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Think-Ahead Dinner Thursdays

I do enjoy cooking, but I don’t love the weekly rut of meal-planning, shopping, and making “do” in the kitchen. In a dream world, we’d hire a personal chef to make dinners (and pack school lunches!) for us. The only catch? I would get to tell the chef exactly what to make, and be insanely micro-managing on the whole shopping/organic/good produce thing.

I know, I can dream, right?

Weeknight dinners are always a little catchy: some nights I’m teaching and leaving my mom to feed my kids – not exactly cool to leave her with the whole “hey, what’s for dinner? I don’t know, I’m leaving, you figure it out” taste in her mouth. So on those nights I need to cook the meal in advance. Then on nights I’m home I can make a meal from scratch – but I’d much rather have extra time for hanging with my kids.

So I’m a big fan of make-ahead meals; I usually try to double one meal each week and freeze one for future use. I own several great cook-and-freeze cookbooks, but I find myself returning to one over and over – Not Your Mother’s Make-Ahead And Freeze Meals Cookbook.

I’m all for shortcuts, but “open a soup packet” or “can of creamed something soup” or whatever is not in my repertoire – I just can’t go for all the preservatives and questionable chemicals. Thankfully, this cookbook is written by a woman after my own heart, and she has a whole section on make-ahead “cheats” like a homemade cream-of-celery base, or an easy gravy, to make and freeze for future cassesroles. She’s also pretty darn creative, so while you do find hearty, satisfying meals full of cheese and pasta, that’s not all there is in the book. Thanks to her, I now buy a full roasted chicken from Whole Foods (another one of my regular cheats), cut it up one night, use the leftovers another night, then put the whole carcass into the slow cooker for chicken stock for future recipes that night.

That’s my kind of shortcut.

She’s big on “prep ahead” meals – put some meat in a Ziploc with a marinade, stick it in the freezer, then defrost and fry/bake/grill when you need it. Healthful, well-balanced recipes that help me do a lot of work just a little bit of the time, then coast on the bounty of that labor. I’ve got a fair amount of foods in the freezer to give to sick friends or pull out on a night I’m working, no problem.

Gives a whole new meaning to the words “frozen dinner”.


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