Menu planner: For an economical dinner, try Southwestern black bean salad

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

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Southwestern black bean salad.

Southwestern black bean salad.

America’s Test Kitchen

Southwestern black bean salad

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 5 minutes


1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided

2 cups fresh or frozen (thawed) corn kernels

4 green onions, sliced thinly

1/3 cup lime juice (about 3 limes’ worth)

1 tablespoon minced canned chipotle chilies in adobo sauce

1 teaspoon honey

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 (15-ounce) cans reduced-sodium black beans, rinsed

2 ripe avocados, halved, pitted and chopped

2 tomatoes, cored and chopped

1/4 cup chopped cilantro or parsley

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet on medium-high until shimmering. Add corn and cook 5 minutes until spotty brown; cool slightly. In a large bowl, whisk together green onions, lime juice, chilies, honey, salt and black pepper. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in remaining 2 tablespoons oil until emulsified. Add beans, avocados, tomatoes, cilantro and corn; toss to combine. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste; serve.

Per serving: 385 calories, 11 grams protein, 19 grams fat (43% calories from fat), 2.7 grams saturated fat, 46 grams carbohydrate, no cholesterol, 207 milligrams sodium, 13 grams fiber.

Carb count: 3.

Cheesy pasta

Makes 8 servings

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: about 10 minutes


12 ounces whole-wheat or regular penne or bow tie pasta

6 cups broccoli florets

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

3/4 cup dry white wine

1 (10 3/4-ounce) can less-fat less-sodium cream of mushroom soup

1 cup shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese (4 ounces)

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Freshly chopped chives or green onion tops for garnish

Cook pasta according to directions; add broccoli the last 3 minutes of boiling. Drain; rinse and return to pot. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large, nonstick skillet on medium. Add onion and cook, stirring, 5 minutes or until softened. Add wine; cook 1 minute or until reduced slightly. Add soup. Bring to a boil on medium high, stirring frequently. Cook, stirring, 1 minute or until slightly thickened. Reduce heat to low and stir in cheese until smooth. Stir in mustard; cook 1 minute or until heated through. Spoon sauce over pasta and broccoli. Toss to mix. Garnish each serving with chives or green onion tops.

Per serving: 289 calories, 13 grams protein, 8 grams fat (23% calories from fat), 3.2 grams saturated fat, 42 grams carbohydrate, 17 milligrams cholesterol, 240 milligrams sodium, 8 grams fiber.

Carb count: 3.

Sloppy Joe meatball subs

Makes 4 subs

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes


1 pound 93% to 95% lean ground beef

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, divided

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 (1.31-ounce) package sloppy Joe seasoning mix

1 (6-ounce) can no-salt-added tomato paste

1 1/2 cups water

4 (6-inch) submarine or other sandwich rolls

1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

In a large bowl, mix beef, garlic powder, 3/4 of the Italian seasoning and pepper. Shape into 16 (1 1/2-inch) meatballs. Brown meatballs in a large nonstick skillet on medium heat 10 minutes or until cooked through. Add seasoning mix, tomato paste, water and remaining Italian seasoning; stir until smooth. Simmer 5 minutes. Place meatballs on rolls. Spoon sauce over meatballs; top with cheese and serve.

Per sub: 516 calories, 38 grams protein, 13 grams fat (23% calories from fat), 4.8 grams saturated fat, 63 grams carbohydrate, 70 milligrams cholesterol, 1,317 milligrams sodium, 9 grams fiber.

Carb count: 4.

Roasted chicken with macaroni salad

Cook 8 ounces macaroni according to package directions; rinse and drain. In a large bowl, mix together 1/2 cup low-fat mayonnaise, 1 grated carrot, 1 rib chopped celery, 1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon pickle relish, 1 teaspoon sugar and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Stir mixture into macaroni; toss to mix and refrigerate. Sprinkle with paprika before serving. Add steamed asparagus, a green salad and dinner rolls.

No-bake cheesecake

Beat 2 (8-ounce) packages of softened reduced-fat cream cheese, 1/3 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract with an electric mixer until smooth. Fold in 2 cups frozen whipped topping (thawed) until blended. Spoon into 1 (6-ounce) graham cracker pie crust. Cover lightly and refrigerate 3 hours or until set. Top with fresh blueberries.

Baked tomatoes with tuna salad

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Core large tomatoes; stuff with deli tuna salad and top with buttered panko breadcrumbs and sliced almonds. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until slightly browned. Add a packaged green salad and bread sticks.

Steak with golden onions and horseradish sauce

Heat a nonstick skillet on medium high. Sprinkle a 1-pound boneless trimmed sirloin steak with a little pepper; add to skillet. Scatter 2 medium sliced yellow onions around steak. Cook, turning steak once and stirring onions often, 12 minutes or until steak is medium-rare and onions are tender. Transfer steak to cutting board; let stand 5 minutes. Meanwhile, combine 1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream, 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish, 2 tablespoons sliced green onions, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon sugar. Slice steak thinly against the grain; serve with grilled onions and sauce.

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