Easy or Make-Ahead Weeknight Meals


The beginning of the school year is always busy for us. Pete is adjusting to a different schedule of teaching, the kids are back in school with Fall activities, and I have a variety of school and community commitments. I rely on easy or make-ahead meals to get us through the craziness! Here are a few of our current favorites:


To use up the ground beef stored in the freezer from the cow we purchased, I substitute ground beef and add a can of chili beans.


Cut onions and place on the bottom of a slow cooker, add brisket and a cup of beef broth. Cook on low all day and then add barbeque sauce shortly before eating

Shredded Beef Tacos

Cut onions and place on the bottom of a slow cooker. Rub beef roast with ½-1 tsp chili powder and a cup broth. Cook on low all day. Serve with cut cabbage, fresh tomatoes, cheese, taco sauce or salsa and any of your other favorite toppings. We use corn tortillas and soften on our stovetop in the gas flames or in a pan with a little bit of oil.

Quinoa Pasta with Marinara & Pesto Sauce

I use pesto that I store in the freezer and add to marinara sauce. Serve the sauce over quinoa pasta topped with parmasean.

Bacon Lettuce & Tomato

A perfect way to use tomatoes from the garden or farmer’s market. Our favorite is to add it to homemade bread.

Quinoa Tabouleh

Spinach and Quinoa Salad with Toasted Cashews and Dried Cranberries (or serve nut-free)

Black Bean & Tomato Quinoa

Tostados with Black Bean and Spinach

Spread black bean dip on tostados, add spinach leaves, and shredded cheddar. Broil in the oven at 350 degrees a few minutes until cheese is melted.

Black Bean Dip

Blend together:

15 oz Black Beans

2 T Lemon Juice

1 ½ t Soy Sauce

½ t Cumin

½ t Cayenne (or less depending on spice level desired)

Salt to taste

Tortellini Salad

For a gluten-free option, use your favorite gluten-free pasta instead.


8-9 oz. Tortellini

6 T Olive Oil

3 T Lemon Juice

1/2 C Basil, Chopped

2 Shallots, Finely Chopped

1 Garlic Clove, Minced

Salt & Pepper to Taste

1 pint Cherry Tomatoes

1 cup Kalamata Olives

1 cup Kale

6-8 oz. Fresh Mozzarella Pearls (small balls of mozzarella)

Toasted Pine Nuts or Sunflower Seeds (optional)


Cook Tortellini according to package directions with 1 t salt and let cool.

Make Dressing by whisking olive oil through salt/pepper.

Cut kale down the middle to remove the veins and cut into bite size pieces. Toss the tortellini, tomatoes, olives, kale, and mozzarella with dressing. Top with toasted pine nuts or sunflower seeds and serve.

Chicken or Veggie Pot Pie

You can omit the chicken and add a few more of your favorite vegetables for a great veggie pot pie.

Layered Chicken Enchiladas with Tomatillo Cilantro Sauce

Tamale Pie

You can make the meat pie ahead and then add the cornbread on top just before eating or it re-warms nicely too.

Adapted from the American Test Kitchen’s, The Best 30-Minute Recipe

One day I was having the black bean dip and chips with leftover Tamale Pie and realized that the black bean dip enhanced the flavors of the tamale pie. We now add a layer of black bean when making tamale pie.


2 T Olive Oil

1 Onion, minced

2 T Chili Powder (or to taste)

½ t Salt

Dash Pepper

2 Garlic Cloves, minced

1 lb Ground Beef

15 oz Black Beans (can or soaked/cooked if dry)

15 oz Tomatoes (can or fresh from garden)

1 c Cheddar Cheese, shredded

2 T Cilantro

¼ cup Black Bean Dip – Optional, Recipe follows (use the rest for dipping and spreads or spinach & bean tostadas above)

Cornbread Topping –Recipe follows or boxed


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Heat oil in heavy skillet over medium heat. Add onion, chili powder, salt and cook until onion softened, approx. 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for about 30 seconds. Stir in beef, beans and tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes. Stir in the cheddar and cilantro. Spread a layer of black bean dip over the meat filling and then dollop cornbread batter over the filling and spread into even layer. Bake until the cornbread is golden about 10-15 minutes.

Black Bean Dip

Blend together:

15 oz Black Beans

2 T Lemon Juice

1 ½ t Soy Sauce

½ t Cumin

½ t Cayenne

Salt to taste

Vegan Cornbread Topping (No Eggs) or use your favorite boxed cornbread

Mix together:

1/2 c all purpose flour

1/2 c yellow cornmeal

1 T sugar

1 1/4 t baking powder

2/3 c light coconut milk

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