Favorite "make on weekend, eat during the week", meals
With an 8 month old whose dinner/bath/bed ritual takes up the hour and a half when I get home from work, I'm starting to do lots of "cook on the weekend, reheat during the week" meals in addition to always having a stash of stews, soups and whatnot in my freezer. With a husband whose often working nights, I wrestle with getting my little one down before she has an overtired meltdown and not living on pb&j (or the Trader Joe's panko breaded chicken tenders).
So far, some of my favorite things to make have been:
Any other suggestions of things that can be made/prepped on the weekend, and then popped in the oven for a weeknight dinner? Things with "flexible" timing are best, as some nights I can get her to sleep in 10 minutes, other nights it's the better part of an hour, so I can't really pay too much attention to what's cooking. It's usually a "leave it and forget it" kind of a thing.
Casseroles are perfect for making on the weekend and eating during the week. Enchiladas, cabbage rolls, and red beans and rice are great for this.
Braises like Swiss steak, Osso Bucco, stews all heat up very well. In fact they are better a few days later.
Don't forget quick and easy meals like stirfry. Have rice as a side dish on the weekend and make sure you have extra then stirfry is very quick.
That reminds me. There are a lot of things that become very quick and easy if you pre-prep on the weekend. I have blanched green beans and then put them in a ziplock bag in the fridge. A few days later i quickly sauteed them. When bell peppers are on sale I buy a few more than I need and chop them, put them in a sandwich bag. I then put the rolled up sandwich bag in a bigger ziplock bag of chopped bell peppers and freeze it. When I need some chopped peppers, I just go to the freezer and pull out 1 of the bags.
If you want to go the expense of a Foodsaver, you can make the equivalent of boiling bags and freeze them. Last Thanksgiving, I wanted to minimize the work on turkey day so I peeled and cut up some potatoes, put them in a Foodsaver bag. Once the bag was sucked down and sealed I was able to store the potatoes in the fridge for 3 days without discoloration. I could have cooked and mashed the potatoes but I chose not to.
I know this is a little old but I am sort of in the same boat, but my kids are older. It's just much easier for all if dinner is ready - saves on cooking time AND clean-up, so I can hang out with my kids and supervise homework and piano practice. Like others, I like baked pastas, but not necessarily lasagne for weeknights, with all that layering and cheese. I love baked rotini with tomato sauce, rapini and italian sausage, just as an example. I find it just easy to prep 2 as 1, so I "feed the freezer" too. Just a little cheese on top (and I buy pregrated for this purpose) with some breadcrumbs is very tasty. I'm learning to love my slow cooker. Having pulled pork tonight!
Braises. Veal shanks and short ribs come to mind. Thomas Keller has an excellent braised chicken recipe. We make this stuff on the weekend and eat 'em during the week. Leftovers are killer.
Lasagna. So many good lasagna recipes out there. Leftovers are much better than the day-one stuff (we never eat it on day one).
Cassoulet. D'Artagnan has a mail-order kit that is excellent.
These are a few things we do here in Sou'west Connecticut. Weekends are made for baseball, football and cooking.
Poached Chicken -- use it in many things, such as...
Enchiladas -- make sauce, saute shredded chicken with onions and green chiles, fill tortillas, bake in sauce... freeze in individual portions.
Ratatouille -- make, freeze in individual portions, reheat, and stir in chicken and some ricotta or feta cheese and top with some fresh basil
Stuffed Potatoes -- with anything you like; again freeze individually, top with chicken and sauce of choice
Lentil Soup -- mine's very basic, diced onions, carrots, celery, lentils, veggie broth, cumin, coriander, minced garlic, salt, pepper, and something diced cauliflower
Pizza Dough -- premake dough and refrigerate, prep toppings... preheat during bath, bake for 10 minutes
Salmon Croquettes - i always have these in my freezer, sometimes mini, sometimes standard size; great with soup or salad or both
Breakfast burritos -- egg, onion, potatoes, cheese, rosemary or thyme and parsley, garlic, all cooked then rolled and frozen; serve with salsa and/or sour cream
Muffaletta -- good to make over the weekend to enjoy in the early part of the week, as the soaking time helps
Meatloaf Muffin cups - meatloaf on bottom, cooked veggies in the middle, mashed potatoes on top, reheated with a little gravy
...hope something in there intrigues :)
+1 poached chicken: a great time-saver for weeknight meals, just to have on hand for chicken salad, tacos.. you name it. Similarly, you can pre-cook dried beans in the slow cooker during the day or overnight. What else..
I'll generally make a hearty soup of a weekend, lentil or rustic veg, sometimes leaning toward a red meat-based braise/stew. These all reheat marvellously, as I'm sure you know.
Savoury pies are also good, like if you want to assemble a pot pie or a quiche and store refrigerated until you're ready. These aren't as set-it-and-forget it as a slow cooker is, but if your oven has a timer and shut-off feature, you can better ensure your meal won't burn to a crisp if you're tied up. Also pretty forgiving here is a baked spinach dish as it will just get softer and creamier with more time in the oven (as long as it's covered), and the Kitchn site has a good recipe called Chinese No Clay Pot Chicken Casserole. I've made it without chicken too, just more vegetables, and it really holds up.
The slow cooker is my best friend for these types of things:
Slow cooker pulled pork - get a good quality rub, put it on a boston butt, and use a couple of drops of liquid smoke, and put it in the slow cooker on low all day. I like mine wet, and have messed around with different sauces to also cook in the slow cooker, but haven't found anything better than what comes out of the bottle yet.
I wouldn't really classify this one as "home made" but its simple and takes almost no active time:
Get one of those bags of assorted dried beans (or mix and match your own), and soak them over night. In the morning, strain, transfer to the slow cooker with a couple of cans of tomatos (add a can or two of the diced w/ green chilies for some spice) and cook on low all day.
Both of these keep really well during the week, and take very little time to make.
I've done a bag of chicken thighs I leave soaking in the fridge for a couple of days with soy, red chili, and a can of pineapple. I just throw them on a baking sheet while I steam rice and a veggie. If I'm feeling fancy I sprinkle sesame seed and cilantro on top when I serve.
I've also made a sort of fake stroganoff in the slow cooker. I leave beef stew meat, plenty of mushrooms, wine or beer (whatever I need to use) and various spices. Just before serving, I usually mix in a little low fat sour cream.
I love chicken in the slow cooker with black beans, tomatoes, green chilis, corn, etc. I've used various things and then serve with rice or tortillas, depending upon how much energy I have. In this same vein, enchilladas and chili verde are both good.
Just made a huge batch of Indian dal that will feed us many lunches this week, used the new Slow Cooker Revolution recipe (by the America's Test kitchen folks.....it's pretty good but if it's for adult consumption i would triple the spices).
Another idea: refrigerated pizza dough can be quickly stretched and sprinkled with weekend-prepped toppings, popped into the oven and enjoyed 15 minutes later or at room temp much later. We've been in your shoes and although it's been many years now we still remember what that stage is like. Best of luck finding a way to enjoy it all.