Make Ahead Meals

Make Ahead Meals

Make Ahead Meals, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights April 2017. http://acreage.unl.edu/enews-april-2017
Spinach Lasagna

Monday night – basketball practice, Tuesday night – softball practice, Wednesday night – church… yikes, when am I ever going to have time to get a well-balanced dinner on the table for my family?  Does this sound familiar to you?  As a busy mom with a house full of kids, I agree that it’s difficult to serve your family healthy meals on busy weeknights.  My solution to this is to plan ahead for busy weeks and prepare a few items ahead of time, to make those busy nights a little less chaotic.

Here are a few tips to help get you through a busy week:

  • Take and bake: Spend a little time on Sunday afternoon prepping a casserole that can be thrown in the oven mid-week and used for leftovers throughout the week. One of my favorites is spinach lasagna – see pictures and a recipe below.  I like to prep it on Sunday and cook it on Monday night, that way I don’t have to freeze it, and it saves on cooking time.  I throw it in the oven right when the kids get home from school, so it’s ready for an early dinner before basketball practice.  We always have leftovers, which can be warmed up on a different busy night later in the week.
  • Batch cook meat: Tacos and spaghetti always seem to make an appearance on busy weeknights at our house, but I like to make them even quicker by cooking the meat ahead of time.  I typically buy the bulk ground meat packages to save money. Rather than spending time cooking the meat for each meal, I brown all of the meat at one time and then freeze the remainder in one pound batches.
  • Prep fruits and veggies for grab and go snacks and side dishes: Adding fruits and veggies to a meal doesn’t have to be fancy.  I like to clean and cut up fresh fruits and veggies ahead of time so they can easily be pulled out of the fridge to accompany a quick dinner.
  • Use canned items: Canned items are quick, convenient and often inexpensive. I like to use recipes that use canned items that can be easily dumped together in the crockpot or a saucepan for a yummy soup.  One of my favorites is chicken tortilla soup, check out the recipe here.

There is no perfect solution to balancing busy weeknights, but planning ahead and making the best use of your time can help you offer quick, healthy meals for your family.  For more great recipes, check out our website!

This post was reviewed by Morgan Hartline MS, RD, LMNT, and Natalie Sehi MS, RD. Recipe photos by Morgan Hartline.

Make Ahead Meals, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights April 2017. http://acreage.unl.edu/enews-april-2017Spinach Lasagna

  • Servings: 8
  • Time: 95 mins
  • Difficulty: medium

 Credit: The Cook’s Helper

Ingredients

  • 1 (10 oz.) pkg. spinach, frozen, chopped
  • 1 (15 oz.) pkg. ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 T. Italian seasoning
  • 1 (6 oz.) container Parmesan cheese, grated, divided
  • 1 (3 lb.) jar spaghetti sauce
  • 9 lasagna noodles, uncooked
  • 1 (6 oz.) pkg. Mozzarella cheese, shredded, divided
  • 1/2 c. water

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9×13-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. Thaw spinach. Drain liquid. Use clean paper towels to press dry.
  3. In a large bowl, combine spinach, ricotta cheese, eggs, Italian seasoning, and 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan cheese. Mix well.
  4. Spread 3/4 cup of spaghetti sauce in prepared dish.
  5. Place 3 uncooked noodles on top of sauce. Spread 1/3 of spinach mixture over noodles, sprinkle with Mozzarella cheese. Spread 3/4 cup sauce over spinach mixture. Repeat noodle, spinach mixture, Mozzarella cheese, and sauce layers two more times.
  6. Top with remaining 3 noodles and spaghetti sauce. Add 1/2 cup of water to jar of spaghetti sauce to clean out the jar.
  7. Sprinkle Mozzarella cheese and remaining Parmesan cheese on top. Cover tightly with foil (can spray foil with cooking spray so cheese will not stick to foil).
  8. Bake about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes until cheese is bubbly and slightly browned on top. Uncover for the last 10 minutes.
  9. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Nutrition Information per Serving: Calories 310, Total Fat 13 g (20% DV), Saturated Fat 6 g (32% DV), Cholesterol 75 mg (24% DV), Sodium 850 mg (35% DV), Total Carbohydrate 29 g (10% DV), Dietary Fiber 3 g (13% DV), Sugars 1 g, Protein 19 g, Vitamin A 60%, Vitamin C 45%, Calcium 45%, Iron 15%. 

Donnia Behrends
Donnia Behrends
Extension Educator -NEP Curriculum Coordinator
Contact Donnia at:
110 Ruth Leverton Hall
Lincoln, NE
68583-0808
402-472-6528