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Help me think of tasty, nutritious prep-ahead dishes to keep in my fridge for quick breakfasts and dinners

Sorry for the generic title, here's the longer explanation: for the last few years, my cooking has gone all over the map due to changes in family and health. At the present I feel somewhat adrift; I can't cook the way I really want to, or the way I was used to, for various reasons.

I'm trying to think of things that I can prep ahead of time and re-heat (or eat cold) for quick, nutritious meals for me. The time crunch is in the morning while trying to get the kids ready for school, and in the late afternoon while i'm making their dinner.

I'm looking for nutritious but not necessarily low-fat things, especially those that incorporate lots of veggies. I don't really love salads but if I put some avocado on it that helps :-) It's just me eating the stuff so a big pot of something doesn't really work either (I'm not into crockpots, but my rice cooker has a pressure cook function that I use often). I could freeze leftovers but I've learned that one of my quirks is that I don't really like frozen leftovers. So 3-4 servings of something, that isn't too much work, would be about right. (Too much work would be the multiple curries that I used to make for a weeknight dinner).

I love a fried egg with veggies (leftover curry, kimchee, etc) and rice but even that's that's usually too time consuming in the am rush. One thing that's worked is an "egg bake" with spinach and quinoa (will post recipe if anyone wants it). And for the afternoon snack I've been making roasted brussels sprouts with beets.

Please hit me with your suggestions!

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  1. Roasted carrot & chickpea salad
    Kale chips
    Veggies & humus
    Steamed/blanched green beans w/miso dressing
    Veggie tuna
    Israeli salad (pack dressing separately)

    4 Replies
    1. re: cheesecake17

      Can you elaborate on the carrot & chickpea salad, please? Do you roast the chickpeas or just the carrots? ALso would be interested to hear more about the green beans with miso dressing.

      1. re: gimlis1mum

        Carrots and chickpeas: roast thin coins of carrots with salt, pepper, cumin, and olive oil. Toss (while warm) with a can of chickpeas and lemon, olive oil, salt, pepper, cumin. You can add feta before serving/eating.

        Green beans: I blanch a whole bag of fresh green beans and leave them in the fridge. My daughter likes to dip them in the dressing, and husband likes them tossed in the dressing with scallions added.
        Dressing: miso paste, sesame seeds, fresh ginger, hot water, rice vinegar, sesame oil. Blend in blender till smooth. I like to make it thick and thin as necessary.

    2. Here is a few things I keep on hand for easy grab and go meals

      Egg sandwiches. Toast WW english muffins. Cook a large veggie omelet and cut out with a cookie cutters, layer english muffins with cooked eggs and a slice of cheese. ham optional. Freeze. Micro fo 30 secs to 2 min depending on your micrwave.

      Make big batches of WW pancakes and/or waffles on the weekend and freeze. Pop in the toaster and top with a nut butter of your choice.

      Make crustless quiches with veggies and meat of your choice. Cut into wedges or squares and freeze. Grab, micro and go.

      Use your rice cooker and make big batches of rice. On the weekend make a variety of fried rices with veggies, eggs, meats, etc. Freeze in appropriate portions. These are good cold or hot.

      Barbara Kafka Sichuan green beans are fabulous to keep on hand for snacks.

      grill up chicken breasts and slice. Add to salads, make wraps, etc

      1. Do you like beans? A pot of beans, made in the rice cooker if you wish, as well as a pot of grains can be the basis for many different dishes, burritos, soups, casseroles. I also steam up a big pot of greens , often spinach or kale, every few days to add to beans, soups, a frittata, or a bowl of miso soup.
        The key to eating more vegetables is to prep them ahead, they can then be steamed in the microwave in minutes.
        I also roast large batches of roots to last a few days and can make winter salads. I keep easy protein sources, like tuna, salmon,sardines around. A frittata is easy to make with lots of vegetables and is good at room temp; can be cut into servings and easily grabbed.
        Also, nut butters are great on celery, kohlrabi, an apple.

        1 Reply
        1. re: magiesmom

          Yeah, if you cook up a pot of beans (or lentils) on Sunday afternoon, you can re-purpose them in a myriad of ways for the week ahead--soup, chili, bean burgers, etc.

        2. 1) A package of corn tortillas and a can of refried beans, both open and ready in the refrigerator, can be combined with any handy vegetables, cooked chicken or any meat, eggs, or just about anything. Think: tacos. 2) If you use pre-made frozen pie crust, a quiche can be thrown together in a couple of minutes (beat 3 eggs, add 2 cups milk, then add anything, especially pre-shredded cheese). Bake it when you have time (evenings?) and keep it on hand.You can zap a slice in 30 seconds. 3) If you are using a pressure cooker, you can make barbecued beef and keep buns on hand. 4) Anything you like that can be made ahead in quantity will help you out: chili, spaghetti, chicken and noodles, minestrone, anything that you can dip into again and again. 5) Hard-boil a dozen eggs. Devil them if you like, or not. 6) Make tuna salad with 2 cans tuna, celery, mayonnaise. 7) Consider making up several sandwiches at the same time, wrapping them in Saran, and keeping them ready in your refrigerator. 8)) Don't overlook cereal...... Am I hearing you right that your life in is in some kind of transitional stage? You need to be taking care of yourself, and part of that is feeding yourself. And don't forget to feed your children---they need that stability if things have been changing.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Querencia

            Yes, we are in a big transition. Which is part of the reason that I'm indulging the kids and making them "kid foods" or at least the healthiest versions I can that they will eat without fighting me too much.

            Sometimes I pre-make sandwiches for the kids' lunches, don't know why I hadn't thought of it for myself! Duh. Well, that's why I posted :-)

            Thanks to all for the ideas. Keep em coming!

          2. I'm confused, are you making dinner for you and your children in the late afternoon? Or are you asking for something for you to have for dinner that is different from what you are serving your children? Or really just a snack while you are preparing dinner for your family?

            3 Replies
            1. re: Springhaze2

              She means a snack while prepping her kids dinner- late afternoon. I do the same thing.

              1. re: Springhaze2

                Sorry I wan't clear. I'm making dinner for the kids in the late afternoon (they eat around 6 pm), and I don't usually want to eat what i'm making for them (please hold the judgement, it's a long story). But I want to have a snack/small meal to get me through until I get them to bed & can make something else for myself around 8-8:30 pm.

                1. re: gimlis1mum

                  Sorry, was not judging at all. Been there, done that. I was thinking more around maybe using some of what you are making for them as a snack for yourself. Like if you are making the something that might start with sauteing some veggies or something like onions, use that to top a whole wheat pita with some cheese and maybe some sun-dried tomatoes or jarred roasted peppers.

                  If you are preparing fresh veggies for them, have some hummus or yogurt based dip and eat some of the veggies with a dip while you are cooking. I used to keep bags of baby carrots and snap peas on hand for snacking like this.

                  Start introducing some grains to your children's diet, like barley, quinoa, farro, or even brown rice or whole wheat couscous so you can flavor some to your taste (think jarred pesto sauces or curry paste) and leave the rest of it plain for them.

                  You need to take care of yourself so you can be the best parent for them. You are indulging them with "kid foods", find some things to indulge yourself too. For me that meant nice savory flavors like hummus, olives, good cheese, jarred roasted veggies, and grains that I could flavor with curries and pesto, plus bread...

              2. Once a week- usually the same day i do grocery shopping- i do batch cooking for the week.
                For me this includes:
                - a big pan of roasted veggies like brussel sprouts, cauliflower, beets, etcetc
                - a whole grain, usually quinoa, or farro, millet etc
                - various proteins, hard boiled eggs, veggie patties, baked marinated tempeh
                - a bean based stew or soup, last week it was lentil curry with coconut milk and kale
                - i wash and chop lots of raw veggies, and often make this salad which is better the next day and good for at least 3 days- note that i use half as much oil and you have to massage the dressing into the greens:

                During the week i use these components to make meals, right now i love a hard boiled egg mashed with half on avocado with salt and a squeeze of lemon on toast for breakfasts.
                The lentil soup with a side of raw veggies, roasted veggies with the baked tofu, a big salad with the cooked grain, roasted veggies and edamame, or i use the bean stew as a sauce ontop of the quinoa....

                Lots of options and the prep ahead of time means i am spending much less time making meals

                2 Replies
                1. re: Ttrockwood

                  Thanks, this all sounds good.

                  Dumb question, that i think I should know the answer to: how long do hardboiled eggs keep? Store them shelled in a container of water or unshelled in an open container, in the fridge?

                  1. re: gimlis1mum

                    Per the Egg Safety site:

                    "When shell eggs are hard cooked, the protective coating is washed away leaving the pores in the shell open for bacteria to enter. Hard-cooked eggs should be refrigerated within two hours of cooking and used within one week."


                    I store mine, dry and still in the shell but with HB penicilled on the top, back in the egg carton. You could also store in a tightly covered bowl - they can transmit their sulfur odor into the fridge.

                2. Here are a few ideas -

                  1) Jerk Chicken - reheats very well and is so delicious with a basic side like rice or pasta. You can also shred the meat and serve over a salad with avocado with a lime dressing.

                  Cook's Country Jerk Chicken, paraphrased:

                  1 bunch scallions, chopped
                  3 cloves garlic, peeled
                  2 teaspoons ground allspice
                  1 tablespoon dried thyme
                  2 teaspoons table salt
                  2 tablespoons molasses
                  2 habanero chiles, stemmed
                  1/4 cup oil
                  3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
                  1 lime , cut into wedges

                  In the food processor, puree everything but the chicken and lime until almost a smooth paste. Wearing gloves or using a spoon (carefully!), rub 1 Tbsp. paste under the skin of each piece of chicken and seal in a Ziploc bag. Marinate 4 hrs. or up to 36 hrs. Broil, bake, or grill until crispy and the chicken juices run clear. Serve with lime wedges (good hot or cold). This is a little on the salty side, so if you are sensitive to salt, you may want to cut back just slightly.

                  2) Doctored Ramen:

                  Discard the seasoning packet and bring to a boil 2-3 cups good store-bought chicken stock (like Kitchen Basics or Pacific brand) with a tsp. of soy sauce, a little hot sauce such as Sriracha or chili-garlic sauce, a drizzle of sesame oil, and maybe a little grated fresh ginger and/or scallion. Add the noodles and a handful of fresh spinach or chopped baby bok choy, carrot matchsticks, etc. After 1 minute reduce heat to a simmer, push the noodles and veg. to the side and slip an egg into the broth to poach. Serve when the noodles are tender and the egg is done to your liking.

                  3) Omelettes

                  Pre-steam some veggies in the microwave (broccoli, spinach, etc.) and have some grated cheese on hand. Melt 2 tsp. butter in a small skillet on medium-low heat (6"-8" nonstick works best), swirling to cover. Whisk 2-3 eggs with a splash of milk or cream, season with salt and pepper, and pour the mix into the skillet. Do not stir or swirl, just cover and let almost set (about 3-4 min.). When the surface is barely wet, add cheese and vegetables of your choice down the middle and fold the sides over (or you can put the filling on one side and make a half-moon omelette). Cook 1-2 min. more to heat the filling through. Serve with your choice of salsa, sour cream, hot sauce, toast, etc.

                  4) Crustless Quiche

                  Saute your favorite chopped veggies (broccoli, spinach, onion, kale, etc.) until tendercrisp. Whisk 6 eggs w/ 1 c. whole milk or cream, lots of salt and pepper, and a handful of grated cheese; stir in the veggies and pour the mixture into a buttered pie dish or 8x8 square glass dish. Bake at 330F until set (30-40 min.). You can also add cooked protein such as bacon, breakfast sausage, kielbasa, etc. Good served warm or at room temperature.

                  5) Simple Thai Curry

                  In a large skillet, fry 2 Tbsp. good prepared curry paste (such as Mae Ploy) in the coconut cream scraped from the top of a can of coconut milk. After 2 min. or so add the rest of the coconut milk and 2-3 types of sliced vegetables of your choice (eggplant, red pepper, cubed potato, onion, thinly sliced carrot, etc.) and an optional protein (chicken breast chunks, extra-firm tofu cubes, etc.) Heat through until veggies are tendercrisp and serve with steamed rice.

                  6) Beef and Bell Pepper Fajitas - many recipes are online; you can use leftovers to make breakfast burritos or omelette/quesadilla filling.

                  7) Find a few salad dressings you REALLY like, and salads will become more interesting. We enjoy these two regularly:

                  Creamy Caesar-Style Dressing

                  -1 cup mayonnaise
                  -juice and zest of half a large lemon
                  -1 tsp Worcestershire
                  -1/2-1 clove of garlic, depending how garlicky you like it (minced)
                  -1/4 tsp salt
                  -1/8 tsp pepper
                  -1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese
                  -1 tbsp of milk or half and half (or more, depending how thin you like it)
                  -1 dab anchovy paste, to taste
                  -dash of Tabasco or other hot sauce

                  Mix all ingredients together and shake or whisk until well blended.
                  I make it fairly often and generally just eyeball ingredients by now.

                  LindaWhit's Maple Balsamic Dressing
                  [Adapted: I upped the mustard, reduced the maple syrup, and made a few other tweaks until it was more to our tastes.]

                  4 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
                  3 Tbsp. maple syrup
                  1 clove garlic, finely minced
                  1 tsp. Dijon mustard or brown mustard
                  1/2 tsp. salt
                  freshly ground pepper, to taste
                  1/2 cup olive oil
                  pinch of red pepper flake or cayenne
                  dash of Worcestershire sauce

                  Blend ingredients in blender or shake in a covered jar until emulsified.

                  I also make a similar dressing omitting the garlic and subbing 1-2 Tbsp. good apricot marmalade for the maple syrup and upping the mustard. I add a little crumbled dried thyme to that one, too.

                  Good salad components include: grilled chicken breast, cooked beets, hard-boiled eggs, walnuts or toasted almond slivers, blue cheese, feta, or goat cheese crumbles, crumbled bacon, chopped apple/pear, clementine segments, dried cranberries, etc.

                  8) Do you like cole slaw? A nice variation I make is to add some deli mustard and honey to the sauce and add chopped apple, celery, and sometimes pecans or walnuts. I also do another one in a more Asian-style vinaigrette with rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, minced ginger, sesame oil, Sriracha or red pepper flake, chopped scallion, and chopped peanuts.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: ChristinaMason

                    Forgot to add: This "Spanishy Cous Cous" from Chow is really good and would be fine eaten hot or cold. Some cooked chicken breast, good oil-packed canned tuna, or cooked shrimp would make it a complete meal. http://www.chow.com/recipes/29671-spa...

                    You could also add some chopped spinach to the mix.

                  2. just a few other thoughts…

                    meatballs - turkey or beef, maybe with some onion, spinach, herbs, etc which you can dip in something or not, but they're good bites to grab, esp when cooking.

                    baked apples - cored and filled with oats, chopped nuts, a little sugar and cinnamon before baking in a pan of water/apple juice - grab for breakfast with a little yogurt

                    whole wheat breakfast burritos -- egg (whites), green chiles, a little cheese, potatoes or sweet potato if you like, cheese, etc. you can freeze them individually and nuke in the am as needed

                    veggie stackers -- i'll take slices of eggplant, tomato, squash, anything i feel or have really, dip in egg white, then a mixture of cornmeal and herbs, salt and pepper, then stack em up with one of each kind of veg per stack and bake off til the veggies are as tender as i want them. you can obviously add cheese as desired (i just can't eat it :( )

                    all of these are amenable to any seasoning blend you so desire:
                    kale chips
                    roasted chickpeas
                    roasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds
                    roasted seasoned nuts

                    good luck! i hope the transition transits quickly...

                    1. For breakfasts, I love my smoothies.

                      Using my stick blender, frozen berries and kefir, maybe a small scoop of oats or chia seeds, then Blend. I use a contego coffee mug to take it to work, or drink while stuck in traffic going nowhere. If you are into "green" drinks, some kale or spinach would work, but my stick blender is a bit underpowered for that.

                      I also slice up some peppers, cucumbers, carrots, etc and stick them in containers with a bit of hummus for my commute home (usually about 25 minutes depending on weather,etc) so I can have a bit of a nibble and I"m not starving and making poor choices when I arrive home. Apples and peanut butter work well for this too.

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: autumm

                        What kind of stick blender do you have? Is it an immersion blender that could also be used for soups?
                        Smoothies are great for a quick bfast, but using/assembling/cleaning my regular blender is such a hassle!

                        1. re: WhatsEatingYou

                          I love smoothies too and do not take my blendar apart to clean. Just rinse, fill half-way with water and a dab of dish soup; blend that for a couple of seconds and rinse. Give it a try.

                          1. re: WhatsEatingYou

                            I have a Braun multiquick stick blender, and I wouldn't be without it - it's brilliant for smoothies and soups, and the stick bit is stainless steel so no worries about turmeric/tomato stains! It also comes with a mini food processor which is great for small quantities of onions/herbs/breadcrumbs and a whisk attachment (which I've never used). I'd definitely recommend one.

                            1. re: WhatsEatingYou

                              I have an awesome immersion blender from kitchenaide that i can't live without! It manages spinach and semi frozen blueberries ok but won't get thru ice like a blender- i use it to make my smoothie in my to go mug as well as for sauces, hummus, soups etc

                              1. re: WhatsEatingYou

                                I have a cuisinart stick blender/immersion blender, around 30 bucks or so on amazon. I can take the blade end off and run it through the dishwasher, but usually I just rinse it well and wipe if down with a bit of soap. It is a bit underpowered for soup but it does get the job done.

                                I never made smoothies until it arrived for Christmas a couple years ago.

                              2. re: autumm

                                I hate cleaning my blender too. Never thought about using the stick blender for smoothies!

                                1. re: gimlis1mum

                                  If I'm going to be around home, my husband's beer mugs are the perfect size so I don't have to transfer to another container.

                                2. re: autumm

                                  For breakfast I agree with smoothies. They're quick in the morning, but sometimes I make them the night before. I do a double batch and I'll have the second for lunch or breakfast the following day. I have several different recipes all with some combination of oatmeal, berries, banana, melon, yogurt, milk, honey, and whey protein.

                                  I use my regular blender - it's not a big deal to clean. Sometimes I put in the dishwasher, sometimes I hand clean without taking apart, sometimes I hand wash, taking it apart.

                                  I had a stick blender at one time, but found it a pain to make my smoothies.

                                3. Homemade black beans are delicious, freeze very well, and taste great alone and cold (even better warm with a fried egg!) they take next to no effort. I just sautee an onion and a few cloves of garlic in a dutch oven, add dry beans (I don't bother to pre-soak), and a couple inches of water. Bring to a boil, then simmer, adding more water as needed until they are soft (estimate maybe 2 hrs of simmering for a pound of beans). They taste so much richer and more satisfying than canned, and are honestly worth it to this lazy cook. I freeze leftovers in quart sized bags for easy meals, Lentils are even easier.

                                  Egg salad is a staple when I'm tired-- eggs, mayo, dijon, ref onion, capers. All pantry staples for me.

                                  Frozen shrimp can be found for cheap and takes no time to cook up.

                                  A baked potato with sour cream is cheap and easy.

                                  I roast veggies a lot-- broccoli roasted with olive oil and a sprinkling of parm, some summer squash and yellow onions with a can of diced tomatoes and some butter.

                                  Good canned soup and toast, cheese or pate and crackers, greek yogurt with berries and granola are all good nourishment when cooking is overwhelming! An old college favorite is a can of corn, a can of black beans, a can of diced tomatoes, half a red onion, and some bottled italian dressing. Serve with tortilla chips. Filling if not healthy :)

                                  1. A favorite breakfast make-ahead for me is this baked oatmeal. I came across the recipe online here: http://www.lottieanddoof.com/2011/04/...

                                    I bake up a batch and then separate it into six individual servings for the week ahead. Amid the morning rush, it's nice to have a filling breakfast that I can quickly heat up in the microwave. I've made this so often that I've actually memorized the recipe! :)

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: CityGirlintheMidwest

                                      Great looking recipe! I would love to make it but with water instead of milk and steel cut oats instead of rolled. What do you think, CityGirl? Would it work?

                                      1. re: herby

                                        For the overnight oats you would need to use the quick cooking steel cut oats or it will be too chewy and "raw" tasting with regular steel cut. I prefer unsweetened almond milk but have used water in a pinch and it's fine.

                                    2. I make crust-less quiche in muffin tins a lot! You can use a variety of fillings, they freeze well and reheat nicely in the microwave. Great for breakfast or a snack.

                                      I also roast one or two baking pans of veggies each week. They are easily become the basis of quick soups, sides or main dishes during the week. They are also very delicious on their own!

                                      1. Breakfasts for us (unless the weekends) are always on the go.
                                        - Quiche (crustless)
                                        - Healthy muffins
                                        - Banana bread
                                        - Baked oatmeal
                                        - Yogurt and granola
                                        - Easy to eat fruit (banana, apple etc.)

                                        1. lay in a supply of: couscous, pre-made polenta, canned beans, esp. chickpeas. these all take about 5 min to reheat on the stove. less if using a microwave.

                                          add: pre-cut carrot, celery, even broccoli slaw from the deli case.

                                          cut the veg a bit more if desired. add to grains or beans. serve with some seasoning mixes - such as penzy's paris spice, or dry harissa spices. add shredded cheese (also the deli case) or feta. you can also add vinegar and oil and make some of these into a cold salad-type meal, but that will add another 2 minutes (and sometimes you just don't have it in you.... i get it. best of luck. nourish yourself in 2014!!!)

                                          1. I don't think anyone has mentioned muffins...bran, banana, blueberry. Use part whole wheat, add flax seeds, etc. to up the health angle. They keep well in the freezer too, or just make a batch of 6 for a grab and go breakfast or snack.

                                            Also, I second the smoothie idea using a stick blender, yogurt and frozen berries. Quick to make and quick to clean up.

                                            1. Savory Oatmeal was mentioned here recently by Ttrockwood and cornedhash who supplied this link.


                                              1. Morning is a giant rush for us as well. I frequently eat ww English muffins with a little cream cheese and smoked salmon, hard boiled eggs, homemade scotch eggs, premade frittatas, and oatmeal breakfast bars.

                                                I try to roast a bunch of veggies on Sunday that I can munch on during the week. We keep salami in the fridge, too, which is a nice little protein hit in early evening. You could also try pre-portioning the ingredients for a green smoothie and throwing it in the blender (for either breakfast or afternoon snack).

                                                1. Has anyone suggested bean dips and/or purees? I plan to try this one this week. I roasted the fennel and garlic today and whenever I can muster up the effort to go out in this deep freeze and snip some rosemary, I'll make it. I think it will be great with crudites for lunch. http://food52.com/recipes/8908-roaste...

                                                  I have made this one several times and love it served as suggested. I do add garlic and lemon zest to the puree. http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                                                  1. Thanks so much for all the suggestions! I'm saving the thread to refer back to when I need a brain jolt.

                                                    1. A simple white bean and tuna salad with pita bread or pita chips might be a good afternoon meal. http://www.food.com/recipe/white-bean...

                                                      And this Painted Desert Salad is amazing, especially when topped with smoked salmon or avocado. We're spice wimps so the chipotle adobo is too hot for us and we simply use a mild salsa.


                                                      1. I just learned that about salad-in-a jar and oatmeal in a jar! Am I the last to know?



                                                        Turns out chopped romaine stores well vacuum packed in mason jars! Who knew???

                                                        And if you're into quinoa


                                                        Yep! I'm last. This is from a link on a chowhound thread in October.


                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                          Hahaha, you might be...;)
                                                          The best is making the overnight oats in a nearly empty nut butter jar....! Gets the last bits and adds great flavor

                                                        2. I like to keep bananas and other fruits in the pantry; Bread on the counter; juice, Ensure and hard boiled eggs in the fridge.

                                                          A banana or two, a glass of juice and an egg does great for a breakfast.

                                                          A piece of toast with butter, peanut butter or Nutella is a good snack.

                                                          My mom used to bake a potato in the microwave and eat one at any time of day.

                                                          I have grabbed a can of Ensure (nutrition shake) at times.

                                                          Making a batch of soup and keeping it in single serve containers like coffee mugs with plastic wrap over it would be great. You could just heat it in the microwave and drink it like coffee while you were doing other things. There are also those normal people that would just get the Campbell's soup on the go but it isn't as good.