A Working Mom's Meal Plan
The hardest part of my day is when we get home and everyone is immediately hungry. I love to cook and prefer
home-cooked meals, but I don't like to cook much during the work week. And yet, dinner has to get on the table...
My solution: make-ahead meals, freeze-ahead meals and recipes so easy that I'll make them on a Monday. I cook
mostly on the weekends, always doubling recipes, and rely heavily on my extra freezer and a decently-stocked pantry.
This cooking style saves me time and money, and it makes my life simpler—so I can actually enjoy sitting down
to supper at 6 with my family. I hope these recipes will make the witching hour a little better at your house too.
Friday, February 22, 2013
2 large eggplants, sliced lengthwise into 3/4" thick strips
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for dish
kosher salt and ground pepper
15 oz container part-skim ricotta cheese
3 large eggs
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons dried oregano, or 2 tablespoons fresh
one 16 oz jar good store-bought marinara sauce
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place eggplant slices in a single layer on rimmed baking sheets. Brush on both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 minutes, then flip slices over and bake another 10-15 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk together the ricotta, eggs, 1/2 cup parmesan, oregano, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl. Oil an 8x8 baking dish. Place 1/4 of the roasted eggplant slices in the bottom of the dish, then cover with half of sauce. Top with another 1/4 of the eggplant, then cover with half of ricotta mixture. Repeat layers, then sprinkle top with remaining parmesan cheese. Bake for 20-25 minutes, and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
*Live near Trader Joe's? I also like to get their frozen breaded eggplant patties. Prepare as directed, then layer with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese in a casserole dish and bake until bubbly. Serve over spaghetti or make sub sandwiches on french bread.
Friday, January 25, 2013
two 8 oz blocks of cream cheese, softened
1 cup mayo
4 oz can chopped green chiles, drained
2 oz can diced jalapeno peppers, drained
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
panko breadcrumbs for the top
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine cream cheese and mayo, then stir in chiles, peppers and 1/2 of the cheese. Spoon into a small baking dish and sprinkle with remaining cheese and some breadcrumbs. Bake for about 30 minutes or until bubbly.
*Serve with Ritz crackers, pita chips, pretzels, tortilla chips and/or bagel chips. You can make this ahead of time and stick it in the fridge—just bring to room temp before baking or add a few minutes to the baking time.
Friday, January 4, 2013
1 1/4 cups olive oil
2 cups chopped red onion
3 cloves chopped garlic
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
one 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
10 fresh basil leaves
1 1/2 lbs penne pasta, cooked until al dente
chopped parsley for garnish
Heat oil in a medium-large saucepan, then add red onion, garlic, celery, carrot, salt and pepper. Cook over medium-high heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes and red pepper flakes and simmer for another 30 minutes, stirring once in a while. Add basil leaves. Puree with a hand blender, or transfer to a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Serve over pasta and sprinkle with chopped parsley, if using (I always seem to forget this).
*One of the few pastas that I don't serve with parmesan cheese—it really doesn't need anything.
Friday, December 7, 2012
bag of Kraft caramels, unwrapped (about 64 total)
10 tablespoons heavy cream
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups butter, melted (yes, this is 3 sticks)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan, melt together the caramels and heavy cream over low heat, stirring until smooth. Set aside.
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, oats, brown sugar, baking soda and salt. Add melted butter and stir until well blended. Press half the mixture into the bottom of a 9x13 baking pan, reserving the rest. Bake for 8 minutes, then remove from the oven. Sprinkle evenly with chocolate chips and walnuts, then pour the caramel sauce over. Crumble the remaining oat mixture over the top.
Return to the oven and bake for another 12-13 minutes, or until the top is toasted and a light golden brown. Cut into squares while still slightly warm.
*I'm always tempted to add more chocolate chips, but I've tried it and it upsets the caramel/cookie balance. Sometimes I use bittersweet chocolate chips to cut the sweetness.
Sunday, December 2, 2012
1 cup milk
1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
2 lbs ground turkey
half of an onion, diced
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon Worcestershire
3/4 lb colby or cheddar cheese, in small cubes or shredded
1/2 cup ketchup or barbeque sauce
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Soak breadcrumbs in milk, then add the turkey, eggs, onion, salt, pepper and Worcestershire and mix together well with clean hands. Fold in cheese and put into a loaf pan on top of a baking sheet. Top with sauce and bake for an hour or until cooked through.
*Adapt with what you have in the house—shallot can stand in for onion, plain breadcrumbs can be seasoned, other cheeses would work fine. Meatloaf freezes well, so it's a good one to double!
Friday, November 16, 2012
2 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 cups milk
1/4 cup honey
1 banana, thinly sliced
2 apples, diced
cinnamon or cinnamon sugar for the top
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 8x8 baking dish and set aside.
In a large bowl, mix together the oats, baking powder, salt, allspice and cinnamon. In another bowl, whisk the butter, milk, egg and honey until combined. Spread banana slices on bottom of dish. Cover with half of the oat mixture, then half of the chopped apples. Repeat. Pour milk mixture over the top and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until golden brown around the edges. Serve with maple syrup on the side for drizzling.
*Occasionally I also get inspired to drag the blender out of the pantry and make smoothies (or milkshakes). A new one I like: zap 1/2 cup milk, a handful of ice, squeeze of honey, sprinkle of nutmeg and frozen banana chunks, then add 1 cup Greek yogurt and blend until just combined.
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
package of soft white dinner rolls or hawaiian rolls
sliced swiss cheese
3 tablespoons dijon mustard
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire
1 tablespoon poppy seeds or caraway seeds
3 tablespoons brown sugar
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Split rolls and place bottom halves in a baking dish. Top with a folded slice of ham and a slice of cheese. Spread top half of roll with a little mayo and place on top. Rolls should fit together snugly in the dish.
In a small bowl, combine the mustard, melted butter, onion powder, Worcestershire, seeds and brown sugar. Pour evenly over the rolls. Cover dish with foil and bake for 10 minutes, then remove foil and bake for another 10 minutes or until tops are browned and cheese is melted.
(You can tinker with the sauce and adjust it to taste. The original recipe called for twice as much butter, more sugar and less mustard, but we found it too sweet and rich the first time around.)
*A new obsession for the adults in our house - spicy pickles called Wickles. See if your grocery store carries them. They're great on the side here. If you can find Gulden's Zesty Honey Mustard, get that too. It's my favorite and a good replacement for the dijon in this recipe!