Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Menu Plan June 28 - July 2

I'm a bit slow getting going this week but I do, in fact, have a menu plan!  Yay! 

Monday, we had leftover pizza and salad.

Tonight, we had grilled chicken and creamed peas and potatoes.  I don't usually grill on weeknights, but there wasn't any room in my fridge for a pan of chicken to be put in the oven, so we improvised.  Oh, and the peas and potatoes were from our garden.  AWESOME.

Tomorrow night, we're having spaghetti.

Thursday night, we're having baked turkey cutlets.  I just need to figure out what I'm going to do to them to give them some flavor!

Friday doesn't need to be make-ahead, since we're both taking the day off, so it'll probably be jambalaya or tuna helper.  We'll see.

Have a great week everyone!  And don't forget to visit orgjunkie.com for Menu Plan Monday each week!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Dinner Salad

Entree salads are a great make-ahead meal.  All of the components can be prepped and stashed in the fridge for a quick dinner on the go.  Here's what we had tonight (utilizing leftover fajita meat).

Grilled flank steak or grilled chicken (diner's choice)
Tossed salad
Chopped hard boiled egg
Shredded cheese
Homemade croutons
Choice of salad dressing

Quick, easy, and delicious!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Menu Plan June 21 - 25

We pretty much failed at our menu plan last week.  I can't remember what happened, exactly (other than I forgot to thaw out the Cornish game hens, I do remember that), but we ended up getting take out twice.  Twice!  Shocking.

Anyway, on to a new week.  We had my family over on Saturday for a Father's Day dinner, and I grilled enough fajitas for about 40 people (there were 13 of us, including all the kids).  So we're having lots of leftovers this week, and it's time to get creative!  Here's the plan:

Tonight:  we had leftover fajitas.
Tomorrow:  Stuffed peppers
Wednesday:  Sausage and pepper penne (this will use our leftover peppers and onions.  I just have to figure out how to make this a make-ahead - I'll let you know!)
Thursday:  salad topped with our choice of chicken or steak (using the leftover fajita meat)
Friday:  Spaghetti

Should be a good week!  Remember, for tons of menu ideas each week, check out Menu Plan Monday at orgjunkie.com!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Recipe Review - Cucumber Fennel Salad

I made this to go with our dinner tonight (we were supposed to have the Cornish game hens, but I forgot to thaw them, so we had lemon pepper chicken instead).  I planted fennel in the garden for the first time, and I've never even really had it before, so I was on the lookout for a recipe and this sounded good.  Kind of a take-off on the cucumber salad I make every summer, which has vinegar and celery seed (and no fennel) instead of the lemon and dill that this recipe has.

It was really good!  I think I'll use a little more lemon next time, but it had a very light and fresh flavor.  The dill was a nice touch.  My onion was a little too powerful, so I avoided most of that (next time I'll try chives or scallions instead), but on the whole I thought it was good and will definitely make it again. 

It was a great recipe for a make ahead meal, because sitting all day gave the flavors extra time to meld.  I give it four stars!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Taco Salad

First of all, an aside.  I think I figured out how I overcooked the Pad Thai noodles - I soaked them in boiling water instead of hot tap water.  Silly me!  Won't make that mistake again - they were really mushy!

And now, on to today's recipe.  Taco salad is a great make-ahead, because all the cooking and chopping can be done and stored in the fridge until dinner time.  I usually cook the meat and add the water and taco seasonings, but don't cook it all the way down to the point that I would if I was going to eat it right away - I leave it a little runny.  Then, when it's dinner time, I just pull it out of the refrigerator, put it in the microwave for a few minutes, and it gets nice and steamy hot.

Our taco salads are pretty simple.  They include:

taco meat
iceberg lettuce
sliced olives
shredded cheese
chopped green onions or chives (we have a massive chive plant in the herb garden so I use that most of the time)
sour cream
taco sauce or salsa

Most of the time, I just use Lawry's taco seasoning packets when I cook the meat.  It has quite a bit of sodium in it, though, so when I'm organized and take the time to put it together, I like to mix up a couple of batches of this seasoning mix to have on hand:

Taco Mix Seasoning Packets
Makes enough for one pound of meat

2 tsp. minced onion
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper (optional, if you like more heat)
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. ground cumin

Mix well in a small bowl.  Add to cooked meat with 1/2 cup water and cook until thickened.

Menu plan June 13 - 18

This is a really busy week for us, so I'm going to have to rely on some super-quick meals for most of it.

Last night, I made Pad Thai.  I overcooked the noodles somehow (never had that happen before!), but other than that, it was great!

Tonight, we're having taco salad.

Tomorrow, it'll be crock pot roast beef.

Wednesday, roasted Cornish game hens.

Thursday, should be leftover night but we'll see if we have any!

Friday, lemon pepper chicken.

Enjoy your week!

For tons of great menu ideas, visit Menu Plan Monday at orgjunkie.com!

Friday, June 11, 2010

How it works

Here's a typical weekday, which illustrates how I ended up with the "make ahead meals" concept. My daughter and I get up around 7:00. We eat breakfast around 8:00, finishing around 8:45 or so. Shortly after that, I go into the kitchen to make dinner. Sometimes it's a casserole, sometimes it's a hunk of meat or a soup in the crock pot, and sometimes, if I literally have five minutes to throw it together, it's chicken with some bottled marinade thrown over the top.

I've been doing this for about 15 months now, and it still seems a little odd to be making dinner at 9:30 or 10:00 a.m., but I'm sure it will eventually feel perfectly normal! I put whatever I've made in the fridge or the crock pot and write baking instructions (if necessary) on a white board that is hanging on the fridge.

After lunch, I go to work and my husband is home with our daughter. At the appointed time, he puts whatever it is in the oven. He doesn't preheat and he doesn't let the Pyrex sit out of the fridge for a while to take the chill off, and everything always turns out just fine.

When I get home, I change my clothes, fix whatever sides we're having (more about that later), and then we eat. Usually we're sitting down to dinner within 15 minutes of my coming in the door.

Once in a while, he gets distracted and forgets to put dinner in the oven. For these occasions, I keep some super-quick convenience foods on hand, such as potstickers or those really nice frozen pasta meals you can get in the grocery stores now. Sometimes we eat those. Sometimes I just make a run to Burger King or Taco Bell. Depends on how we feel and what the budget looks like.

I have to say, sometimes I miss grilling, sauteeing, and skillet meals, but I save those for the weekend so they aren't lost all together!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Apricot Chicken

The first time I saw the recipe for Apricot Chicken, I thought it sounded like the most disgusting thing a person could ever eat. Probably doesn't help that I don't care for apricots! For some reason, though, I had all the ingredients in the house, so one day I gave it a shot. Delicious!

The really nice thing about cooking in the morning and eating in the evening is that your meat has extra marinating time. This usually makes everything taste better.

Apricot Chicken
Serves 4

1/2 package dry onion soup mix
1/2 cup apricot preserves (I like to use the all-fruit variety)
1/2 - 1 cup Russian salad dressing (depending on how saucy you like your chicken)
8 - 12 chicken tenderloins

In a small bowl, mix soup mix, apricot preserves, and salad dressing. Place chicken tenders in a glass baking dish, and pour soup mixture over the top, thoroughly coating each piece. Refrigerate until cooking time.

Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Serve with your favorite sides (as you can see, we had this with roasted red potatoes and salad).


Hello! Welcome to "My Make Ahead Meals"! Stupid title, but you get the idea. My name is Karen. I'm wife to a picky eater and mom to a toddler who will eat just about anything I throw at her, as long as it isn't meat (and I will be enormously grateful for her non-pickiness for as long as it lasts).

I started this blog because I refuse to believe that I'm the only home cook in the world who has this issue - I make dinner around 10:00 every morning, and then we eat it around 7:00 every evening. See, it's like this - my husband works mornings/early afternoons, and I work late afternoons (that way one or the other of us is always home with our daughter. A beautiful schedule if you can't swing life on one income). I get home an hour and a half before he goes to bed, so dinner pretty much has to be on the table when I walk through the door. And he doesn't cook.

So this blog will serve two purposes: first, to give me a single place to keep all of my recipes and menu plans that are specifically centered around make-ahead cooking (my other blog, Living the Life, has lots of recipes but they aren't necessarily make-ahead friendly). Second, to provide you, my readers, with tips, tricks, recipe reviews, and other helpful information gleaned from my experiences.

This isn't a freezer cooking blog. I'd love to do once a month-type freezer cooking, but I'm pretty compulsive at the grocery store, so my freezers are generally packed full. I do, however, subscribe to the "cook it once, eat it twice" philosophy of life, and I'll note in the recipes where this is easily done.

This isn't a crockpot cooking blog. I love my crockpots, don't get me wrong (I have three), but for us, they are only suitable for certain applications.

This isn't a diet blog. Some of my recipes are very healthy, some are very, very fattening. Most fall somewhere in the middle.

This is simply a journal and a journey through nightly dinners at my house. I hope you enjoy.