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Cook-ahead meals - recipe ideas and inspiration needed!

The Oracle May 2, 2013 12:12 PM

My regular cooking routine has been thrown out the window. My husband started a night job so my valued time preparing dinner together is gone. Now, I'm cooking for alone (well, I should be cooking, but I haven't yet).

Ideally - what I'd like to figure out are meals to make that reheat easily (so I make them one night and he can take them with him for his dinner the next night). He has access to a microwave and a variety of containers/refrigerator, so as long as it can reheat in a microwave well, it shouldn't be an issue.

As I type, I'm realizing that most things I cook could likely fit into this category, but cooking alone has given me ZERO inspiration. So, I suppose that's what I'm looking for most.

Any thoughts how to get my motivation going? or meals that would fit the bill?

  1. n
    nemo May 3, 2013 10:04 AM

    As the weather gets warmer, you might want to consider things that don't have to be heated up. Unless he really likes a hot meal.

    Not something that would freeze, but is better the next day, is a layered sandwich like a muffaletta. We don't care for the traditional olive salad, so we use a black olive tapenade on the top of a hollowed out loaf and basil pesto on the bottom. Layer with your favorite sliced deli meats and cheeses (mortadella with pistachios is a must for us!), like sopressata, a nice ham, baked turkey, mozz, provolone, and maybe roasted red peppers. Instead of a really big loaf, you could make individual rolls, wrap and weight overnight in the fridge, then you each have dinner for the next day.

    Minestrone soup with tiny meatballs or sausage chunks freezes well. Just cook and freeze the pasta separately in serving sizes. He can add to the soup when reheating.

    Oops. Don't know where you live, so getting warmer, it may not be.

    Also, any kind of meat meatballs stuffed with a cube of cheese with meat gravy (not tomato), served with buttered egg noodles (again frozen separately so as not to get soggy), or over a roll or bread for an open-faced sandwich.

    1 Reply
    1. re: nemo
      The Oracle May 3, 2013 12:41 PM

      He's been doing sandwiches lately and was getting burnt out... (I recently picked up the most amazing mortadella! - yum!). My mouth is watering reading your comments. :) That will be a good thing to add to the rotation (just not every day, like he was doing last week!).

      I think I'm going to have the chance to perfect meatballs! Love the idea of stuffing them with a cube of cheese. I'd imagine meatballs would freeze well, too.

      ...and, yes, getting warmer. 93 today! (So Cal)

    2. j
      justme123 May 3, 2013 08:26 AM

      DH works nights as well , plus every-other weekend. He has been doing this for 17 years, so I totally get where you are coming from! On the nights he is home, I generally make enough food for at least 2 full meals (so, 4 servings). He can have one of those meals for his next shift, and I freeze the other one for another day so that he is not eating the same thing in row for several nights. I usually have some of the leftovers on the second night.
      things that do well with this technique are chilis and soups, roast pork (drizzle with sauce and wrap each slice in saran and then bag in a freezer bag), meatballs/loaf- I make a morrocon meatball he LOVES, roasted chicken and what he calls 'gruel' (in a loving way, of course).
      To make it, I cut up 1-2 zucchini or yellow squash, 1 onion, 1 pepper, and about 1 lb of green beans, along with 3-4 chicken breasts into cubes. Season chicken with S&P, a little oregano and thyme and saute for a few minutes till golden. Remove from pan, add olive oil and throw in veggies. Once veg begins to soften, add chicken back in along with a 15 oz can of tomatoes (Diced or stewed). cook about 10 minutes, Serve over rice. that amount will last us both for several days, but doesn't freeze great.

      One of the new products that has been a godsend is the minute rice microwavable cups- they have a ton of different varieties. I really like the multi-grain one.

      At least one night a month, I do resort to eating like I was in College again- you know, a bag of microwave popcorn! on those nights the freezer food is on his menu :)

      1 Reply
      1. re: justme123
        The Oracle May 3, 2013 12:33 PM

        This is brilliant!! Thank you! I especially love the idea of making 4 servings and freezing one for later (he hates the same thing two days in a row!). Thanks for the freezing tips. And, you are making me laugh with resorting to eating like in college (I lived on microwaved popcorn!!)... and, that's how I've been feeling lately (very bare-bones survival), as I adjust to this new schedule! My usual fare of home cooked meals is out the window... for now! :)

      2. iL Divo May 3, 2013 08:00 AM

        1. chicken and rice
        (roast a whole chicken, pull apart) make a pilaf of your favorite rice (I do chicken broth/onion/jalepeno/celery) rice on botton of container, chicken on top (small container of your home made broth from the chicken juices to pour over.
        2. ChiliMac
        make a batch of your favorite or his favorite chili
        make a batch of easy mac&cheese
        in container goes chili on left, mac&cheese on right
        (onions&cheese in a container for dropping over both, then they marry
        3. Bacon&tomato rye krisp quiche
        the rye krisp is the crust, tomatoes and fried bacon plus cheese mixture baked-fresh herbs in mini container for spilling over top plus couple slices of mozzo cheese, into the nuker, done

        1 Reply
        1. re: iL Divo
          The Oracle May 3, 2013 12:35 PM

          Perfect, perfect, perfect! And I would have never thought of rye krisp for the quiche!

        2. Kris in Beijing May 3, 2013 07:34 AM

          I'm always advocating the techniques used in Once A Month Cooking.
          Here's a thread:

          1 Reply
          1. re: Kris in Beijing
            The Oracle May 3, 2013 12:34 PM

            Thanks for linking that! I will scour the thread.

          2. weezieduzzit May 2, 2013 12:57 PM

            I've made this Coriander-Cumin chicken twice now and the man swears it's even better for lunch the next day:


            It was posted here on CH by Nyleve.

            1. juliejulez May 2, 2013 12:48 PM

              I've found pasta dishes with either red sauce or pesto reheat well. Cream sauces, not so much.

              Also enchiladas are a favorite at our house... they're definitely better the second day.

              1 Reply
              1. re: juliejulez
                gourmanda May 2, 2013 01:32 PM

                What is it about red sauce that makes it so good the next day? Had leftover spaghetti which was really good the first night and great today. Spaghetti and lasagna....yum! And along the enchilada route--burritos filled with scrambled eggs (could add spinach, peppers, etc.) and cheese. I just take the eggs and tortillas separately then assemble and reheat at work.

              2. letsindulge May 2, 2013 12:20 PM

                I think anything oven-braised is delicious & easy (think BI chicken, white beans, greens). Or one-pot meals, (soups, stew, curry, chili).

                1 Reply
                1. re: letsindulge
                  Paprikaboy May 2, 2013 01:04 PM

                  Agree stews and curries are your friend here.
                  Always taste better the day after they were made.

                2. g
                  GH1618 May 2, 2013 12:17 PM

                  Meat loaf. It's even better the second day. Pick new potatoes of the right size to include with the meatloaf. Boil the potatoes, but undercook them, as they will coom more in the microwave.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: GH1618
                    The Oracle May 3, 2013 12:34 PM

                    I love meatloaf, but DH's mom ruined him to meatloaf forever. I keep hoping I'll convert him back, one day.

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