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Menu planner: Best-ever chili fits any occasion

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

Try this chili recipe for your next meal.
Try this chili recipe for your next meal.
Gwynn Galvin, SwirlsOfFlavor.com

Best-ever chili

Makes 6 servings

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: less than 35 minutes

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef

1 cup chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon cumin

1 tablespoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1 (28-ounce) can rinsed reduced-sodium red kidney beans

1 (15.5-ounce) jar salsa

1 (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chilies

1/4 cup tomato paste

Reduced-fat sour cream, cilantro leaves, sliced green onion, shredded 50% light cheddar cheese and jalapeno slices for garnish

In a Dutch oven, cook beef, onion, garlic, cumin, chili powder and salt on medium high 8 minutes or until beef is no longer pink and onions are softened. Stir in beans, salsa, green chilies and tomato paste; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve with garnishes.

Serve the leftover chili over toasted cornbread. Split and broil the cornbread 1 to 2 minutes or until lightly toasted. Spoon the heated leftover chili over the cornbread.

Per serving: 310 calories, 32 grams protein, 6 grams fat (17% calories from fat), 2.3 grams saturated fat, 34 grams carbohydrate, 62 milligrams cholesterol, 796 milligrams sodium, 10 grams fiber.

Carb count: 2.

Italian white beans

Makes 6 servings

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: about 15 minutes

INGREDIENTS

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups finely chopped onion

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

8 cloves garlic, minced

2 bay leaves

2 tablespoons water (see note)

2 (15-ounce) cans rinsed reduced-sodium cannellini beans

4 teaspoons white wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil on medium-high. Add onion; cook 6 minutes. Add red pepper, garlic and bay leaves; cook 4 minutes. Stir in water and beans. Cook 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Stir in vinegar, salt and pepper. Discard bay leaves and serve.

Note: If beans become too dry, thin with additional water.

Per serving: 178 calories, 7 grams protein, 6 grams fat (28% calories from fat), 0.6 gram saturated fat, 25 grams carbohydrate, no cholesterol, 207 milligrams sodium, 7 grams fiber.

Carb count: 1.5.

Creamy blue cheese rice with spinach and walnuts

Makes 8 servings

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: less than 15 minutes, plus rice and walnuts

INGREDIENTS

1 (8-ounce) package reduced-fat cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup water

1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and undrained

1 (4-ounce) package crumbled blue cheese

1/4 teaspoon pepper

3 cups cooked rice

1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts (see note)

In a large skillet on medium, heat cream cheese and water; cook and stir 3 or 4 minutes or until cheese is melted. Add spinach, blue cheese and pepper; cook 2 minutes. Add rice; cook 3 to 5 minutes or until heated through. Remove from heat. Stir in walnuts and serve.

Note: To toast walnuts, heat oven to 350 degrees, spread on flat baking sheet and bake 5 to 10 minutes or until golden.

Per serving: 256 calories, 10 grams protein, 15 grams fat (53% calories from fat), 7.2 grams saturated fat, 21 grams carbohydrate, 31 milligrams cholesterol, 346 milligrams sodium, 2 grams fiber.

Carb count: 1.5.

Spaghetti with white clam sauce

In a saucepan, heat 2 teaspoons olive oil; add 1 teaspoon minced garlic and cook 1 minute. Add 1 (10.5- or 12-ounce) can or jar clam sauce; heat through. Toss sauce with cooked spaghetti.

Ham and black bean soup

In a saucepan, combine 1 cup cubed cooked ham, 1 cup salsa, 2 (15-ounce) cans reduced-sodium black beans (rinsed) and 1 (14-ounce) can unsalted chicken broth. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and cover; simmer 10 minutes. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with sliced green onions.

Hot dog smiley-face sandwiches

For each serving, cut 1 lowest-fat lowest-sodium hot dog at 1/2-inch intervals almost completely through (leave 1/4 inch intact). Cook in small nonstick skillet on medium 3 to 4 minutes on each side until browned and hot dog has curled; remove from skillet. Meanwhile, for each serving, place 1 slice 2% cheese on a slice of whole-grain bread. Place in skillet. Cover and cook 1 to 2 minutes over low or until cheese melts. Remove from skillet. Place hot dog on bread for mouth of “face.” To complete the face, use sliced pimiento-stuffed olives for eyes, cherry tomato halves for the nose, small potato chips for ears and finely shredded lettuce for hair.

Broiled flounder with lemon

Heat broiler. Coat baking rack with cooking spray. Lay fish on rack and brush with olive oil; sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper. Broil 2 to 3 inches from heat, 2 to 4 minutes (depending on thickness), until fish is just cooked through and edges flake with fork. Squeeze fresh lemon juice over fillets and serve immediately.