Menu planner: Quinoa with black beans leads workweek

Monday: Meatless

Hominy is a curious ingredient and most-often seen in the Mexican soup posol. Hominy are corn kernels that have been soaked in an alkali solution, causing them to puff up — sort of like soft popcorn. When dried, hominy is ground for grits.

In Quinoa with Black Beans and Hominy (see recipe), the soft hominy plays nicely with the earthy quinoa and the bright flavors in the dressing. This is one of those dishes that packs well for lunch the next day.

Tuesday: Soup’s on

With that slight fall nip in the air, turkey sausage and gnocchi soup is a comforting weeknight meal.

To make the soup, brown 6 ounces bulk turkey sausage. Add 2 cups water, 16 ounces frozen gnocchi, a 14-ounce can of beef broth and a 14-ounce can of Italian-style chopped, stewed tomatoes with juice. Simmer for 10 minutes. Serve with grated parmesan cheese.

Wednesday: New side

Thinking about a new kind of mashed side for the Thanksgiving table? Practice tonight with Food Network magazine’s mashed ginger and orange carrots served alongside a carved chicken.

Peel and roughly chop 2 pounds carrots and boil until soft, about 20 minutes; drain. Puree with 3 tablespoons olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Warm 1 tablespoon olive oil with a teaspoon each grated fresh ginger and orange zest and drizzle over the mashed carrots.

Thursday: Build a bar

The idea of the baked potato bar is certainly a good one for a party, but think how festive it would be for a weeknight family dinner.

You’ll have to limit the offerings, but consider Sloppy Joes and shredded cheddar; sautéed onions and sour cream; sautéed ham cubes with brie, then broiled; or maybe roasted veggies and feta.

Friday: Pizza night

Tonight, a tube of refrigerated pizza dough is your friend, and chicken and artichoke pizza will become your BFF.

Press the dough into a pizza pan. Spread it with 1/4 cup of creamy Caesar dressing that has been mixed with a few tablespoons of grated parmesan. Top with cooked chicken cubes, marinated artichoke hearts (drained and coarsely chopped), chopped Roma tomatoes and a heaping handful of shredded fontina or Jack cheese.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in a 400-degree oven.

Saturday: Easy Entertaining

Invite guests for grilled lamb loin chops with six spices.

Bring 4 lamb loin chops to room temperature. In spice or coffee grinder, grind 1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds, 1 tablespoon fennel seeds, 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, 1 1/2 teaspoons black peppercorns, 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt and 1 bay leaf until fine. Sprinkle spice rub over loin chops. Heat grill to medium-high. Grill chops about 4 to 6 minutes per side or 145 degrees for medium-rare. Be careful not to burn spice rub. Let chops stand lightly covered at least 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with grilled fingerling potatoes and green beans. Add a bibb lettuce salad and baguettes. For dessert: ice cream.

Sunday: Family Day

That wonderful aroma coming from the kitchen is Roasted Chicken with Fruit Compote.

Serve the roaster with lemony sweet potatoes. Bake the sweet potatoes in a 350-degree oven about 45 minutes or until tender. Mix some butter, fresh lemon juice and lemon zest together and add to split potatoes.

Serve with frozen petite green peas and crusty rolls. Buy a Boston cream pie for dessert.

Main dish

Quinoa with Black Beans and Hominy

1 1/2 cups quinoa

2 cups low-sodium broth (chicken or vegetable)

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

Grated zest of large lemon

1/4 cup safflower or grape-seed oil

3 tablespoons light agave nectar

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 2 large limes)

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 (15-ounce) can hominy, rinsed and drained

1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves

Use sieve to rinse quinoa. In a medium saucepan bring the quinoa, broth, 1/2 teaspoon salt and lemon zest to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat, cover the pan and simmer until the liquid has been absorbed and the quinoa is tender, about 20 minutes. Remove pan from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

To make the dressing, in a small bowl whisk together the oil, agave, lime juice, vinegar, cumin, remaining salt and pepper until smooth. In a serving bowl, combine the quinoa, black beans, hominy and cilantro. Add the dressing and toss until coated. Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 6.

Source: “Giada’s Feel Good Food” by Giada de Laurentiis ($32.50, Potter).

Main dish

Roasted Chicken with Fruit Compote

1 (5- to 7-pound) roasting chicken

1 tablespoon canola oil

coarse salt and pepper to taste

2 red or green apples, cored and cut into wedges

2 red or green ripe pears, cored and cut into wedges

2 green onions, sliced

1/2 cup dried apricots

1/2 cup pitted prunes

1/2 cup apple cider or juice

1/2 cup fat-free chicken broth

10 cloves

1 lemon

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Remove giblets from chicken. Place breast-side up in roasting pan. Rub skin with oil and season inside and outside with salt and pepper. Cover with foil. Roast 45 minutes. Remove foil and roast 30 minutes. Meanwhile, combine apples, pears, green onions, apricots, prunes, cider or juice, broth and cloves. Cut 6 strips peel from lemon, each about 3 inches long (yellow part only); add to apple mixture. Arrange apple mixture around roaster in pan. Roast, stirring fruit and basting occasionally, 1 hour and 15 minutes or until meat thermometer inserted in thickest part of thigh registers 165 degrees.

Remove chicken from pan; cover and let stand 10 to 15 minutes. Discard lemon peel and cloves. Remove fruit to serving platter. Skim fat from pan juices. Serve chicken with fruit and pan juices. Remove skin before eating. Makes 12 servings.