Monday, August 29, 2011

Make-Ahead Meals: Week 3 Recap

This past week, we found a couple more favorites among the make-ahead meals we have tried.  Take a look at Week Three's meals:

Creamy Chicken with Soft Polenta
Building blocks: roasted squash, pulled chicken

Pork and Ginger Noodle Soup
Building blocks: pulled pork

Lemon Chicken Frittata 
Building blocks: pulled chicken, rice pilaf

Cheesy Spinach-and-Pepper Calzones 
Building blocks: roasted peppers, tomato sauce for serving 
(I made two big calzones, rather than four smaller ones)

I thought the creamy chicken with polenta was amazing -- pretty rich, thanks to the cream and cheese mixed into the polenta, but it had mushrooms and peas which are a great combo in my book.  Scott and I both enjoyed the calzones, even though I used less cheese than the recipe called for (I know, this is out of character, but I didn't buy quite enough).  Scott voted calzones #2 across all 3 weeks and would have given them the #1 spot if they had a bit more cheese and some meat incorporated.

The pork and ginger noodle soup was fine as a starter to a meal, but the taste was a little bland for a full meal's worth.  And boy, did the recipe make a lot of soup!  As for the lemon chicken frittata, I could have done without the ricotta dollops on top, and similar to the soup, it was okay in a smaller portion.

An added bonus: this week provided a few challenges in the form of new ingredients.  I had never cooked with polenta, fresh ginger, baby bok choy, or bean sprouts (most of those were a part of the pork and ginger noodle soup).  Let's just say Google and YouTube are quick and helpful resources for how-to instructions... what does polenta look like? how do I peel and slice ginger? how do I cut baby bok choy?

So far, this has been a fantastic and very hands-on learning experience! (I have learned more about my husband as well...  Through these weeks, I discovered that Scott likes eggs but more for breakfast than dinner, so Week Two's strata and this week's frittata were not his favorites.)

With all the shopping for these meals, we haven't has many sweets around the house.  This is good for cutting back on sugar and calories, but my sweet tooth isn't liking the change... so tonight, I whipped up some cookies using the original Nestle chocolate chip cookie recipe but swapped in butterscotch chips instead.

Once I started pulling out the ingredients though, I realized we didn't have brown sugar, but there was no way I was going to abandon my baking and not satisfy my craving.  Another helpful Google search and I learned another new tip: in a pinch, you can use powdered sugar in place of brown sugar, as long as you use double the amount of powdered sugar (in my case, I used 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar since the recipe called for 3/4 cup brown sugar).  The cookies tasted great, but they just baked to a lighter color than the usual recipe.

That's all for tonight!  Stay tuned for Week Four... and if you missed the previous Make-Ahead Meals posts, here are some quick links:

Make-Ahead Meals
Make-Ahead Meals: Week 1 Recap
Make-Ahead Meals: Week 2 Recap


  1. Those meals look great! I'd love to try the calzones. Another tip for brown sugar. It's a combination of granulated sugar and molasses. If you have those ingredients on hand:

    To make one cup of light brown sugar, combine 1 cup granulated sugar with 1 1/2 tablespoons molasses; to make one cup of dark brown sugar, combine 1 cup granulated sugar with 1/4 cup molasses; the food processor works great for this, if you have one.

    From Smitten Kitchen's tips (

  2. Thanks, lady! I think that's the best substitute for brown sugar, but unfortunately I don't keep molasses on hand. Great tip... thanks for sharing!

  3. I like all your posts. You are really good Thank you for the information you provided.



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