Weeknight Cooking

Make-Ahead Family Dinners For The New Year

January  7, 2014

Merrill's baby Clara has quite the appetite -- and it's all Merrill can do to keep up. Armed with her greenmarket bag, a wooden spoon and a minimal amount of fuss, she steps into the fray.

Today: Family-friendly winter dinners for the new year.

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Like many, my list of resolutions for 2014 is long and detailed. (Mine is a spray and pray approach -- I'm convinced that the more resolutions I come up with, the more improvements I'm likely to make during the year.)

More: 5 Resolutions to Make You a Better Home Cook

I'm looking forward to some of this year's resolutions (try to read at least one book a month) more than others (get to the gym three times a week), but one resolution is a constant every year: to make more meals over the weekend so that we have a variety of dinner options on hand throughout the week. Here are some of the family-friendly dishes I'll be relying on this winter to help me with this, my most important resolution.

Simple Bolognese

Simple Bolognese for Grownups and Babies

Lentil and Sausage Soup with Kale

Lentil and Sausage Soup with Kale

Tuna Noodle Casserole by fiveandspice

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Lamb Stew with Butternut Squash

Lamb Stew with Butternut Squash

Al Forno's Penne with Tomato, Cream and Five Cheeses by Genius Recipes

Al Forno's Penne with Tomato, Cream and Five Cheeses

Braised Chicken Thighs with Tomato and Garlic

Braised Chicken Thighs with Tomato and Garlic

Winter-Warming, Freezer-Friendly, Pantry-Cleaning Soup by Nicholas

Chickpea Soup with Barley and Farro

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • gmg2011
  • AntoniaJames
  • Merrill Stubbs
    Merrill Stubbs
  • Carolyn8315
I'm a native New Yorker, Le Cordon Bleu graduate, former food writer/editor turned entrepreneur, mother of two, and unapologetic lover of cheese.


gmg2011 January 21, 2014
As a full-time physician and mom of 3 small children (ages 6, 3 and 7 months) I have long wanted to do this. I manage to make baby food and freeze it, and I meal-plan weekly, we eat as a family at least 3 weeknights plus Friday and Sunday. I have an arsenal of recipes I can toss together in 30 minutes (many from this site). But I get overwhelmed when I start thinking of trying to make family meals ahead. Besides soups and stews what freezes well?
Merrill S. January 21, 2014
This may give you a few more ideas: http://food52.com/blog/2836-freezing-your-way-to-more-home-cooked-meals. Meatballs, meatloaf and baked pastas are all very freezable!
AntoniaJames January 21, 2014
This thread -- read all the comments! -- may be of help, too: http://food52.com/blog/9482-our-guide-to-freezer-friendly-foods I'll add more suggestions here when time permits within the next few days . . . . ;o)
AntoniaJames January 8, 2014
Actually, I cannot imagine *not* doing quite a bit of weekend make-ahead/freezer stocking/component prep/cooking if you are working a full-time job outside your home, and are feeding little ones. I have this down to a science. (How else could I ever have managed 2200 hours (not counting the commute) per year as a trial lawyer, while feeding my family great meals at home every single night?) I could write a book on this topic. Seriously. Hmmm. Maybe I will. P.S. Have you considered taking your book to the gym and reading it while on the eliptical or bike? Achieving the two goals mentioned will become a snap, assuming you're not reading Jon Meacham or Edward Hallet Carr. ;o)
Carolyn8315 January 19, 2014
What fun to discover lots of folks cooking in advance. I did that for years about sixty some years ago and our family of four ate well every night. I made three weeks of meals every third Saturday and loved it.
AntoniaJames January 21, 2014
I have a one-two-three-four rubric for my weekend cooking. After planning on Thursday (including an inventory update from the freezer) and shopping on Friday, I cook, generally during a focused, well-orchestrated 2 hour block of time, with a 30 minute block later, for straining/cooling/putting away: 1 braise, 2 stocks, 2 soups, 4 vegetables (at least, which may include roasting, or doing partial cooking/advance prep, etc. I try to wash and dry all vegetables for which it's appropriate as soon as I buy them. Sometimes simple prep happens at the same time.) I typically shape, let rise and bake a loaf of bread -- or start the dough, depending on my schedule -- during the 2-hour intensive. Double batches are the rule rather than the exception, whenever appropriate; one batch goes into the freezer. Weeknight meals are fun and relatively stress-free to prepare when you approach it this way. ;o)
gmg2011 January 22, 2014
Thanks! It is great to see how other people attack this! I am devoting some time to reading the recommended threads before doing my meal planning this week.