One of the things that I hope people can learn from me is how a little bit of planning ahead can make your life so much easier! A huge benefit of creating a weekly meal plan is that you have taken the time to think through how you can use leftovers from one meal as the basis for another meal later in the week. You can plan ahead for how you can cook once for multiple meals.
So what I'm sharing with you in this post isn't so much of a recipe, but it's an example of how I've used my plan and cooked ahead to make a super easy weeknight meal that tastes like it cooked for hours.
This is a lentil soup with homemade chicken stock, roasted vegetables, and homemade turkey meatballs. Sounds like it would take hours to make, doesn't it? No, it was a less than an hour (like 45 minutes really), from start to finish (and only that long because I started with dry lentils).
- 2 quarts of homemade chicken broth
- Several cups of roasted vegetables - this one had cauliflower, onions, mushrooms, and celery, that had been roasted with Za'atar (a middle eastern spice blend), olive oil, garlic and salt
- 2 cups of dry lentils
- 12 - 18 frozen homemade meatballs
- 1 bunch of fresh spinach, roughly chopped.
How I did it:
Because I had the stock already made, the veggies already roasted and the meatballs already in my freezer, this came together in just a few minutes. Put the broth, lentils and veggies in the pot and let them simmer for a half hour or so until the lentils are mostly cooked. Then add the frozen meatballs and spinach and simmer long enough for the meatballs to be fully heated through. That's it. Serve.
If you want this to be even faster you could buy a package of precooked lentils Trader Joe's has them and some grocery stores do now too. If you use precooked lentils then I would just hold back on a cup or two of the broth. Or you can just use a kind of dry lentil that cooks fast - I used these red lentils, and they cook in about 30 minutes.
A little more background on how this came together - so you can get the point of planning ahead that I'm talking about:
- Last Saturday we had turkey burgers for dinner. At the same time as I was making the burgers, I mixed up extra meat and made some meatballs as well. The recipe was just 1 tablespoon of Za'atar, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 egg for every pound of ground turkey. Easy. I tripled that so we had plenty of burgers and a couple dozen meatballs. I put the meatballs in the oven at 400 for 20 minutes while we ate dinner, let them cool, and put in the freezer after dinner.
- On Sunday we had roast chicken and veggies for dinner. I always cook 2 chickens and I roast them on top of a whole bunch of veggies so that we will have lots left over. The veggies for that dinner were the cauliflower, onion, mushroom and celery.
- After that dinner I put the chicken carcasses in my slow cooker with a few ends of veggies (celery, carrot, onion), some salt, and cover with water, and I set that to cook on low for 10 hours (overnight), and then again all the rest of the next day and the next night (yes, I cook my stock for at least a day and a half).
- On Tuesday morning I strain the stock and put it in the fridge.
- At about 5:15 I got everything out, poured the stock in the pot and added my lentils and veggies. Then the meatballs and spinach a half an hour later. And we were eating dinner by 6:00.
It really doesn't get much easier than that. Everything homemade and from scratch, made ahead by just taking a little extra time after cooking a couple of other meals. You can totally do this.