Thursday, October 13, 2011

Make Ahead Meals: The Basics

This month we decided to try Rachael Ray's Make Ahead Meals.  I had been looking for a way to get a more set schedule for dinner that didn't involve a lot of cooking during the week.  I've been working until 7 o'clock or later every night and I try to be in bed by 10.  That doesn't leave a lot of time for meal planning and cooking!  This plan seemed like a perfect fit.  I have a lot of thoughts as to how it is progressing and I'll try to blog about it as much as I can!

I started out by making the building block recipes that you create the rest of the meals around.  You could definitely make all of them at once but I got a late start so I only made the pork and the tomato sauce the first day.  An important thing to keep in mind when you are creating the shopping list is to only check off the recipes you plan on cooking that week.  I initially checked everything off and then realized that the list was way too complicated to deal all at once.  Not all of the items can be purchased all at once because of freshness issues.  Lesson number one: only check off what you plan on cooking!  And for us, that's about 4 meals a week.  I chose the building block recipes, Spanish Rice with Shrimp, Mango, Pork and Watercress Salad, Chicken and Tomato Sauce, and Pork and Avocado Tacos.  Grand total grocery bill was about $200 due to all the meat that I had to purchase for the month.

I made the pork and the tomato sauce on Sunday after all the grocery shopping.  The Pulled Pork recipe had a few flaws...  It calls for 2 five pound pork shoulder roasts.  I purchased one beastly 9 and change roast.  The way I have always cooked a pork shoulder or really any roast is to throw it in the oven low and slow and enjoy the results.  I made the mistake of following the directions which had me butcher the roast into chunks.  I'm assuming this was a time saving effort but instead it took forever to work my way through it.  Lesson number two: always cook a pork shoulder low and slow!  Oh and Lesson number three: follow your instincts, the recipe isn't always right!

I also made the Tomato Sauce that night.  It was a simple recipe and went pretty easily.  People that make your own sauce: do that if you choose but keep in mind that this recipe is intentionally basic so that it works well with a variety of additions.  When I first tasted I couldn't believe how bland it was but when added to the other upcoming recipes it works very well.

That first night I was so consumed with the prep of these two recipes we didn't even get a chance to try out any of the meals!  Ironic to be sure.  If you have the time, make all of the building blocks at once.  Buy lots of freezer ziplock bags.  If not, do like I did and make a few building blocks each night but be sure you have enough prepped so that you can create dinner out of what you do have!  I'll write about the other recipes I've created these past two weeks as I have time.  Hope you found this helpful!

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