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Feb 11, 2012 05:32 PM

Make ahead for a novice cook

Up until now, I cooked for my girlfriend and I - I worked halftime, she worked full-time. She's also a recovering vegetarian and a novice in the kitchen.

I took a second job and will be working 11-13 hour days. I'm not going to be able to cook much anymore and I'm hoping she can take over in the kitchen. I also see it as a great opportunity for her to build her cooking confidence - she takes it really hard when things don't turn out as described.

I talked about this with her and she mentioned that she'd like to make as much ahead as possible. We're both pretty healthy eaters - as for preferences, I don't like heavy starch meals, she doesn't like mushrooms, blue cheese, or eggs. Cheap is a plus as there's a definite reason I'm working two jobs ;D

I know there are always a bunch of these threads and I'm trying to sort through them, but I appreciate any suggestions and recommendations.

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  1. Hearty soups and stews could really be your friends in this case. That would tick all your boxes -- no heavy starch, no mushrooms or blue cheese or eggs necessary, and cheap!

    I often make a huge pot of chicken & vegetable soup on the weekend, and we eat it a couple nights during the next week; ditto for Italian white bean, kale, & sausage soup, also minestrone. And beef stew is a really easy one to make in advance, and the flavors, like soup, only get better overnight.

    Soups and stews don't need to be as daunting as they initially sound, either. I suggest browsing around on the internet for samples.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Kitchen Imp

      Just saw that she's a recovering vegetarian. One of my fave recipes for a make-ahead soup-as-a-meal came from an Italian cookbook whose title I've now forgotten, so I'm very sorry if I'm somehow breaking copyright here. I've adapted it over the years in any case. It was the first soup I learned how to make and I promise it's an easy one!


      1 onion, chopped
      4 Tbsp olive oil
      6 cloves garlic, diced (I love garlic, some people might prefer less)
      3 cups or 1.5 28-oz cans Italian crushed tomatoes
      10 basil leaves, cut in thin strips
      1/4 to 1/2 cup fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley, chopped
      3 15-oz cans of small white beans (Italian ones, called cannellini)
      6 cups water
      1/4 lb small dried pasta, like mini-macaroni or something like it
      salt & pepper to taste

      Saute onion & garlic in olive oil, about 5 minutes, until soft. Add canned tomatos, sliced basil leaves, and chopped parsley. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add canned beans (drained) and 6 cups water. Simmer over medium heat at least 15 minutes, until beans start to break down and the soup thickens somewhat. Add the pasta and cook (according to the timing on the box) until al dente.

      This soup is fabulous with crusty bread and grated parmesan, and if you have time a salad is always nice but not necessary. It's always better the day after you cook it.

      1. re: Kitchen Imp

        We have gone the low carb route, and I make the Paste E Fagioli without the pasta. I have put eggplant in it instead, and it is still that delicious, gut warming wonderful soup. I did use the frozen breaded eggplant, and it didn't affect my being in ketosis.

      2. re: Kitchen Imp

        Check out Maryana Vollstedt's "The Big Book Of Casseroles"....great recipes for stews, etc.

      3. Just today I made a big batch of chimichangas and froze them for later. That's a great thing to do, since it's not that much harder to make a bunch of something once you've made all fo the components.
        This was the recipe I used:

        Also, last week I made vegetarian enchiladas, and I made a second pan and froze it. Much easier and less time-consuming to make two batches at once than making it twice! There are tons of vegetarian enchilada recipes. Mine was actually vegan (and these are lots more intricate than many other recipes):

        I'm planning to have the enchiladas on tuesday, when we both work really late. I'll set them in the fridge to thaw in the morning, and pop them in the oven as soon as I get home.

        1 Reply
        1. re: IndyGirl

          Clarification: the mushrooms in the chimichangas are truly optional. I also use low-carb tortillas, and you could cut back on the rice (or use brown rice, which is healthier).

        2. The restrictions greatly limit the choices. braises would work...something like chicken cacciatore, Swiss Steak, short ribs or pot roast. Soups and stews have been suggested. If you two are big salad eaters, you could add protein to almost any salad, chicken, steak, shrimp. You could precook and slice those things and freeze small amounts in zip lock bags. Heat them up and add them to a salad.

          Try chicken marsala and chicken picatta. they are quick. You would have to find a substitute fr mushrooms in the marsala.. maybe broccoli? Scampi is quick.

          1. Pasta--cook an entire box and keep in the fridge. Add protein of your choice, steamed veg, abd sauce.

            Rice--same as above.

            Potatoes--bake several and top with cheese, canned chili, broccoli, or other delicious topping.

            Quinoa--use as you would rice or pasta or make a salad with olives, tomatoes, olive oil, and herbs.

            1. One of my favorite (cheap) make-ahead meals is a big pot of beans, served over or with cornbread. I often make a batch of cornbread in a muffin tin, then freeze the extras for future meals. If you're interested, here's a recipe for spicy beans that I use as a start:
              I usually leave out the ham hocks and just use left over chopped ham, but you could probably sub several things. I also make the recipe in a slow cooker, and it works well every time.