Meal Prep Monday: Casseroles Are LIFE!

Hey my fellow crafty chefs. It’s been a while since I’ve shared some of my creative endeavors in the kitchen. Why? Well, things have been super busy with the new teaching job and cooking took a back seat.

Plus, the husband shared with me that making all of the food over the weekend and eating it throughout the week wasn’t desirable because he felt like he was eating just leftovers again and again. I could see his point so we made some adjustments and made most of the protein items on Sunday and then cooked sides through the week.

Nothing like a fresh batch of veggies or rice each night to complement some chicken or steak!

But even that change still proved to be too tough to keep up with. The demands of my new job and our already hectic life kept getting in the way. Between grades and soccer and long working hours for the Mr., I was in need of a meal prep schedule that I could keep up.

Enter the casserole! Sorta…

I call it a casserole because I tend to put it together in a large casserole dish but in all honesty it’s more like a tossed together full meal that we reheat throughout the week. It includes a meat, veggies, and a carb like pasta or rice at the base. I’ve had some successful meals come from this new plan of attack that I’ll share below.

Butternut Squash and Spinach Ravioli Casserole

Ok this one literally was an off-the-cuff last minute idea. I had guys over watching football and a kiddo playing Minecraft so I was stuck at home trying to come up with something to feed the troops.

In the freezer I had some butternut squash cubed and ready to cook so I roasted it with garlic, oil, cayenne, oregano and sea salt. While I did that, I layered cheese ravioli into a casserole dish along with some washed spinach. When the butternut squash was fully cooked, I blended it until it was soup like and then I spread that between layers of ravioli and spinach. My thinking was to make it like a lasagna but instead of the long, flat noodles, I’d use the ravioli for layers.

I covered the top with cheese and baked it until the ravioli was cooked completely. As a finishing touch I broiled the top so that the cheese was nice and melted. And we were super impressed! I thought the guys would hate it but in the end they both ate it and enjoyed it! We added a little simple basil marinara sauce on top or to dip it into and that added bonus flavor.

Italian Sausage and Beer Pasta Unbake

My husband confided in me that he didn’t like baked pasta. Particularly the crusty bit around the edge (oh my favorite!). So, taking the idea of a pasta bake, I boiled noodles, browned sausage and beef together with garlic and seasonings, and mixed a bag of roasted peppers into a marinara sauce with the intention of tossing it altogether in a casserole dish but leaving off the last step of baking it together.

That way we still get the goodness of a full meal without the crispy bits around the edges. And when we heat it up throughout the week, we melt a little cheese on top to keep it fresh and new.

My other go-to is my Turkey Chili. I can vary certain ingredients (like marinara for salsa) to include whatever I have on hand. I’ve got a list of a few things I need to always have on hand to make one of these all-in-one meals. Things I replace when I run out, not things I buy weekly. The meat I buy weekly and that’s about it. Otherwise I have a decent stash of these items in my cabinets and freezer.Canned tomatoes

pasta sauce
salsa
frozen mixed veggies
pasta (a variety)
frozen ravioli/tortellini
frozen meatballs (Trader Joe’s are awesome)

With these things always  at home, I know I just need to grab the beef, chicken, or turkey to add. We also shop for the pasta and the frozen veggies on days when it’s a 10/$10 sale. It saves us a little money and time to grab a bunch and store them.

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Meal Prep Monday: Easy Peasy Salmon

Lately, my cooking has been a bit stagnant. I’m not trying many new things and sticking only to items I know my family will eat so that we aren’t wasting food. We’ve recently overhauled our finances so I’m watching my pennies and trying to save in as many ways as I can, too.

Recently, salmon was on sale at our local store so I decided to switch up our nightly chicken or turkey dinner for a quick and easy salmon dish using a simple Italian seasoning mixture to add some flavor. Now this easy peasy recipe can work in a number of ways (on veggies, potatoes, other meats) so I always keep handy a few packets of this Italian dressing mix.

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It’s meant to be a packet of seasonings for a dressing but I’ve found it works great directly sprinkled onto whatever you are cooking. I sprinkle about half the packet onto my five fillets and cook with butter in my cast iron skillet. I save the second half for whatever veggie or side item I’ll cook with it.

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Once the salmon has been seared on each side for about 3-4 minutes to let the flavor get in there, I add in my veggies, like green beans here, and sprinkled the rest of the packet onto them. I make sure there is enough oil or butter so that the salmon doesn’t stick to the pan and to give a little moisture to the whole thing.

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Together, I let them sit and simmer on low until the green beans are just cooked enough but not soggy. I like them with a little crunch!

I serve this over rice and it makes a great meal for dinner and as leftovers for lunches. And it’s a nice change up from the plan ol’ chicken dinners we tend to eat.

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