Category Archives: Meals in Advance

A little cooking in advance makes getting dinner on the table easier and faster.

Grilled Chicken with Cilantro Mayonnaise


The long, hot days of summer are quickly approaching. Have you pulled out your grill yet? This sandwich is a great way to start off the grilling season. It is simple, light and ready to eat in 30 minutes.

1.5 lbs boneless Chicken Breast or Thighs
1 Anaheim Pepper*
1/2 c lime juice
1 Tbs minced Garlic
Salt & Pepper
Sour Dough Rolls**
2 Garlic Cloves
Provolone or good melting cheese

Cilantro Mayonnaise
1/2 c Mayonnaise
1/2 c Cilantro
2 Tbs Shallots minced
1/8 tsp Pepper
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Lime Juice

Serves 4

*The Anaheim Pepper is a very mild pepper. If you want to add more heat, use a smaller pepper. The smaller you go with peppers, the more heat you are going to have.

**You can choose other bread, it merely needs to have some depth to it so it will hold the sandwich together. I chose 2 long loaves and cut them in half when serving, but you can certainly do individual rolls for everyone.

Split the bread in half and set to the side.

When preparing cilantro, sometimes you can cut the stems and it is not a big deal. However, in this mayo you don’t want that woody texture so while it take a little more time, pull leaves off the stems. A trick is to roll the pile of leaves into a log and you should be able to cut them all in just a few strokes. The more you cut the more bruised the leaves will become. You don’t want the leaves minced, just a course chop is all that is needed.

To make the cilantro mayonnaise, combine the mayo, diced shallots, cilantro, salt and pepper in a bowl adding the 1 tsp of lime juice. Place in the fridge until ready to use.

Wash the pepper and place on the grill. You want a nice char on all sides. Grilling adds flavor and will take away some of the heat creating more sweetness. When the pepper is done, remove and place in a bag or covered container for a few minutes. This will make the skin easier to remove. When it has cooled enough to handle, the skin will just peel off. Remove the stem and the core and cut into thin strips and set to the side. While the pepper is cooking, prep the chicken.

Charred on all sides

Peeled, cored and sliced.

As the chicken is going to make a sandwich, you don’t want it to be more than 1/2 an inch in depth. There are 2 ways to accomplish this, with a meat mallet or butterflying the meat. After the meat is at the desired thickness, it needs to be cut so as to fit the bread you will be using. Wider bread will of course hold wider pieces. Set the cut pieces of chicken to the side.

In a bowl, combine the lime juice and garlic. Place the chicken in the marinade making sure it is completely covered, and set to the side for 5 minutes and no more. Dipping a paper towel in oil and rub the grill with it. This will prevent the meat from sticking to those grates. Once you remove the chicken from the marinade, season it with salt and pepper, Be sure to leave the bits of garlic clinging to the meat.

Place the chicken on your grill and cook on both sides. When you flip the chicken is a good time to place the cut bread onto the grill. The idea is to toast the bread so it needs to be placed over a medium low heat. Total cook time will take 10 to 15 minutes depending on the size you cut the chicken into. Two minutes before removing the chicken from the grill, place the provolone cheese on top so it can melt. Keep an eye on the bread so that it does not burn.

The bread on the right was not getting enough heat so when I removed the other 3 pieces I allowed that one to toast a little more.

When you remove the bread, rub the toasted side with the cloves of garlic.

To assemble the sandwich, spread the cilantro mayonnaise on both sides of the bread. Place the chicken on the bottom half. Spread the grilled pepper strips onto the top half.

To round off a healthy meal I serve a green salad on the side with crunchy vegetables. I don’t think the sandwich needs them.

If you are looking for something to pack with you on a picnic or to the little league game, this works well. Lightly toasting the bread in the oven prevents it from getting soggy along with cold chicken. If you cook some extra chicken the next time you grill, they store well in the freezer. Just allow them to cool and then pat dry before placing into a Ziplock bag.

Get grilling!


Honey Butter Crescent Rolls


Yummy crescent rolls are available at every grocery store in the dairy aisle. SO why bother making your own? Because homemade has much better flavor and you can put up extra in the freezer for all sorts of dishes.

1 pkg 2 1/4 tsp Yeast
1/2 c water (105 – 115 degrees)
1/2 c milk
1 stick softened butter
1/3 c Sugar
1/4 c Honey
1 Egg
3 1/2 to 4 c Flour
1 beaten Egg

Prep time = 15 minutes Rise time = 1 hr 40 minutes Bake time = 15 minutes

Makes 12 to 16 large crescent rolls

Mix the yeast and water in a bowl and allow the yeast to bloom. Adding a little of the sugar to the yeast feeds it and helps it to bloom faster and better.

Heat milk over medium low heat until you see tiny bubbles appearing on the edge.

Combine the butter, sugar, honey and salt with the milk until it has all melted.

In a mixing bowl combine the yeast and milk mixtures with the egg. Add 2 cups of the flour on low-speed until the batter is smooth. Slowly add more flour until the dough begins to pull away from the bowl.

On a lightly floured surface, gently knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic. Lightly grease the mixing bowl and place the dough in int, making sure to coat the dough with the oil. Cover and allow to rise in a warm place for 1 hour.

If freezing the dough, divide in half wrapping it well in cellophane and placing in a freezer bag. Remove as much of the air as you can. To use once frozen, thaw in the refrigerator then move to the counter and bring up to room temperature before rolling out.

After the dough has risen for 1 hour, punch it down and divide in half. Allow it to rest for 10 minutes before rolling out. A 12 inch circle will make 6 rolls. An 18 inch circle will have thinner layers and make 8 rolls.

Each half can be rolled into a 12 inch circle. Using a pizza cutter, make 6 wedges just as if you are cutting a pie. Roll up starting at the widest end and place on a baking sheet. Either lightly grease the pan or sprinkle corn meal so they do not stick. Cover with a town and allow to rise in a warm place until the dough has once again doubled, about 30 minutes. If you are not very good at eyeing things (and I am horrible at it) pull out a ruler and measure so that the wedges are fairly consistent in their size.

To the beaten egg, add a tablespoon of warm water. Use a pastry brush to coat all the crescent rolls. Place in a preheated 400 degree oven and bake 15 minutes.

I usually put half of the dough into the freezer. It also holds up well overnight if you want to make the second half for the next night’s meal.

If you learn to make your own dough, there are so many uses for it. It can be used for all kinds of appetizers and deserts as well as pocket sandwiches. Since you roll it our yourself, you can cut it into whatever size you like for the portion sizes you like.

I hope you give crescent rolls a try, let me know how it goes. Happy baking!

MEALS IN ADVANCE: Marinara Sauce


It has been cookie week in my house. Girl Scout cookies were delivered and I have to get them to parents, do booths and get my own child’s delivered. Weeks like this are when I am so glad I have things in the freezer that are ready to go for a quick meal.

A basic marinara sauce is simple to make and has a wide range of possibilities. Once you thaw the sauce, you can add cheese, pepper flakes and vegetables to change it up from one meal to another. Making your own also allows the a cook to adjust it according to their own tastes. Preparing it in the slow cooker is simple and it will simmer as you do a hard day’s work. At the end of the day you have several quarts to freeze and dinner for tonight nearly done.

2 28 oz cans Diced Tomatoes
2 28 oz cans Tomatoes sauce
8 Garlic Cloves smashed and chopped
1 medium Yellow Onion diced
1/8 tsp Salt
2 Tb dried Parsley
2 Tb dried Oregano
2 Tb dried Basil
2 tsp Salt
Salt to taste

TOOLS: 4 qt Slow Cooker

Drizzle oil in a pan, when hot add the onions, garlic and 1/8 tsp salt. Saute until the onions are clear.

In the slow cooker, mix the onions and all the remaining ingredients. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours. Depending on the sauce and tomatoes that you use, season with salt according to taste. Some brand have more sodium than others and you want the sauce to absorb all the other flavors before you add more.

Allow the sauce to cool completely! This takes a little time so stir it occasionally. I like to freeze my sauce in jars, it makes it easy to measure, however you can also use bags. Keep stirring it every few minutes to speed up the process. I find that the sauce will thicken more as it cools. Keep in mind, if you are placing the sauce into canning jars it WILL expand so give yourself at least 1 inch of headroom.

This batch produced 4 1/2 quarts of sauce for the freezer.

Classic Pizza
Bubblin Pizza Casserole
Pasta dishes
Chicken Parmesan
Chicken Cacciatore
Dipping Sauces

Freezing Pancakes


I don’t pretend to have the best pancake recipe out there because I still use the basic buttermilk version from Betty Crocker. I keep trying versions I find online but have yet to find one that is “to die for”. If you think you have a good version, please let me know! The honest truth is, that they are good enough for my family for an occasional dinner and easy breakfast. Not that I make them on a weekday morning, but I have some in the freezer that the kids can heat up on their own.

To do this, I always make extra batter and therefore, extra pancakes. The trick is to allow them to fully cool on a rack before trying to freeze. Then simply layer a pancake with wax paper and slide into a Ziplock bag. Try to remove as much air from the bag as possible and then place into the freezer. I never make more than what we can go through in a month, I just don’t feel that they hold up well to long-term storage.

While you can reheat them in a microwave, do so on LOW or MEDIUM (depends on your microwave) to prevent them from getting chewy. They need to be spread out as stacking will prevent them from being reheated evenly and create some pancakes that are now overdone. It only takes a few second so set it for 30 but check after 15 and see how hot they are. Like many recipes, your pancakes may be smaller or thicker than what I make so times can vary. Another option is to use a toaster oven. We set it for 300 degrees (or warm) and straight onto the rack. They take 3 to 5 minutes that way.

One thing I have found is that buying real maple syrup makes a huge difference in the taste of what you are serving. Yes, it costs more but we use much less of it so it lasts longer. I have put the real maple syrup on the table along with Mrs Butterworth and the talking syrup just gets ignored. Warming the syrup amps up the flavor and keeps those pancakes nice and hot as well. Here is the kicker, real maple syrup is now believed that it could contain properties to help fight cancer! Not too shabby for tree sap, huh?

MEALS IN ADVANCE: Basic Meatballs


What could be wrong with a delicate ball of meat? Such a versatile food they can be used as appetizers, Swedish Meatballs, sweet and sour meatballs, on spaghetti or even meatball soup. If you can master a basic meatball you have so many dinner possibilities at your fingertips. I have seen many recipes that call for Parmesan cheese but I can never taste it, so why add it? I make meatballs to be flavorful, but simple enough they can be used in a variety of dishes.

2 pounds lean Ground Meat
1 c Bread Crumbs
1 1/2 Tb Dried Basil
2 Tb Dried Oregano
1 Tb Salt
1 Tb Pepper
1 Tb finely Minced Garlic
1/4 c Milk
3 Eggs

Spaghetti and Meatballs
Meatball Subs
Meatball Soup
Swedish Meatballs
BBQ Appetizers

In a large bowl, whip the eggs and milk together. Add all the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Fold in the ground meat. In this case I used lean hamburger, but you can easily substitute turkey or chicken. If you are going to use sausage, cut back on the herbs as they will already be present in the meat. While you want the wet mixture thoroughly incorporated, over handling the ground meat will create meatballs that are not as fluffy

Using a small scoop, make small mounds of the mixed meat and drop onto a greased baking sheet. Once all the meatballs have been scooped out, roll them in your hands. They should be as round as you can get them. The meat need to be firmly packed without being smooshed which is accomplished with gentle pressure. The mounds on the right have been rolled. One can see how the mounds on the left have little bits sticking out that would get overcooked in the oven.

Place the baking pan in the oven on the middle rack at 350 degrees. In 15 minutes shake the pan or use a spatula to move the meatballs around a little.

In another 10 minutes, remove from the oven and drain on a paper towel. If you formed larger meatballs, they will take longer. They should have good color and be firm.

Remove meatballs to a paper towel for a minute to absorb any excess grease. Allow to cool completely on a plate. You cannot skimp on this step! If they are still hot the stem will condense in the bag and form ice crystals ones placed in the freezer. This leads to freezer burn and yucky tasting meatballs. If you find you did seal them up too soon, once they are frozen shake the bag into a strainer. Shake the strainer and all the frost will fall out and you can reseal the meatballs back in the freezer bag. In a Ziplock bag they are good up to 2 months in the freezer.



With the cost of food on the rise, we all are trying to save money when we can. Recently Safeway had chicken quarters for .69 a pound. The one problem is that the pieces were all frozen together and to separate them, I would have to thaw the entire bag. It is exactly this kind of deal that works for my meals in advance way of cooking. I thawed and cooked all the pieces and had enough for 5 meals in my freezer.

Pot pie
Any recipe that requires cooked chicken

Garlic Salt

Wash and dry the chicken pieces. If you happened to have a deal on whole chickens, I find it works better to at least cut them in half. Season the chicken with garlic salt and pepper. Lay all the pieces in a roasting pan, leaving on the skin. Slice up an onion and scatter the slices over the chicken. If you have some celery or carrots that have seen better days, toss them in the pot as well. This time I used red onions, but have also used white and yellow onions interchangeably. Pour 1 cup of water into the pan and cover.

Bake at 350 for 2 hours. Depending on how much chicken you have (I had 10 pounds here) it may take longer. If pieces are stacked on each other, it adds to the time as does cooking a whole chicken versus pieces. You must be sure that all the chicken has cooked all the way through!!!!

Remove the chicken and set to the side, allowing to cool. Strain the juice left in the pan to remove any pieces of vegetable. Allow it to cool slightly so the grease can separate from the broth. Store in a glass jar for future use.

Tear apart the chicken, tossing the bones and skin. Lay a piece of wax or parchment paper on a baking sheet. Spread the shredded chicken on the sheet, cover with tin foil and pop into the freezer. When frozen all the way through (only a few hours) store in zip lock bags.Because the chicken has frozen separately, you can remove by cupfuls as you need it.

Twice Baked Potatoes

Twice Baked Potatoes

A twice baked potato is always a hit, but they do take so much time it is often not practical on a busy day to prepare them. While this recipe can be scaled down for just 1 meal, I make enough to freeze because it does not take much more effort on a Saturday to fill up 2 bags full.

15 Medium Sized Russet Potatoes
1 1/4 c Sour Cream
2 c Shredded Cheddar Cheese
2 Sticks Butter Melted
1 Lb Bacon Cooked and Crumbled.
1 Bunch Green Onions Chopped

Makes about 26 stuffed potatoes. I know the math does not add up, but I always ruin a few skins in the process of scooping them out.

This time I did not have enough medium sized taters so I used a couple large and a few small ones as well. The only reason this is important is because the small ones will bake faster and the large ones will obviously take longer. Don’t just toss them all in the oven and forget to pull them out as they finish baking. I place them on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 90 minutes. I check them at 60 to see how they are progressing. Usually I wrap the potatoes in foil, but for this recipe we want the skins to be a little on the dry side. Once they are baked, allow to cool enough to handle easily and begin preparing the bacon slices in the oven.

Slice each potato in half lengthwise. So so in such a way as to allow the flattest sides to stay untouched. As you will see in the pictures below, the stuffed potato skins need to be able to sit and not roll around the baking sheet. Set the skins aside for use later.

Using a small spoon, gently remove the meat from the skins. Get as much as you can, but don’t try to get every little bit or you will create holes in the skin, making them unusable. By the time I was done I had about 2 quarts to work with.

I use my Kitchen Aid to mix the filling together with the paddle. Place the potatoes into the bowl, followed by the sour cream. Begin whipping the potatoes. Slowly add the melted butter and check as you go. Depending on how dry the potatoes were, you may not need all 2 cups!

Add the cheese, chopped green onions and crumbled bacon, mixing thoroughly. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. I typically add about 1/2 tsp of each, but it will depend on your personal preferences.

Lay the potato skins on a cookie sheet and begin to stuff. While you don’t want to pack it in really hard, you don’t want it falling out either.

Place the stuffed skins onto baking sheets and cover with tin foil or serane wrap. Place the sheet into the freezer until the potatoes are frozen enough to place into Ziplock bags. They don’t need to be frozen solid, just enough so that they won’t smoosh together in the bag.

When ready to use, remove from the bag and place the potatoes into a dish and cover. In a preheated 350 degree oven it takes about 45 minutes for medium sized potatoes. This can vary if you are cooking large or small versions, so be sure to check at 30 minutes and see how they are progressing. Remove the cover the last 10 minutes for a golden brown top.

With a little prep on a day when you have some time, you can have a delicious and easy side dish on those busy nights.