What’s Eating You? is a weekly advice column where I answer all of your burning cooking questions. To get the ball rolling, I’ve asked some of my friends to send me theirs. If you’d like your kitchen dilemma solved, feed it to me here.
Emily D. grew up in Chelmsford, Massachusetts and now lives in NYC, where she breaks stereotypes by owning more kitchen equipment than pairs of shoes. While she loves cooking for friends and scoping out the city’s best new restaurants, her most frequent extra-curricular activity is eating cookies, which is easy to do, since she runs a cookie company (see also: Baking for Good).
I love the idea of cooking on Sunday for the week ahead, but what usually comes to mind is a casserole or lasagna, and those aren’t usually very healthy. Do you have good make-ahead recipes that can be kept in the fridge or freezer and warmed up when I have a busy day and don’t have time to cook? –Emily D.
I get the make-ahead meal question pretty often, and usually the same image comes to mind for everyone of lasagna pan Tetris, as pieces of various shapes get chiseled off throughout the week. But there are tons of different types of foods that keep well for the week.
Most of my private chef clients have me come in to provide them with just these kinds of meals, which get left in various labeled Tupperware containers ready for the reheating. If you don’t mind putting in a very little bit of cooking time, there are also some quick and easy sides and condiments that will provide the building blocks for a meal with just a touch of added effort the night of – tossing the salad greens, boiling the pasta.
Here are some ideas for dishes you can make on Sunday that will last you the whole busy workweek ahead.
Homemade sausages and burgers. Most meat keeps pretty well pre-made. I love making my own sausage with different flavor combinations. To keep them healthier, I’ll often use ground chicken or turkey. You can sear off the burgers or sausage patties and then reheat individually throughout the week. Sometimes they taste just as good cold inside a pita or whole wheat wrap, on top of a salad, or even just on a plate with some mustard!
Salad add-in’s. Sometimes I’m tempted by the allure of New York salad stalls like Just Salad or Chop’t. But most of those delicious add-in’s can be easily whipped up at the beginning of the week to have at your disposal as a topping for greens. Slow-roasted tomatoes are a great one, as are roasted beets.
Grain salads. If you make a big bowl of dressed grains, packed with veggies, you don’t have to worry about anything wilting as you would a regular green salad. (For that, see above and just pre-make the toppings.) Quinoa tabouli and Couscous Salad with Golden Raisins are both great options.
Pasta sauces and toppings. Lasagna may seem heavy, but you can easily make other types of pasta healthful. If you aren’t too tired to throw a pot of water on the stove for some whole wheat or gluten-free noodles, there are plenty of healthy pasta sauces and toppings you can make for the week. Try this roasted tomato puttanesca or this combination of beet greens and tomatoes. You can even make this pasta with sundried tomato paste and cook the broccoli rabe right in the water with the pasta.
Soups and stews. This one is a no brainer. Anything that cooks for a long period of time in a large pot will keep great for up to a week. These dishes don’t have to be heavy or unhealthy either. I love a good Moroccan Tagine for this reason. This version with Chicken and Preserved Lemons has very little fat and lots of veggies. Similarly, this Vegetarian Tortilla Soup is packed with rich spice, and you can easily top it with avocado or tortilla strips when you are ready to eat it!
Even if you do resort to the usual casserole or lasagna, there are ways to make them healthier. Just try to add a lot of veggies, skip the béchamel, and also rest assured that most everything you cook for yourself at home for the week will be better for you than what comes in a takeout container.
I like to throw a fried egg on top of a thin layer of leftover pasta sauce, too. When you break the yolk it gives the sauce a whole other, richer flavor. Or put cheese down on the sauce, then put the fried egg on top so it melts the cheese. Just sayin’.