(Susan Nicholson is on vacation. This is an updated column from December 2007.)

Express Sunday

Make it easy and buy a spiral-sliced ham for dinner. On the side, add deli potato salad, deli coleslaw and whole-grain rolls.

Continue the holiday spirit with peppermint ice cream cake. Horizontally slice a 10-inch angel food cake into 3 layers. Place bottom layer on serving plate. In a bowl, combine 1 quart fat-free vanilla ice cream (slightly softened); 3 (1.5 ounces each) chopped, chocolate-covered peppermint patties; x cup chopped pecans; and n teaspoon peppermint extract. Mix well. Spread one-third mixture on bottom cake layer; top with second layer and one-third of the mixture; repeat for third layer. Cover and freeze; remove from freezer before slicing to serve. (Return cake to freezer after serving.)

Plan ahead: Save enough ham and coleslaw for Monday.

Shopping list: Spiral-sliced ham, deli potato salad, deli coleslaw, whole-grain rolls, angel food cake, fat-free vanilla ice cream, chocolate-covered peppermint patties, pecans, peppermint extract.

Budget Monday

Childhood Christmas memories bring to mind paper-thin slices of country ham from Virginia. Slices of Turner hams or sugar-cured hams can be layered on small, homemade biscuits. (You can bake or buy the biscuits and use the leftover ham.) Add the leftover coleslaw.

Do try Mother’s pineapple bake, as it goes well with the ham: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 1z-quart baking dish with cooking spray. Combine 2 tablespoons flour, b cup sugar, 3 beaten eggs, 2 beaten egg whites and 1 (20-ounce) can crushed pineapple with juice; mix well. Stir in 7 slices cubed dense white bread (crusts removed). Spoon into dish, drizzle top with 3 tablespoons melted butter. Bake 1 hour. If you still want dessert, have a Christmas cookie.

Plan ahead: Thaw and drain spinach for Tuesday.

Shopping list: Biscuits, cooking spray, flour, sugar, eggs, canned crushed pineapple, dense white bread, butter, Christmas cookies.

Family Tuesday

Everyone will be up early for a light meal before the Christmas feast later in the day. Start the day with crustless curried spinach tart (see recipe). Serve it with Canadian bacon and orange sections.

Shopping list: Olive oil, onion, 1 percent milk, flour, eggs, curry powder, coarse salt, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, frozen chopped spinach, part-skim ricotta cheese, cooking spray, Parmesan cheese, tomatoes, salad greens, Canadian bacon, oranges.

Meatless Wednesday

Take a break from meat and try Italian beans and vegetables (see recipe) for a change of pace. Add a mixed green salad and crusty bread. Canned or chilled tropical fruits are good for dessert.

Shopping list: Butternut squash, canned cannellini beans, onion, frozen chopped spinach, lemon, dried thyme, dried sage, coarse salt, vegetable broth, shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, salad greens, crusty bread, canned or chilled tropical fruits.

Kids Thursday

Enough of the fancy food! The kids will be ready for enchilada casserole (see recipe) tonight. Serve with a chopped lettuce salad. Red and green grapes are dessert.

Plan ahead: Save enough casserole for Friday.

Shopping list: Canola oil, onion, enchilada sauce, canned reduced-sodium black beans, canned no-salt-added diced tomatoes, canned Mexicorn, chili powder, cumin, cooking spray, corn tortillas, cooked or canned chicken breast, shredded reduced-fat Mexican four-cheese blend, lettuce, red and green grapes.

Heat and eat Friday

Take the evening off and heat the leftover casserole for dinner. Serve it with an avocado and grapefruit salad on the side. Keep dessert light and enjoy some pears.

Shopping list: Avocados, grapefruit, lettuce (for salad), pears.

Easy entertaining Saturday

Entertain friends with tarragon chicken with baby carrots. Season both sides of 4 bone-in skinless chicken breast halves (about 1v pounds) with coarse salt and pepper to taste. Rub v cup fresh chopped tarragon on both sides of chicken. Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high. Add chicken and cook 2 minutes per side or until golden brown. Add 2 cups frozen small white onions (thawed), 2 cups baby carrots, 1 cup seedless grapes, b cup fat-free chicken broth and 1 teaspoon dried thyme; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium; cover and cook 10 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink. Use a slotted spoon and remove chicken, vegetables and grapes to a serving bowl. Dissolve 2 teaspoons cornstarch in an additional v cup broth. Add to pan and simmer 1 minute or until it thickens. Pour sauce over chicken.

Serve with orzo and crusty rolls. For dessert, make it light with sorbet and almond thins.

Shopping list: Bone-in skinless chicken breast halves, coarse salt, pepper, fresh tarragon, olive oil, frozen small white onions, baby carrots, seedless grapes, fat-free chicken broth, dried thyme, cornstarch, orzo, crusty rolls, sorbet, almond thins.

The Recipes

Crustless curried spinach tart (Tuesday)

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: About 40 minutes; standing time: 10 minutes

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup onion, finely chopped

g cup 1 percent milk

2 tablespoons flour

4 eggs

4 egg whites

1 tablespoon curry powder

g teaspoon coarse salt

a teaspoon garlic powder

h teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 (10-ounce) package frozen

chopped spinach, thawed,

drained and squeezed dry

1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese

2 tablespoons freshly grated

Parmesan cheese

Tomato wedges and salad

greens for plate garnish

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet on medium. Add onion; cook and stir 6 minutes, or until softened. Remove from skillet; cool slightly. In a large bowl, mix milk and flour with wire whisk until smooth. Add eggs, egg whites, curry powder, salt, garlic powder and cayenne; whisk until smooth. Add cooled onion, spinach and ricotta; mix well. Pour into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until top is golden and center is set. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting into serving pieces. Garnish with tomatoes and salad greens. Makes 6 servings.

Per serving: 181 calories, 14g protein, 10g fat (46 percent calories from fat), 3.9g saturated fat, 11g carbohydrate, 144mg cholesterol, 459mg sodium, 2g fiber.

Italian beans and vegetables (Wednesday)

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: About 1 hour

1a pounds butternut squash,

peeled, seeded and cut into

1-inch chunks

3 (19-ounce) cans cannellini beans,

rinsed and drained

1 large onion, cut into thin slices

1 (10-ounce) package frozen

chopped spinach, thawed and

squeezed dry

1 tablespoon chopped lemon peel

(yellow part only)

1a teaspoons dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried sage

1 teaspoon coarse salt (see Note)

1 cup vegetable broth

4 ounces shredded part-skim

mozzarella cheese (1 cup)

f cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Microwave squash 5 minutes on high (100 percent power). In a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, combine squash, beans, onion, spinach, lemon peel, thyme, sage and salt. Stir in broth; cover tightly with foil. Bake 45 minutes or until squash is tender. Remove cover, sprinkle with cheeses and bake, uncovered, 5 minutes or until cheeses melt. Makes 6 servings.

Per serving: 345 calories, 19g protein, 5g fat (14 percent calories from fat), 2.6g saturated fat, 56g carbohydrate, 15mg cholesterol, 1,049mg sodium, 14g fiber.

Enchilada casserole (Thursday)

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 25 to 30 minutes

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 (19-ounce) can enchilada sauce

1 (16-ounce) can reduced-sodium

black beans, rinsed and drained

1 (14a-ounce) can no-salt-added

diced tomatoes

1 (11-ounce) can drained Mexicorn

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

1 (10-ounce) package 6-inch

corn tortillas, divided

3 cups chopped cooked or canned

chicken breast, divided

2 cups shredded reduced-fat

Mexican four-cheese blend,


Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil on medium-high and cook onion 6 minutes or until tender. Stir in enchilada sauce, beans, tomatoes, Mexicorn, chili powder and cumin. Reduce heat to low and cook 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring often. Spoon one-third sauce mixture in a 9 by 13-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Layer with one-third of the tortillas, half the chicken and one-third of the cheese. Repeat layers with one-third of the sauce and tortillas, remaining chicken and one-third of the cheese. Top with remaining tortillas, sauce mixture and cheese. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden and bubbly. Makes 8 servings.

Per serving: 409 calories, 29g protein, 14g fat (32 percent calories from fat), 4.4g saturated fat, 40g carbohydrate, 63mg cholesterol, 865mg sodium, 7g fiber.

Susan Nicholson can be reached by email at and is on Twitter: @7DayMenu.