Busy Mom Approved: 12 Tasty Make Ahead Meals

April 6, 2016  |  


Real Simple

Your days of dreading the words, “What’s to eat?” are over, thanks to these 12 time-saving make ahead meals. Kid-friendly, mom approved, and ready when you need ’em. Who says there’s anything wrong with frozen food?! It’s okay to give yourself a break with these easy family meals.


 Individual White Chicken Pizzas
The secret to these crowd-pleasing pizzas? Creamy homemade ricotta cheese.


30 ounces refrigerated fresh pizza dough, divided
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
8 garlic cloves, crushed
4 thyme sprigs
4 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
1 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt
4 teaspoons cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
12 ounces shredded cooked chicken breast
6.5 ounces pre-shredded reduced-fat 4-cheese Italian-blend cheese (about 1 2/3 cups)
3 ounces fresh part-skim mozzarella cheese, torn into small pieces
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup small fresh basil leaves

1. Place a pizza stone or heavy baking sheet in oven preheated to 450° (keep pizza stone or baking sheet in oven as it preheats).

2. Let pizza dough rest, covered, at room temperature as oven preheats.

3. Combine oil and next 4 ingredients (through thyme sprigs) in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook 4 minutes or until garlic begins to brown, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; let stand 5 minutes. Strain mixture through a fine sieve over a small bowl; discard solids.

4. Combine milk, yogurt, and vinegar in a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH for 6 minutes. Gently stir to form small curds. Strain curds through a fine sieve; let stand 5 minutes. Discard liquid. Combine oil mixture, cheese curds, and salt, stirring gently.

5. Divide dough into 12 equal pieces (about 2.5 ounces each). Roll each piece into a 6-inch circle on a lightly floured surface (keep dough covered with a damp towel to prevent drying). Spread about 1 1/2 tablespoons oil mixture over each pizza, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Divide chicken, Italian-blend cheese, and mozzarella cheese evenly among pizzas; sprinkle evenly with thyme leaves and black pepper. Carefully remove pizza stone from oven. Arrange 3 to 4 pizzas on pizza stone. Bake at 450° for 8 minutes or until dough is golden and cheese browns. Repeat procedure with remaining pizzas, or follow freezing instructions. Sprinkle pizzas evenly with fresh basil leaves.

To Freeze: Bake pizzas on preheated stone for only 5 minutes. Cool; wrap individually in heavy-duty foil, stack, and freeze up to 2 months.
To Reheat: No thawing: Place frozen pizzas on a baking sheet that’s not preheated; bake at 450° for 13 minutes or until cheese browns.

Source: Cooking Light


 Mexican Chicken Soup
Avocado, lime and cilantro give this Mexican dish its bright color and flavor.


2 whole chickens (3 1/2 pounds each)
4 carrots, halved crosswise
1 large yellow onion, halved
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 avocados
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
3 limes, halved

1. Rinse the chickens and pat dry with paper towels.

2. Place the chickens, carrots, onion, and salt in a 12-quart pot. Add enough cold water (about 16 cups) to cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently, uncovered, for 1 hour. Skim off any foam that appears. Transfer the chickens to plates; let cool. Remove and discard the carrots and onion. Add the rice to the broth and simmer for 20 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, shred the chicken meat, discarding the skin and bones. Add the meat and pepper to the broth and heat for 3 minutes. Scoop the avocados into individual bowls and ladle the soup over the top. Sprinkle with the cilantro and squeeze on the limes.

To Freeze: Omit the avocados, cilantro, and limes. Let the soup cool, then ladle into large resealable bags, filling each one halfway. Store for up to 3 months.

To Reheat: Thaw overnight in the refrigerator or thaw partially in the microwave. Warm in a covered saucepan over medium-low heat for 20 minutes. Scoop the avocado into bowls, ladle in the soup, and garnish with the cilantro. Serve with the lime wedges on the side.

Source: Real Simple


 Chili Mac
Kid-friendly flavor and old-school comfort make this classic dish a go-to any night of the week.


12 ounces uncooked rotini, spiral macaroni, or wagon wheel pasta
2 cups canned red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic
1 pound cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
20 ounces ground turkey breast
2 cups chopped green bell pepper
4 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 to 1 teaspoon ground red pepper
4 cups lower-sodium marinara sauce
Cooking spray
4 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Cook pasta in boiling water until almost al dente. Drain. Combine pasta and beans in a large bowl.

3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion, garlic, and mushrooms to pan; cook 11 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates. Add turkey; cook 5 minutes or until done, stirring to crumble. Add bell pepper and next 7 ingredients (through red pepper); cook 1 minute. Stir in marinara sauce; bring to a boil. Add marinara mixture to pasta mixture; toss to coat. Divide mixture evenly between 2 (2-quart) glass baking dishes coated with cooking spray. Top evenly with cheese. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until cheese melts, or follow freezing instructions.

To Freeze: Spoon half of unbaked mixture into a 2-quart glass baking dish (such as a Ziploc VersaGlass large square container). Cover with lid; freeze up to 2 months.
To Thaw: Remove lid; place casserole in microwave. Microwave at 30% power 30 to 40 minutes (or on defrost setting for 3.75 pounds).
To Reheat: Cover casserole with foil; bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in center registers 160°.

Source: Cooking Light


 Sausage-Egg Roll-Ups
These yummy wraps are made with just a few simple ingredients and great for any time of day, not just breakfast.


1/2 pound ground pork sausage
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon milk
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
3/4 cup (3 oz.) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
6 (6-inch) fajita-size flour tortillas

1. Brown and drain sausage. Whisk together eggs, milk, and a pinch of salt and pepper; scramble eggs in a nonstick skillet over medium heat to desired consistency. Divide sausage, scrambled eggs, Cheddar cheese, and salsa equally among the tortillas, spooning ingredients down the center of each, then roll.

To Freeze: Transfer to zip-top plastic bags and  freeze up to 1 month.

To Reheat: Thaw overnight in fridge. Microwave at HIGH for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.

Source: Southern Living


 Twice-Baked Potatoes Four Ways
These spectacular spuds offer your family four different choices of fillings, so everyone’s satisfied! A win-win (times four) for mom!


4 (10- to 12-oz.) russet potatoes
1/2 (8-oz.) package 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, cubed and softened
1/2 cup milk

Desired Potato Filling, or serve plain:
Chicken, Broccoli, and Cheddar Potato Filling
BBQ Pork and Pepper Jack Potato Filling
Caramelized Onion, Bacon, and Goat Cheese Potato Filling

1. Preheat oven to 400°. Pierce potatoes several times with a fork, and bake directly on oven rack 1 hour or until potatoes are tender. (Baking directly on the rack keeps skins crisp and firm to hold the filling.) Cool 10 minutes.

2. Cut potatoes in half lengthwise; carefully scoop pulp into a large bowl, leaving shells intact. Mash together potato pulp, cream cheese, and milk; stir in desired Potato Filling. Spoon mixture into potato shells, and place on a lightly greased baking sheet.

3. Bake at 400° for 15 to 20 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

To Freeze: Prepare through Step 2. Freeze potatoes on a baking sheet 1 hour or until firm. Wrap each potato in plastic wrap, place in a zip-top plastic freezer bag, and freeze up to 1 month.

To Reheat: Thaw in refrigerator overnight. To serve, unwrap potatoes, and bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until hot. Or microwave at HIGH 5 minutes or until hot, checking at 1-minute intervals.

Potato Fillings
Chicken, Broccoli, Cheddar: Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add 1 small onion, diced, and 1 (10-oz.) package frozen chopped broccoli, thawed and drained; sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Stir together broccoli mixture, 2 cups chopped cooked chicken, 1 1/2 cups (6 oz.) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese, 3/4 tsp. table salt, and 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper. Total time 20 min.

BBQ Pork and Pepper Jack: Stir together 2 cups (about 1/2 lb.) chopped barbecued pork (without sauce), 1 1/2 cups (6 oz.) shredded pepper Jack cheese, 1/3 cup minced green onions, and 4 tsp. Ranch dressing mix. Serve potatoes with barbecue sauce. Total time 10 min.

Caramelized Onion, Bacon, and Goat Cheese: Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add 2 cups chopped red onion and 2 tsp. sugar, and sauté 10 to 12 minutes or until caramelized. Stir in 2 Tbsp. dry sherry, and cook 1 minute or until liquid evaporates, stirring to loosen particles from bottom of skillet. Stir together onion mixture; 1 (4-oz.) goat cheese log, softened; 8 cooked and crumbled bacon slices; 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme; 3/4 tsp. salt; and 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper. Total time 20 min.

Source: Southern Living


 Sausage and Grits Quiche
A southern spin on your traditional quiche, this dish is perfect to serve your brunch bunch.


1 (10-oz.) package frozen chopped spinach
1 (16-oz.) package ground pork sausage
2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 cup uncooked regular grits
1 cup grated Asiago cheese
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup (4 oz.) freshly shredded white Cheddar cheese, divided
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 tablespoons plain white cornmeal

1. Thaw spinach; drain well, pressing between paper towels.

2. Cook sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring often, 5 minutes or until sausage crumbles and is no longer pink; remove from skillet, and drain.

3. Preheat oven to 350°. Bring broth, cream, and salt to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Gradually whisk in grits, and return to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, whisking occasionally, 12 to 15 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat; stir in Asiago, pepper, and 3/4 cup Cheddar until melted. (Mixture will be very thick.)

4. Gradually stir about one-fourth of hot grits into eggs; stir egg mixture into remaining hot grits. Stir in spinach and sausage until blended.

5. Sprinkle bottom and sides of a lightly greased 10-inch deep-dish pie plate with cornmeal. Spoon grits mixture into pie plate; sprinkle with remaining Cheddar cheese.

6. Bake at 350° for 55 minutes or until set. Remove from oven to a wire rack, and cool 30 minutes.

To Freeze: Prepare recipe as directed through Step 5. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and heavy-duty aluminum foil. Place quiche in a 2-gal. zip-top plastic freezer bag. Freeze up to 1 month.

To Reheat: Thaw in refrigerator 24 hours. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes, and bake as directed.

Source: Southern Living

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