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Menu planner: Your budget and your palate will like cheesy lentils and rice

Thinking ahead to your next few meals? Here are some main dishes and sides to try.

Cheesy lentils and rice.
Cabot creamery

Cheesy lentils and rice

Makes about 10 cups

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 40 minutes

Standing time: 5 minutes

INGREDIENTS

2 cups uncooked brown lentils

1 cup uncooked brown rice

1 cup unsalted chicken broth

2 (10-ounce) cans diced tomatoes and green chiles, with liquid

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons cumin

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon coarse salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

8 ounces shredded pepper jack cheese, divided

Chopped cilantro for garnish

Reduced-fat sour cream for garnish

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cook lentils and rice. In a large bowl, combine lentils, rice, broth, tomatoes and green chilies, garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper and half the cheese. Mix well and spoon into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top with remaining cheese. Cover with nonstick foil; bake 40 minutes or until bubbly. Let stand 5 minutes; garnish with cilantro and sour cream before serving.

Per serving: 319 calories, 19 grams protein, 8 grams fat (23% calories from fat), 5 grams saturated fat, 45 grams carbohydrate, 20 milligrams cholesterol, 616 milligrams sodium, 8 grams fiber.

Carb choices: 3.

Broccoli-walnut noodles

Makes 8 servings

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 5 minutes, plus noodles

INGREDIENTS

6 ounces wide or medium curly no-yolk noodles

1 pound fresh bite-size broccoli florets

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon

Juice of 1/2 orange

Coarse salt and pepper to taste

Cook noodles according to directions; drain. Microwave broccoli on high (100% power) 4 minutes or until tender. In a small skillet, heat oil on medium-high and add walnuts; cook 1 minute. In a large bowl, combine cooked noodles and cooked broccoli. Add walnut-oil mixture to broccoli mixture; toss to mix. Add lemon zest, lemon juice, orange juice, and salt and pepper to taste; toss again. Serve immediately.

Per serving: 161 calories, 5 grams protein, 7 grams fat (37% calories from fat), 0.7 gram saturated fat, 21 grams carbohydrate, no cholesterol, 26 milligrams sodium, 3 grams fiber.

Carb choices: 1.5.

Savory bean and pasta salad

Makes 5 servings

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: for the pasta

INGREDIENTS

6 ounces medium shell or penne pasta

2 (15-ounce) cans three-bean salad, lightly drained

1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

3/4 cup provolone cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 3 ounces)

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Cook pasta according to directions; drain and rinse. In a large bowl, combine cooked pasta and all remaining ingredients; toss to mix. Cover and chill until serving time.

Per serving: 310 calories, 13 grams protein, 6 grams fat (16% calories from fat), 2.8 grams saturated fat, 54 grams carbohydrate, 12 milligrams cholesterol, 811 milligrams sodium, 6 grams fiber.

Carb choices: 3.5.

Lentil soup

Serve it with grilled chili-cheese sandwiches on whole grain bread. Drain 1 (4-ounce) can whole green chilies. Put 1 chili between 2 slices (any) cheese on whole-grain bread. Coat both sides of bread with cooking spray and grill in skillet until cheese melts. Slice diagonally and serve with pickles.

Beany roll-ups

Mix 1 (16-ounce) can fat-free refried beans, 1/2 cup mild salsa and 1/4 teaspoon chili powder in a small saucepan. Heat on medium about 5 minutes or until warm. Spread about 1/4 cup mixture along center of each of 8 (8- to 10-inch) whole-grain flour tortillas. Top with shredded lettuce and 1 tablespoon shredded Monterey Jack cheese. Fold over sides and ends and serve with additional salsa.

Pepper-lime chicken

Place 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (flattened to an even thickness) on unheated rack (coated with cooking spray) of broiler pan. Broil 4 to 5 inches from heat about 6 minutes or until lightly browned, turning once. Meanwhile, mix together 1/2 teaspoon lime zest (green part only), 1 tablespoon canola oil, 2 cloves minced garlic, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper and 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt. Brush both sides of chicken with glaze. Broil 5 to 15 minutes more, until chicken is tender or internal temperature reaches 165 degrees, brushing often during the last 5 minutes.