Gourmet Veggie Mama

Tag Archives: Make-ahead Meals

Creamy Parmesan and Spinach Orzo

Here’s the deal with dinner lately: I don’t really cook it. It’s not that we don’t eat dinner at home… it’s just that the way our family life works right now sort of preludes me from being the primary chef at dinnertime.

Amelia has an early bedtime, so I have to start her bath at 5:45, do her bedtime routine (which includes nursing, so it’s my job) and then she’s down by 6:30 most nights. Nora, however, doesn’t go to bed until around 8 pm. We used to eat dinner at 6 and then play outside for a little while afterward, but since we like to eat together as a family,* we had to switch it up a bit. At first, we tried eating before I started Amelia’s bath, but it ended up being too early for everyone but her… and she was always on the verge of meltdown that close to bedtime, so it wasn’t working out. Our current solution is to eat at about 6:45, so I have time to put Amelia to bed and everyone can sit down together without throwing off Nora’s bath-and-bedtime routine.

*Well, minus the not-yet-eating-solids member of our crew.

Of course, if you do the math, that usually means someone other than me has to cook dinner, or at the very least do the final steps and get dinner ready to go on the table. And that means that the hubby has been primarily in charge of dinner lately. Sometimes I make the meal plan for the week, and other times we just wing it. Truth be told, I am still a little sleep deprived and unmotivated, so winging it wins out more often than it probably should. Thank goodness for Trader Joe’s freezer meals!

Anyhow, blah, blah, blah, get to the good stuff. I made a delicious dinner the other night (on one of my more motivated days) — and I accomplished it by prepping everything ahead of time (while the babe was napping), and then having the hubby finish it off right before we sat down to eat. This recipe for parmesan and spinach orzo has been floating around Pinterest, and I decided it sounded like a perfect weeknight meal — with some slight modifications, of course. Otherwise, I just wouldn’t be me.

spinach and parm orzo-001

 

I had high hopes for this one, and it did not disappoint. My only regret is that I really thought Nora would love it — and she did, for a few minutes. She chowed down until she realized that there was green stuff in it, and then proceeded to tell me she didn’t like “the kale.” Everything green is kale nowadays, and despite the fact that I have photographic evidence of her former love of actual kale, nothing can convince her that it isn’t gross. Plus, there were onions. Although basically undetectable to the adult palate (except for the lovely flavor they add), there were in fact onions in this dish, and that was apparently unacceptable. Sigh.

Regardless, the hubby and I scarfed ours down, and finished off her leftovers, too. Her loss, our gain!

Creamy Parmesan and Spinach Orzo
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup orzo
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 cups spinach, packed, roughly chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil, and add the orzo. Cook until al dente, according to package directions (around 8 minutes).
  2. Meanwhile, melt the butter and olive oil over medium heat in another saucepan.* Saute the onion and garlic until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the flour to the onion and garlic mixture, and stir to coat. Gradually add the milk, whisking to eliminate any lumps. Heat, stirring, until bubbly and thickened, 5-10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.**
  4. Stir in the parmesan and spinach and heat until the cheese is incorporated into the sauce and the spinach is wilted.
  5. Add the orzo to the sauce and stir to combine. Serve immediately.
Notes
* Or, if you're like me and prefer to minimize the mess, cook the pasta first, drain it in a colander, and then wipe out the same pan to use for the sauce.

** If you're making this ahead, you can stop at this step, and refrigerate the pasta and sauce separately (keeping the sauce in the saucepan for simplicity's sake). When you're ready for dinner, gently reheat the sauce on the stovetop, and then proceed with the recipe.

 

Loaded Twice-Baked Potatoes

I am starting to love twice-baked potatoes. Not the smallest reason is that they are easy to make ahead and then finish off right before dinner time. When I saw Kitchen Treaty’s recipe for Greek yogurt and chive twice-baked potatoes, I wanted to try them ASAP, and then I stumbled on a baked potato casserole recipe on Pinterest, and the rest is history. I made my very own Frankenstein version combining these dishes, and it was perfect.

Loaded Twice-Baked Potatoes

The Greek yogurt, aside from adding creaminess to the filling, also packs a protein punch, and it’s tasty to boot. Add some sharp cheddar (I used Dubliner cheese leftover from my last twice-baked potato adventure, but any good sharp cheese will do), sautéed mushrooms and onions, and broccoli, and we’re in business. I would love to say that I served this as a put-together meal with a side salad or some roasted kale, but, alas, it was a busy night, and the fact that the potatoes already had veggies in the filling won out, and I just called it a complete meal in itself.

4.5 from 2 reviews
Loaded Twice-Baked Potatoes
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 4 baking potatoes
  • 3 Tbsp butter, divided
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil, plus additional for oiling pan
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • ½ cup mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 cup broccoli florets, chopped
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1½ cups sharp cheddar, divided
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Lightly oil a large casserole dish, cut the potatoes in half lengthwise, and arrange then cut-side down in the dish. Bake for 15 minutes.
  2. Flip the potatoes, pierce them with a fork and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, or until soft. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. Lower the oven temperature to 350°.
  3. While the potatoes are cooking, caramelize the onion. In a large sauté pan, melt 1 Tbsp butter and 1 Tbsp olive oil and cook the onion over medium heat for until soft and translucent. Lower the heat and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown.
  4. Return the heat to medium and add the garlic and mushrooms. Sauté for another 3 to 4 minutes. Add the broccoli and saute for a minute or two more.
  5. Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, scoop most of the flesh out, leaving about ¼ inch so that the potato skin holds its shape, and place the insides in a large bowl. Add the remaining 2 Tbsp butter and the Greek yogurt and mash well.
  6. Stir in 1 cup of the cheddar and the onion-mushroom-broccoli mixture and mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Scoop the potato mixture back into the potato skins, mounding over. Sprinkle with the remaining cheddar and arrange the potatoes in the same casserole dish.*
  8. Bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, or until heated through and the cheese is melted and starting to brown. Serve warm.
Notes
* If you want to make these ahead and finish baking them right before dinner, stop here and refrigerate the potatoes. Simply add about 5 minutes to the cooking time.

 

Potatoes Stuffed with Caramelized Onions and Dubliner Cheese

I haven’t made twice-baked potatoes in ages. I remembered them taking lots of time, even if the results are tasty. If I’m in a potatoes-for-dinner kind of mood, I save myself the work and just make fill-your-own baked potatoes instead. But then I tried Potatoes Stuffed with Caramelized Onions and Dubliner Cheese, and I was glad I didn’t just make plain ol’ baked potatoes.

Potatoes with Caramelized Onions and Dubliner Cheese

These potatoes marry a sharp Irish cheese (just in time for St. Patrick’s Day!) with sweet caramelized onions, and the results are delicious and even kid-approved! Plus they aren’t nearly as time-intensive as I remembered. Hop on over to LiveMom and check out my Thursday’s Dish post for the recipe (and for a chance to win a set of two Not Your Mother’s cookbooks).

I received a review copy of Not Your Mother’s Make Ahead and Freeze Cookbook to review for the LiveMom piece. I was a little skeptical that freezer meals could be actually, you know, good, but we all know how much I like make-ahead meals to avoid the dinnertime rush. I have to say, I have discovered a few gems in this book (my family spent the better part of this week eating from it) and now I’m a believer.

I think I’ll start trying to cook one extra freezer meal each weekend, just so I have a stash of healthy and delicious homemade meals in the freezer for a rainy day. I’ll be sure to share more of my favorite recipes, perhaps in round-up form, as I discover them!

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