Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Who makes cook ahead meals?

I do!  Or at least I did once, this week.  A friend of mine pinned this picture to a Pintrest board,

I was mesmerized by the order and organization.  And decided to adapt some of my own recipes for freezing ahead.  I had a few requirements:
  • If I was cooking an ingredient I had to be able use it in more than one dish
  • The dishes had to be something my whole family would eat
  • The frozen dishes needed to require no more prep than "take out of freezer and bake".

This limited me to mostly casserole type dishes.  We don't eat a lot of casseroles or bakes, but I figured if I could incorporate 2-3 of these a week we'd cut out on the takeout and the "heaviness" of the casseroles would be mitigated a little.

I made 4 dishes and it only took about an hour, which surprised me.  I'd always envisioned cooking for the week ahead an arduous process that would eat up and eniter Sunday.  But by keeping my rule of using each cooked ingredient more than once I was able to really cut back on the amount of time in the kitchen.

We've eaten two of them already and they were delicious, and a great time saver on guitar/piano/dance lesson night!

I didn't write the recipes down, and I just eyeballed it, but here's what I made and how I put it together:
  • 2 lbs. lean ground beef, browned (I use beef from Hemlock Highlands, which my lovely in-laws own) I browned some chopped onion with it.
    • you'll use half of this for the Enchilada Bake and Half for the Baked Ziti
  • 2 jars of Spaghetti Sauce I used homemade, but your favorite will be fine.
    • 1 will be for the Baked Ziti, the other for the Chicken Parmesan
  • 1 lb box of whole grain penne rigate, cooked al dente.
    • you;ll use half for the mediterranian chicken pasta and half for the Baked Ziti
  • 5 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
    • Cube 1 into bite sized pieces for the Mediteranean Chicken Pasta and  leave 4 whole  for Chicken Parmesean

For the Chicken Parmesan I poured some sauce into a baking dish, put the raw chicken on top, seasoned it with some grated parmesan, dried basil, oregano and parsley, poured some more sauce on top and liberally sprinkled it mozzarella cheese.  I'll serve this with a tomato, onion, cucumber salad and some garlic broccoli.

For the Mediterranean Chicken Pasta I tossed the raw cubed chicken with pesto.  I used half of the cooked penne rigate and tossed in half a small jar of quartered artichoke hearts, some jarred roasted red peppers, some sliced black olives, fresh basil and tomatoes.  I put the tossed pasta into a baking dish, sprinkled it with olive oil, put the chicken on top and then put goat cheese crumbles on top of that.  This one doesn't really need an accompaniment since it's got a nice balance of veggies, starch and protein.

For the Baked Ziti I mixed the ground beef, half a container of ricotta cheese, some mozzarella and the penne rigate with a jar of spaghetti sauce.  I covered the top with mozzarella cheese. I served this with garlic bread and a ceasar salad.

For the Enchilada Bake I poured some canned enchilada sauce into the bottom of the baking dish.  I made a layer of soft corn tortillas, them some of the browned grown beef, a bit of colby jack cheese, some diced tomatoes, onions and green chiles, then i put another layer of tortillas, some more enchilada sauce and cheese.  I served this one with some fresh guacamole and sour cream and a side of black beans.

Do you have any favorite make-ahead meals?  What's Cookin', Chicago, the blog that had the pretty freezer picture has some great ideas on her site. 

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