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Here are a week's worth of make-ahead meals to help simplify weeknight dinner

This is a good time of year to regroup and think about ways to simplify your cooking habits. And when it comes to de-stressing weeknight dinners, there is a trick put-together cooks share: They prep. • There's really no getting around this, no matter what Rachael Ray says. In order to truly put together a meal in less than 30 minutes, you need a plan. • It also helps if you do some of the cooking in advance. • To help, we've put together a week's worth of dinners that are a cinch to make if you put in a little front-end work when you're less busy. They're essentially make-ahead meals that lend themselves well to reheating, and that only need slight cooking or last-minute fiddling on the night of the meal. • Aside from taking one or two days out of the week and devoting them to prep, another thing that's crucial to keeping weeknight dinners simple is using shared ingredients between different meals. So ground beef gets used in both enchiladas on Monday and Shepherd's Pie on Thursday; carrots and onions get diced for chicken noodle soup early in the week then form the mirepoix for a pork ragu. You get the idea. • Some other rules for making meals ahead of time: Nothing pan- or deep-fried, because the crisp factor won't translate well after a reheating. Stay away from recipes with tons of ingredients. And don't opt for a dish that's excessively soggy or something that will taste worse when its flavors mingle in the fridge for a few days.


These enchiladas can sit for up to 24 hours in a refrigerator, which makes them the ideal Monday meal. Assemble them Sunday, but don't top with sauce or extra cheese just yet. Once the enchiladas are rolled and in the baking dish, let them rest in the fridge until Monday evening. Remove from fridge, spoon sauce and cheese on top, and let sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes while your oven is preheating, then cook.

Turkey and Corn Enchiladas

1 ½ pounds ground turkey or beef

1 cup corn, fresh or frozen (and thawed)

1 ½ cups grated pepper Jack cheese

Salt and black pepper

8 small flour tortillas

1 cup enchilada sauce, store-bought or made from the recipe below

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place turkey in a large skillet over medium-high heat, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, breaking up into pieces along the way, until browned through. Reserve half the meat for THURSDAY's meal. Combine the other half with corn, 1 cup of the cheese, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.

Spoon the mixture onto the tortillas and roll. Place seam-side down in a 9- by 13-inch baking dish.

Top with the sauce and remaining ½ cup of cheese. At this point, refrigerate for up to a day if making ahead. Bake until heated through and beginning to brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle with the cilantro and serve.

Source: Adapted from Real Simple

Quick Enchilada Sauce

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon flour

¼ cup chili powder

2 cups chicken stock

10 ounces tomato paste

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon salt

In a medium saucepan, heat oil. Add flour, smoothing and stirring with a wooden spoon. Cook for 1 minute. Add chili powder and cook for 30 seconds. Add stock, tomato paste, oregano, cumin and salt. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. The sauce will thicken and smooth out.

Makes 2 ½ cups of sauce.

Source: Emeril Lagasse


Soup or stew is a good thing to make early in the week, so you can load up your leftover containers with lunch for the next couple of days. This simple and reliable chicken soup recipe will keep you warm on cold January nights and fit right in with this month's focus on healthier fare.

Lemon Chicken Noodle Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 carrots and/or parsnips, cut into bite-sized pieces

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

½ teaspoon dried thyme

Salt and black pepper

2 pounds bone-in chicken breasts, skin removed

6 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 cup small pasta (such as alphabet)

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the carrots and/or parsnips, celery, onion, thyme, 1 ½ teaspoons salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are tender and just beginning to brown, 10 to 12 minutes.

Add the chicken, broth and 4 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the chicken and place on a cutting board. When it is cool enough to handle, shred the meat with 2 forks; discard the bones.

Meanwhile, add the pasta to the soup and simmer until al dente, 6 to 10 minutes. Add the chicken, lemon juice and parsley and stir to combine.

This soup can be frozen in freezer-safe containers for up to 3 months. To reheat, run the containers under warm water until the soup slides out. Transfer to a pot and cook over medium heat, covered, stirring occasionally, until heated through.

Serves 4.

Source: Real Simple


Cooking a large pot or pork roast or whole chicken on the weekend and shredding the meat to use throughout the week is helpful for getting something on the table quickly. Leftover meats can be worked into tacos, burritos, Asian noodle bowls and pastas. You can also cook the roast ahead of time, then simply serve it sliced with rustic sides like lumpy mashed potatoes and carrots. That's what we're suggesting for Wednesday. You'll use both the meat and the potatoes later in the week. To help ensure this day's meal has plenty of flavor, slice the roast you cooked over the weekend cold, then place it into a skillet with some of the pan drippings or chicken or beef stock. Cook on low heat for about 10 minutes, until warmed through.

Pork Roast With Potatoes

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons chopped garlic

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 (5- or 6-pound) pork shoulder

Carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped

Onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

4 or 5 medium yellow potatoes, peeled and diced

1 tablespoon butter

1 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a small bowl, mix together the olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Using a pastry brush, spread the mixture all over the pork shoulder. Set the meat into a roasting pan. Scatter carrots and onions around the roast. Roast for 20 minutes, and then reduce the heat to 325 degrees. Continue to cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the shoulder reads 185 degrees, about 4 hours.

Meanwhile, boil some water in a large pot. When the water is boiling, add potatoes and reduce to a simmer, cooking for 20 to 30 minutes until the potatoes are soft when pierced with a fork. Strain over a strainer, then return potatoes to pot and add butter and milk to the pot, stirring vigorously and roughly mashing the potatoes. Season with salt and pepper and continue mashing until desired consistency. It's okay to leave them rather chunky.

Remove the pork from the oven and let stand until cool enough to handle, about 30 minutes. Carve the roast into 4 servings, then serve over ½ cup mashed potatoes with carrots and onions. You should have enough roast left over for another meal; you'll put that to good use on FRIDAY.

Serves 4.

Source: Food Network


This layered dish is a dream for leftovers. Using the ground turkey or beef from Monday's enchiladas and the mashed potatoes from Wednesday means all you have to do is cook some veggies, assemble the pies, then cook then in the oven for a few minutes.

Shepherd's Pie

Leftover mashed potatoes from WEDNESDAY

2 tablespoons sour cream or softened cream cheese

1 large egg yolk

½ cup cream (for a lighter version substitute vegetable or chicken broth)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

1 onion, chopped

Salt and pepper

Leftover ground turkey from MONDAY

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup beef stock or broth

2 teaspoons Worcestershire

½ cup frozen peas, a couple of handfuls

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

Place potatoes in a bowl. Combine sour cream, egg yolk and cream. Add the cream mixture into potatoes and mash until potatoes are smooth. Set aside.

Preheat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, then add chopped carrot and onion. Cook veggies 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Season with salt and pepper. Add leftover turkey and cook for 1 or 2 minutes.

In a second small skillet over medium heat, cook butter and flour together for 2 minutes. Whisk in broth and Worcestershire sauce. Thicken gravy 1 minute. Add gravy to meat and vegetables. Stir in peas.

Preheat broiler to high. Fill a small rectangular casserole with meat and vegetable mixture. Spoon potatoes over meat evenly. Top potatoes with paprika and broil 6 to 8 inches from the heat until potatoes are evenly browned. Top casserole dish with chopped parsley and serve.

Serves 4.

Source: Adapted from Food Network


Friday's meal should give you a good reason to come home after a long week instead of going out for a restaurant meal. This hearty pasta dish can be made almost entirely ahead of time, or, if you're feeling ambitious at the end of the week, the night of. To make in advance, follow all the directions for making the sauce, or ragu, stopping when you get to the pasta cooking stage. On Friday, simply take the sauce out of the fridge, heat it up in the microwave or in a large pot on the stove set to medium heat, cook the pasta and serve. If you're making the sauce the day you're eating it, it will take about 40 minutes to cook. But using the already-cooked pork from Wednesday will save you hours.

Pork Ragu Pasta

¼ cup olive oil, plus more

½ medium onion, finely chopped

1 carrot, peeled, finely chopped

1 celery stalk, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1 sprig rosemary

1 sprig oregano

1 bay leaf

Leftover pork shoulder from WEDNESDAY

1 (14-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

½ cup dry red wine

¼ teaspoon black peppercorns

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

⅛ teaspoon ground cloves

1 pound cavatelli or any small shell pasta

1 handful spinach

¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter

½ cup grated Parmesan, plus more

Add ¼ cup olive oil to a large pot set over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, celery and garlic, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Tie rosemary, oregano, and bay leaf into a bundle with kitchen twine; add to pot along with pork, tomatoes, wine, peppercorns, nutmeg and cloves. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer, adding more water as needed, 30 minutes or so.

Discard herb bundle. Using 2 forks, shred meat in pot; cook, uncovered, over medium heat until sauce is thickened, 8 to 10 minutes.

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente; drain, reserving ½ cup pasta cooking liquid.

Add spinach to ragu; cook until soft, about 4 minutes. Add pasta; cook, adding reserved pasta cooking liquid as needed, until sauce coats pasta. Mix in butter and ½ cup Parmesan; season with salt and pepper. Serve pasta drizzled with oil and topped with more Parmesan.

Serves 4.

Source: Bon Appétit

Here are a week's worth of make-ahead meals to help simplify weeknight dinner 01/18/16 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 19, 2016 3:46pm]
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