Tag Archives: make ahead

Mealprep: 40 recipes to stock your freezer and free your mind!

Tacos-1

One of the best ways to eat healthy is to eat at home more. But for any busy person, this becomes a real challenge when it’s 4:30 and you have no idea what to make for dinner. Prepping some ingredients and/or dishes ahead of time to stash in the freezer can save the day. Not only does it save you cooking time, it also saves you brain effort at the very time of day your brain is most overtaxed!

Sure, these mean a little more work on the weekend — but you can do it at a leisurely pace, when you’re rested and not rushed. Which I’ve found makes cooking so much more enjoyable!

NOTE: not all of these are real food/Paleo/Whole30.

Mealprep: taco kit from The Kitchn
A week of dinners in the freezer, from The Kitchn. Recipes for: Baked Manicotti – Freezer Taco Kits – Twice-Baked Potatoes – Chile & Sausage Oven Frittata – Cranberry Pork Chops – Chicken and Wild Rice Bake. (Also includes side dishes, not listed here.) You can also find this same list of recipes with additional notes on how to turn prep day into a Freezer Meals Party.
Mealprep: stocking the freezer

Here are tips for stocking your freezer with precooked and seasoned meats, which gives you more versatility than already-assembled dishes. Includes instructions (but not exact recipes) for twice-baked potatoes, two different ground beef mixes, a teriyaki marinade that you can use on any meat, poultry or seafood (lots of sugar in it, though), and shredded chicken plus broth. Also has a few nifty tricks for neater packaging.

ingredient prep, + why i like it better than meal prep

For the past several months, I’ve gotten into the habit of ingredient prep. This works really well for me! It’s less labor-intensive on the front end, and more flexible at go-time! (I was originally inspired by this post by Mel Joulwan at Well Fed.)

Mealprep from Pioneer Woman

Here’s Pioneer Woman’s freezer cooking post. Not a lot of healthy stuff on the list, but I do love her tip for grilling whole chicken breasts and freezing them to have on hand for dozens of uses. I count about 11 main-dish recipes on her list, skipping the carb-laden ones.

Mealprep: chicken breasts
I also like this method for an easy way to cook boneless, skinless chicken breasts, from Small Home Big Start.
Mealprep from New Leaf Wellness

Eight healthy freezer crockpot meals in 75 minutes, from New Leaf Wellness. Well, really four different meals, double batch of each. Beef Roast and Carrots – Chicken Fajitas – Mexican Chicken Soup – Garden Veggie Soup with Ground Beef.

Mealprep shopping lists

10 meals in 1 hour – super organized and detailed; even includes shopping list! Really just five recipes; double batch of each. Honey Lemon Garlic Chicken –  London Broil – Quick Taco Soup – Orange Glazed Pork Chops – Creamy Italian Chicken

Mealprep - more shopping lists

10 meals in 1 hour, take 2; the no-bake version; includes five warm weather recipes that are cooked either on the grill or in the crockpot—no oven required!

More about the method…

Here are a couple resources that aren’t recipe lists, but more of a how-to go about mealprep and make it work for you.

From Mealime: Meal Planning: The Definitive Guide to Planning Your Meals Stress-Free. This is an exhaustive collection with tons of tips — how to plan, how to shop, how to cook, etc.

Mealprep - the non-planned approach

A planned/non-planned approach. No recipes here, but some pointers for stocking your freezer with ready-to-go meat and cheese portions, then how to plan meals the weekend or night before, taking into account your schedule, the weather, and what’s in your fridge that needs to be used up.

 

And here are a few ingredients to have pre-cooked and ready in the freezer:

And a few things to know about food safety and quality:
Mealprep: freezer recipes

Crockpot Green Bean Casserole

campbell-s-classic-green-bean-casserole

Save your oven for other things, and save some day-of panic: Here’s the classic green bean casserole that everyone wants for Thanksgiving, tweaked to work in a crock pot / slow-cooker, and with optional make-ahead instructions.

Slow-Cooker Green Bean Casserole Recipe

Slow-Cooker Size: 4- to 6-quart       Makes 16 to 20 servings

30 oz. fresh or frozen green beans, cooked and well-drained
2 (10 3/4-oz.) cans cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
or make your own
1/4 to 1/2 c. shredded mozzarella
2 (4.5-ounce) jars sliced mushrooms, drained  (optional)
1 T. dried minced onion (omit if using garlic-flavored soup)
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 – 1.5 t. kosher salt (taste before adding)
1 (6-ounce) can French-fried onion rings (omit for gluten-free, or sub onion strings pan-fried in just oil)

Combine first six ingredients in a large bowl. (Beans thru pepper.)

Optional: Store covered in your fridge until ready to cook. Add an extra hour of bake time because it will be cold when it goes in the crockpot.

Spoon casserole mixture into a lightly greased slow cooker.

Cover and cook on LOW 2 hours. (3 hours if all ingredients are refrigerated.)

Taste and add salt as necessary. Sprinkle onion rings on top of casserole. Cover and cook on LOW 30 more minutes.

(I’ve lost the source for this recipe. If you recognize it, please comment.)

image: campbellskitchen.com

Thanksgiving and Christmas food prep FAQs

Holiday food prep tips and checklists; how long to cook turkey, ham, vegetables, and more.

Trying to plan a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal?

Here are some tips, calculators, and checklists.
roasted turkey; how long to cook, and other tips

Turkey

cave-tools-thermometerFor any meat, a meat thermometer is the essential gadget to make sure your meat comes out perfectly every time. 
Image from farmflavor.com

Ham

Image from campbellskitchen.com

Vegetables

  • Make-ahead crockpot green bean casserole. Save your oven for other things, and save some day-of panic: Here’s the classic green bean casserole that everyone wants for Thanksgiving, tweaked to work in a crock pot / slow-cooker, and with optional make-ahead instructions. Classic green bean casserole for crockpot.
  • Low-carb substitute for mashed potatoes. If you’ve tried mashed cauliflower and been disappointed, maybe you just didn’t add enough fat! Try this recipe.
  • Roasted vegetables timetable. The number one must-do side dish at our house — besides the turkey, of course. Oh, and pumpkin pie! Okay, the third-most popular dish: roasted vegetables. A slow roast works oven magic, turning onions, carrots and bell peppers into sugar-free candy-sweet goodness! Here’s a timetable for roasted vegetables: what goes into in the oven when, to make everything come out perfect.
This is my favorite pan for roasted vegetables, and anything else that can be made on a rimmed cookie sheet: USA Pan Jelly Roll Pan.* LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS PAN!!! Bakes evenly, rinses off like brand-new teflon every time. Everyone in my house has been threatened to not even think of co-opting this for some craft or garage project!
.

All foods: How much per person?

  • Here’s a thorough chart from Good Housekeeping, showing per-person serving recommendations for 8, 10, 12, 16, 20 and 24 people, for 10 popular holiday foods. It includes turkey, stuffing, potatoes, green beans, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, pie, and more. View the pdf.

.

Holiday meal planning checklists and calculators

  • An Excel spreadsheet that you can plug your number of guests into (including how many are vegetarians!), and it tells you how much food to buy. The page where you download it is a little confusing; just scroll down until you see this:
.

Would you rather have pictures?

Here’s a well-done info graphic from The Savory, showing turkey thawing time, brining time, brining recipe, roasting time, and more. This image is only one small part of it:
Image from The Savory
Pin it for later!
Here's all your holiday food prep and meal prep info: tips, checklists, recipe links, and more!
* Note: Product links in this post are to my Amazon store where I get a smidgen of the sales, but I truly use and fanatically love every product I link to.
.
Tabletop photo by Gabriel Garcia Marengo on Unsplash
Turkey photo by Alison Marras on Unsplash
Baking photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

20 Cranberry Sauce Recipes

roasted-cranberries-2

A variety of cranberry sauce recipes, for Thanksgiving or Christmas…

Cranberry Sauce Recipes
image: OurFamilyEats

.

Roasted or Baked Cranberry Sauce

Simple Roasted Cranberries (Gluten Free, Grain Free, and Paleo) from OurFamilyEats. I love that this one really is simple, and that it uses maple syrup for the sweetener.

Bobby Flay’s Baked Cranberry Sauce, which calls for finishing it off with a quarter cup of bourbon. Some reviewers substituted other liquor or liquers (orange being a popular flavor). 41 reviews, and every one of them 4-star!

Roasted Cranberry Sauce with Herbed Candied Walnuts, from Bon Appetit. Lots of sugar in this one!

Boozy and Baked Cranberry Sauce. Even though it has “boozy” in the name, its alcohol content is much less than Mr. Flay’s. Also looks easy: just four ingredients.
 .

Sugar-Free Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry Sauce Recipes
image: The Vintage Mixer
And another “sugar-free” cranberry sauce recipe, but it uses honey. You could sub maple syrup or your preferred sweetener. It also includes crushed pineapple; interesting!
And another. This one calls for Equal, but a couple commenters said they used Splenda and it worked well.
Paleo-friendly cranberry sauce; uses apple juice and maple syrup for sweetener. (Listed as

Paleo/GF/DF/EF/SF/NF)

Another Paleo cranberry sauce, from nomnompaleo, using sweet cherries and apple juice.

.

Traditional Stove-Top Cranberry Sauce Recipes

Cranberry Sauce Recipes
image: Simply Recipes
Every recipe I’ve ever tried from Elise at SimplyRecipes has been great. Here’s her traditional recipe. But she also suggest various add-ins. I might try blueberry!
(And her recipe is the same as the most popular cranberry sauce at AllRecipes; more than 1200 reviews, and still five stars!)
Another classic cranberry sauce recipe; this one from Pioneer Woman. Similar to the others, but uses maple syrup in place of sugar, and orange juice in place of white sugar.
.

Unique Cranberry Sauce Recipes

This page at Fun & Food Cafe features five different cranberry sauce recipes, with unusual ingredients. I like the sound of the second one, which has raspberries and walnuts!
Ginger Cranberry Sauce, via RecipeLion.
Another from the same source: Cranberry Sauce with Apples (and Mandarin oranges, and pineapple).
How about Cranberry Sauce with Jalapenos? I think that would be a big hit with smoked turkey.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Brat and cabbage soup

brat and cabbage soup

I’ve been waiting for a day cool enough for soup; today was the day! I’d been wanting to try out this recipe I spied on Taste of Home recently, when I was trying to figure out how to use up some leftover sausages — including some grilled bratwurst.

This soup exceeded my expectations! I love that it takes one of my husband’s favorite foods (brats/sausage), and makes it into a fairly healthy meal. Kick it up to the next level by serving with a hearty bread made into garlic toast. (Or Paleo English muffins made into garlic toast.)

Bonus: it’s really easy! We’ll definitely be having this again.

I halved the original recipe, since I was cooking for two. (The recipe below is the half portion; it still contains three to four servings.) Double these quantities to serve a larger group, or to have some to put in the freezer. Several reviewers said that it tasted just as good if not better, reheated the second day, so this would make a great make-ahead meal, too.

Leave out the beans to make it Paleo and Whole30 compliant. You could add chopped avocado in their place: similar texture, plus healthy fats!

brat and cabbage soup

Brat and Cabbage Soup Recipe

Serves 3-4

2 cups chicken broth or stock (or more, for a long simmer)
2 – 3 medium carrots
1 stalk celery
1 medium onion
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp granulated garlic
2 – 3 brats, cooked according to package directions
1.5 cups shredded cabbage
1 can (14 oz.) great northern beans, rinsed and drained (optional*)

Put the broth on to boil in a large saucepan. Chop the carrots, celery and onion into bite-size chunks, and add them to the saucepan, along with the seasonings. Once the mixture boils, turn it down to medium low and simmer till the carrots are tender.

Slice the brats in half lengthwise, then into half- to one-inch slices; add them to the pot and heat through. At this point, you can turn the heat to low and let it all simmer till 20 minutes before serving time. If the broth gets too low, add a little more chicken stock. Or put some or all in the freezer for a future meal.

About 15 to 20 minutes before serving, add the shredded cabbage and beans. Stir gently and continue to simmer. Serve with fresh-from-the-oven garlic toast.

*To make this a lower carb dish — with balanced carbs and proteins — just leave out the beans. Here’s the nutrition info with beans:

Nutrition Facts
Servings 4.0
Amount Per Serving
Calories 276
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 13 g 20 %
Saturated Fat 5 g 25 %
Monounsaturated Fat 0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 38 mg 13 %
Total Carbohydrate 26 g 9 %
Dietary Fiber 8 g 31 %
Sugars 5 g
Protein 16 g 32 %
And here it is without:
Nutrition Facts
Servings 4.0
Amount Per Serving
Calories 206
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 13 g 20 %
Saturated Fat 5 g 25 %
Monounsaturated Fat 0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 38 mg 13 %
Total Carbohydrate 11 g 4 %
Dietary Fiber 3 g 10 %
Sugars 5 g
Protein 11 g 21 %

Three weeks of week-night menus

3-week-menu
When my kids were still living at home and evenings were crazy-busy, I used a three-week rotation to save me the trouble of having to figure out day-by-day what we were having for dinner. And I created a grocery list for each week that I kept on the computer. I resisted this level of planning for a long time, but once I started using it, it freed up SO much brain-space and simplified life so much, I loved it.

For you, I’ve chosen recipes that are less carb-heavy than what we were eating when our kids were small, and dishes that I think most people would like.

(Later note: they pre-date my Paleo days, so they’re not all wheat-, sugar-, or dairy-free. But they are pretty whole-food focused.)

A few notes to make it easier:

Every Monday is a salmon dish; I try to eat salmon at least once a week for health reasons. I like to do it on Monday, because I’m usually not on top of things most Mondays, I always keep individual portions of salmon in the freezer, and it cooks in 10 minutes! If fish on Friday is part of your routine, feel free to switch it up.

Every Tuesday, you make extra chicken to be used later in the week.

Once you’ve tested these recipes and decided which are keepers, you can make up the seasoning mixes in bulk to streamline that part of weeknight cooking.

Note that some recipes can have part of the prep work done the night before, or earlier in the day, to further simplify your evening prep time.

Many of my recipes incorporate vegetables so I don’t have to make a side dish, but for those that do need one, my side dish usually consists of this: pulling a bag of frozen vegetables (green beans, cauliflower, mixed veggies) or pre-sliced carrots out of the fridge, steaming them, and adding some butter and salt. Other possible additions: cheese, for broccoli or cauliflower; pine-nuts, almonds or pecans for green beans; orange marmalade or cinnamon for carrots.

Week 1:

paleo whole30 real food main dishes, entrees, meat

Tues: Super easy shredded chicken tacos  (start early; uses a slow-cooker. make extra for tomorrow’s salad)

Wed: Tex-Mex salad 

Thurs: 10-Minute French dip (Or freezer burritos. Gluten-free option included.)

Fri: Asian lettuce wraps

——————————————————————–

Week 2:

Almost-Panera's Asian Chicken Salad

Mon: Ancho-crusted salmon (Substitute an off-the-shelf BBQ dry rub if you don’t want to make your own. But I highly recommend this one!)

Tues: Honey-mustard grilled chicken * (make extra for tomorrow’s salad)

Wed: Almost-Panera’s Asian salad

Thurs: Chipotle pork tacos

Fri: Salsa verde chicken

——————————————————————–

Week 3:

curry-chicken-salad-be2-500

Mon: Herb-crusted salmon

Tues: Easy roasted chicken breasts (make extra for tomorrow’s and Friday’s salad)

Wed: Caesar salad with leftover chicken; here’s a recipe for easy homemade Caesar dressing without raw or coddled eggs.

Thurs: Herb-roasted pork tenderloin

Fri: Orange-cranberry chicken salad

——————————————————————–

For Fall and Winter meals, I would substitute the following soups for the Wednesday night salads:

——————————————————————–

*These recipes have not been tested by me, but they’re highly rated on AllRecipes.com.

Ten (or so) Healthier Superbowl Foods – 2013

MeatballSubCasserole
Looking for the perfect superbowl food? Here are 10 that sound totally yummy! And for bonus points, some of them are low carb, paleo, and/or reduced sugar!
Meatball Sub Casserole from AllRecipes. (I’m not making any “good for you” claims on this one!)
Hot Shrimp Scampi Dip from Go Bold With Butter. (Or this one!)
Healthier Superbowl Foods - shrimp cocktail

Shrimp Cocktail with Low-Sugar Cocktail Sauce from Kalyn’s Kitchen (Kalyn always has great low-carb recipes)

Healthier Superbowl Foods - zucchini lasagna

Grilled Zucchini “Lasagna” with Italian Sausage, also from Kalyn’s Kitchen

Cheesy Vegetable Chowder from Lulu the Baker. Doesn’t this sound scrumptious on a cold day?

Healthier Superbowl Foods - sausage and peppers - Paleo friendly!

Sausage and Peppers from Proud Italian Cook. We made this for Christmas brunch last year and it was a big hit! Easy to make ahead, and cheap and easy way to feed a crowd.Grilled the sausages the day before. (Chill them before slicing. Makes slicing easier and retains more juiciness.)

Healthier Superbowl Foods - avocado bacon deviled eggs - Paleo friendly

Avocado Deviled Eggs with Bacon from Caveman Gourmet. Intriguing!

Healthier Superbowl Foods - squash with sausage and cheese appetizer

Summer Squash (or Zucchini) Topped with Sausage and Cheese from yours truly! These can be mostly-made ahead, then baked or reheated at the last minute.

Buffalo Chicken Quesadillas (with Avocado) from Half Hour Meals

No-bake Energy Bites from Smashed Peas and Carrots. Use the syrupy sweetener of your choice: honey, maple or agave. And experiment with mix-ins: chocolate, craisins, cashews…

Buttermilk Ranch Dressing Recipe

buttermilk-dressing-overhead-480
Looking for things to do with summer’s last abundance of garden tomatoes? When you’re tired of BLT’s (is that possible?), this is one delicious way to serve up the same flavors with a twist.
This recipe is based on Ina Garten’s (aka Barefoot Contessa) buttermilk ranch dressing. I’m not saying I could improve on her: these changes were just made to accommodate my being short on fresh basil, my husband’s aversion to too much mustard flavor, and our taste for less salt in things. Also, I prefer the taste of yogurt to that of mayo, so I tweaked that proportion a bit.
I loved how it came out! I ate this salad or some variation of it for four days straight! I hope you’ll love it, too.

Recipe: Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

3 green onions, white and green parts, chopped
2 T. chopped fresh basil leaves, lightly packed (or 2 t. dried)
2 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 t. Dijon mustard
1 T. good olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 t. kosher salt
1 t. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 cup Greek-style yogurt
1/2 cup buttermilk, shaken
—-
3 small Bibb lettuces, cut in half through the core
   (or 6 hearts of romaine, cut in half through the core, or equivalent loose-leaf chopped)
2 large ripe tomatoes, cut in large cubes, or smaller tomatoes thickly sliced
1 red onion, sliced (optional)
bacon, amount to your liking (optional, but highly recommended)
Place the green onions, basil, lemon juice, mustard, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Puree for 15 to 20 seconds to make a smooth mixture. Add the mayonnaise, yogurt, and buttermilk and blend until smooth. Transfer the dressing to a container, cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, for the flavors to develop.
Arrange the salad ingredients on salad plates and drizzle with the dressing. Sprinkle with fresh ground pepper if desired, and serve.
Serves 6.