If you've got any leftover dried cranberries, break them out for wild rice salad with cranberries and pecans. This is a light vegetarian meal and quite appropriate for this time of the year.
To 1 1/2 cups of cooked wild rice add 1/2 cup dried cranberries, 3/4 cup toasted pecan halves and a couple of diced scallions or 1 leek. Dress with a vinaigrette made of 3 tablespoons each olive oil and apple cider vinegar, plus 2 teaspoons each orange zest and honey.
Tuesday: Put an egg on it
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Salads, burgers and hash all benefit from a cooked egg on top. The same can be said for a mess of sautéed veggies. Skillet-poached eggs with spinach and ham is a quick and inexpensive weeknight dinner.
Sauté fresh spinach and sliced leeks in olive oil, along with diced ham. Crack a few eggs on top, season with salt and pepper, and put the lid on. It’s ready when the eggs are done to your liking. Serve with hot, buttered toast.
Wednesday: Noodle night
Ramen noodle stir-fry starts with cooked, flavored ramen noodles. Make them according to package instructions.
In a skillet, sauté diced onions until soft, and then add sliced water chestnuts and sugar snap peas along with grated carrots. Cook for a few minutes to heat through then add shredded rotisserie chicken. Mix with cooked noodles and top with crunchy chopped peanuts or cold bean sprouts.
Thursday: Cajun country
The spicy meat in Crispy Cajun Chicken with Bell Pepper Slaw (see recipe) plays nicely with the cold slaw.
The recipe calls for the chicken cutlets to be fried, but you could sauté them as an alternative. The pieces won’t be crispy, but you’ll save some calories using less oil.
Friday: Meaty Caesar
Toss a flank steak in marinade before you leave the house this morning for tonight’s grilled steak Caesar salad. Grill and slice across the grain then layer on top of ice-cold romaine with hunky croutons and chunky shavings of parmesan. I like Cardini’s dressing when I don’t have time to make my own.
Saturday: Easy Entertaining
Invite your favorite friends for Thai Shrimp Curry with Grapes and Fresh Basil (see recipe).
Serve with basmati rice and a Bibb lettuce salad with flatbread. Sprinkle vanilla ice cream with toasted coconut for dessert.
Sunday: Family Day
On a cooler winter day, bring the family together for Lemon-Herb Beef Pot Roast (see recipe).
Serve the combo meal with mixed greens and whole-grain rolls.
Make creamy couscous pudding for dessert. In a medium saucepan, mix 3 cups 1 percent milk, 1/4 cup golden raisins, 1 teaspoon grated orange peel, 1 teaspoon butter and honey to taste. Bring to a boil. Add 1 cup couscous and 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract. Remove from heat, cover and let stand 5 minutes. Serve warm with chopped pecans and a sprinkling of cinnamon.
Thai Shrimp Curry with Grapes and Fresh Basil
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 (14-ounce) can unsweetened light coconut milk
3/4 cup unsalted chicken stock
1 to 2 tablespoons green curry paste
1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 1/2 cups red seedless grapes, halved
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet on medium. Add onion and ginger; cook 4 minutes or until onion is softened. Add coconut milk and stock, and bring to simmer on low; cook uncovered 4 minutes or until slightly thickened. Whisk in curry paste. Add shrimp and fish sauce; cook 3 minutes or until shrimp are opaque in center. Transfer to serving dish; stir in grapes, lime juice and basil. Makes 6 servings.
Note: Look for green curry paste and fish sauce in the ethnic-foods section of your supermarket.
Per serving: 207 calories, 16 g protein, 9 g fat (41 percent calories from fat), 2.7 g saturated fat, 14 g carbohydrates, 143 mg cholesterol, 626 mg sodium, 1 gram fiber. Carb choices: 1.
Lemon-Herb Beef Pot Roast
2 teaspoons lemon pepper seasoning
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil, divided
1 (3- to 3 1/2-pound) beef chuck pot roast
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 cup water
2 cups fresh baby carrots
1 pound small red potatoes, halved
1 medium onion, cut into 6 wedges
2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
Combine lemon pepper seasoning, garlic and 1 teaspoon dried basil; press onto beef. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium until hot. Brown roast on all sides; drain well. Add 1 cup water to pan; bring to boil. Reduce heat; cover tightly and simmer 2 hours. Add carrots, potatoes and onion; continue cooking, covered, 30 to 45 minutes or until roast and vegetables are fork-tender. Remove roast and vegetables; keep warm. Skim fat from cooking liquid. Shake the cornstarch mixture and stir it into cooking liquid; add the remaining basil. Cook and stir 1 minute or until sauce is thickened and bubbly. Carve roast; serve with vegetables and sauce. Makes 12-14 servings.
Per serving (for 12): 190 calories, 23 grams protein, 6 grams fat (28 percent calories from fat), 1.8 grams saturated fat, 11 grams carbohydrate, 44 milligrams cholesterol, 47 milligrams sodium, 2 grams fiber. Carb choices: 1.
Crispy Cajun Chicken with Bell Pepper Slaw
1/2 cup mayonnaise, divided
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 (16-ounce) bag coleslaw mix
2 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
2 cups panko bread crumbs
6 thin-cut boneless, skinless chicken cutlets (about 1 1/4 pounds)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Whisk together 1/4 cup mayonnaise, vinegar and honey in large bowl. Add coleslaw mix and peppers and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside. Combine Cajun seasoning and remaining mayonnaise in shallow dish. Place panko in separate shallow dish. Pat chicken dry with pepper towels. Coat cutlets with mayonnaise mixture, then dredge in panko, pressing to adhere.
Heat 1/4 cup oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Fry half of the cutlets until deep golden and crisp, about 2 minutes per side; transfer to paper towel-lined plate. Discard oil, wipe out skillet and repeat with remaining oil and cutlets. Serve with slaw. Serves 4.
Source: “The Best Simple Recipes” from America’s Test Kitchen (2010).