Easy layered salad (see recipe) is pretty and simple for a family meal. Serve it with your own cool gazpacho and whole-grain rolls. Brownie sundaes are an intense chocolate experience. Top brownie squares with chocolate ice cream and warm chocolate fudge sauce. Plan ahead: Save enough brownies and salad and cook enough eggs for Monday. Save enough ice cream for Saturday.
MONDAY (Heat and Eat)
On Labor Day, take it easy with slow cooker whiskey-molasses shredded beef. Place 1 (2 1/2- to 3-pound) boneless beef bottom round roast or beef chuck center roast, cut into 1-inch pieces, into a 4-quart or larger slow cooker. Combine 1/2 cup whiskey (or non-alcoholic beer), 1/4 cup vinegar, 1 (6-ounce) can no-salt-added tomato paste, 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar, 1/4 cup molasses, 1 teaspoon coarse salt and 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper; pour over roast. Cover and cook on high 4 to 6 hours or on low 8 to 10 hours, or until beef is fork-tender. Remove roast from slow cooker; shred with two forks. Skim fat from sauce as needed. Return beef to slow cooker. Serve beef with sauce on whole-grain sandwich buns. Add potato salad and leftover layered salad. Make deviled eggs with leftover eggs from Monday. For dessert, watermelon and leftover brownies are labor-free desserts. Note: If cooking with whiskey, bourbon works best.
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For a no-meat dinner, rice-stuffed poblanos pack flavor. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Slit 6 poblano peppers lengthwise to stuff with filling. Remove loose seeds and veins, keeping stem intact. Rub peppers with canola oil and place on baking sheet. In a medium bowl, combine 3 cups cooked rice, 2/3 cup light sour cream, 1 cup shredded smoked Gouda cheese, 1 cup frozen corn (thawed) and 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro. Mix well; season with coarse salt and pepper to taste. Divide mixture and fill each pepper; sprinkle with 1/4 cup more cheese. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until peppers are crisp-tender and filling is hot. Serve with steamed carrots tossed with apricot preserves, a red-tipped lettuce salad and corn tortillas. Try fresh pineapple for dessert.
Save a little money with Greek burgers with cucumber sauce (see recipe) on the menu. Add couscous on the side. Strawberry ice cream is a cool dessert.
No need to heat the stove tonight with turkey, bacon and havarti sandwiches on the menu. Cut top 2 inches off a 7-inch round sourdough bread loaf and reserve top. Hollow out loaf, leaving 1-inch-thick shell. Drizzle 2 tablespoons light balsamic vinaigrette evenly in bottom of shell; layer with 1/4 pound (of 1/2 pound total) thinly sliced deli turkey, half of 1 (12-ounce) jar roasted red peppers (drained and sliced) and 3 (1-ounce) slices (6 total) Havarti (or Muenster) cheese. Repeat layers and top with 4 slices cooked bacon. Drizzle with 2 more tablespoons vinaigrette and cover with reserved bread top; press down firmly. Wrap loaf in plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 to 8 hours before serving. Cut into 4 wedges. Serve with baked chips and dill pickles. For dessert, how about fresh tropical fruits?
Treat the kids to taco dogs tonight. Cook 8 lowest-fat, lowest-sodium hot dogs in boiling water; drain. In a microwave-safe bowl, combine 1 cup canned vegetarian refried beans, 1 cup 50 percent light shredded cheddar cheese and 1/2 cup mild salsa; cover and microwave on high (100 percent power) 2 minutes or until heated; stir once. Spread mixture on 1 side of 8 (8-inch) fat-free flour tortillas; place hot dogs on tortillas. Top dogs with shredded lettuce and chopped tomatoes, and roll up. Serve with oven fries (frozen) and sliced avocado. For dessert, sprinkle a little sugar on fresh blueberries.
SATURDAY (Easy Entertaining)
Invite guests for roast salmon with wasabi cream (see recipe). Serve with aromatic jasmine rice, fresh yellow squash, mixed greens and whole-grain rolls. Top leftover ice cream with fresh strawberries.
Easy Layered Salad
Yield: 8 servings
4 cups mixed salad greens
2 tomatoes, chopped (about 2 cups)
1 (8-ounce) package shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
3 hard-cooked eggs, sliced
2 cups cubed cooked ham or turkey
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup low-fat mayonnaise
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1 tablespoon fresh chopped dill
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
Place salad greens in large serving bowl. Layer tomatoes, 1 cup of cheese, peas, eggs, ham and onion over greens. Mix mayonnaise, sour cream, dill and ground mustard in medium bowl until well blended. Spread evenly over salad. Cover. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight until ready to serve. Sprinkle with remaining cheese just before serving. Note: Use any variety of your favorite ingredients such as roast chicken, canned tuna, olives, canned beans, cooked potatoes, cooked green beans, sliced mushrooms, corn or crumbled bacon in this salad.
Per serving: 276 calories, 22 grams protein, 16 grams fat (51 percent calories from fat), 8.2 grams saturated fat, 11 grams carbohydrate, 143 milligrams cholesterol, 415 milligrams sodium, 2 grams fiber.
Greek Burgers With Cucumber Sauce
Yield: 6 servings
1 cup fat-free plain yogurt
1 (1-ounce) package ranch dressing mix
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1 pound lean ground beef
6 (6-inch) fat-free pitas
6 leaves lettuce
1 medium tomato, chopped and seeded
In medium bowl, combine yogurt and dressing mix. Remove 1/2 cup of mixture to another bowl and reserve. To remaining mixture in bowl, add the cucumber. Refrigerate. Heat broiler. Add ground beef to reserved 1/2 cup yogurt mixture; mix well. Divide into 6 patties. Place on broiler pan. Broil 5 inches from heat for 6 minutes on each side or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. Cut off top quarter of each pita and discard. Fill each pita with lettuce, hamburger, cucumber-yogurt sauce and tomato. Serve immediately.
Per serving: 268 calories, 23 grams protein, 5 grams fat (15 percent calories from fat), 1.6 grams saturated fat, 33 grams carbohydrate, 42 milligrams cholesterol, 884 milligrams sodium, 2 grams fiber.
Roast Salmon With Wasabi Cream
Yield: 4 servings
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 (5- to 6-ounce) salmon fillets
1 teaspoon coarse salt, plus to taste
2 teaspoons wasabi powder
4 teaspoons water
1/2 cup light sour cream
Heat oven to 300 degrees. Brush roasting pan with 1 tablespoon oil. Lay salmon, skin-side down, in pan. Brush salmon with remaining oil; season with salt. Bake 20 to 30 minutes or until just cooked through. Meanwhile, dissolve wasabi powder in water. Whisk into sour cream and season to taste with salt. Add more wasabi if desired. Serve with salmon.
Per serving: 287 calories, 32 grams protein, 16 grams fat (51 percent calories from fat), 3.6 grams saturated fat, 2 grams carbohydrate, 76 milligrams cholesterol, 612 milligrams sodium, no fiber.