Quick and easy make-ahead meals for fall
These quick, easy and nutritious recipes can be made ahead and reheated on busy weeknights.
"Quick" and "easy" seem to be two of my favorite terms in the kitchen these days. And I bet they're two of yours as well. Fall is here, which means the end of leisurely summer days and the start of hectic routines. Before you fall back into unhealthy habits, why not make new dinnertime goals for your family this season. No matter what, food cannot — and must not — be an afterthought.
My mother understood the importance of serving nutritious food, and we were more than happy to gather around her dinner table for scratch-made meals. She didn't have time to make dinner every night, so she made meals in advance, and we heated them up each weeknight. What if you tried this at your house? What if you thought about dinner in advance and made meal prep a family affair? With a little effort, it could work. I'll prove it to you with these two quick, easy, healthy — and tasty — recipes.
The first is my chicken and snow pea pasta that's topped with a light Alfredo sauce — you still get that rich cheesy flavor, but with half the calories. And, this recipe can be made in 20 minutes.
Chicken and snow peas in light Alfredo sauce with pasta recipe
- 1-1/2 pounds chicken thighs, boneless and skinless
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 pound fettuccini, cooked and drained
- 1/2 pound snow peas, blanched and cooled
- 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
- Add the chicken thighs to a grill pan and cook over medium-high heat for about 4-5 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Set aside and let cool. Chop the cooked chicken into pieces.
- Heat the olive oil in a 10-inch skillet, over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute, on lower heat. Add the flour and cook until incorporated. Add the cream, salt and pepper to the skillet (over low heat) until smooth and thick. Stir in the snow peas, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and thyme. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and toss until coated.
- Turn out the pasta on a platter and lay the grilled chicken on top. Garnish with the additional Parmesan cheese.
My second recipe is my chicken and sausage gumbo. Make this on the weekend with the kids. Freeze some and serve the rest for lunch or dinner throughout the week on top of rice or buttered noodles.
Chicken and sausage gumbo recipe
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, chopped
- 1/2 tablespoon Creole seasoning
- 1/2 tablespoon + 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 pound Andouille sausage, chopped
- 1 cup flour
- 2 cups onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup celery, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 9 cups chicken broth
- 1 (14.5 ounce) can petite diced tomatoes
- 1 cup uncooked long grain rice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 3 bay leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 package (1 pound, 4 ounces) frozen sliced okra
- Season the chicken thighs with Creole seasoning. Add 1/2 tablespoon of oil in a 6-quart (or larger) stockpot over medium-high heat. Brown the sausage and set aside.
- Add the chicken to the pot (with the sausage drippings) and cook over medium-high heat until brown on both sides. Remove the chicken and set aside.
- In the same pan, over medium heat, combine the remaining 1/2 cup of oil and flour. Cook the mixture, stirring slowly and constantly, for 10-15 minutes, or until dark brown. Be careful not to burn or scorch.
- Add the onions, garlic, celery and bell pepper and cook for 5 minutes. Slowly add the broth and stir until there are no lumps.
- Add the tomatoes, rice, salt, cayenne, bay leaves, thyme and okra. Stir and bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add the chicken and cooked sausage to the gumbo. Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and serve.
David Venable is QVC's resident foodie and cookbook author.