By Ann Martin
Fall is a beautiful and wonderful time of year to gather with family and friends! Trips to the orchard during cool autumn weekends are a perfect way to enjoy the refreshing fall weather. Having the neighbors over for football on Sundays is another way to enjoy the coziness of the season. Make the most of your autumn days by preparing your meals ahead of time. This allows you to enjoy the season with your family and friends and not be in the kitchen all day preparing the meal. Here are a few easy and appetizing make ahead meal recipes!
Bulgur and Beef Stuffed Peppers
- 8 large red, yellow, orange, and/or green peppers, with stems if possible
- 2 can(s) (14- to 14 1/2-ounce) chicken broth
- 1 1/2 cup(s) bulgur
- 1 tablespoon(s) olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 clove(s) garlic, crushed with press
- 1 pound(s) lean (90%) ground beef
- 1 package(s) (10-ounce) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
- 1/2 cup(s) (loosely packed) fresh dill, chopped
- 2 can(s) (28-ounce) crushed tomatoes
- 1 cup(s) crumbled feta cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon(s) salt
- 1/4 teaspoon(s) coarsely ground black pepper
- Cut 3/4-inch slice from top of each pepper; reserve tops, including stems. Remove seeds and ribs, and cut a thin slice from bottom of each pepper so they will stand upright.
- Arrange 4 peppers and their tops (separately) on same microwave-safe plate. Cook, uncovered, in microwave on High 4 minutes. With tongs, transfer tops to paper towel. Microwave peppers 4 to 5 minutes longer or until just tender. Invert peppers onto a double thickness of paper towels to drain. Repeat with remaining peppers and tops.
- In microwave-safe large bowl, combine chicken broth and bulgur. Cook, uncovered, in microwave on High 12 to 15 minutes or until bulgur is tender, but still slightly chewy, and most of broth is absorbed.
- Meanwhile, in deep 12-inch skillet, heat oil on medium until hot. Add onion and garlic, and cook 5 minutes or until onion begins to turn golden, stirring frequently. Remove 1/4 cup onion mixture and reserve. Add beef to remaining onion in skillet and cook 6 to 8 minutes or until beef is no longer pink, breaking up beef with side of spoon. Remove skillet from heat.
- Into beef in skillet, stir bulgur, spinach, dill, 1 cup crushed tomatoes, and 3/4 cup feta. Fill peppers with bulgur mixture, using a generous cup for each; sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup feta. Replace pepper tops.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Wipe skillet clean. In same skillet, combine remaining crushed tomatoes, reserved onion mixture, salt, and coarsely ground black pepper; heat to boiling on medium-high, stirring occasionally.
- Divide tomato sauce evenly between two 2-quart shallow casseroles or 8″ by 8″ glass baking dishes. Place 4 peppers in each dish. Cover one dish with foil and bake 35 minutes or until peppers are hot. Prepare second dish for freezing.
- To reheat after thawing 24 hours: Conventional oven: Heat, loosely covered, at 350 degrees F 1 hour; uncover and heat 45 minutes longer. Microwave oven: Heat, covered, on Low (30 percent) 50 minutes, then on High 15 minutes.
Winter Vegetable Chowder
- 6 medium leeks
- 2 tablespoon(s) olive oil
- 4 medium stalks celery, chopped
- 3 medium parsnips, peeled and chopped
- 2 medium red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 (2-pound) butternut squash, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 can(s) (14- to 14 1/2-ounce) vegetable broth
- 4 cup(s) water
- 1/2 teaspoon(s) chopped fresh thyme leaves plus thyme sprig for garnish
- 1 teaspoon(s) salt
- 3/4 teaspoon(s) coarsely ground black pepper
- 1 cup(s) half-and-half or light cream
- Cut off roots and trim dark-green tops from leeks. Discard any tough outer leaves. Cut each leek lengthwise in half, then crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide slices. Rinse leeks in large bowl of cold water; swish to remove sand. With hands, transfer leeks to colander, leaving sand in bottom of bowl. Repeat rinsing and draining, several times, until all sand is removed. Drain well.
- In 6-quart saucepot, heat oil on medium-high until hot. Add leeks, celery, and parsnips, and cook 10 to 12 minutes or until all vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally.
- Add potatoes, squash, broth, water, thyme, salt, and pepper; heat to boiling on medium-high. Cover; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer about 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in half-and-half and heat through, about 13 minutes. Spoon half of soup into tureen and garnish with thyme sprig; then spoon remaining into freezer-safe containers.
- To reheat after thawing: Top of range: In covered saucepan, heat to boiling on medium, about 25 minutes, stirring often. Microwave oven: Heat in microwave-safe bowl, covered, on Low (30 percent) 10 minutes, stirring once or twice, then on High 15 to 20 minutes, stirring once.
Chicken Gumbo Pot Pie
- 2 slice(s) bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 pound(s) skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 teaspoon(s) salt
- 3 tablespoon(s) olive oil
- 1/4 cup(s) all-purpose flour
- 1 cup(s) chicken broth
- 4 medium stalks celery, sliced
- 1 (1-pound) jumbo onion, chopped
- 1 medium red pepper, chopped
- 1 tablespoon(s) Cajun seasoning
- 1 bag(s) (16-ounce) frozen sliced okra
- 1 can(s) (14 1/2-ounce) stewed tomatoes
- 1 package(s) (17.4-ounce) frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
- In 12-inch nonstick skillet, cook bacon on medium 6 to 8 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. With slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Sprinkle chicken all over with 1/2 teaspoon salt. In bacon fat in skillet, cook chicken, in 2 batches, 5 to 6 minutes per batch or until beginning to brown. With tongs, transfer chicken to medium bowl.
- In same skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil on medium 1 minute. Stir in flour and cook about 7 minutes or until deep golden-brown, stirring constantly. Gradually add in chicken broth, stirring with whisk to prevent lumps; heat to boiling. Boil 1 minute, stirring. Remove skillet from heat.
- Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven, heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add celery, onion, and pepper, and cook about 10 minutes or until all vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in Cajun seasoning; cook 30 seconds. Add chicken-broth mixture, frozen okra, stewed tomatoes, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; heat to boiling on high. Stir in chicken chunks and bacon; reduce heat to medium and cook 10 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink inside, stirring occasionally.
- Divide gumbo between 2 ungreased 9 1/2-inch deep-dish pie plates. Top each with 1 sheet puff pastry, tucking pastry corners under to form a round top. Cut six 1-inch slits in pastry to allow steam to escape during baking.
- Bake one pot pie 35 minutes or until pastry is golden-brown and puffed. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Meanwhile, prepare second pot pie for freezing
- To reheat after thawing 24 hours: Conventional oven: Heat, loosely covered, at 400 degrees F 30 minutes; uncover and bake 40 minutes longer or until crust is golden-brown. Microwave oven: Not recommended – crust must bake in conventional oven
Butternut Squash and Sage Lasagna
- 2 large onions, each cut in half, then cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
- 2 tablespoon(s) olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoon(s) salt
- 3/4 teaspoon(s) coarsely ground black pepper
- 2 medium butternut squash, each cut in half and seeded
- 7 cup(s) low-fat (1%) milk
- 1/2 cup(s) cornstarch
- 1/4 cup(s) (packed) fresh sage leaves, chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon(s) ground nutmeg
- 2 cup(s) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 12 no-boil lasagna noodles, from 8- to 9-ounce package
- 3 package(s) (10-ounce) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. In large bowl, toss onions with oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper. Place onions in one 15 1/2″ by 10 1/2″ jelly-roll pan. Line a second jelly-roll pan with foil; arrange squash, cut sides up. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper. Cover pan with squash tightly with aluminum foil. (Do not cover onions.) Roast both pans of vegetables 45 minutes or until squash is tender and onions are browned, stirring onions halfway through cooking. Reset oven control to 375 degrees F.
- Meanwhile, in 5-quart saucepot (do not use a smaller pot; milk mixture may boil over), heat 6 cups milk on medium-high just to simmering, stirring occasionally. In small bowl, whisk cornstarch into remaining 1 cup milk. Add cornstarch mixture to simmering milk in pot; heat to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. (Make sure to scrape bottom of saucepot to prevent scorching.) Boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in sage, nutmeg, 1 1/2 cups Parmesan, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper.
- When vegetables are done, scrape squash into food processor with knife blade attached; discard skins. Add onions to processor; puree until smooth. You should have 4 cups puree.
- Into each of two 8″ by 8″ glass or ceramic baking dishes, spoon 1/2 cup white sauce to cover bottoms. Arrange 2 lasagna noodles over sauce in each casserole. Evenly spread 1 cup squash puree, then 3/4 cup chopped spinach over noodles in each casserole. Top each with 1 cup sauce. Repeat layering one time, starting with noodles. Top each with 2 more noodles. Spread remaining sauce over noodles; sprinkle with remaining Parmesan.
- Cover one casserole with aluminum foil. Place casserole on cookie sheet (to catch any spills during baking) in oven and bake 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 15 minutes longer or until hot and bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes for easier serving. Meanwhile, prepare second casserole for freezing
- To reheat after thawing 24 hours: Conventional oven: Heat, loosely covered, at 350 degrees F 1 hour; uncover and heat 30 minutes longer. Microwave oven: Heat, covered, on Low (30 percent) 35 minutes, then on High 15 minutes longer.
Ann Martin is a writer for Dinnerware Center, which offers an array of exquisite dinnerware styles and flatware sets, such as the Noritake colorwave and Noritake china sets. Ann is a writer for cooking and home-related websites. When Ann is not writing, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends.