Category Archives: Make Ahead Meal

Vegetable Lasagna with White Sauce

With a little time off over the holidays I made a few freezer friendly experimental meals, including this veggie heavy lasagna. I used my favorite veggies but you could really use whatever ones you like or have on hand. I also included bacon for the hubs but it would be equally delicious without any meat.

Now for the sauce. I’d long seen cauliflower as a “healthy substitute” in cheese sauces but was doubtful that it would stand up to the real deal. While it had a slightly different flavor, the sauce was surprisingly rich and luxurious with a serious cut to the cals by using only one cup of cheese to the typical four or five cups. By using sharp swiss and parmesan there was still plenty of cheese flavor…to the point where the hubs immediately said “Mmmm, this is good, what kind of cheese is this? Swiss?” and I replied with glee, “Yes…and cauliflower!” Even my 1 1/2 year old scarfed it down. Mwahahaha! Secret veggie win!


Vegetable Lasagna
makes 2 9×9 or 7×11 pans
1 pkg lasagna noodles
2 pkg portabella mushrooms, sliced
1 large bunch kale, chopped
1 butternut squash, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pkg thick cut bacon, chopped (optional)
1/2 C parmesan cheese, shredded
2 C mozzarella, shredded
olive oil
Cauliflower White Sauce (below)

Preheat oven to 375. Cook lasagna noodles according to box instructions and rinse with cool water once cooked so that they don’t stick together as badly. Meanwhile, add bacon to a large saute pan and cook for about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms, squash and garlic and cook for another 5 minutes, adding a drizzle of olive oil if necessary to prevent vegetables from sticking to the pan. Once bacon, mushrooms and squash are mostly cooked add kale and continue sauteeing until kale wilts. Remove from heat and set aside.

Place 3 lasagna noodles in the base of each pan. Top with 1/4 of vegetable mixture and 1/4 of bacon, if using. Spoon several scoops of white sauce over the vegetables and sprinkle lightly with parmesan and mozzarella. You will need to visually divide the sauce and cheeses into sixths for the ensuing layers.

Repeat layers. Top with a final layer of noodles. Add a thin layer of sauce and a light sprinkle of each cheese.

Bake for 35 minutes or until cheese is a light golden brown.

Cauliflower White Sauce
1 head cauliflower, chopped
4 Tbsp butter
1/3 C flour
1 C half and half
2 C skim or 1% milk
1/2 C parmesan cheese, shredded
1/2 C swiss cheese, shredded
2 Tbsp dijon mustard
pinch nutmeg
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350. Chop cauliflower into small florets and place in small roasting pan with a drizzle of olive oil and 1/3 cup water. Season well with salt and pepper. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes until cauliflower is soft. Remove from oven and let cool. Transfer to a food processor and puree until smooth.

Meanwhile in a large sauce pan, melt butter over medium heat and whisk in flour. Gradually whisk in half and half and milk. Stir in parmesan and swiss cheeses. Whisk in mustard and nutmeg. Fold in cauliflower puree and stir well to combine. Season with additional salt to taste.



Filed under Main Dish, Make Ahead Meal

Smoky White Bean Soup with Rosemary

I have a tendency to experiment with cooking more when the hubs is out of town. He’s not a picky eater by any means but when he sees “bean soup”, “kale salad” or “veggie pesto” on our menu board he tends to think the “healthy” stuff will leave him still hungry and feeling like a rabbit.

As far as veggie-based soups go, this one is pretty hearty and doesn’t even seem veggie-based thanks to the rich beans and smoky bacon. Plus it was easy to make. I’ll be resurrecting this again – whether the hubs is around or not!

white bean soup
Smoky White Bean Soup with Rosemary
5 slices smoked pepper bacon, chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
3 15 oz cans cannellini beans
3 1/2 C low sodium chicken broth
1 C chopped kale
1 Tbsp sherry
1/3 C parmesan cheese, shredded
1 spring rosemary, chopped
kosher salt, to taste

Place chopped bacon in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook for about 5 minutes until bacon begins to crisp and brown. Add in onion, celery and garlic. Drizzle in olive oil if extra fat is needed to prevent burning. Some browned bits on the bottom of your pan are ideal though! Let vegetables and bacon cook until vegetables begin to soften, about 5-7 minutes.

Next, add 1/4 C of chicken broth to the pan and use the moisture to scrape and release browned bits into the liquid. This will add additional flavor to your base. Add in sherry, beans, remaining broth and rosemary. Let simmer over medium low for 10-15 minutes.

Use an immersion blender or transfer to a blender or food processor to puree soup until smooth. Mix in parmesan and chopped kale and stir. Season well with salt until flavors pop and let simmer until kale is cooked.

Serve with french bread or pretzel rolls.

white bean soup

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Filed under Main Dish, Make Ahead Meal, Quick & Easy

Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato & Fennel Soup

I have a serious thing for butternut squash. I would call it a problem if it weren’t for the fact that it’s a healthy obsession to have.  Last weekend I made this butternut squash soup that tastes so rich and satisfying that it sets a new standard for “health food”.

As a bonus, my one year old also gobbled it up and, besides the tedious vegetable chopping, the rest of the process is pretty hands-off – perfect for a weekend afternoon.

Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato & Fennel Soup
2 medium buttnernut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
2 small or 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1 bulb fennel, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1/2 onion, chopped
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
4 C low sodium vegetable stock
2 Tbsp sherry
1/2 C half & half (optional)
2 sprigs thyme
kosher salt, to taste
cracked black pepper

Optional toppings:
dried cherries

Trim and chop squash, sweet potato, fennel and onion. Place vegetables, plus peeled garlic and thyme sprigs, on cookie sheets and toss with olive, salt and pepper until lightly and evenly coated. Roast vegetables at 400 for 40 minutes, removing part way through to flip for even browning.

Transfer half of roasted vegetables to a food processor or blender.  Begin pulsing the food processor and slowly incorporate two cups of vegetable stock, processing until mixture is smooth. Scrape into a Dutch oven or stock pot. Move the other half of vegetables into the food processor and repeat process of incorporating stock.  Add in sherry and puree until smooth.  Transfer second batch to the Dutch oven.

Heat puree over medium-low heat.  Season with salt to taste and stir in half and half if desired. Let soup simmer for at least 30 minutes.

Serve with pepitas, dried cherries and pancetta if desired.


Filed under Healthy, Kid Friendly, Main Dish, Make Ahead Meal

Creamy Roasted Red Pepper & Basil Soup

With the first crisp breath of fall air I take, comes the first batch of soup. This soup is easy to make with staples that can be found any time of the year. The fresh basil adds the perfect balance to the sweet pepper taste. If you want to kick this up a notch, add some crushed red pepper.

Creamy Roasted Red Pepper & Basil Soup
1 TBSP olive oil
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 12 oz jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
4 sun dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
4 C chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 sherry wine
1 C fresh spinach
1/2 nonfat, plain Greek yogurt
1 handful fresh basil, chopped
cracked black pepper

In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over high heat. Add potatoes, stir occasionally for 3-5 minutes. Add peppers and tomatoes. Pour stock into pot and bring to a boil. Boil for 15-20 minutes. Add fresh spinach, boil until softened. Remove from heat. Add yogurt and stir. Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth (or transfer to a blender or food processor). Add basil and stir. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Perfect for a cool fall day!


Filed under Cook, Healthy, Main Dish, Make Ahead Meal, Quick & Easy

Beef Taquitos

My family loves to have a hearty meal on Sunday and we often find ourselves craving Pot Roast, especially in the winter months.  We always seem to have lots of leftover roast and I wanted to create a recipe to use up the meat.  I made these one day and my husband was in love with them.  They are a quick and easy way to use up left over beef and also freeze very well.

Beef Taquitos

3 cups cooked and shredded Pot Roast, chopped into small pieces
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp coriander
1 tsp chili powder
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella or pepper jack cheese
6 inch flour tortillas, about 15 or 20

Combine with left over beef roast with the seasonings and lime juice.  Mix in cheese until evenly distributed.

Place about ¼ to 1/3 cup of the mixture down the center of your tortilla.  Roll up and place seam side down on a baking sheet.  Mist with cooking spray or brush with olive oil and then sprinkle with kosher salt.

Bake at 425 for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown the filling is hot.

These also freeze very well.  Simply place taquitos in a freezer bag before misting with spray and baking.  When you would like to make them, just pull them out of the freezer mist with spray or brush with olive oil, salt and bake.   You might need to add a few extra minutes to the baking time, but the will come out of the oven incredibly delicious.


Filed under Cook, Kid Friendly, Main Dish, Make Ahead Meal, Quick & Easy

Pulled Pork Sandwich with Ginger Cilantro Mayo and Pickled Vegetables

While visiting friends and family in the Twin Cities over Christmas, we stumbled into St. Paul’s Brasa one day for lunch. I say stumbled because we actually tried to go to the restaurant next door but it was too full so we cruised over to Brasa. A lucky twist of fate since this little gem is home to a James Beard award winning chef and boasts being featured on Man vs. Food and the Today show.

I’ve been dreaming about their Slow Roasted Pork Sandwich ever since so I took a crack at replicating it at home.  I was super pleased with the results!  Not only was it easy (thanks, slow cooker) but it was a good way to switch up our standard BBQ pulled pork.
Puled Pork with Quick Pickled Vegetables

Pulled Pork Sandwich with Ginger Cilantro Mayo and Pickled Vegetables

serves 4
1 lb pork shoulder
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1/2 Tbsp ground black pepper
1/2 Tbsp ginger powder
1/2 Tbsp garlic powder
1 1/2 C orange juice
2-3 C water
4 pretzel buns or foccacia buns

Place pork shoulder in slow cooker. Season well with spices, working spices into all sides of the meat. Add liquids to slow cooker until they cover about half of the meat and roast on low for 8 hours. Remove meat from slow cooker and use two forks to shred apart. Place meat on a sliced bun and top with pickled vegetables. Spread a generous amount of mayo on the bun and serve!

Ginger Cilantro Mayo
1/2 C mayonnaise (I like the olive oil kind)
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled, grated
1 Tbsp cilantro, finely chopped

Scoop mayo into a small bowl. Chop cilantro and stir into mayo, mixing well. Grate ginger using a microplane grater into mayo and mix well.
Ginger Cilantro Mayo

Quick Pickled Vegetables
*adapted from Whole Foods
1 cucumber, very thinly sliced
2 carrots, very thinly sliced
1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled, grated
1/4 C white vinegar
1/8 C sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Using a knife or a mandoline, slice vegetables very thinly. Place in a medium bowl and toss to combine. In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, sugar and salt. Drizzle over vegetables and toss well. Refrigerate vegetables for at least one hour prior to serving.

Quick Pickled Vegetables
Brasa Pulled Pork Sandwich


Filed under Main Dish, Make Ahead Meal, Quick & Easy

{Make Ahead Meal} Butternut Squash Lasagna

Since going back to work I’ve relied heavily on make ahead meals that allow me to put homemade dishes on the table while spending my post-work time with the fam instead of prepping food. About once a month I’ve spent a full weekend afternoon making 4-5 freezer friendly meals that will get us 8-10 dinners. I’ll be sharing lots of make ahead meals this year but lasagna is a hearty go-to.

freezer friendly meals, make ahead meals

The Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce recipe I shared last week does double duty for me in this veggie-focused lasagna. I add Italian sausage at the request of my husband but you could easily skip it or substitute with portabellas for a completely vegetarian meal.

Butternut Squash Lasagna
1 pkg lasagna noodles
1 1/2 lb ground italian sausage
15 oz low-fat ricotta cheese
1 C parmesan cheese, shredded
1 egg, beaten
1 pkg frozen spinach, thawed & drained
2 C mozzarella, shredded
salt, pepper
Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce
2 9×9 aluminum foil roasting pans
heavy duty aluminum foil
parchment paper

In a large stockpot, boil enough water to cover the lasagna noodles. Once water comes to a boil, heavily salt water and add noodles, cooking according to package directions until al dente. Rinse with cold water to prevent sticking and set aside. Meanwhile, in a saute pan, cook italian sausage completely, about 8-10 minutes. In a medium bowl, combine egg, ricotta, 1/2 C parmesan and spinach. Season with salt and pepper.

Trim a noodle to fit your pan using a kitchen shears. Use that noodle as a template to trim the rest of your noodles. You’ll have some small loose end pieces, which can be used for your middle layer of noodles without sacrificing the structure of the lasagna. Begin by layering three full, trimmed noodles in the bottom of each foil pan. Visually divide cheese and sausage into 4 portions in your head. Spread 1/4 of the cheese mixture on top of the noodles in both pans. Top with 1/4 of the sausage. Top with a layer of squash sauce. Next, sprinkle each pan with 1/3 C mozzarella cheese.

Add another layer of noodles, using end pieces as needed. Repeat layers. Finally, top each pan with another layer of complete noodles, a thin layer of squash sauce and the remaining 1/3 C mozzarella. If freezing, trim a piece of parchment paper to fit the top of each pan and cover lasagna. Use two layers of heavy duty foil to wrap tightly around pan.

If serving, bake at 400 for 50-60 minutes or until center is fully cooked and cheese topping is golden.
If freezing and serving, remove from freezer about 24 hrs before serving to partially thaw. Bake at 400 for 60-75 minutes. NOTE: I recommend setting your timer for 60 minutes and checking the temperature from there. Depending on how thawed your lasagna is your baking time will vary.

Each pan serves 4 large servings.


Filed under Healthy, Main Dish, Make Ahead Meal