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Menu planner: One-pot taco beef and rice is economical and delicious

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

One-pot taco beef and rice.
One-pot taco beef and rice.

One-pot taco beef and rice

Makes 6 servings

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: under 20 minutes


1 1/4 pounds lean ground beef

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoons less-sodium taco seasoning mix

1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce

1 cup salsa

1 cup uncooked instant brown rice

2/3 cup water

1 cup shredded cheddar jack cheese blend

1 cup chopped lettuce

Reduced-fat sour cream

1 small tomato, chopped

Sliced jalapenos


Taco shells or tortillas, if desired

Heat a large, nonstick skillet (with deep sides) over medium-high heat. Add beef, onion, garlic and taco seasoning; cook 6 minutes or until beef is no longer pink. Add tomato sauce, salsa, rice and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; cover and cook 10 minutes or until rice is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Add your favorite toppings, such as shredded cheese, lettuce, sour cream, tomatoes, jalapenos and cilantro. Serve dish on its own or in taco shells or tortillas.

Per serving (without tortillas): 361 calories, 28 grams protein, 12 grams fat (30% calories from fat), 5.4 grams saturated fat, 35 grams carbohydrate, 69 milligrams cholesterol, 906 milligrams sodium, 2 grams fiber.

Carb count: 2.5.

Ghostly graveyard cakes

Makes 10 servings

Preparation time: about 5 to 10 minutes per cake

Cooking time: none


9 drops neon blue food coloring, divided

9 drops neon yellow food coloring, divided

1 (16-ounce) can ready-to-spread white frosting

1 1/2 cups flaked coconut

10 cream-filled snack cakes (such as Twinkies)

Chocolate frosting

10 oval-shaped cookies (such as Pepperidge Farm Milanos)

Crushed chocolate sandwich cookies (if desired)

In a medium bowl, mix 3 drops blue and 3 drops yellow food coloring into frosting. Set aside. Shake coconut in a large plastic bag with 6 drops blue and 6 drops yellow coloring until coated. Cover cakes (Twinkies) with green frosting. Sprinkle with green coconut to create a grasslike finish. To make “tombstones”: Place chocolate frosting in small plastic bag. Snip off a tiny corner of the bag. Squeeze out the letters “RIP” onto each oval cookie. Place one cookie into one end of each cake. Arrange cakes on a serving platter to create a graveyard. If desired, surround with crushed chocolate cookies to make “dirt.”

Per serving: 468 calories, 3 grams protein, 19 grams fat (36% calories from fat), 9.7 grams saturated fat, 72 grams carbohydrate, 21 milligrams cholesterol, 357 milligrams sodium, 2 grams fiber.

Carb count: 5.

Spaghetti with beans and greens

Makes 6 servings

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: about 10 minutes, plus pasta


8 ounces whole-grain spaghetti

3/4 teaspoon coarse salt, divided

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

2 cups grape tomatoes, halved

1 (16-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed

1 (5-ounce) package arugula

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to directions. Drain; reserve 1/2 cup pasta water. Place pasta in a bowl, add 1/4 teaspoon salt and toss. Cover and set aside. Return pan to medium heat. Add oil, garlic and pepper; cook 2 minutes or until garlic is softened, stirring occasionally. Stir in remaining salt, tomatoes and beans; cook 2 minutes. Add reserved pasta; cook 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add reserved water and arugula, tossing gently to combine. Remove from heat. Stir in lemon juice and cheese. Serve immediately.

Per serving: 286 calories, 11 grams protein, 8 grams fat (25% calories from fat), 1.7 grams saturated fat, 44 grams carbohydrate, 6 milligrams cholesterol, 518 milligrams sodium, 8 grams fiber.

Carb count: 3.

Mustard-crusted pork roast

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Season 1 (2-pound) trimmed boneless pork loin roast with coarse salt and pepper to taste. Place in a shallow pan and roast 20 minutes. Meanwhile, place 1 cup garlic croutons in a resealable plastic bag; roll with rolling pin or bottle until crushed. Remove roast from oven; spread surface with 2 tablespoons spicy mustard and sprinkle with crouton crumbs. Return to oven; roast 10 to 15 minutes longer or until internal temperature reaches 145 degrees. Remove from oven, tent with foil and let stand 5 minutes; slice and serve.

Barbecue pork wraps

Shred the pork; stir in some barbecue sauce and heat in the microwave. Spoon into warm corn tortillas and top with salsa, reduced-fat sour cream, shredded lettuce and slice jalapeno peppers (from jar). Serve with deli coleslaw. Peaches are a light dessert.

Turkey cheese wraps with honey mustard

In a small bowl, mix 2 cups plain hummus, 3 tablespoons honey and 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard. For one wrap: Spread 1/4 of the mixture over one large whole-grain flour tortilla, leaving 1/4 inch space around the edge. Sprinkle 1/2 cup shredded 50% reduced-fat cheese on each wrap. Place 2 slices deli turkey and 1 lettuce leaf on top of the cheese. Roll each wrap and wrap in waxed paper

Roasted salmon with fresh salsa

Heat oven to 425 degrees; line a rimmed baking pan with foil. Mix together 2 teaspoons chili powder, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander and 1/4 teaspoon chipotle chile powder. Rub spice mixture over 4 skinless salmon fillets. Place fish on baking sheet. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until cooked through. Meanwhile, combine 1 cup chopped red bell pepper, 1/4 cup chopped tomato, 2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion, 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro, 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice. Serve salmon with salsa.