Sunday, September 30, 2012

Make Ahead Meals!

I am a huge fan of "make ahead" meals for many reasons.  It is very helpful when I do not have time or just do not feel like cooking.  It ensures that I always have a back up meal.  Sometimes if I am lucky enough to have the time to make a meal that takes a little longer, I will double the recipe and freeze the rest for another dinner.  "Make ahead" meals are also convenient for us because when I travel with the kids and the hubby stays home to work, his meals are already made and all he has to do is reheat them.  Finally, I work in the evenings on the weekend, so by having the "make ahead" meals I can spend the day with my family and still have dinner on the table for them while I am at work. 

***Note: the whole process of making meals ahead of time is especially helpful when you have a second freezer or deep freeze.

Once a month I take a Sunday and prepare one, two, or three meals that can be frozen and used whenever they are needed.  I thought I would share with you a meal a week that you can prepare ahead of time.

If the meal is a casserole I will put it in a disposal foil tin.   I will write on the lid with marker, the date, meal, and reheating instructions.  If it is a soup I usually put it in the reusable Ziploc containers (pictured above) and use a removeable label.  I use this method because we have a deep freeze. 
If you have a stand up freezer you could package your "make ahead" meals like this:
This first "make ahead" meal is one of the most time consuming ones that I make, but SO worth it.  So I always make sure to double this and have two on hand.  Plus, after you have this you will wish you had made more.   I would love to say that this is my recipe and keep it a secret but unfortunately it is not, it is from the television series "Top Chef". 
Lasanga with Two Sauces
By: Chef Dave Martin, Top Chef
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 roasted garlic cloves (see below)
  • 1 quart heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Romano cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 roasted garlic cloves (see below)
  • 2 medium carrots, finely diced
  • 1 medium white onion, finely diced
  • 2 celery ribs, finely diced
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 small bunch basil, cut into chiffonade
  • 1/2 cup sherry
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • Two 28-ounce cans whole fire-roasted tomatoes with juices
  • 3 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 2 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound dried lasagna noodles, cooked al dente
  • 8 ounces mozzarella cheese, coarsely grated (about 2 cups)
  • 8 ounces provolone cheese, coarsely grated (about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Romano cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes, breaking it apart with the back of a wooden spoon.
  2. Add the cream and bring to a simmer (do not boil).
  3. Add the nutmeg, basil, and oregano and cook until reduced by about half, about 45 minutes, watching the pot carefully so the cream doesn’t boil over.
  4. Lower the heat, add the grated cheeses, and stir until incorporated. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  1. While you’re making the Alfredo sauce, in a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes, breaking it apart with the back of a wooden spoon.
  2. Add the carrots, onion, celery, and shallot and cook until the vegetables are caramelized, about 20 minutes.
  3. Add the thyme and basil and cook for 1 minute, stirring.
  4. Add the sherry and brandy and cook for 5 minutes, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
  5. Add the canned and fresh tomatoes, the stock, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat and cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally, to thicken and concentrate the flavors.
  6. Using an immersion blender, blend the sauce directly in the pot. Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding salt and pepper to taste as needed.
  7. Cook for an additional 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, then taste again and adjust the seasonings if needed. Set aside.
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spread a thin layer of marinara sauce over the bottom of a 13-by-9-by-3-inch baking pan or lasagna pan (disposal foil tin with lid, if freezing).
  3. Follow with a layer of lasagna noodles, overlapping the noodles slightly. Spread a layer of Alfredo sauce over the noodles and top with a layer of marinara sauce. Sprinkle with some of the mozzarella, provolone, Parmesan, and Romano cheeses, followed by a dusting of pepper.
  4. Repeat the layers, reserving some of the marinara sauce and some of the Parmesan and Romano cheeses to cover the final layer of pasta.
*At this point I would take plastic wrap and wrap the lasagna, then place the lid on the tin.  Label the tin with the dish name, baking instructions, and date.  Then freeze until ready to use.  When you are ready to bake this, take it out of the freezer and thaw throughout the day, then bake according to instructions.  

  1. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake for 50 minutes, or until starting to bubble, then remove the foil and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until heated through and bubbly on top.
  2. Remove from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Peel off the papery outer layers of the garlic head and cut off the top 1/2 inch. Place the garlic on a piece of aluminum foil large enough to wrap the garlic. Drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
  3. Wrap in the foil and roast for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the garlic is soft enough to slide out of the skin when pressed.

Serves 8-10
Dave Martin, Top Chef, Season 1, Episode 4   twosaucelasagana

*Stay tuned for next weeks "make ahead" meal, I promise it is less time consuming than this one:)

1 comment:

  1. I made Beef with Scallions, the Chicken lime Cilantro Tacos and the Italian Layer Bake this week. All were a big hit. I did add spinach, mushrooms and onions to the Italian layer bake to put in a little more nutrition. Plus I used the garlic and butter crescents. Beef and scallions could use pineapple or apricot nectar in the marinade instead of hoison sauce at the end if most people to not keep Hoison sauce in the house. I group id add a little red pepper too since they like things spicier. I liked the recipes either way.