I have talked before about how I try to prepare meals, fully or partially, ahead of time. Honestly, I don’t know how people manage without doing this. I try to prepare nice meals almost every night. I do not get home from work until about 5:30 and by then I do not have the patience to spend one to two hours cooking. At the same time, there are only so many nights in a week that I can get away with serving frozen pizza.
If you are wondering what that number is, it is two. After two, I get a nasty look, so two pizza nights is the limit in our house.
I am going to outline how I prepare meals in advance. To some of you, this may be obvious, but I know there are people that do not do this. Every Sunday I make something that can be frozen. If I am really ambitious, I might make two things.
I am not much of a casserole person, so I do not make a bunch of casseroles and freeze them to be eaten during the week. It is just not me. Instead, I’ll usually make some kind of pasta sauce. Occasionally I might make lasagna or stuffed shells, which I suppose could be considered casseroles. Here are some of the sauces I routinely make:
I separate them into smaller containers and freeze them. In the evening I will put a container of sauce in the fridge and the next day I just have to make some pasta and a salad. It’s easy.
Sometimes I will prepare meat. I usually make some kind of shredded meat for tacos or sandwiches, such as these:
In the evening I will pull out a container from the freezer and move it to the fridge. The next day I will make a vegetable and heat the meat on the stovetop. No microwave, yuck! I hate microwaved meat.
The one other thing that I make in advance for dinners is pizza dough, which I always have in my freezer.
I also have a system for lunches. Every Sunday, in addition to making a sauce, meat or pizza dough, I also make four or five of Cliff’s lunches. I sometimes make him roast beef sandwiches, with the layers in this order: bread, roast beef, cheese, mustard, salt and pepper, more roast beef, bread. If I make Italian sub sandwiches, I do not add the giardiniera. Cliff keeps a jar at work and adds it each day. I wrap the sandwiches in either plastic wrap or foil, and I have never had a problem with the bread getting soggy.
On Sunday nights our refrigerator is packed! Here is our rotation of lunch items:
Italian sub sandwiches
French onion soup
Macaroni and cheese
Pasta with chicken and artichokes
Cavatelli with roasted vegetables and ricotta cheese (recipe below)
So, you might be thinking that I spend my whole day in the kitchen on Sundays, but that is not the case at all. Most of those items only take one to two hours, and I do not need to stand over the stove the whole time. I can stir once in a while and clean or put away laundry or sit on the couch. This system works for us for a number of reasons:
1. We save money by not eating out everyday.
2. We are not running around like crazy people in the morning trying to find something for lunch.
3. I can buy large amounts of meat and portion it out.
4. We can eat dinner at a reasonable hour and still have time to go for a bike ride or walk or whatever.
5. I have a little more control over what we are eating. It is easy to pick up a pizza on my way home but I feel better about having home-cooked meals. Even if it is still pizza!
This is one of our new favorite meals. I love to put vegetables in pasta dishes. We love to eat pasta but sometimes it can lack nutrients. Pasta + garlic bread + meatballs = where are the vegetables? Now, I just throw them right in there. Also, I don’t know if I can eat pasta without a scoop of ricotta cheese ever again. It makes it so nice and creamy. You really have to try it. So good!!
Cavatelli With Roasted Vegetables and Ricotta Cheese
- 2 cups homemade or store bought tomato sauce
- 1 pound cavatelli
- ½ pound broccolini
- 8 ounces mushrooms
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- sprinkle of salt and pepper
Start the water boiling for your pasta. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Slice the mushrooms and transfer them to the baking sheet. Cut the broccolini into bite sized pieces. Add them to the baking sheet.
Add the olive oil, minced garlic, salt, and pepper to the baking sheet. Give it all a stir and roast for 12 minutes.
Cook the cavatelli according to the directions on the package. Heat the sauce if it is cold.
Drain the pasta and toss with the tomato sauce. Add in the vegetables and mix. You can either fold in the ricotta cheese now or everyone can add a scoop to their bowl.
Source: A Live Love Pasta Original
This post is made possible by BlogHer’s Make Ahead Meals editorial series, made possible by Bank of America.