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Share your make-ahead weeknight dinners

Hi all. I’m searching for recipes for dinners that aren’t super fancy (we’re talking your average night at home for a family of 4) that can be made, at least for the most part, the night before and then cooked or reheated the next evening. DH and I both work full time and with 2 little ones it is tough enough to turn on the oven sometimes without worrying about one kid climbing into the dish washer and the other trying to ride the dog (Mommy, she’s not a dog, she’s a fire engine!). Anyway, we eat pretty much everything (I try and do one vegetarian and one fish meal a week and we stay away from too much red meat). We LOVE ethnic food and we are not afraid of spice or of crock pots.

I imagine there are others on here in the same boat – anyone want to share some make ahead meals with me?

I’ll go first. Last night we ate a spinach and mushroom bread pudding that I assembled the night before but baked when I got home from work yesterday. Here is the recipe (somewhat adulterated from a 365 Ways to Cook Vegetarian cook book):

Ingredients

1 pound mushrooms
16-20 oz of thawed, frozen chopped spinach (make sure you've really squeezed all the water out first)
1 small onion
4 eggs
2 cups of milk
1 cup shredded cheese
15 slices of stale white bread, crusts removed, cut into 4 squares each
salt, pepper, nutmeg
(its good with hot sauce too)

Directions:

Sautee a small chopped onion and a pound of sliced mushrooms in EVOO or butter on medium-low heat for about 15 minutes. Add spinach and cook for another minute or two. Add a little salt and pepper. Set aside.

Whisk together 4 eggs, 2 cups of milk, 1 tsp. nutmeg, salt and pepper.

Layer half of the bread pieces in a greased (I use PAM) casserole/baking dish. Pour half of the spinach/mushroom mix, ½ the egg mixture, and ½ c. of shredded cheese (we used mozzerella but I think the recipe originally called for Gruyere). Repeat.

Cover and refrigerate overnight. The next evening bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for about 45 minute

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  1. stuffed shells ...easyyyyyyy easyyyy
    and little kids love them

    1. Some permutation of a ragout and polenta. Bake the polenta during the weekend, maybe stirring in whatever hard cheese is in the fridge. Pour into a loaf pan and chill. The ragout is veggies and Italian sausage, usually. Just head up the ragout and plunk it onto a freshly fried slice of polenta. Sometimes I bake the polenta into sticks. Sometimes I just plunk it in the bowl!

      1. Bumping this thread - I am also searching for make ahead dinners. My husband will be out of town for a couple weeks, so I'd like to have some emergency rations in the freezer for those days when the kids need food RIGHT NOW.

        I'll pre-make some enchiladas and some pasta bake thing, but what other ideas are out there? Any soups/stews that hold up well to freezing?

        1 Reply
        1. re: penelopek

          you can do more or less the same thing with lasagna 'rolls' (just pasta instead of tortilla) and individually wrap 'em for the freezer and easy re-heat.

        2. There are only 2 of us, so I freeze a LOT of meals. Any meat dish, pot roast, chicken dishes, stews, chili, bean soups -- any variety, pasta almost any way, lasagna, enchilada casserole. Stroll through the freezer section at the grocery store and you'll see a huge variety of things that can be made ahead and refrigerated or frozen, to use as a jumping off point for ideas.

          1. I'll often make extra of specific sauces, then freeze them in bags and write what protein to add on the side. So, I can defrost a makhaki sauce and add shrimp or tofu or chicken to have a quick Indian dinner, or sauce for shrimp and grits (just add shrimp), etc.

            1. I always have meatballs (usually sweet & sour), meatloaf and turkey chili in my freezer. Frozen in portions for my 2 kids so I always have something to serve them in a hurry (though I usually take out and put in refrigerator to defrost the night before).

              This time of year (if it ever warms up in NY!), I start to make pesto in large batches and freeze in smaller portions too. Good to pull out of the freezer during the winter when basil is scarce.

              1. In winter I always have a pot or two of beans and one or two pots of different whole grains in the fridge. These form the basis of many different meals.

                3 Replies
                1. re: magiesmom

                  Magiesmom, I have a lot of beans and a lot of whole grains! Can you give me some ideas of the many different meals you make with them?

                  1. re: newfoodie

                    I basically make soups, stews,salads, gratins or curries, it is all in varying the seasoning profiles towards Italian, greek, , chinese, mexican, thai and varying the veggies served along with them by what is in the market.

                    1. re: magiesmom

                      I agree. I freeze a lot of my meals based around grains and beans. Vegetarian and vegan meals (soups, stews, etc) are great to freeze.

                      Indian meals (dal, chana masala, etc) are great to freeze and even taste better later.

                2. A friend just made this but with full-fat ricotta and fresh mozzarella and doubled the spinach and said it was a big hit with her family. You can make it the night before. http://www.skinnytaste.com/2010/09/lo...

                  Along the line of this and of your recipe, many baked ziti (or penne) and all strata recipes do well in the fridge overnight and then baked off.

                  Cooked-from-frozen salmon cakes or fish cakes can be on the table with salad in the bag in very little time.

                  Baked potatoes can be topped with all manner of things for an easy (if not quick) dinner. You can hurry them up a bit with a shortish nuking first.

                  1. LOL!!! I cannot open the dishwasher unless my son is in bed asleep (he's 11 mos old and just LOVES to climb in there). He would probably love this bread pudding, though I am holding off on foods containing milk and cream until he is 1 year old (cheese and yogurt are good, though).

                    How about Marcella's butter and onion tomato sauce? It is really easy and very delicious. Make a lot, eat some now and freeze the extra.

                    Also, I recently made this cardamom and yogurt marinated chicken dish: http://www.food52.com/recipes/9275_ro... I used chicken parts (legs and thighs, but you could use breasts if you prefer), marinated the chicken the night before I cooked it, and it was absolutely delicious and very easy.

                    1. things i tend to keep on hand in freezer...

                      ratatouille -- can pair with scrambled eggs, or stir in roasted chicken or cheese
                      salmon croquettes - i bake mine, generally in mini-size, and freeze to toss into soup as croutons later or serve with some mashed veggies
                      stuffed potato skins - easy to defrost and broil
                      frozen fish filets - heresy i know, but often tilapia, or occasionally halibut (though i prefer not to freeze this one), or shellfish... easy to defrost day of and broil or toss into a stew or soup later
                      breakfast for dinner - waffles or pancakes, sweet or savory... you can even toast and use the former to make a sandwich, or even a croque monsieur

                      1. things i tend to keep on hand in freezer...

                        ratatouille -- can pair with scrambled eggs, or stir in roasted chicken or cheese

                        salmon croquettes - i bake mine, generally in mini-size, and freeze to toss into soup as croutons later or serve with some mashed veggies

                        stuffed potato skins - easy to defrost and broil

                        frozen fish filets - heresy i know, but often tilapia, or occasionally halibut (though i prefer not to freeze this one), or shellfish... easy to defrost day of and broil or toss into a stew or soup later

                        breakfast for dinner - waffles or pancakes, sweet or savory... you can even toast and use the former to make a sandwich, or even a croque monsieur

                        1. I have recently been putting together tagine in the mornings (browning the meat, sauté the veg and adding the liquid) and then leaving it in the fridge until I get home to cook. I think the flavors come out even better. So far the lamb was the family's preference.

                          Did the same trick with a jambalaya (added the rice just before putting in the oven) and it too worked a treat.

                          1. Loving the thread. I haven't been cooking at all lately. We've been getting home from the gym at 7:30 on a good day, 9:00 on a bad day, and don't want to delay dinner long enough to cook something. I'm thinking, though, that if I could get protein and veggies into one dish, make it ahead, and eat it at room temperature or nuke it, it might happen. Maybe sesame noodles with beef or chicken and zucchini or cucumber, quiche or spanish tortilla. Even a casserole that could be easily nuked might work. Walking down the frozen food aisle is a great suggestion!