Recipes and Tricks for Make-Ahead Meals (cont.)

Recipes for Make-Ahead Meals

To get you thinking of all the dishes that you can make now and eat later, here are a few entree recipes to get you started!

Ragu Bolognese

This sauce tastes even better the day after you make it. Just keep it in a covered container in the refrigerator and warm it up to serve over hot noodles. You can even make the noodles ahead of time and warm both up together when the time is right.

1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup minced onion
1/2 cup minced celery
1/3 cup minced carrot
1 pound extra-lean ground beef
2 ounces pancetta bacon, finely chopped
1/2 cup fat-free half-and-half or whole or low-fat milk
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce (or bottled marinara sauce)
1 1/2 cups beef broth
5 cups cooked and drained whole-grain blend spaghetti noodles

  • Heat olive oil in a large, nonstick saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, and carrots and saute until soft. Add beef and pancetta, stir, and cook the vegetable-meat mixture until meat is nicely brown (about 15 minutes). While it's cooking, break the beef up into smaller pieces with spatula or spoon.
  • Pour in the half-and-half or milk, and cook until most of the milk has evaporated (about 5 minutes).
  • Add to slow cooker and stir in tomato sauce and beef broth. Cook on LOW for at least 3 hours (but will be fine for 8-10 hours). Or, stir the tomato sauce and broth into the large saucepan with the meat and vegetable mixture, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, start boiling water for the pasta. Add noodles and boil until al dente (just barely tender) and drain well. Serve meat sauce over cooked and drained noodles.

Yield: 5 servings
Per serving: 399 calories, 27 g protein, 47 g carbohydrate, 12 g fat, 3.5 g saturated fat, 33 mg cholesterol, 7 g fiber, 930 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 28%.

Chicken Florentine Pie

2 cups shredded, skinless roasted chicken breast (you can use a roasted chicken from the store)
2 cups cooked brown rice (you could also use 1 pouch of microwavable frozen brown rice, or instant brown rice)
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon dried basil
3/4 teaspoon parsley flakes or 2 teaspoons fresh, finely chopped parsley
1/2 cup chopped sweet or white onion (or chopped green onion)
10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed in microwave and drained well
1 1/2 cups part-skim ricotta
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons prepared pesto (i.e. from frozen section), OPTIONAL

  • If baking right away, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate with canola cooking spray.
  • Add shredded chicken, brown rice, herbs, onion, spinach, ricotta cheese, pepper, and Parmesan to large mixing bowl and gently mix together well with spoon.
  • Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking dish and cover with foil. Keep the covered dish in the refrigerator until ready to bake.
  • When ready to bake, place covered dish in preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil; spread pesto over the top of the dish, and bake about 10 minutes longer.

Yield: 6 servings
Per serving (without pesto): 260 calories, 26 g protein, 21 g carbohydrate, 7.8 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 61 mg cholesterol, 3 g fiber, 175 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 27%. (With pesto): 299 calories, 27 g protein, 22 g carbohydrate, 11 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 63 mg cholesterol, 3 g fiber, 227 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 34%.

Alfredo Potato Lasagna

If you want to make eight servings of this dish, double the ingredients and use a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. To make it ahead of time, just prepare the dish up to Step 5. I used Classico Roasted Garlic Alfredo (in 16-ounce jar) for the recipe and it worked very well. If you don't want to use tuna, you can substitute 1 1/2-cups of any shredded meat, such as roasted chicken or grilled salmon.

3/4 cup (6 ounces) bottled Alfredo sauce (choose a brand with no more than 6 grams fat per 1/4 cup serving)
1/2 cup fat-free half-and-half or low-fat milk
1 1/2 pounds potatoes, cut widthwise into 1/8-inch thick slices
3 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon black pepper (or more if you like)
12-ounce can albacore tuna (in water), drained
1 cup frozen peas or edamame, lightly thawed
1 cup shredded part-skim Jarlsberg or reduced-fat Swiss cheese (or use gruyere, smoked gouda, or white cheddar)

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees if you're baking the dish right away. Coat a 9 x 9-inch baking dish with canola cooking spray.
  • Add Alfredo sauce and milk to a medium bowl and whisk together until smooth. Spread a heaping 1/4 cup of the sauce in the bottom of the baking dish. Layer one-third of the potatoes over the sauce and sprinkle with a dash or two of pepper.
  • Add Parmesan cheese, tuna, peas or edamame, and shredded cheese to a large bowl and toss to mix well. Spread half the tuna mixture over the potatoes in the dish. Top with a heaping 1/4 cup of sauce, then half the remaining potato slices. Top with more black pepper and the remaining tuna mixture.
  • Finish by spreading a heaping 1/4 cup of the sauce on top, then the remaining potato slices. Pour the remaining Alfredo sauce over the top. If you aren't baking right away, cover with foil and keep in refrigerator until ready to bake.
  • When ready to bake, keep the dish covered with foil and bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes. Then uncover the dish, reduce heat to 350 degrees, and bake about 20 minutes more or until potatoes are tender. Let stand about 10 minutes before serving.

Yield: 6 servings
Per serving (using Classico Roasted Garlic Alfredo): 342 calories, 26 g protein, 36.5 g carbohydrate, 10.8 g fat, 4.8 g saturated fat, 41 mg cholesterol, 5.5 g fiber, 534 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 28%.

Published September 7, 2007.

Recipes provided by Elaine Magee; © 2007 Elaine Magee

SOURCES: Judith Finlayson, author, The Healthy Slow Cooker. Paulette Mitchell, author, A Beautiful Bowl of Soup. Janice Bissex, MS, RD, author, The Mom's Guide to Meal Makeovers.

©2007 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.

Last Editorial Review: 9/7/2007