Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Make-Ahead Meals by Guest Blogger Stephanie

For many of us, our only chance at consuming a delicious dinner depends strictly on how much meal-planning is done in the morning...when refreshed, full of patience, time, etc. Cooking during the "witching hour" (about the 4-5:30 range) is not fun, which often means it doesn't happen. And who can blame us? This overwhelming feeling prompted me to start noting meals I could make almost entirely during the a.m. hours. It's amazing how quickly dinner prep goes when the hour of chopping required for the meal is completely taken care of already.

Here are a few of my favorite recipes including notes regarding make-ahead ideas:

Big Batch Vegetable {Beef} Soup
* I add 1 lb. of ground beef
* freezes nicely (in Ziploc bags) up to 3 months

Lentil Vegetable {Sausage} Soup
* I add 3/4 lb. good quality Italian sausage or Kielbasa
* can be made the day or night before

Mixed Mushroom Soup with Creamy Goat Cheese
* don't scrimp on any ingredients, including garnishes,
and don't use any substitutions on this one
* a favorite Crockpot recipe!

Southwestern Salad with Shredded Chicken
* chop everything prior and place in small bowls covered with plastic wrap
* make dresses ahead and chill until needed in the refrigerator
* grill chicken prior, shred and place in container; OR place two chicken breasts in the crockpot with a can of salsa on low for 6 hours

Chicken with Morels
* make the entire dish, start to finish, ahead; then reheat according to recipe directions just prior to serving
* let it be noted this is a special dish and perfect for a dinner party

Slow Cooker Fajitas
* shred cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, etc. ahead (save avocados for just before)

Baked Ziti with Spinach & Tomatoes
* make the entire sauce ahead and place in Ziploc
* grate cheese and cook pasta and store in separate Ziplocs
* toss everything together before baking for 30 minutes

A good crusty bread would be the perfect accompaniment to many of the dishes noted above. I suggest heading to the best artisan bakery in your town (here in SLC that's Harmons & Liberty Heights Fresh) and stock up on several fresh loaves. Keep the bread in the brown paper wrapping and throw the loaves straight into the freezer, up to 1 month. When you want to serve the bread with dinner do one of two things:

1. Take one loaf out of the freezer during the late morning or early afternoon ensuring it is completely thawed by evening.

2. About a half hour before dinner, retrieve one loaf. Then sprinkle it on all sides with water and place it in a preheated 300 degree oven for about 15 or 20 minutes. You may have to check on it a few times because ovens react differently. In a matter of minutes you'll have a warm, crusty loaf that tastes as good as it did right out of the oven....the first time :)

Bon Appetit!

photo courtesy of Dale Anderson's flickr page


  1. Thank you thank you! I have been searching for some good make ahead meals and these are perfect!

  2. What a great idea. I am going to start planning for next week.
    Thanks Stephanie!

  3. This is like the answer to my prayers, meals all layed out that I can make ahead. I'm on my way to the store..

  4. Oooh, I love that Baked Ziti recipe! I have the same one & it's my husbands favorite!

  5. You have given me more meals than I already have on the dinner rotation! I am excited to put them into the mix. Thanks.

  6. These look absolutely delicious - I can't wait to add them to the rotation!

  7. This bread tip is going to change my life.

  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  9. i'm adding my thanks for these ideas!

  10. Wow, this is great! Thanks for sharing with us. Have been tryong to get the dinner planning nailed down and it hasn't happened yet. My husband will be so happy!

  11. Thanks for the great bread tip! Nothing beats warm crusty bread.

  12. Awesome tip about the bread! And the chicken with salsa in the crockpot. Thanks!

  13. Yum! These meal ideas look fantastic...and easy too! I really want to try those slow cooker fajitas...


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