Category: Make Ahead


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Ground meat is one of the best buys around for reasonable priced meals for your family.  I buy in bulk when there’s a sale and prepare stuff ahead as much as possible.   Meatballs are baked and then frozen.  Meatloaf is frozen to defrost the day ahead of being made.  Ground meat seasoned with salt and pepper is cooked, crumbled and drained and then frozen.  Burgers are made and then frozen.  This past week Aldi had a sale on 5 lbs. of ground beef  for $9.95.  Another market had ground turkey on a BOGO sale so it ended up being $2.20 per pound.  One of these days, I’m going to experiment with grinding my own meat.  Ironically I bought a meat grinder to make veggie burgers, but it’s sitting in my pantry gathering dust.

First, let’s talk about meatballs.  I used to buy the frozen, precooked variety until my kids rebelled and said only mine would do, claiming the others are like little rubber balls.  I see their point.  The only way I can make this happen, though, is to cook them ahead and freeze them.  I make rather large batches, so I have at least enough for two meals when I’m done.

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3-4 lb. ground meats (use a blend of at least two – beef, turkey, chicken, and pork are all great)  Keep in mind, though, that beef really throws off a lot of grease, whereas the others are leaner and less greasy.  For that reason, I try to use less beef.

2 eggs

1/ 2 or so seasoned bread crumbs (in a pinch, I’ve used oatmeal, instant grits, and leftover quinoa)

2 heaping Tbsp. sweet pickle relish

1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

16 oz. cottage cheese (or ricotta if you don’t have any cottage cheese)

Optional add ins:

Pesto, seasoning packets from Rice-A-Roni (ha ha – when I make prepared foods like that I always use 1 packet per two boxes to reduce the sodium, and keep the spare packet around for future use)

Prepare two 13 x 9 baking dishes by spraying with coconut oil.

Mix meats and wet ingredients by hand, gradually adding in the bread crumbs/oatmeal/whatever, so that you can form meatballs that do not fall apart.  Add sparingly, as you can always add in more, but you can’t take them out once you’ve put them in!  Sometimes when using ground chicken, the meat is impossibly sticky.  Using the grab and roll method with flour on your hands, and rolling the meatballs in a  little seasoned flour takes care of that!

Scoop meat mixture using an ice cream or cookie dough scoop if it’s not too sticky and place meatballs in baking dishes.  If there is no beef, drizzle with a little olive oil.  If there is beef, skip this step.

Bake at 375 F for approximately 40 minutes (depending on meatball size) or until golden and the internal temperature is at least 160 F.

Allow to cool, and place in containers to freeze for future use.

I defrost them overnight the night before I am going to make them for dinner.

Meatballs are so versatile.  Some variations we have enjoyed are:

https://vickidelbrouck.wordpress.com/2013/08/13/buffalo-meatball-and-potato-casserole/

Ground meat 1 Buffalo meatball and potato casserole

https://vickidelbrouck.wordpress.com/2015/02/26/stroganoff-style-meatballs/

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https://vickidelbrouck.wordpress.com/2016/01/24/meatball-sub-casserole-from-tasty/

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https://vickidelbrouck.wordpress.com/2016/02/23/coconut-curry-meatballs-using-imagine-thai-coconut-curry-sauce/

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https://vickidelbrouck.wordpress.com/2014/06/21/chinese-chicken-meatballs-adapted-from-guy-fieris-general-guys-chicken/

ground meat 3 gen tso meatballs

 

https://vickidelbrouck.wordpress.com/2014/03/10/barbecue-ranch-chicken-meatballs-2/

barbecue ranch meatballs

Or simply bake them with your favorite spaghetti sauce topped with cheese!

Sometimes I make them big, like little mini meatloafs.  You can even cook them in a muffin pan.

The recipe for crock pot meatloaf follows much the same recipe as my basic meatballs.  Cooking it in the crock pot is by far the easiest way to make a moist, delicious meatloaf.

https://vickidelbrouck.wordpress.com/2016/03/16/crock-pot-meatloaf/

Crock pot meatloaf

You can stuff uncooked jumbo shells or manicotti with meatloaf mixtures, too, or add in a little sausage to give it a zing.

https://vickidelbrouck.wordpress.com/2016/02/21/stuffed-shells-using-uncooked-pasta-and-meatballs-for-another-night-or-two/

Stuffed shells

The recipe I use for burgers is more or less the same.  I put them in a Tupperware and freeze them until the night before we’re having them.  I cook them on a baking sheet, rather than standing at the stove flipping burgers.

https://vickidelbrouck.wordpress.com/2016/07/05/burgers-cooked-in-the-oven/

burger cooked in the oven

There are a load of recipes you can make with precooked and frozen ground meat or sausage:

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https://vickidelbrouck.wordpress.com/2016/02/17/stuffed-poblano-pepper-casserole/

Stuffed Poblano Pepper Casserole

https://vickidelbrouck.wordpress.com/2015/09/29/stuffed-bell-peppers-with-polenta/

Stuffed peppers

https://vickidelbrouck.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/cabbage-rolls-deconstructed-casserole/

cabbage rolls casserole.jpg

https://vickidelbrouck.wordpress.com/2015/03/03/cheeseburger-casserole/

Cheeseburger Mac and Cheese

https://vickidelbrouck.wordpress.com/2015/01/02/hawaiian-crock-pot-delight/

Hawaiian crock pot dish.jpg

https://vickidelbrouck.wordpress.com/2014/04/23/shepherds-pie-using-leftover-meatloaf/

shepherds pie

https://vickidelbrouck.wordpress.com/2014/02/11/gluten-free-sloppy-joe-cornbread-casserole/

sloppy joe

 

https://vickidelbrouck.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/lazy-day-casserole/

Lazy day casserole

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2 Immaculate pie crusts

12 eggs

1/4 c. sour cream

4 oz. diced pancetta

1/2 onion, finely diced

2 apples diced

6 oz. brie, diced

1 c. shredded cheese (I used fontina)

Pre-bake pie crusts until slightly golden at 400F.  Lower temperature to 325F.

Whisk together eggs and sour cream.

Cook pancetta until crispy, adding in onions to carmelize toward the end.

Place brie and apple in one pie crust.

Place pancetta and onion in the other.

Top both with shredded cheese.

Pour egg mixture equally into both.

Bake for 50 minutes or until knife comes out clean.

What I love about quiche is I can use up whatever is in the fridge.  Any veggie, any cheese , any meat, equals Yumm.

Serve with fruit or a salad – you can’t go wrong.

 

 

 

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1 pouch Imagine Thai Coconut Curry Sauce (OMG Yummy!!)

2 lb. fresh sausage (I used turkey kielbasa)

2 Tbsp. olive oil blend

1 can garbanzo beans

Leftover veggies (red pepper, zucchini, kale) for color and texture

1. Cut sausage into small slices using kitchen shears.

2.  Cook sausage in a large skillet over medium heat in the olive oil blend until cooked through.

3.  Add in remaining ingredients until heated through.

4.  Transfer to crockpot to keep warm until everyone is ready to eat.

Serve over rice.  (I used a brown and red rice mixture of Lundberg rice I had on hand)

We loved this!  The Thai Coconut Curry Sauce is one of our favorites.  I buy it in bulk (6 at a time) online.  Same with the Lundberg rice that we love!

 

coconut curry

 

 

Uncle Bob, who turned 90 a short while back, loves Molly the Baker’s lemon pie.  She gave me her recipe, and despite not being much of a baker, I used Immaculate Ready-to-Bake Pie crust, and it came out amazing.  I didn’t pipe whipped cream on top and garnish it like the picture I borrowed from Taste of Home, but nobody complained!

Mom-s-Lemon-Custard-Pie_exps4516_BSD1754026C02_10_1bC_RMs(Photo from of TasteofHome.com)

Bake one Immaculate Ready-to-Bake pie crust at 400 F for 5-7 minutes until golden brown.

Filling:

Lemon zest 1/2 oz

Sugar 13 1/4 oz

Eggs 5
Butter 2 1/4 oz
Lemon juice 3/4 C +1 Tbsp
Mix the eggs and sugar together.
Melt the butter. Should be very hot and clear.
Mix the butter into the eggs and sugar.
Process the lemon zest with a little bit of lemon juice and then add to mixture.
Add the rest of the juice.
Pour mixture into parbaked crust bake at 300 F until it jiggles slightly (It took about an hour)
It would be good topped with whipped cream, as it is tart (but so yummy).
We like So Delicious CocoWhip.

 

 

 

 

I made quiche about a week ago because I had a few frozen pie crusts on hand, and wanted to make the kids breakfast.  It was a huge hit compared to the last time I remember making it.  Maybe their tastebuds are grown up, or maybe I’ve gotten better at it.  Then, I bought Immaculate pie crust the other day to make a lemon pie for Uncle Bob (with a recipe from Molly the Baker which I will post, even though I failed to take a picture of mine)  I had one pie crust left, so I decided to make another quiche this morning.  The Immaculate crust is soooooo good, I don’t think I’ll ever make my own pie crust again or use any other brand!

quiche

1 ready-to-bake pie crust (I used Immaculate and will NEVER use the others again!)

immaculate pie crust

7 eggs

1/4 c. sour cream

1 lb. sausage, crumbled, cooked, drained (I used Jimmy Dean  fully cooked turkey crumbles)

turkey sausage

1 c. shredded cheese (I used sharp cheddar)

  1.  Bake crust at 400 F for 5 minutes or so, just until slightly golden.  Remember to either pierce it with a fork or use pie weights, so it doesn’t lift up.  When you pull  the crust out of the oven, immediately turn oven temp down to 300 F.
  2. Meanwhile, mix eggs and sour cream until well blended.  I didn’t even add salt or pepper, which you could, of course, but I figured the sausage would bring the salt to the party (it did).
  3. Stir in sausage crumbles and cheese.
  4. Bake quiche at 300 F for 50-55 minutes, until set.  (check for doneness by inserting a sharp knife in the center – it should come out clean

This can easily be made ahead, and keeps well for a few days!  Add in onions, peppers, mushrooms, spinach, other meats.  Switching up the cheese will really change things too.  I’m thinking of trying a brie and apple version next week.

I didn’t actually get a picture of this one, but instead put pictures of two previously posted “Empty the Fridge Chowders”  Making a chowder or chili is one of my favorite ways to use up leftovers.

4-5 c. leftover meat and starch (I had about 4 or 5 cups of some delicious boneless lemon pepper chicken thighs and brown rice and black beans that weren’t getting eaten fast enough.  I chopped the chicken up into smaller pieces)

1 bag Dole Chopped salad (I save the salad toppings and dressings from the chopped salad for future use).  Broccoli slaw would also work well as the fresh add-in.

 

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Combine the leftovers with the greens from the Chopped salad, and place in crock pot.

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Add in:

1 jar salsa (I used Muir Glen organic that was on sale)

3 Tbsp. bacon jam

1 Tbsp. dehydrated minced onion

2 C. chicken broth

Any leftover meat and starch will do.  I sometime even freeze leftovers I know will work well in a chowder or chili.  Make sure you label them, though.  They are often unrecognizable when you look at them in a container in the freezer.

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To the chicken, rice, bean, and chop salad mixture, I then added salsa, bacon jam, dehydrated minced onion, and chicken broth.

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Cook on low in the crock pot for 8 hours.

Optional toppings:  Shredded cheese, nuts, sour cream, crushed chips, etc.

Optional add-ins:  Any leftover veggies or starches.

 

 

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1 package RPs Pasta Company or other fresh lasagna sheets

2-3 lb. ground meat, browned and drained (I cook and freeze cooked ground meat when it’s on sale)

2 onions, chopped

3 medium tomatoes, chopped

2 c. chopped sweet peppers

1 jar marinara

2 Tbsp. pesto

2 Tbsp. minced garlic

4 c. leftover cooked quinoa

1 container ricotta cheese (2 lb)

1 packet Knorr pesto sauce mix – or Italian seasoning and Parmesian cheese

1 egg

1 package (8 oz) shredded Italian 6 cheese

SAM_3070I bought some fresh gluten free lasagna noodles.  It didn’t say how many sheets are in the package, so I worried that I couldn’t make enough layers, so I decided to try something new, inspired by pastitsio. By the way, the package has 12 sheets, enough for three layers!

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I cook the sauce overnight in the crock pot.  This step isn’t necessary, but it certainly adds another layer of flavor that can’t be replicated any other way.

Day 1:  The Sauce:

2-3 lb. ground meat, browned and drained (I cook and freeze cooked ground meat when it’s on sale)

2 onions, chopped

3 medium tomatoes, chopped

2 c. chopped sweet peppers

1 jar marinara

2 Tbsp. pesto

2 Tbsp. minced garlic

Combine ingredients in crock put.  Cook overnight 8-10 hours on low.  The house will smell amazing.

Day 2:  The Lasagna –

4 c. leftover cooked quinoa

2 c. cooked sauce

Combine quinoa and sauce.  Add a little more sauce if it looks too dry.

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1 container ricotta cheese (2 lb)

1 packet Knorr pesto sauce mix – or Italian seasoning and Parmesian cheese

1 egg

Combine cheese, pesto sauce mix and egg.

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Spray DEEP lasagna dish, and spread quinoa mixture into bottom.  Top with layer of half of the ricotta.

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Place layer of noodles on top of ricotta.

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Top with sauce in a thin layer.

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Top with layer of noodles.

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Top with remaining ricotta.

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Layer the last of the noodles.

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Top with remaining sauce and sprinkle with shredded cheese.

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Bake at 350 for 45-55 minutes.

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We really loved this.  My daughter suggested stuffing peppers with a quinoa mixture like I used for the first layer and I can’t wait to try it.

I made garlic toast using Texas toast multigrain bread and premade garlic spread.

Yummy!

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Today was food preparation Sunday.  I did my shopping yesterday (following the great, inspiring sales this week), and prepared food today.  The meatballs are a combination of several meats and I made them jumbo, like mini meatloafs.

3 lb. ground beef

1 lb. ground chicken

1 lb. ground turkey

1/2 lb. ground pork  (optional)

2 tsp. baking soda mixed with 2 Tbsp. water

2 c. crumbled cornbread

2 eggs

1/4 c. sweet pickle relish

1/4 c. pesto

3 Tbsp. steak seasoning

1 lb. ricotta cheese

1 jar spaghetti sauce (I used Gia Russa)

4 oz. each ricotta salada and fontina cheeses, shredded

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Combine meats with baking soda water and add in relish, pesto, seasoning, ricotta cheese, and seasoning.

Prepare 13 x 9 baking dishes by spraying with cooking spray.

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Using large scoop, form meatballs and put into baking dishes sprayed with coconut oil.

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Bake at 375F for 40 minutes until internal temperature is 165F.

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Pour  spaghetti sauce over cooked meatballs and top with shredded cheese.  I used ricotta salada and fontina.

 

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Meanwhile as part of food prep Sunday, I browned the remaining ground meats I bought (about 3 lb. total) to freeze and use in a future meal.

I bought a variety of sauces on a clearance sale at the local market and put boneless chicken breasts and thighs into large containers and coated them with the sauces and froze the chicken for future meals.  I only used half of the meatballs I made for tonight’s dinner.  I froze the rest for another night.

 

I served the Jumbo meatballs tonight with a tortelloni that was on a BOGO sale at my local supermarket.  I also bought their spinach ricotta ravioli, and everyone loved the freshness of this delicate pasta.  I will go buy more before the sale ends!

rana-tortelloni

All in all, a successful food preparation Sunday, ending with a delicious, easy meal made of ingredients bought on sale!

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2 boxes elbow macaroni, cooked according to directions

12 leftover chicken fingers (you could use any leftover meat)

1 package broccoli slaw, steamed in the microwave (any steamed veggies will work!)

1 jar alfredo sauce (variation – mushroom soup, marinara, any sauce!)

1 c. shredded cheese (I used sliced and shredded up some cheese I had on hand)

Mix cooked macaroni and alfredo sauce.  Place half in the bottom of a 13 x 9 baking dish sprayed with coconut oil spray.

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Top with cooked broccoli slaw.

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Cut up chicken tenders and spread evenly over broccoli slaw.

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Top with remaining macaroni and sauce.

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Top with cheese.

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Bake at 350F until melted and golden, about 25-30 minutes.  Loved it!!

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I was sad to learn that some dear friends who are invited to our family Thanksgiving dinner aren’t going to be able to make it this year.  An amazing, any turkey for $6.00 sale intervened and made an early Thanksgiving just for them possible!

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The cranberries are simmering in an orange juice concoction.  No more can shaped cranberry sauce for me, since my daughter, Molly, showed me how incredibly easy it is to make homemade cranberry sauce!

2 bags fresh cranberries

1 c. orange juice

1 c. sugar

1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie seasoning

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I baked the 18 lb. turkey using the inject able butter marinade from Tony’s since it was buy one get one free at the local market.  I also filled the cavity with onions and seasoned the top with some great Tuscan rub I picked up somewhere along the way.

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The turkey was frozen, and I needed it defrosted as quickly as possible.  The good old Butterball site, and Martha Stewart, etc. etc. all show two safe methods of defrosting.  The easiest being defrosting in the refrigerator, but I didn’t have 3-4 days, I had one.  I did the water defrost method, which involved immersing the frozen turkey in water in a cooler, and changing out the water every 30 minutes or so.  It defrosted in less than 9 hours, the time they recommended.

I made mashed potatoes ahead of time, so as not to have to cook in front of everybody.  I adapted a recipe from Ree Drummond.

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5 lb. russet potatoes

1 block cream cheese

8 oz. sour cream

1 1/2 sticks butter

Salt and pepper to taste.

Cut up and boil potatoes.  No peeling necessary, just a good scrub on the skin!

Mash and add in cream cheese, sour cream, and one stick of the butter.   Season to taste.

Spread into a 13 x 9 baking dish.  Cover and refrigerate up to overnight.  Bring to room temperature before baking.  Top with remaining 1/2 stick butter cut up into little pieces.

Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.  Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley before serving.

We had gravy we didn’t even need.  These potatoes stand alone!

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I roasted some shaved brussel sprouts in the oven with the potatoes.  I tossed the shaved sprouts with olive oil, seasoned salt and a little pepper, and let it sit in the fridge to marinate for a few hours before roasting them.  I don’t even usually like brussel sprouts, but these were delicious.

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My guests brought a yummy salad to top off the meal.  I did take a picture of my plate, but my camera has been acting up lately and I lost that shot and the one of the turkey before it was carved.

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We had a nice red blend with it, which was on sale at my local market with a BOGO deal.  Two bottles for $19.99.  So smooth and good enough to buy again for Thanksgiving!

We had an ice cream cake planned for dessert, which has been in the freezer since my son Elliot’s 25 birthday on the 10th, but he didn’t make it home in time, so thank goodness it’s an ice cream cake.

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