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.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
two bunches of fresh asparagus, trimmed
two to three tablespoons olive oil
coarse salt and pepper
grated parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Put asparagus on a large rimmed baking sheet and toss with olive oil until well coated. Season liberally with salt and pepper, and make sure the asparagus is in a single layer (use two sheets if needed). Sprinkle with parmesan to taste; I usually just grate the cheese right over it.
Roast for 10 to 15 minutes or until tender. I tend to cook for closer to 20 minutes, but we like it pretty well roasted.
*I also use this asparagus for a light white pizza. Roast it for 10 minutes, then scatter over pizza dough and top with fresh mozzarella cheese. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes or so.
Saturday, March 26, 2011
1/4 cup olive oil, plus a little for foil
1/2 cup flour
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups whole milk
2 packages frozen spinach (10 oz each), thawed and squeezed dry
box of frozen peas (10 oz)
4 to 5 carrots, cut in half and thinly sliced
kosher salt and black pepper
15 oz container part-skim ricotta cheese
one large egg
package of no-boil lasagna noodles (9 oz)
1 lb shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup grated parmesan
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat, then add flour and garlic and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Whisk in the milk and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and continue cooking for about 5 minutes, whisking occasionally, until it thickens. Stir in spinach, peas and carrots, and season with salt and pepper.
In a medium bowl, combine ricotta and egg with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Spread a thin layer of the sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish. Layer with 1/4 of the noodles, half of the remaining sauce, another 1/4 noodles, then half the ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan. Repeat.
Lightly oil a large piece of foil with olive oil, then cover dish and place it on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes covered, then uncover and bake another 15-20 minutes or until bubbly and slightly browned. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes before serving (don't skip this step).
*If freezing, wrap dish tightly before baking with plastic wrap and foil. When ready to bake, thaw overnight in the fridge, then remove the wrap, spread a little oil on the piece of foil and re-cover. Bake as directed above.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
4 pieces of salmon
5 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup hot sauce (like Frank's)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 425 degrees and move rack to upper third of oven.
Melt butter over medium heat and stir in the hot sauce. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and set aside. Toss breadcrumbs with the oil.
Place salmon skin down on an oiled baking sheet. Season with remaining salt and pepper. Measure out 1/4 cup of the butter sauce and then brush or spoon it over the salmon. Sprinkle oiled breadcrumbs over, pressing down lightly.
Bake for 16-20 minutes or until done. Drizzle the remaining sauce over salmon or serve it on the side.
*This recipe would work well with other types of fish. Use more panko if you want a thicker coating. Use more hot sauce and less butter if you like it spicy!
one stick butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
1 cup flour
1 cup mix-ins: chocolate chips, nuts, m&ms or whatever you have on hand
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in large saucepan, then add sugar and stir until smooth. Mix in egg and vanilla, then add salt, flour and mix-ins, stirring until just combined.
Pour into a greased 8 x 8 baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes or until just barely set (better to underbake than overbake). Let cool slightly before cutting.
*Double the ingredients for a 9 x 13 pan. They're best the day they're made or the day after, though they probably won't last that long.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
1 lb ball fresh pizza dough, leave it out at room temp for a bit before starting
7 oz thinly sliced ham; Trader Joe's sells a good brand called Applegate Farms
4 oz sliced swiss or gruyere cheese
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced into rings
honey mustard for dipping
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Divide pizza dough into eight pieces, then stretch each one out as far as you can with your fingers. To assemble, sprinkle a few onions on each piece of dough, then top with a rolled slice of ham and a piece of cheese. Fold the dough over the filling and tuck it under to secure. (A little may stick out on each end; filling doesn't need to be completely covered.)
Place turnovers on a greased baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes.
*This recipe would also work well with other ingredients—I will be trying turkey/cheddar/apple and pepperoni/mushroom/mozzarella combinations in our house soon. Round them out with a big salad on the side.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
3 tablespoons olive oil
large onion, chopped
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans white kidney beans (15 oz each), drained and rinsed
3 to 4 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 cup frozen corn
7 oz can diced green chiles
2 cups chicken broth, plus more for thinning if needed
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons half and half or light cream
shredded cheddar or monterey jack, for serving
crushed tortilla chips, for serving
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, then saute onion for about 7 minutes. Add chili powder, cumin, oregano and garlic and cook for one more minute. Stir in the beans, chicken, corn, green chiles, broth and salt, and simmer, partially covered, for about 10 minutes.
Mix the butter and flour together in a small bowl, then add to the chili. Stir for a minute or two until it thickens slightly, then add the half and half or cream, and a little more broth if you think it needs thinning. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with shredded cheese and chips.
*Skip the chicken, use vegetable broth and add more corn/beans to make it vegetarian. You could also up the amount of green chiles to give it more kick.
1 refrigerated pie crust (or homemade)
1/4 stick unsalted butter
3 medium shallots, chopped
12 to 14 oz sliced assorted mushrooms
4 large eggs
2/3 cup half and half
1/3 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
7 oz Fontina cheese, shredded
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Unroll crust and press firmly into the bottom and up the sides of a pie dish. Bake until light golden, about 15 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure crust is not slipping down the sides. If it does, use a spoon to gently press crust back into the dish. Reduce oven to 325 degrees.
Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots and saute for 2 minutes, then add mushrooms and a bit of salt/pepper. Cook until tender, about 8 minutes, then transfer to a plate.
Whisk eggs, half and half, milk, salt, black pepper and nutmeg together in a large bowl. Stir in approximately two-thirds of the fontina and the cooked mushrooms and pour filling into the crust. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
Bake until golden brown and just set in the center, about 45 minutes. Cool about 30 minutes before serving. Good with a green salad and buttered toast.
*If freezing, let quiche cool after baking and wrap tightly with foil. When ready to eat, thaw in the fridge for a day and then reheat gently in the oven.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
1 1/2 lb lean ground turkey
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup crushed saltines
2 eggs, beaten with a fork
small onion, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
dash or two of worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup ketchup
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease loaf pan with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, combine the ground turkey, milk, crushed saltines, eggs, onion, salt, pepper, ginger and worcestershire sauce, mixing well with clean hands. Transfer to the loaf pan. Stir the brown sugar and ketchup together in a small bowl, then spoon it over the meatloaf mixture. Sometimes I make a little extra topping just to make sure it's really coated.
Bake for approximately one hour, or until done. I use a meat thermometer to check if it's cooked through. (If you decide to do smaller loaves, start checking on them after about 25-30 minutes. You can use mini-loaf pans, muffin tins or just shape the loaves on a baking sheet with sides.)
*This freezes well, so I often make a double batch. Wrap the leftovers well in foil, then thaw them later on for sandwiches or reheat in the microwave.
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 shallots, chopped (or a small onion)
2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 lb sweet Italian sausages, casings removed
1/3 lb spicy Italian sausages, casings removed
1 cup whipping cream or half and half
2 cans diced tomatoes in juice with Italian seasoning (14.5 oz each)
1 tablespoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
3/4 lb farfalle pasta (bowties) or other pasta
grated parmesan cheese for serving
Heat oil in heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add shallots/garlic and saute for 3 to 4 minutes, then add the sausage and cook for 5 or 6 minutes or until no longer pink, breaking them up with the back of a spoon. Stir in cream and simmer for 5 minutes, then add tomatoes with juice, sage and crushed red pepper. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes or until it thickens.
Meanwhile, cook pasta in salted water until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Return the pasta to the pot and combine with the sauce. Cook for a few minutes over medium-low heat, adding the cooking water a little bit at a time if the sauce seems dry. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve with lots of parmesan.
*You could make this with all sweet or all spicy sausage, but they're good mixed together. Stick the leftover sausage links in the freezer for another time.
Friday, March 4, 2011
6 oz unsweetened chocolate
2/3 cup unsalted butter
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups sugar
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup white chocolate chips*
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt unsweetened chocolate and butter over low heat in a large saucepan. Stir in sugar, eggs and vanilla with a wooden spoon; then sift in flour, salt and baking powder. Mix just until combined, then stir in chips or other mix-ins (see below).
Pour into a parchment-lined 9 x 13 pan and bake for 20-25 minutes. I always err on the side of underdone, so keep checking and don't overbake. Cool completely before cutting.
*You can substitute many things here in place of the white chocolate chips. Mini chocolate chips melt to create a sort of swirl, but regular chocolate chips work well too. Other ideas: walnuts, m&ms, toffee pieces, chopped peanut butter cups or other leftover candy, peppermint patties at x-mas.
1 lb bowties, rotini, penne or other pasta
fresh or frozen broccoli florets
one large lemon
1 1/2 cups grated parmesan
two cloves crushed garlic
kosher salt and black pepper to taste
dash of crushed red pepper; optional (I usually just put this on the table)
Cook the pasta for five minutes less than the directions for al dente; then add the broccoli to the water for the final five minutes of cooking time. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water before draining.
While the pasta is cooking, grate the zest from the lemon into a small bowl, then squeeze the juice into that same bowl. Stir in the crushed garlic.
Toss pasta with 1/3 cup of the reserved cooking water, a few good glugs of olive oil, lemon zest/juice/garlic mixture and grated cheese. Add a little more cooking water if needed, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with additional parmesan.
*I use this same technique with boxed mac and cheese; throw some frozen veggies in to cook with the pasta and it becomes a little bit healthier.