Make-ahead meals for destination bachelorette
Hello! Long-time lurker, first-time poster here! I've diligently searched the archives for threads on make-ahead freezer meals, cooking for large groups, and family beach week meals, but was hoping to get some more specific recs from the 'hounds.
I'm in charge of the food for a Friday afternoon - Sunday morning destination bachelorette shindig in a beautiful mountain lodge. Guest list is seven lovely ladies, and we'll be dining in exclusively, since the mountain is pretty far-removed from civilization. I'm hoping to do some make-ahead-and-freeze main dishes so that I'm able to celebrate (imbibe) along with the crowd, and would love some advice on how best to streamline things while still making it fun and festive! Specific requirements are:
AVOID: tomatoes, bell peppers, peanuts, melons, bananas, raw onions
INCLUDE: pumpkin recipes, apples, maple, anything autumnal, green chili, baked goods in inappropriate shapes
Would love any thoughts! Thanks a million!
Sounds fun. I would keep some of the meals simple and then do one big meal Saturday night that might require more work (from all the ladies). Breakfast, I would suggest some type of egg frittata with any seasonal vegetables. We make one with spinach, eggs, and feta. It can be assembled the night before and whoever gets up first can pop it in the oven and get the coffee brewing. I don't really have a recipe but I am certain there are some out there. Dinner Friday, if excluding tomatoes includes tomato sauce, you could opt for prepackaged ravioli with chicken and a light sauce and green salad. Easy Saturday dinners could be roast chickens or beef tenderloin roasted. Throw fingerling potatoes and root vegetables and then a few sides and your golden.
Semi-self-linking over to the CHOW side of the house, I really like this butternut squash lasagna, though I admit I have never been willing to go to the trouble to source the chestnut puree: http://www.chow.com/recipes/10790-but... and I think it really fits your vision of autumnal as well as make-ahead.
Another thing that's really good and easy for this kind of thing is a baked french toast type thing. I've never tried making it ahead and freezing it, but you could easily slice up all the bread into casserole dish with the sugar and raisins and whatnot already in there, and then all you'd need to do in the moment is whisk together eggs and milk and pour it over the top (you can do that the night before, before you get too celebratory for the evening and throw it in the fridge, and then it's just take it out and bake for the next day).
One really nice thing to do for dessert or a decadent breakfast is baked stuffed apples. This would be make-ahead-and-refrigerate, not freeze, but it might fit the bill. Basically, cut apples in half, take out core, scoop out interior, cube it up, saute with butter and spices and wee bit of brown sugar, add back to the apple halves, and top with a crumble mixture (I highly recommend including nuts in this mixture!) Then line them up in a baking pan, and bake till tender and browned. You can top it with a scoop of maple-sweetened greek yogurt and more toasted nuts.
One of my favorite lasagna recipes (which freezes well) is a tomato-less lasagna, which involves layering noodles with:
-rosemary-infused bechamel sauce
-ricotta mixed with tons of thawed, squeezed spinach and fresh grated parmesan
-cooked mashed butternut squash/pumpkin (canned pumpkin works fine here), seasoned with rosemary, salt and pepper
Will post more ideas if I think of any. Have a great time!
Love the Frittata idea. You can also do a potato/cheese/ham bake for a breakfast. A couple of dinner ideas would be a pablano corn lasagna http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ma...
PW's Chicken Spaghetti (which I find freezes nicely) http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/20...
Both of those would keep you out of the kitchen most of the time, with a quick tossed salad and crusty bread.
Maybe pre-cook some chicken breasts, sliced thin and do a nice chicken caesar salad for lunch (you can even make ahead croutons). Almost everything can be take and bake. The other things can take minimal help with the other lovely ladies.
Are you planning to prepare stuff at home and bring it with you, or would you prefer to do most of the prep at the lodge? How well stocked is the kitchen there in terms of equipment and cooking space? How long a drive do you have to get there, and do you have a way to keep things cold if the drive is more than a couple of hours? Do you need to bring all of the groceries/supplies with you, or is there a market within a quick drive of the lodge?
There is always someone smart to think of these things. Good questions. My items were mostly to be made in advance. But there is always a way to have those lovely ladies to help prep several things in a fun way in advance in the kitchen at the lodge (if the facilities are acceptable). Good group project. I've done a number of "girls weekends" and 1/2 the fun is getting everyone together in the kitchen.
Thanks so much for all the fantastic suggestions! I especially love the alternative lasagnas and the potato-cheese-ham bake for breakfast (and the fun-shaped pasta!). I'll definitely use the frittata idea for an at-home brunch menu sometime, but I think I'd rather not try to bring a ton of eggs with me in the cooler (I'm the clumsy bridesmaid, unfortunately).
My hope was to have at least the entrees made ahead of time and frozen (so things like chili, soups, and lasagna-type casseroles are great!). Reasoning is that not only will it save us all valuable kitchen time that could be spent playing scandalous games, but also that the big blocks of frozen food will help keep my cooler cold for the full 4.5 hour drive (yikes) to the lodge. The kitchen is equipped according to the rental agreement, but I'm planning on bringing knives, a decent cutting boards, and a baking pan in the traditional bachelorette-party shape.
Thanks again for all your help!
a couple of thoughts...
* for the frittata, break the required # of eggs, and transport in a plastic juice jug. Shake to "scramble" when it's show-time.
* consider that the frozen casseroles will take a LONG time to heat through, in an unfamiliar oven. One frozen casserole will keep the rest of the stuff cold in a cooler.
* pre-wash and pre-chop as many of the ingredients as you can, and then use meal assembly as a team project.
* pack an oven thermometer, and a WINE OPENER (easily the most likely item to be "removed" from a rental cottage), and extra kitchen towels (or the disposable "j-cloth" sort)
Eggs will be fine at room temperature, so no need to put them in your cooler. If you're going to do any baking while you're there, you'll need them anyway. They're super useful for quick meals/sandwiches too, so I would bring a couple dozen whether you make a frittata or not - you can always take them home with you if you don't need them.
KarenDW is correct that one frozen casserole will keep the whole cooler cold enough for the drive - a lasagna would be great. You only need two dinners, so you could do a braised meat dish for the other one - I recently made a braised brisket ahead of time, stuck it in a big ziploc and threw it in a cooler to transport, with the braising liquid/sauce in a separate tupperware. Once I got where I was going, it was quick and easy to reheat in a little braising liquid.
For lunches, maybe make a couple of soups (chili and butternut squash) and bring along some great sandwich fixings and breads? If you freeze the soups, they would also keep your cooler cold and then you could just let them thaw slowly in the fridge at your destination.
If I were you, I'd try to get at least some of the baking out of the way before you go, so that you don't have to haul ALL of your baking accoutrements with you. Make a coffee or pound cake that improves with time and maybe a pan of brownies or bar cookies for snacking/breakfasts, and just do your themed cake there - you could even mix the dry ingredients at home and bring them in a ziploc. Bring your frosting premade, too - you don't want to depend on the vacation kitchen to have a decent set of beaters.
Also, keeping in mind that these ladies may be dieting in advance of the wedding, make sure you have salad stuff on hand, and vegetables for a couple of vegetables sides for each meal. Fresh fruit and yogurt for light breakfasts or snacks would probably be welcome, too.
I love pork shanks braised with apples, calvados and thyme. I use this veal recipe as inspiration and play around with it. I have also made a similar stew with pork shoulder. I like to serve it with garlic mashed potatoes and bacon braised red cabbage.
My easiest dessert is pumpkin bread pudding served hot with ice cream and caramel sauce. There are a ton of recipes out there.
Awesome Baked Ham and Swiss Poppy Seed Sandwiches
Makes 4 servings
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon poppy seeds
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons prepared mustard
4 teaspoons brown sugar
6 buns - whatever it takes to fill 8 x 8 pan
- I've used whole wheat dinner buns, white hamburger buns,and leftover bratwurst / hot dog buns
8 oz. thin-sliced cooked deli or packaged ham
4 -5 ounces shredded Swiss cheese OR slices
Best if refrigerated a few hours or overnight with the sauce on, but fine if baked immediately.
When ready to bake preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Into a medium microwave safe bowl, measure butter, poppy seeds, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar and prepared mustard. Heat to boiling to melt butter & sugar. Stir to mix well.
Coat an 8x8 baking pan lightly with vegetable spray.
Slice rolls in half horizontally and set aside tops. Arrange in a single layer in the 8 x 8 pan. Top generously with ham and evenly sprinkle with shredded Swiss cheese. Replace tops. Spoon heated butter mixture over each roll, about 2 T per bun.
Cover with aluminum foil & refrigerate until ready to bake.
Bake, covered, in the preheated 350 degree oven 25 minutes (or 10 minutes if not refrigerated), then uncovered 10 minutes, until rolls are lightly browned and cheese is melted.
Adapted from a recipe by Joanie Wendel, St. Peter, MN published in the General Store Holiday Cookbook.