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> Family Sunday

Treat the family to savory beef stew (see recipe) for a casual gathering. Serve the meal-in-a-bowl with a romaine salad. Carrot cake is a perfect dessert.

Plan ahead: Save enough beef stew for Monday and some cake for Tuesday.

Shopping list: Beef stew meat, carrots, canned diced no-salt-added tomatoes, onion, packet slow cooker beef stew seasoning mix, dry red wine or low-sodium beef broth, fresh chopped or dried rosemary leaves, Italian bread, romaine, carrot cake.

> Heat and eat Monday

Dice the leftover beef and vegetables, combine them with marinara sauce and heat. Spoon the sauce over spaghetti or any pasta and you have beefy spaghetti for a quick meal. Add a spinach salad and garlic bread alongside. Finish with blueberries for dessert.

Shopping list: Marinara sauce, spaghetti or any pasta, fresh spinach, garlic bread, blueberries.

> Meatless Tuesday

With all the hustle and bustle this week, no-meat spicy bean medley, prepared in the slow cooker, will be stress-free. In a 4-quart or larger slow cooker, stir together 1 3/4 cups vegetable broth, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 (15- to 19-ounce) can each rinsed black beans, chickpeas and cannellini beans and 1/2 cup dry lentils. Cover and cook on low 6 to 7 hours. Stir in 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chilies; cover and cook on low for the last hour or until the lentils are tender. Ladle over brown rice and garnish with chopped fresh cilantro.

Add a mixed green salad and whole-wheat rolls on the side. Slice the leftover cake for dessert.

Shopping list: Vegetable broth, chili powder, cumin, canned black beans, chickpeas and cannellini beans, dry lentils, canned diced tomatoes and green chilies, brown rice, fresh cilantro, salad greens, whole-wheat rolls.

> Budget Wednesday

We're always glad to save some money, especially around the holidays, and you will be too. Make this economical Southwest meatloaf (see recipe) for dinner. Serve it with baked potatoes, zucchini, a lettuce wedge and cornbread (from a mix) for a fine meal. For dessert, tropical fruit is just right.

Plan ahead: Save enough meatloaf for Thursday and enough cornbread for Friday.

Shopping list: 93 to 95 percent lean ground beef, whole-wheat bread, onion, red bell pepper, frozen corn, skim or 1 percent milk, egg, salt, chili powder, cumin, black pepper, cooking spray, thick and chunky salsa, avocado, potatoes to bake, zucchini, lettuce, cornbread mix, tropical fruit.

> Kids Thursday

Get the kids' attention with beef wraps for dinner. Crumble and heat the leftover meatloaf; spoon it onto warm fat-free whole-wheat flour tortillas; top with some shredded 50 percent reduced-fat cheddar cheese, and roll. Garnish with salsa and guacamole. Serve with canned Mexicorn. Pears are your dessert.

Shopping list: Fat-free whole-wheat flour tortillas, 50 percent reduced-fat cheddar cheese, salsa, guacamole, canned Mexicorn, pears.

> Express Friday

You'll want a quick meal tonight, so buy a spiral-sliced ham and serve it with mashed sweet potatoes (refrigerated), your baked apples, deli coleslaw and leftover cornbread. Christmas cookies are always a fun dessert.

Plan ahead: Save some ham and cookies for Saturday; make Saturday's brunch entree today.

Shopping list: Spiral-sliced ham, refrigerated mashed sweet potatoes, apples to bake, deli coleslaw, Christmas cookies.

> Family Saturday

Enjoy delicious ham and swiss Christmas brunch bake (see recipe) before the big meal later in the day. Serve the savory dish with tomato wedges and celery sticks. For dessert, ambrosia and leftover Christmas cookies fit right into the season.

Shopping list: Cooking spray, dense whole-wheat bread, Dijon mustard, reduced-fat or regular Swiss cheese, eggs, skim or 1 percent milk, Parmesan cheese, plain panko bread crumbs, fresh parsley, butter, tomatoes, celery, ambrosia.

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THE RECIPES

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SAVORY BEEF STEW (Sunday)

Makes 8 servings

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 8 hours on low

2 pounds well-trimmed beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes

4 carrots, cut into 1-inch chunks

2 (14.5-ounce) cans undrained diced no-salt-added tomatoes

1 medium onion, cut into wedges

1 (1.5-ounce) packet slow cooker beef stew seasoning mix

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup dry red wine or low-sodium beef broth

1 tablespoon fresh chopped or 1 teaspoon crushed dried rosemary leaves

8 slices toasted Italian bread

In a 4-quart or larger slow cooker, place beef, carrots, tomatoes and onion. In a small bowl, blend seasoning mix, water, wine or broth and rosemary. Pour over beef and vegetables; toss to coat. Cover. Cook 8 hours on low. To serve, place 1 slice toasted bread into each bowl. Spoon stew over bread.

Per serving: 310 calories, 27g protein, 9g fat (26 percent calories from fat), 3.2g saturated fat, 27g carbohydrate, 71mg cholesterol, 742mg sodium, 3g fiber.

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SOUTHWEST MEATLOAF (Wednesday)

Makes 8 servings

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 1 hour, 20 minutes; standing time: 5 minutes

2 pounds 93 to 95 percent lean ground beef

1 cup soft whole-wheat bread crumbs (crusts removed)

3/4 cup finely chopped onion

1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper

1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed

1/2 cup skim or 1 percent milk

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup thick and chunky salsa

Sliced avocado for garnish

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine beef, crumbs, onion, bell pepper, corn, milk, egg, salt, chili powder, cumin and black pepper; mix thoroughly but lightly. Shape mixture into a 10-by-4-inch loaf. Place on rack coated with cooking spray in broiler pan. Bake 1 hour, 15 minutes to 1 hour, 20 minutes or until internal temperature is 160 degrees. Let stand 5 minutes; top with salsa and cut into slices and serve. Garnish with avocado.

Per serving: 202 calories, 27g protein, 7g fat (30 percent calories from fat), 2.5g saturated fat, 9g carbohydrate, 89mg cholesterol, 349mg sodium, 1g fiber.

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HAM AND SWISS CHRISTMAS BRUNCH BAKE (Saturday)

Makes 10 servings

Preparation time: 15 minutes; refrigeration time: 1 hour to overnight

Cooking time: 30 to 35 minutes

20 (1-ounce) slices dense whole-wheat bread, crusts removed (1 1/4 pounds)

2 to 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

10 slices leftover cooked ham (about 1 ounce each)

10 slices reduced-fat or regular Swiss cheese (about 3/4 ounce each)

4 eggs

2 cups skim or 1 percent milk

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup plain panko bread crumbs

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

4 1/2 teaspoons butter, melted

In a 9-by-13-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray, arrange half the bread slices, overlapping as necessary. Brush bread in dish with mustard. Top each slice of bread with ham and Swiss cheese, overlapping as necessary. Top with remaining bread slices, arranging them over first layer of bread slices as in making sandwiches. In a medium bowl, beat eggs and milk with whisk until well blended. Carefully pour over "sandwiches." Cover; refrigerate at least 1 hour but no longer than 16 hours. Just before baking, in a small bowl, mix Parmesan, bread crumbs, parsley and butter. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Sprinkle crumb topping over casserole. Bake, uncovered, 30 to 35 minutes or until sandwiches are puffed and golden brown.

Per serving: 322 calories, 24g protein, 12g fat (31 percent calories from fat), 4.6g saturated fat, 34g carbohydrate, 117mg cholesterol, 851mg sodium, 4g fiber.