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7 Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks for Busy Families

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After abandoning the practice for a few months, I’€™m completely re-devoted to the idea of batch cooking make-ahead meals and snacks on the weekend in order to feed my hungry family during the busy school and work week. In less than three hours on a Sunday morning, I can make a pot of pork ragu (serve spooned over pasta or pieces of crusty bread with a side of steamed broccoli), prep some variation of a baked pasta dish and stock up on enough snacks and sweet treats to last until the following Friday. Add in a few containers of washed and sliced fruits and veggies, a jar of homemade salad dressing, not to mention a salad or two, and I’€™m now able to do a big chunk of my cooking in one kitchen session.

I’€™ve also taken to making a large batch of oatmeal, cranberry and flaxseed muffins which I serve with some yogurt for a quick morning meal, or alternatively I tuck them into the lunchbox for a nutritious snack I know the kids will love (recipe below). In addition, here are a few more of my favourite make-ahead meals and snacks to make for my hungry family.

Slow Cooker Pork Ragu: The pork ragu can be made up to two days in advance. Add a splash of water to the pot and gently re-warm it in the crock-pot or in a covered saucepan on the stove. A note about the recipe: if you are concerned about cooking with red wine, feel free to replace it with beef broth. Also, the fennel may be a little overpowering for little eaters, so don’€™t hesitate to skip it.

Baked Mac and Cheese with Little White Beans: Everyone needs a good mac and cheese recipe in their repertoire. Soft little white beans from a can are inconspicuous alongside the pasta, but if you think they won’€™t be well received you could puree them along with some of the milk and stir them into the cheese sauce. This dish can be made up to 24 hours ahead and refrigerated in the baking dish, or stored in the freezer for up to two months in a freezer-safe casserole dish.

Whole Grain Chocolate Chip Cookies: My baseboards may be hoarding a little extra dirt and my laundry is in constant need of folding, but I pride myself on the fact that there is almost always a baggie of frozen cookie dough balls in the freezer for emergency snacking or the school lunch box.

Cinnamon-Scented Mango Applesauce:
This spoonable sauce is one of my toddler’€™s favourite things to eat. It’€™s naturally sweet, nutritious and one recipe makes a batch big enough for several servings. If your family isn’€™t going to completely consume it within a week, feel free to freeze the sauce’€”it will keep in the freezer for up to three months.

Roasted Maple Almond Butter: With a jar of this in the fridge and a basket of apples and/or pears on the counter, daytime snacking couldn’€™t be easier.

DIY Smoothie Packets: These pre-made packages of frozen items can be blended with liquid and/or yogurt and makes 1-3 servings (depending on the size) of a smoothie quite quickly.

Tell us, do you batch cook on the weekend? What’€™s one of your favourite make-ahead meals?

Oatmeal, Cranberry and Flaxseed Muffins

Adapted from Food52

You’€™ll Need:

  • 5 cups rolled oats
  • 2 ½ cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 ½ cups brown sugar
  • ⅔ cup ground flaxseed
  • 4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 cup neutral oil (canola, sunflower, mild coconut, vegetable)
  • ¾ cup water
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries

Prep and Cook:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two standard-sized muffin pans with paper liners, or lightly grease them.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the oats, flour, sugar, flaxseed, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Add in the eggs, buttermilk, oil and water and mix just until combined. Fold in the cranberries and let the batter rest for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pan, filling each to the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the muffin comes out clean. Cool muffins in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before serving.

Good to Know:

If you don’€™t have buttermilk on hand, make a substitute by measuring a scant cup of milk and adding a tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice. Mix well and allow to stand for 5 minutes. The milk should be slightly curdled, but if it isn’€™t add a bit more vinegar or lemon juice. For this recipe you’€™ll need just shy of 2 cups of milk and 2 tablespoons of acid.

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