Family Sunday

Relieve some holiday stress and buy a spiral-sliced ham for dinner. Stop by the deli for potato salad and coleslaw. Add whole-grain rolls.

We always get in the spirit with peppermint ice cream cake. Horizontally slice a 10-inch angel food cake in three layers. Place the bottom layer on a serving plate. In a bowl, combine 1 quart fat-free vanilla ice cream (slightly softened), 3 (1.5 ounce) chopped chocolate-covered peppermint patties, x cup chopped pecans and n teaspoon peppermint extract; mix well. Spread x mixture on bottom cake layer; top with second cake layer and x of the mixture; repeat for last layer. Cover and freeze; remove from freezer before slicing to serve.

Plan ahead: Save enough ham and refreeze the cake for Tuesday.

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.

Meatless Monday

Try meatless Italian beans and vegetables (see recipe) for a change. 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.

Budget/Christmas Eve Tuesday

We always ate ham biscuits (use leftover ham) on Christmas eve before we went to the children’s service at our church.

And mother always made this pineapple bake to serve on the side. (I still have the well-worn recipe in her unmistakable schoolteacher handwriting.) Heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 1 z-quart baking dish with cooking spray. In a large bowl, 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. Add 7 slices cubed white bread (crusts removed). Spoon into dish and drizzle top with 3 tablespoons melted butter. Bake 1 hour.

Add a spinach salad alongside your meal. If you must have a little something extra, peppermint ice cream cake is in the freezer.

Plan ahead: Make Wednesday’s strata this evening.

Shopping list: Biscuits, cooking spray, flour, sugar, eggs, canned crushed pineapple, white bread, butter, fresh spinach.

Family/Christmas Wednesday

Everyone will be up early, so bake the mushroom, bacon and Swiss strata (see recipe) right away. Serve with Canadian bacon and fresh orange wedges. Munch on Christmas cookies to celebrate the holiday.

Shopping list: Ciabatta or dense white bread, butter, onion, sliced mushrooms, cooking spray, reduced-fat shredded Swiss cheese, center-cut bacon slices, 1 percent milk, egg substitute, fresh thyme, black pepper, coarse salt, Canadian bacon, oranges, Christmas cookies.

Kids Thursday

Enough of the fancy food! The kids will be ready for enchilada casserole (see recipe) tonight. Serve with a chopped lettuce salad. Sliced peaches 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, peaches.

Heat and eat Friday

Take the evening off and heat the leftover enchilada casserole for dinner. Serve it with an avocado and grapefruit salad on the side. Make flan (from a mix) for dessert.

Plan ahead: Marinate Saturday’s chicken overnight.

Shopping list: Avocados, grapefruit, lettuce for salad, flan mix.

Easy entertaining Saturday

Entertain friends with Mediterranean chicken. In a large bowl, combine 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 2 tablespoons dried oregano, z teaspoon coarse salt and z teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, x cup red wine vinegar and x cup olive oil, 24 bite-size pitted prunes, 6 ounces pitted Spanish green olives, 2 tablespoons rinsed capers, 2 bay leaves; mix well. Add 8 bone-in skinless chicken thighs; turn to coat. Marinate 6 to 24 hours.

When ready to cook, transfer chicken and marinade to a 4-quart or larger slow cooker. Stir x cup brown sugar and x cup dry white wine together; pour over chicken. Cover and cook on high 4 hours or until chicken is 165 degrees. Remove and discard bay leaves; serve chicken with fruit and juices. (Adapted from “Slow Cooking for Two,” Cynthia Graubart; Gibbs Smith, 2013.)

Serve with rice, mixed greens and Italian bread. For dessert, make it light with any sorbet and store-bought almond thins.

Tip: I adapted the recipe for 4 servings.

Shopping list: Garlic, dried oregano, coarse salt, black pepper, red wine vinegar, olive oil, pitted prunes, pitted Spanish green olives, capers, bay leaves, bone-in skinless chicken thighs, brown sugar, dry white wine, rice, salad greens, Italian bread, any sorbet, store-bought almond thins.

The Recipes

Italian beans and vegetables (Monday)

Makes 6 servings

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: About 1 hour

1 (1 a-pound) peeled, seeded butternut squash, 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 zest (yellow part only)

1 a teaspoons dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried sage

1 teaspoon coarse salt

1 cup vegetable broth

4 ounces (1 cup) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

f cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

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

Per serving: 340 calories, 19g protein, 5g fat (14 percent calories from fat), 2.5g saturated fat, 54g carbohydrate, 15mg cholesterol, 1,198mg sodium, 14g fiber.

Mushroom, bacon and swiss strata (Wednesday)

Makes 8 servings

Preparation time: 15 minutes; chilling time: 8 hours

Cooking time: About 1 hour, plus 20 minutes to toast bread; standing time: 10 minutes, plus 15 minutes at room temperature prior to baking

12 ounces (about 7 cups) ciabatta or

dense white bread, cut into

1-inch cubes

2 tablespoons butter

2 cups onion, chopped

2 (8-ounce) packages sliced


6 ounces reduced-fat shredded Swiss

cheese, divided

4 slices center-cut cooked bacon,

crumbled, divided

3 cups 1 percent milk

1 a cups egg substitute

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

a teaspoon freshly ground black


h teaspoon coarse salt

Chopped thyme leaves for garnish

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange bread in a single layer on a large rimmed baking pan. Bake 20 minutes or until toasted. Place cubes in a large bowl. Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet on medium-high. Add onion and mushrooms; cook 10 minutes or until liquid evaporates and vegetables are tender. Add onion mixture to bread; toss well to combine. Arrange half of mixture in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with half of cheese and half of bacon; top with remaining mixture, cheese and bacon.

In a medium bowl, whisk milk, egg substitute, thyme, pepper and salt. Pour egg mixture over bread mixture. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Remove strata from refrigerator; let stand at room temperature 15 minutes. Bake, covered, 30 minutes. Uncover; bake 15 more minutes or until set. Let stand 10 minutes. Garnish with thyme. (Adapted from “Cooking Light Lighten Up, America!” Allison Fishman Task; Oxmoor House, 2013.)

Per serving: 312 calories, 23g protein, 9g fat (26 percent calories from fat), 5.2g saturated fat, 36g carbohydrate, 26mg cholesterol, 510mg sodium, 2g fiber.

Enchilada casserole (Thursday)

Makes 8 servings
Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: About 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

1 (14-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes

1 (11-ounce) can Mexicorn, rinsed

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

1 (10-ounce) package 6-inch corn tortillas, divided

3 cups cooked or canned chicken breast, chopped and divided

2 cups shredded reduced-fat Mexican four-cheese blend, divided

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 x of sauce mixture in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Layer with x of the tortillas, half the chicken and x of the cheese. Repeat layers with x of the sauce and x of the tortillas, remaining chicken and x of the cheese. Top with remaining tortillas, sauce mixture and cheese. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until golden and bubbly.

Per serving: 403 calories, 30g protein, 13g fat (28 percent calories from fat), 4.3g saturated fat, 43g carbohydrate, 62mg cholesterol, 808mg sodium, 8g fiber.