Menu planner: Top sirloin, chicken thighs are best bets

On Saturday: Sirloin steak with asparagus, tomatoes and orzo for a weekend meal.
On Saturday: Sirloin steak with asparagus, tomatoes and orzo for a weekend meal.

Monday: Meatless

Appetizers are a festive way to greet the beginning of the week. For your finger-food feast, consider shrimp cocktail, room-temperature Maytag blue cheese and water crackers, hummus with vegetable crudites and pita triangles, and fresh fruit on skewers.

For something hot, cook vegetarian breakfast sausage links, blot and then roll in refrigerated crescent rolls and bake.

Tuesday: Salmon and dill

Grill salmon fillets and garnish with sour cream mixed with fresh dill.

On the side, quick-cooking flavored couscous (make it with chicken or veggie broth for even more pow) and green beans roasted with olive oil and minced garlic.

Wednesday: Chicken soup

Spicy chicken and veggie soup comes together quick on a hectic night. Shred the meat from a store-bought rotisserie bird and set aside. In a large stockpot, saute a chopped onion and 2 minced garlic cloves in oil, season with salt and pepper and then add 1 tablespoon chili powder. Dump in a box of chicken broth and a peeled, cubed baking potato.

Cook for about 15 minutes. Add a bag of frozen corn and the shredded chicken. Heat through.

Garnish with sour cream and a sprinkle of fresh herbs or scallions.

Thursday: Novemberfest

Sauerkraut isn’t just for October. Consider this German Potato Pie (see recipe) for an oompa-pa meal. Serve with applesauce and sour cream.

And beer.

If your people need more meat, grill some wursts.

Friday: Meaty Caesar

Forget chicken and grilled shrimp. Give your Caesar salad an upgrade with grilled sliders.

Skewer them on bamboo sticks after you grill 'em and place them over the top of the dressed greens. Texas toast on the side.

Saturday: Easy Entertaining

Invite some pals for Top Sirloin Steak with Asparagus and Tomato Orzo (see recipe).

Add fresh broccoli, a mixed-greens salad and baguettes.

Simple and delicious, broiled honey pears are the perfect dessert. Peel, halve and core pears. Score pear halves and place on baking pan. Drizzle with some honey and shaved parmesan cheese; broil until cheese melts.

Sunday: Family Day

Apricot-Walnut Chicken Thighs (see recipe) are worthy of a family feast.

Serve the savory dish with couscous and steamed snow peas. Add sourdough bread.

For dessert, make or buy a cherry cobbler.

Main dish

German Potato Pie

1 cup sauerkraut, squeezed dry

2 potatoes (about 1 pound), peeled, grated and squeezed dry

8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

2 teaspoons caraway seeds

Salt and pepper

4 large eggs

1 cup heavy cream

1 (9-inch) frozen pie shell

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the sauerkraut, potatoes, bacon and caraway seeds. Season with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, beat together the eggs and cream. Stir into the potato mixture. Pour the mixture into the pie shell, then transfer to a baking pan. Bake until the filling has set and is golden around the edges, about 35 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Top with applesauce or sour cream. Serves 4 to 6.

Source: Rachael Ray.

Main dish

Apricot-Walnut Chicken Thighs

1 1/2 cups gingersnap cookie crumbs (see note)

1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

8 tablespoons all-fruit apricot spreadable fruit (such as Polaner)

8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

4 teaspoons olive oil, divided

Canned apricot halves for garnish

Mint sprigs for garnish

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place cookie crumbs, walnuts and salt on a plate and mix well. Dip chicken into spreadable fruit, then dredge in crumb mixture, coating both sides. On baking sheet coated with cooking spray, place chicken. Drizzle 1/2 teaspoon oil on each thigh. Bake 35 minutes or until chicken is 165 degrees. Arrange chicken on serving plate and garnish with apricots and mint sprigs.

Note: To make crumbs, place gingersnaps in plastic bag and crush with mallet, or use a blender or food processor. Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 591 calories, 26 g fat (41 percent calories from fat), 5.7 g saturated fat, 46 g carbohydrate, 41 g protein, 211 mg cholesterol, 594 mg sodium, 2 g fiber. Carb choices: 3.

Main dish

Top Sirloin with Asparagus and Tomato Orzo

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 boneless beef top sirloin steak, cut 1 inch thick (about 1 1/2 pounds)

Coarse salt

1/3 cup lower-sodium beef broth

1/3 cup dry red wine

1 1/2 cups diced plum tomatoes

4 teaspoons capers (optional)

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup uncooked orzo

1/2 pound asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces

Press pepper evenly onto steak. Heat large nonstick skillet over medium until hot. Place steak in skillet; cook 15 to 18 minutes for medium rare (145 degrees) to medium (160 degrees) doneness, turning occasionally. Season with salt, as desired. Remove from skillet; keep warm. Add broth and wine to skillet; increase heat to medium-high. Cook and stir 1 to 2 minutes or until brown bits attached to skillet are dissolved. Add tomatoes, capers, if desired, and garlic; cook and stir 6 to 7 minutes or until thickened.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions, using salt in the water. Add asparagus during last 3 minutes of cooking time. Drain. Toss with half of the tomato mixture. Carve steak crosswise into slices. Serve steak over pasta. Spoon remaining tomato mixture over steak. Makes 6 servings.

Per serving: 256 calories, 26 grams protein, 5 grams fat (16 percent calories from fat), 1.6 grams saturated fat, 25 grams carbohydrate, 56 milligrams cholesterol, 56 milligrams sodium, 2 grams fiber. Carb choices: 1 1/2..

Per serving: 256 calories, 5 g fat (16 percent calories from fat), 1.6 g saturated fat, 25 g carbohydrate, 26 g protein, 56 mg cholesterol, 56 mg sodium, 2 g fiber. Carb choices: 1 1/2.