Make Ahead Meals

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I always try to wear belly shirts while cooking and pregnant...haha

A good friend of mine who had her first baby a little over a year ago, told me that the best advice one of her mama friends gave her was to go ahead and prepare a couple of weeks worth of meals before baby, freeze them, then not have to worry with cooking in the days after you first get home.  Since I'm an absolute control nut and have to have everything in my home a certain way, I decided that this would be a great idea to go ahead and tackle. I started working on our make ahead meals this week, with two complete, and plan to finish up all the others this weekend. I thought I'd share what I'm cooking up in case anyone else is in the same boat and looking for some easy make ahead meals. These recipes are mostly from my favorite Food Network chicks, Paula and Ina, but the last few are my mom's and just some simple ones I use. I try to substitute healthier ingredients when possible, especially since my clean eating plan starts the day we get home from the hospital.

Ina's Lasagna
Photo from Food Network


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 onion) (I used a Vidalia onion)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 pounds sweet Italian turkey sausage, casings removed (I used 3/4 ground sirloin and 1/4 sausage)
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes in tomato puree
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pound lasagna noodles (I used whole grain noodles)
  • 15 ounces ricotta cheese (Used part skim milk ricotta)
  • 3 to 4 ounces creamy goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan, plus 1/4 cup for sprinkling
  • 1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Heat the olive oil in a large (10 to 12-inch) skillet. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes over medium-low heat, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the sausage and cook over medium-low heat, breaking it up with a fork, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until no longer pink. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 2 tablespoons of the parsley, the basil, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat, for 15 to 20 minutes, until thickened.
Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with the hottest tap water. Add the noodles and allow them to sit in the water for 20 minutes. Drain.
In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, goat cheese, 1 cup of Parmesan, the egg, the remaining 2 tablespoons of parsley, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Set aside.
Ladle 1/3 of the sauce into a 9 by 12 by 2-inch rectangular baking dish, spreading the sauce over the bottom of the dish. Then add the layers as follows: half the pasta, half the mozzarella, half the ricotta, and one 1/3 of the sauce. Add the rest of the pasta, mozzarella, ricotta, and finally, sauce. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of Parmesan. Bake for 30 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling.  

For videos pertaining to this recipe, you can go directly to the Food Network site, or click here.
I have this frozen in a 9x12 Pyrex dish with saran wrap over the top, then the fitted lid over that. I did not bake at all prior to freezing. I will just bake for about an hour if I bring it straight out of the freezer, or let it thaw, then bake for 30 minutes or until heated through.

Paula's Cheeseburger Meatloaf


  • 1 pound ground chuck (Again, I use ground sirloin)
  • 10 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (I use turkey bacon)
  • 1 (8-ounce) package sharp Cheddar, grated (low fat cheddar)
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs, toasted
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise 
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons prepared mustard
  • 1 (3-ounce) can French fried onions (I omit this ingredient when making mine)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine the ground chuck and next 8 ingredients, mixing well.

In a small bowl, combine the ketchup and mustard. Stir 1/4 cup ketchup mixture into meat mixture, reserving remaining ketchup mixture.

Press meat mixture into a 9 by 5 by 3-inch loaf pan, or shape into a loaf and place on a rack in a broiler pan. Spread remaining ketchup mixture over loaf. Bake 40 minutes. Top with French fried onions; bake another 10 to 15 minutes, or until meat is no longer pink.

Find the official recipe and videos here.
To freeze, just wrap the uncooked dish in saran wrap or foil, then place into a Pyrex dish with a lid and place in the freezer. Let it thaw before baking as instructed, or add about 20 minutes or more if needed if going straight from freezer to over.

Deen Brothers BBQ

1 tbsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
Pinch red pepper flakes
Pinch celery seed
1 7-pound boneless pork shoulder

3 cups cider vinegar
1 cup ketchup
2 tbsp dry mustard powder
2 tbsp packed dark brown sugar
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 tsp salt
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

For the pork, in a small bowl, stir together the salt, garlic powder, black pepper, red pepper flakes and celery seed. Using your fingers, rub the spice mixture all over the pork to coat evenly. Place pork in a large, resealable plastic bag or covered bowl and refrigerate overnight.
For the basting sauce, in a large saucepan, combine all ingredients, stirring to dissolve sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Let the sauce cool and refrigerate overnight.
Next day, preheat over to 300 degrees F. Place a rack inside a large roasting pan; place the pork on the rack. Roast for 2 1/2 hours; pour half the sauce over the pork and bake 1 to 2 more hours or until internal temperature reads 180 degrees. Bast the pork every 30 minutes with sauce and drippings from the bottom of the pan.
Remove pork from the oven and let stand on the rack until cooled. Meanwhile, warm the remaining sauce in a saucepan over low heat. Transfer the warm pork to a cutting board and shred or chop the meat into bite-sized pieces, mixing in some of the fat and skin if you wish. Transfer pork to a large bowl and add the sauce to taste and mix well. Serve on buns with coleslaw and extra sauce on side.
I have mine in a big gallon Ziploc freezer bag and it keeps very well.  Just let thaw in the fridge and reheat as needed.

My Graham Cracker Freezer Treats

1 sleeve of graham crackers
fresh made whipping cream, or cool whip if you don't make your own
1/2 container sliced strawberries

It doesn't get any easier...just gently fold the berries into the whipping cream, then spread the whipping cream mix onto a graham cracker generously and top with another cracker. Place in a freezer safe bag and it's like a low-fat ice cream sandwich!

Frozen Chocolate Bananas

This one is what you'd call "stupid simple".  There's nothing to it, but it's SO good and pretty good for you. I have a serious sweet tooth, so this helps when I'm sticking to a more strict diet, which I will be.

1 bunch of ripe bananas
6-8 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate squares
2 tbsp whipping cream
splash vanilla extract

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over boiling water, as it melts down, add the cream until mixture becomes smooth. At the last minute before you remove your bowl from the heat, add the splash of vanilla and mix well.
Skin bananas and slice in the diagonal into about 1-2 inch pieces. You could just do the whole banana, but I usually just eat about 2-3 slices at a time. While chocolate mixture is still warm, dip banana slices in to coat (use a fork or toothpick to stick them so the whole thing gets covered), lay on parchment paper to let chocolate harden, then place in a freezer safe ziploc bag or container.\

Some other things I'm trying to get all wrapped up before baby's arrival are obviously the cleaning...baseboards to basement, it's getting wiped down, Pledged, swept, mopped, you name it. I guess I've been nesting like a mad lady, but I don't want anything to go undone. I can't stand for anyone to touch my laundry, so I'm keeping on top of that like crazy, too. I don't let my husband near the washer, dryer or iron and the only other person who could do it to suit me is my mama, but I won't be asking her, so I'm doing it every couple of days so that it won't get too far behind while I'm out of commission.
 Some other things I've done to make life easier once we get home are:

Picking up paper plates and Dixie cups...not the fanciest option for when company comes over, but will definitely reduce the dish load.
Washing the this pretty regularly anyway, but trying to keep the shedding under control
Pre-making some "company" food, like cheese straws, coffee cake...things that are simple to pull out the freezer or fridge when people come to visit baby girl.

Any tips that made the transition from hospital to home are much appreciated and welcome. Anything you'd absolutely first time mama's do to make the transition simpler?

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