Menu planner: Caprese skewers are a fresh, summery appetizer or ‘salad’ course

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

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Fresh mozzarella, tomato and basil Caprese skewers.

Fresh mozzarella, tomato and basil Caprese skewers.

Daniel J. van Ackere/America’s Test Kitchen

Caprese skewers

Makes 30 skewers

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: none


1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced to paste

10 ounces grape tomatoes, halved

Coarse salt and pepper to taste

1 cup fresh basil leaves

8 ounces fresh baby mozzarella cheese balls

Whisk oil and garlic together in small bowl. In separate bowl, toss tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. On short wooden skewers, lace tomatoes, basil leaves and mozzarella balls in this order from top to bottom: tomato half, basil leaf (folded if large), mozzarella ball, tomato half with flat side facing down. Use flat side of bottom tomato to stand each skewer upright on serving platter. Drizzle with remaining garlic oil and season with salt and pepper. Serve. (Adapted from “The Complete Small Plates Cookbook,” American’s Test Kitchen.)

Per skewer: 28 calories, 2 grams protein, 2 grams fat (73% calories from fat), 1.1 grams saturated fat, 1 gram carbohydrate, 5 milligrams cholesterol, 5 milligrams sodium, no fiber.

Carb count: 0.

Quinoa and black bean salad

Makes about 10 cups

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: about 15 minutes


For the salad:

1 1/2 cups quinoa

3 cups water

1 (15-ounce) can reduced-sodium black beans, rinsed

1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 cups cooked frozen corn

3/4 cup chopped green bell pepper

2 pickled jalapeno peppers, rinsed, seeded and minced

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

For the dressing:

5 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1/8 teaspoon coarse salt

1 1/4 teaspoons cumin

1/4 cup olive oil

Rinse quinoa thoroughly in a fine mesh strainer, holding under cold water 2 minutes or until water is clear; drain well. In a 3-quart saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add quinoa; reduce heat to low. Cover; simmer 10 to 12 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Meanwhile, toss beans with vinegar, salt and pepper. Transfer cooked quinoa to a large bowl; let cool. Add bean mixture, corn, bell pepper, jalapenos and cilantro. Toss to mix.

Dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together lime juice, salt and cumin. Add oil, whisking. Drizzle dressing over salad. Toss to mix.

Per serving: 208 calories, 7 grams protein, 7 grams fat (30% calories from fat), 1 gram saturated fat, 30 grams carbohydrate, no cholesterol, 114 milligrams sodium, 5 grams fiber.

Carb count: 2.

Chicken paprika

Makes 4 servings

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: about 20 minutes


1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into strips

2 1/2 teaspoons paprika, divided

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added or regular fire-roasted diced tomatoes, with liquid

1/3 cup half-and-half

Chopped fresh parsley for garnish (if desired)

Season the chicken with 1/2 teaspoon of the paprika, salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet on medium-high. Add chicken; cook 3 minutes per side or until browned. Remove chicken from skillet. Add onion to skillet; cook and stir 5 minutes or until softened. Stir in tomatoes and remaining paprika; bring to a boil. Return chicken and accumulated liquid to skillet. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 8 to 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Stir in half-and-half until well blended. When serving, sprinkle with parsley (if desired).

Per serving: 230 calories, 27 grams protein, 9 grams fat (35% calories from fat), 2.5 grams saturated fat, 10 grams carbohydrate, 90 milligrams cholesterol, 198 milligrams sodium, 2 grams fiber.

Carb count: 0.5.

Roast beef wrap with horseradish slaw

For 2 wraps: In a medium bowl, combine 1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream and 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish. Fold in 1 cup coleslaw mix. Dividing evenly, top 2 (10-inch) whole-grain flour tortillas with 2 cups baby spinach, 8 ounces deli sliced roast beef, 2 ounces sliced 50% light cheddar cheese and the slaw mixture. Roll tightly, folding the sides. Slice on the diagonal and serve.

Grilled cheese and tomato paninis

Go meatless. Spread sliced Italian bread with pesto; layer with tomato and part-skim mozzarella cheese. Coat outside of bread with cooking spray; brown in a skillet on medium heat, pressing sandwiches with a spatula, until cheese melts. Add split pea soup.

Sweet and sour meatballs

In a large pot, heat beef gravy (from can or jar) on medium with seedless red raspberry jam to taste. Add any prepared frozen meatballs (thawed); heat through. Stir in some reduced-fat sour cream and chopped fresh parsley. Spoon over cooked noodles to serve.

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