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Menu planner: Baked rice and squash au gratin makes a delicious and filling side dish

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

You’ll need two cups of cooked rice for your baked squash and rice au gratin side dish.
You’ll need two cups of cooked rice for your baked squash and rice au gratin side dish.

Baked squash and rice au gratin

Makes 10 servings

Preparation time: less than 15 minutes

Cooking time: about 30 minutes


1 cup chopped onion

4 cups sliced yellow squash

4 cups sliced zucchini

1/4 cup unsalted chicken broth

2 cups hot cooked rice

4 ounces shredded 50% light cheddar cheese

1 cup reduced-fat sour cream

1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, divided

1/4 cup Italian-seasoned bread crumbs

1 teaspoon coarse salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 lightly beaten eggs

Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. In a large bowl, microwave onion on high (100% power) 2 minutes or until softened; drain. Add yellow squash and zucchini to onion and microwave on high 10 minutes or until softened; drain. Combine squash mixture and broth; lightly mash with forks or a potato masher. Combine mashed vegetables, rice, cheddar cheese, sour cream, 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, salt, pepper and eggs; stir gently to mix. Spoon into baking dish; sprinkle with remaining parmesan cheese. Cover and microwave 12 to 15 minutes or until bubbly. Heat broiler; broil 2 minutes or until lightly browned.

Per serving: 163 calories, 9 grams protein, 7 grams fat (37% calories from fat), 3.9 grams saturated fat, 18 grams carbohydrate, 57 milligrams cholesterol, 378 milligrams sodium, 1 gram fiber.

Carb choices: 1.

Couscous with chicken and artichokes

Makes 6 servings

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: less than 5 minutes, plus the couscous; standing time: 15 minutes


2 cups water

1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes

1 (14-ounce) can unsalted chicken broth

1 cup couscous

2 to 3 cups cooked chicken

1/2 cup crumbled Greek feta cheese with basil and tomatoes

1 cup chopped fresh flatleaf parsley

2 (6-ounce) jars marinated artichoke hearts with liquid

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Combine water and tomatoes; cover and microwave on high (100% power) for 3 minutes or until water boils; let stand 10 minutes or until softened. Drain, chop tomatoes and set aside. In a large saucepan, bring broth to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in couscous; cover and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with fork and transfer into large serving bowl. Add tomatoes, warmed chicken, feta cheese, parsley, artichokes with liquid and pepper. Toss to mix and serve.

Per serving: 284 calories, 21 grams protein, 9 grams fat (28% calories from fat), 2.2 grams saturated fat, 31 grams carbohydrate, 47 milligrams cholesterol, 327 milligrams sodium, 4 grams fiber.

Carb choices: 2.

Fresh mango shortcake

Makes 4 servings

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 12 to 15 minutes


1 cup orange juice

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon lemon zest (yellow part only)

1 ripe mango

4 slices pound cake (1/2 inch thick), thawed if frozen

1 pint vanilla ice cream

1/4 cup chopped macadamia nuts or almonds

Fresh mint leaves

In small saucepan, heat juice, sugar and lemon zest on medium until boiling. Reduce heat; simmer 12 to 15 minutes or until thickened and syrupy. On a cutting board, hold mango with one of the narrower sides facing up. Starting 1/4 inch from stem, slice along each side of the pit to cut off the “cheeks.” Peel the center section of mango; cut off remaining fruit and dice. Stir diced mango into the syrup; set aside. With a knife or large spoon, carve out the flesh from cheeks in a single piece, cutting as close to the skin as possible. Thinly slice each cheek; cut slices in half.

To assemble dessert: Cut cake slices in halves diagonally. On each plate, place 1 cake triangle; top with 1 scoop of ice cream. Place second cake triangle on plate, leaning against the ice cream. Spoon about 1/4 cup of sauce over ice cream; sprinkle with nuts. Garnish with mango slices and mint.

Per serving: 436 calories, 6 grams protein, 20 grams fat (40% calories from fat), 8.9 grams saturated fat, 61 grams carbohydrate, 70 milligrams cholesterol, 137 milligrams sodium, 3 grams fiber.

Stuffed pepper

Core and halve red or green bell peppers; place in a baking dish cut-side down, cover and microwave on high (100% power) 1 minute per pepper half; drain. Heat the leftover baked squash separately (microwave about 1 minute per cup on high). Heat broiler. Stuff peppers with squash mixture, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and broil until cheese melts.

Tortellini with spinach

Cook 1 (9-ounce) package refrigerated three-cheese tortellini according to package directions. Meanwhile, heat 2 teaspoons canola oil in a large nonstick skillet on medium-high. Add 4 minced garlic cloves and 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper; cook 30 seconds. Add 2 cups grape tomatoes (halved), 1/4 cup unsalted chicken broth, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil, 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt and 1 (6-ounce) package fresh baby spinach. Cook 2 minutes or until spinach wilts. Stir in tortellini; cook 1 minute. Serve and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts if desired.

Polenta with grilled vegetable sauce

Prepare your own or buy grilled vegetables. Dice the vegetables and stir them into heated marinara sauce. Spoon over warm slices of prepared polenta (follow package directions). Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese and serve.

Smoky pork kebabs

Combine 1/3 cup smoky barbecue sauce, 1/3 cup orange marmalade and 2 teaspoons prepared horseradish in a shallow dish. Add 1 pound well-trimmed pork tenderloin (cut into 3/4-inch cubes); turn to coat completely. Cover; marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes. Thread pork onto 4 metal skewers; place on grill and brush with marinade. Discard marinade. Grill kebabs over medium-hot coals 10 to 12 minutes; turn frequently.

Carb choices: 4