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Cozy Make-Ahead Meal

Cozy Make-Ahead Meal


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Relax and celebrate autumn with this make-ahead menu, ideal for casual get-togethers.

Close your eyes and imagine the beauty of gold and red leaves, the feel of warm blankets and crisp air, and the sound of a creek murmuring nearby. Though we haven't perfected that recipe, we have used an idyllic mountain cabin as inspiration for a richly satisfying autumn menu that you can prepare unrushed.

"Retreat" is more a state of mind than a place. Whether you're headed for the mountains or have simply staked a claim to your weekend at home, feed that feeling with satisfying, beautiful food at a pace made for pleasure.

Eating healthy should still be delicious.

Sign up for our daily newsletter for more great articles and tasty, healthy recipes.

Beginning with the creamy Red Pepper-Cheese Dip, almost every recipe on the menu may be made partly or entirely ahead. After a leisurely appetizer, move on to your choice of soups: the dramatic color and clean flavors of Savory Beet Soup (a dish to tempt even people who don't love beets) or the earthy elegance of porcini mushrooms and sherry in the aptly named Rich Mushroom Soup. Both pair beautifully with our Country Rye Loaves; the recipe is easy enough for a beginner and produces two crusty loaves-one for dinner and another to slice for sandwiches the next day.

You also have a choice of chicken or pork entrees. Each recipe uses an overnight brining technique to infuse flavorful herbs, spices, and cider to ensure juicy results. While the entrée slowly roasts, you'll have plenty of time to set the table and toss sweet potatoes in sugar, salt, and peppers for the Spicy Sweet Potato Wedges recipe.

While the chicken or pork stands before slicing, pop the sweet potatoes into the oven, and toss the Fall Green Salad with its make-ahead Parmesan vinaigrette.

All that's left is to open a bottle of wine, gather some friends, and enjoy the tastes and heady aromas of the season.

There is one more thing: a moist Pumpkin-Orange Cake crowned with cream cheese frosting and set with jewel-like mandarin oranges and pomegranate seeds. Make this cake a day ahead, then serve it right from the refrigerator for a dramatic finish without any last-minute fuss.

Get Ahead

Country Rye Loaves: Make sponge two days ahead. Bake bread a day ahead. Cool completely on a wire rack; store in an airtight container.

Make Red Pepper-Cheese Dip a day ahead; cover and chill. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

Prepare soup according to recipe (except for sour cream swirl in Savory Beet Soup or parsley in Rich Mushroom Soup). Cover and chill for up to a day. Reheat, covered, in a saucepan over low heat until thoroughly heated. Add garnishes to each serving.

Prepare vinaigrette for Fall Green Salad a day ahead; cover and chill.

Prepare Pumpkin-Orange Cake a day ahead; cover loosely and refrigerate until ready to serve.


30 Freezer-Friendly Make-Ahead Meals

Save your future self time (and money!) by stocking your freezer with delicious make-ahead meals.

Your freezer is not just the land where old food goes to die. Stocking it with make-ahead meals helps save yourself time (and money!) on those busy nights when it's hard to get a good meal on the table.

If you're always in a rush to get a good meal on the table during the week, then you might want to consider whipping up any of these delicious, freezer-friendly dishes during your weekly meal prep. This way, you always have a speedy midweek meal at the ready. (Did we mention it makes clean up a breeze, too?)

Stocking your freezer with make-ahead meals can also help cut dollars from your monthly grocery bills. You can shop the sales, then turn those ingredients into future dinners. Ground beef is on sale? Buy a few extra packs and turn it into freezer-friendly meatballs. Chicken thighs are cheaper when you buy them in bulk? Spring for the bigger package and slow cook a big batch of white chicken chili or chicken noodle soup to freeze. Have leftover pasta? Don't throw it out&mdashsimply turn it into a delicious casserole that's destined for the freezer.

So go ahead and embrace your freezer and these delicious, crowd-pleasing make-ahead meals. Your future self will thank you!


Pack away portions of this braised lamb dish to spoon over rice or pile into a pita sandwich.

Layer this lasagna as directed and then stash in the refrigerator for up to three days or in the freezer for up to three months. It can go straight into the oven without being defrosted, but you might need to add up to 30 minutes extra cooking time.

Since 1995, Epicurious has been the ultimate food resource for the home cook, with daily kitchen tips, fun cooking videos, and, oh yeah, over 33,000 recipes.

© 2021 Condé Nast. All rights reserved. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our User Agreement and Privacy Policy and Cookie Statement and Your California Privacy Rights. Epicurious may earn a portion of sales from products that are purchased through our site as part of our Affiliate Partnerships with retailers. The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Condé Nast. Ad Choices


Picture this: You're about to sit down to stream your favorite movie and suddenly think how great it would be to have a cozy dish of your favorite dessert to eat while you watch. Even if you wouldn't consider yourself a sweet tooth, you've probably experienced a last-minute craving for something sweet that strikes just a little too late. After all, once you've measured, baked, and cooled the dessert of your dreams, it will be well past bedtime. This all leads to the inevitable question: If our favorite movies and tv shows can be on-demand, why can't our desserts be, too?

This gallery is here to make that happen&mdashwith a lot of inspiration from us and a little forethought from you, an abundance of treats will be ready at the press of a button (your microwave's button, that is). There is often a lot of emphasis on the "make-ahead" recipes when it comes to hosting dinner parties and holiday feasts. Rightly so, of course: With a good plan, any party can be a success no matter the size. But there's something extra special about the make-ahead recipes you create just for you. These smaller victories can look like scoops of cookie dough on stand-by in the freezer, or the slices of cake that seems to just get better the longer it chills, or the blondies you can make a week before you will crave them, and they'll still taste fresh.

With a few of the recipes in this gallery, like the Triple Chocolate Brownie Cups and Apple Pie Bread Pudding, you'll want to zap them in your microwave for maximum comfort-food coziness. Others, like our Easiest Rice Pudding and Traditional Tres Leches Cake, will satisfy straight from the fridge. And if you're looking for fresh-baked results, check out the recipes with a make-ahead batter, like the Marbled Soufflés or Warm Chocolate Pudding Cakes.


10 Healthy Make Ahead Meals

Since it has been a while since I shared some nutritious savory recipes, I thought I would pop in with some healthy make ahead meal inspiration!

These are the types of recipes that I love to turn to during the busy holiday season. Hearty, wholesome meals that can be prepped almost entirely ahead or made even easier with a few basic tips. One of my goals for the next year is to share more main course recipe ideas (along with make ahead tips).

I’m always on the look out for cozy, satisfying, healthy meals this time of year, and these next 10 recipes check all of those boxes. While many of these recipes come together quickly or without much hands-on time regardless, I’ve included some shortcut and preparation tips to make each one more weeknight-friendly.

If you’re looking for more inspiration, be sure to check out these other heathy winter recipes for more ideas!

1. Slow Cooker Winter Vegetable Soup

This vegetable heavy soup is based on a lentil minestrone that my mom made for me and my sisters growing up, except it has been made extra time-friendly with the help of a slow cooker. It is hearty and extremely filling, yet won’t make you feel weighed down at all.

Make-Ahead Tip: Soups almost always taste better the second day, so I recommend prepping this soup over a weekend and enjoying it all week long. Feel free to prep the chopped vegetables and place them in separate containers in the refrigerator the day or night before, then throw it all in the slow cooker before you leave for work! This soup also freezes very well – just allow to thaw completely in the fridge before reheating, adding an additional splash of broth to thin if necessary.

Reader Review: “Just made this soup during the blizzard here in NY. Cannot wait to have it for dinner. My whole apartment smells amazing from this soup. Thanks!” – Lauren

2. Chermoula Broiled Salmon

I love broiled salmon, especially when its topped with vibrant herbs, citrus, and lots of flavor. This salmon is all of that and more. Chermoula is actually a North African herb pastetraditionally made with a combination of chopped fresh herbs, garlic, lemon juice, and toasted spices. In many ways, it is similar to a fresh chimichurri sauce in that it is usually served with grilled meats or seafood.

Make Ahead Tip: Combine the chermoula sauce (leave out the cilantro and add that just before making, as fresh herbs will be more vibrant and flavorful if picked and chopped just prior to cooking) and place in a small container in the refrigerator up to a day or two ahead. Or prep and cook the fish ahead and enjoy the leftovers the next day on a main course salad!

Reader Review: “Made this for dinner tonight, and it was delicious! So simple and easy, yet absolutely yummy! Definitely gonna make this again sometime – Patricia

3. Cauliflower Chickpea Curry

Vegetarian, Dairy Free, Gluten Free

Make Ahead Tip: This hearty cauliflower chickpea curry is vegetarian, dairy free, and gluten free, which makes it perfect if you’re looking for a main course and catering to dietary restrictions. Since all curries taste better with time, I recommend prepping this dish entirely and rewarming it for a quick dinner. Alternatively, you can prep the chopped vegetables to reduce prep time the day of cooking. As one reader review states, “it gets even more flavorful the next day!”.

Reader Review: “This recipe is delicious and smells like heaven while it’s cooking. I made it on a cold, rainy fall night when I was craving some healthy comfort food, and it was the perfect thing. This is definitely going to be a regular go-to recipe this winter!” – Tiffany

4. Mediterranean Quinoa Salad Stuffed Acorn Squash

These stuffed acorn squash are filled with a delicious Mediterranean quinoa salad. The bright and zesty quinoa salad, which is a simple mixture of canned chickpeas, tomatoes, scallions, cooked quinoa, feta, and arugula, is balanced by the sweetness of the roasted acorn squash.

Make Ahead Tip: Roast the acorn squash ahead and rewarm just for serving (or serve at room temperature). Make a batch of quinoa ahead, prep the salad filling (without the arugula) and store in a refrigerator for a day or two ahead, and fold in the greens just before serving.

5. Arroz Con Pollo

One of my favorite comfort meals! Arroz con pollo is a super time-friendly weeknight meal. This one is given a touch of cayenne pepper, and finished with a generous drizzle of fresh lemon juice and fresh cilantro just before serving.

Make Ahead Tip: Chop all of the bell peppers and onions a day ahead, and place in separate containers in the refrigerator. Combine the spice mixture in a small bowl and cover. This will eliminate almost all of the prep work in this recipe, and you’ll be able to get this dish on the table in just 25 minutes. As an aside, this meal also makes great leftovers!

Reader Review: “This was so easy and delicioso, I made it…love the spicy kick. ” – Oskar

6. Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms with Crispy Goat Cheese

One of my favorite vegetarian main courses that I’ve ever shared, these stuffed portobello mushrooms are a long-time reader favorite! If you haven’t made them yet, add them to the menu this week! The crisp goat cheese topping takes them over the top.

Make Ahead Tip: Roast the portobello mushrooms and sauté the spinach mixture a day ahead. Place in separate containers in the refrigerator. Alternatively, you can assemble these mushrooms entirely (it is best to top them with the breaded goat cheese medallions just prior to cooking to avoid soggy breadcrumbs) and rewarm in a lower heat oven until warmed through.

Reader Review: “I made these to supplement Thanksgiving dinner for our vegetarian guests. These were amazing! Best dish in the table!” – Christine

7. Shaved Broccoli, Brussels Sprout, and Kale Salad

Think of this shaved salad as an updated version of a classic Caesar, but with a truffle oil twist! This salad is very filling since it contains only shaved broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and kale. However, you can make it into a main course by adding a protein of your choice: seared salmon, chicken, or whatever you prefer!

Make Ahead Tip: Shave all of the vegetables a day ahead (and place in large separate Ziploc bags) and prep the salad dressing the night before (and refrigerate, covered, in a small container). Toss everything together just before serving.

Reader Review: “I made this vegetarian by using capers instead of anchioves and tahini instead of eggs. I used cheese and less grapeseed oil (1/8 cup). It was incredible!!” – Lauren

8. Roasted Carrot Lentil Salad

Vegetarian, Dairy Free, Gluten Free

This colorful roasted carrot lentil salad can work as a main course (accompanied with a few slices of hearty, crusty bread), side dish, and makes great leftovers. It can be served at room temperature or cold straight from the fridge, making it perfect for making ahead!

Make Ahead Tip: Prep the entire salad (and tahini dressing in a separate container) and allow to come to room temperature just a bit before serving. Drizzle just before serving. Serve with crusty bread!

Reader Review: “This recipe was so delicious. I’m trying to get the men in my house to open up to a “one part plant” diet, so this healthy and hearty salad was a perfect endeavor. My husband actually raved about it. We had never roasted radishes before, so that in itself was life-changing. Thanks for making dinner a hit!”– Maddison

9. Turbot with Mushrooms, Ginger, and Soy Broth

Gluten Free (Substitute Tamari), Dairy Free

This is an oldie, but a favorite and so ridiculously easy to make! This one pan seafood dinner takes almost no time to prepare, and is light, filling, and very nutritious.

Make Ahead Tip: Slice the mushrooms the day before, and assemble just before serving!

Reader Review: “I picked up Turbot on a whim (and it was reduced in price – teehee) and saw that I had most of the ingredients for this recipe. YUM!! My husband very much enjoys all fish and is generally NOT keen on mushrooms. His comment on this meal was very positive AND he really LIKED the mushrooms (which were basic white mushrooms). The fish picked up all the flavours and was just delightful. Am bookmarking this recipe for sure. ” – Elizabeth

10. Slow Cooker Curried Lentil Soup

This incredibly flavorful and nutritious slow cooker curried lentil soup will make you want to curl up on the sofa under a good blanket. Flavor comes from a combination of warming spices, including curry powder, turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves.

Make Ahead Tip: Prep the entire soup a day or two ahead and rewarm on the stove just before serving. This soup also freezes very well – just allow to thaw completely in the fridge before reheating. Add an additional splash of broth (or water) to thin if necessary.

Reader Review: “I just found this recipe and it is so delicious! Such a hearty recipe. The lemon juice gives it a great lift. Thank you so much.” – Amy


Pack away portions of this braised lamb dish to spoon over rice or pile into a pita sandwich.

Layer this lasagna as directed and then stash in the refrigerator for up to three days or in the freezer for up to three months. It can go straight into the oven without being defrosted, but you might need to add up to 30 minutes extra cooking time.

Since 1995, Epicurious has been the ultimate food resource for the home cook, with daily kitchen tips, fun cooking videos, and, oh yeah, over 33,000 recipes.

© 2021 Condé Nast. All rights reserved. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our User Agreement and Privacy Policy and Cookie Statement and Your California Privacy Rights. Epicurious may earn a portion of sales from products that are purchased through our site as part of our Affiliate Partnerships with retailers. The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Condé Nast. Ad Choices


Chili is another one of my favorite make ahead camping meals. It’s a great camping side because it goes with practically everything. Hot dogs? Check. Burgers? Why not! And since your main might be meat, consider opting for a vegetarian chili to pair it with, like this one from Minimalist Baker.


Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Soup

The Spruce Eats / Leah Maroney

Butternut squash soup is delicious and nearly effortless when cooked in the crock pot. This recipe uses apples and coconut milk to make it interesting. Throw in cayenne, garlic, nutmeg, and thyme, and you have a flavorful soup everyone will enjoy.


Make-Ahead Vegetarian Meals that Make for Relaxed Weeknights

It’s always a shock, that moment when the long, lazy days of summer suddenly morph into the breakneck pace of our family’s fall schedule. We find that often it’s the sit-down, home-cooked meals that get cut from the end of the day, and sadly, we’d find ourselves just grabbing a bite to eat. Maybe it was bean tortilla chips and cheese dip for dinner, or possibly dinner was handed to you through your car window.

Since healthful, home-cooked meals are a priority in our home , this year we came up with a solution: cook once eat three times. We pulled two vegetable-packed recipes from our forthcoming book, The Chubby Vegetarian: 100 Inspired Recipes for the Modern Table (Susan Schadt Press, 2016). Both recipes yield 6 to 8 hearty servings and freeze beautifully.

For presenting our Sweet Potato, Kale, and Black Bean Enchiladas, a Le Creuset Covered Casserole made our dish look so beautiful.

We filled the enchiladas and placed them snugly in the casserole dish, enjoyed a couple of servings for dinner, and froze the rest in separate serving-size Snapware Airtight Containers. Our container set allowed us to store portions of each of our make-ahead dishes for easy reheating or transport in addition, the array of container sizes offered an organized way to arrange the stacked containers at eye-level in the freezer.

We used a Lodge Soup Pot for one of our favorite make-ahead meals, Vegetarian Mulligatawny: An Indian-Inspired Vegetable Stew. It’s the perfect large size for a big batch of stew or simply blanching greens.

Never ones to skip dessert, we made the dough for a good-sized batch of Energy Cookies, cooked a few on our Silpat Non-Stick Baking Mat and froze a couple of rolls of dough for later use. Cookies, we believe, are best when they’re made and eaten the same day it’s sad not to have time to make a batch on a weeknight once an intense craving hits, so making your own cookie dough rolls ahead of time solves that challenge. We always try to realize we’re never going to check off all the things we want to accomplish on a weeknight, but it feels so relaxing to at least bake something great without any effort.

How nice it’s been to start to wonder what’s for dinner at home or for lunch at work and choose something good in a flash! Make the dream of a no-effort home-cooked dinner happen at your house, too, by cooking a couple of things over the weekend and setting aside half of what you made for later.

We now love checking out what’s available in our freezer and have found that there’s nothing better than catching up on the day’s events over a meal you didn’t have to come home and figure out on the fly.