The best large-batch and weeknight meals from Chatelaine’s food editor

Chatelaine's food editor shares more than a dozen easy and nutritious recipes to help you answer the question "What's for dinner?"

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Q: What are the best meals to cook large batches of and freeze for later?
Thanks,
Amy

A: Much as I love keeping ready-made meals in the freezer, experience has taught me that not everything comes out of the freezer as nicely as it went in. Pasta, sadly, freezes badly (especially casseroles like mac-and-cheese, which become dry, mushy and tasteless). As well, it seems like anything with chunks of certain vegetables (especially carrots and peppers) in it changes enough to be off-putting out of the freezer. It’s too bad, because mac and cheese and chili both seem like a freezer sure-thing!

Instead, make big batches of puréed or chicken soups. I also freeze the meaty tomato sauce from this lasagna, and use it as a sauce for spaghetti. Another boon is grains – cooked brown rice, wheatberries and quinoa all freeze beautifully. Freeze meals in single- or two-person servings so they make great last-minute lunchbox fillers as well.

Remember that freezer-bound food should be fridge-temperature when it goes in. As well as being safer, it also means you’ll encounter less condensation and freezer burn.



 

Q: What are your go-to weeknight meals? Do you have a handful of healthy recipes in your roster that you make every week? I need a list so I’m not scrambling at the last minute.
Thanks,
Julie

A: I’m a huge fan of a list – in fact, I keep one on the fridge to remind me of the meals we love. Sounds like a no-brainer but the list keeps things interesting. It’s important to tailor your list to your own family’s likes and needs – my list and yours aren’t gong to be the same. Then get in the habit of having the groceries required on-hand at all times.

One of our healthy favourites is this wheatberry salad. Packed with nutritious kale, whole grains and antioxidant cranberries, it’s also satisfying and great for lunch the next day. I switch it up and use brown rice, quinoa or barley instead of wheatberries. It’s good with some feta or goat cheese too.

Fast and easy vegetarian curries are another go-to. I always have a can or two of chick peas on hand, and a jar of good Indian curry paste in the fridge. The cucumber is an unusual addition – but it really makes the dish.

I usually buy a block of tofu with my weekly shop, and who doesn’t have peanut butter in the pantry? These crispy tofu steaks are so good, they’ll convert anyone.

Whenever I get a chance, I pick up fresh salmon, broil it and serve with greens, but I keep a can of salmon on the shelf too. Salmon cakes are a fast and delicious way to eat more fish.



 


Q: I’m trying to eat more greens. What’s the best way to prepare and enjoy them.
Thanks,
Sandi

A: Like many other people these days, I’m having a love affair with kale. It’s excellent sautéed, steamed, even boiled, and (my current fave) raw. Added bonus: it seems to keep for up to two weeks in the fridge.

Swiss chard seems to get overlooked. It makes a fabulous weeknight sauté. Its mild flavour is much less domineering than kale’s, but it’s sturdy enough to be added to pasta sauces or soups.

And don’t forget about main-course salads. Mix up lettuces, baby spinach, arugula and add in lots of protein-rich toppings to make the salad a satisfying supper. Think chopped nuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, chick peas, edamame, cheeses, hard-boiled eggs, sautéed or grilled steak and chicken, even tofu cubes.