 (8-ounce) can no-salt-added tomato sauce and 1 more teaspoon chili powder. Cover and microwave 6 to 8 minutes on high (100 percent power) or until heated through; stir twice. Split corn muffins; spoon bean mixture over them and garnish with shredded 50 percent reduced-fat cheddar cheese. Serve with jicama slaw. Toss packaged coleslaw mix and peeled, chopped jicama with reduced-fat coleslaw dressing. Dessert is leftover warm cobbler and fat-free vanilla ice cream. Plan ahead: Save enough ice cream for Saturday.

THURSDAY (Kids)

Call the kids for Cuban-style hot dogs and black beans. Heat undrained canned reduced-sodium black beans and canned diced mild green chiles with a splash of red-wine vinegar and cumin. Add sliced hot dogs; simmer 5 minutes. Serve over instant rice. (Adults might want a few drops of hot pepper sauce on theirs.) Serve with carrot sticks and soft rolls. Fresh strawberries with light whipped cream make a dandy dessert. Tip: Check the label and buy the lowest-sodium, lowest-fat hot dogs you can find, such as Applegate.

FRIDAY (Meatless)

Mediterranean couscous and beans is a quick dinner. Heat 3 cups vegetable broth to boiling. Stir in 2 cups couscous, 1/2 cup raisins, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 small chopped tomato and 1 (15-ounce) can rinsed reduced-sodium garbanzo beans (chickpeas). Remove from heat; cover and let stand 5 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Stir gently. Serve immediately and sprinkle each serving with reduced-fat crumbled feta cheese. Serve with sliced cucumbers in plain yogurt along with flatbread. Munch on sugar cookies for dessert.

SATURDAY (Easy Entertaining)

Broil or grill your own pork kebabs for your guests and serve them with curried rice. Cook rice in fat-free chicken broth and add a pinch of curry. Toss with unsweetened shredded coconut. Add (frozen) creamed spinach, bibb lettuce and whole-grain rolls to round out the meal. For dessert, make lemon poppy seed cake (see recipe) and top with leftover ice cream.

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