Sunday, August 29, 2010

oven "fried" chicken and foil packet potatoes


This chicken recipe is a great alternative to the deep fried version.  I was a little worried about the flavor results of dipping the chicken in a mayo milk mixture but it really comes out great.  You can't taste the mayo flavor at all.  It keeps the meat nice and moist while the Old Bay gives it a nice kick.  I usually take the skin off of the chicken because I'm not a huge fan of it.  But leaving it on works fine too, it's just a matter of preference.  If you do leave the skin on, be sure to get the mayo/milk mixture under the skin of each piece of chicken.  I lay the chicken pieces on a rack inside my cookie sheet, this makes the bottoms of each piece nice and crisp too!

If you do have 15 minutes during the witching hour to stand at the counter  to peel and chop, these foil packet potatoes are a great side dish.  I have never prepared them longer than 2 hours ahead of time.  The potatoes may brown if prepared the night before.

Prep Ahead Plan:  Take 10 minutes and prepare the chicken the night before.  Cover the pan with foil and refrigerate overnight.  (It doesn't need to sit overnight).

Oven "fried" chicken 


  • 2 pounds chicken pieces with skin on or off (thighs and drumsticks work well)
  • 1 cup dried panko bread crumbs
  • 1 t garlic powder
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t ground black pepper
  • 1 t
  • 1 t Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise whisked with 1/2 cup milk


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. In a medium bowl or gallon size resealable plastic bag, mix together the bread crumbs, garlic powder, salt, pepper, Old Bay and paprika.
  3. Coat the chicken pieces with the mayo/milk mixture. Place chicken pieces in bowl/bag with bread crumb mixture and coat/shake until well coated. Place chicken pieces in a lightly greased 9x13 inch baking dish or on a rack in a baking dish and bake for 45 minutes or until juices run clear.

Foil Packet Potatoes

4 medium red or baking,peeled and cut in bite-size pieces
1 small onion, chopped

1 or 2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 T olive or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 t dried rosemary or some chopped fresh (or whatever herbs you have on hand)
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 (14-inch) sheets aluminum foil

Heat oven to 450 degrees F. Center onion in center of each piece of foil. Layer potatoes evenly on top of onion. Drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt, rosemary or other herbs and pepper. Close foil packet and bake for 25-30 minutes on cookie sheet in oven.

Serve as a side dish.

Makes 4 servings.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

sweet and saucy pork tenderloin (slow cooker)

This is one of my absolute favorite slow cooker recipes.  It's easy enough for a weekday but also doubles as an excellent entertaining recipe.  It takes all of five minutes to add all of the ingredients in the slow cooker, turn it on and you're done.  The flavor resembles a sweet barbecue sauce but the addition of cranberry gives it a more sophisticated flavor.

The ideal cooking time for this recipe is 1 hour on high and then switching the setting to low and cooking for an additional 3 hours.  However, this was not an ideal cooking time when I was working, leaving my house at 6:20am and not returning until 4:00 in the afternoon.  In that case I would do one of two things; turn it on low for 8 hours before leaving in the morning or have my husband sneak home during his lunch break and turn it on low for 5 hours.  In both cases the slow cooker would switch to warm and be ready for us at dinner.  If you do choose to use one of the longer cooking times, you will end up with more of a shredded pork kind of dish.  Still moist, delicious and saucy with less of a fancy presentation.  Serve with rice and easy steamed green beans or broccoli.

sweet and saucy pork tenderloin (slow cooker)

2 1.25-lb. pork tenderloin
1 t salt
dash of black pepper
12 oz jar of chili sauce (available next to the ketchup..I use Heinz brand)
16 oz can of jellied cranberry sauce
2 T brown sugar

1. Inside slow cooker, stir together chili sauce, cranberry sauce and brown sugar.
2. Season the tenderloin with salt and pepper and place in slow cooker. Roll it in the sauce.
3. Cover and cook on high for 1 hour and low for 3 hours OR 
see cooking time options above.
Garnish with fresh rosemary and cranberries if you're feeling fancy!

Prep Ahead Plan:  Take 5 minutes the night before and mix all of the ingredients in the slow cooker and store in the fridge until ready to turn on!  

Monday, August 23, 2010

slow cooker tomato-wine sauce and meatballs

recipe adapted from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann
I'm only one quarter Italian so I can get away with making spaghetti sauce in my slow cooker!  My mother is a Tuscano and spends her Sundays hovering over a big pot of tomato sauce and a frying pan full of meatballs.  I love this authentic method but on a typical day at the Sheridan household, it's not going to happen.  That's why I love this recipe!  It is perfect for a busy, back to school weekday.

Don't be afraid to cook with wine when serving children.  Made properly, foods cooked with alcohol are perfectly safe to serve youngsters. The dish should be cooked long enough, usually several minutes, for the alcohol itself to evaporate, leaving only harmless trace residues and the concentrated flavor of the wine or beverage used. Cooking with wine, beer, sherry, and spirits can greatly enhance the taste of some dishes, acting as a flavor conductor to heighten the taste of all the ingredients.

Prep Ahead Plan:  I prep the meatballs and leave them in a bowl (raw) in the fridge until I am ready to use them.  If you are really pressed for time, buy a good quality bag of frozen prepared meatballs at your local market.  Defrost them and put them in the slow cooker about 30-40 minutes before you want to eat.  All of the sauce ingredients can be combined in the slow cooker the night before and kept in the fridge until you are ready to turn it on in the morning!

Slow Cooker Tomato-Wine Sauce
2 T olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 Cloves of garlic, minced
3/4 cups dry red wine
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes with their juice
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1 t salt
1/2 t ground black pepper
1 t dried basil or 1 T fresh, chopped
1 t dried oregano or 1 T fresh, minced
1/4 t ground allspice
2 bay leaves
3 T fresh parsley, minced

1.  Saute onion and garlic in oil until translucent.  Add wine and bring to a boil 1-2 minutes.* Add to slow cooker.
2.  Combine remaining ingredients in slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours.

*I have a slow cooker where the insert is safe for stovetop cooking.  You can skip this step if you don't want to dirty a frying pan and the sauce will still be good and the alcohol will cook off during the 8 hours of cooking time!

  • 1 pound lean ground beef (or 1 lb. of whatever combination of meats you prefer for meatballs..pork, veal, etc.)
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 egg, beaten

1.  In a large bowl, combine ground beef, bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, garlic and beaten egg. Mix well and form into 12-15 balls. Store, covered, in refrigerator until needed

2.  About 30 minutes to an hour before you are about to eat.  Add meatballs to sauce.  The will cook through in the hot sauce.*

Serve with pasta of your choice!!  Yummy!

I have an All Clad slow cooker that has an insert that can be used on the stove.  Here is a similar slow cooker with an insert safe for stove-top cooking!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Thoughtful Harvest Giveaway

I picked up a copy of The Harvest Eating Cookbook by Chef Keith Snow earlier in the summer and read it like a novel.   I was fascinated by his lifestyle of cooking and eating seasonal foods.  The book itself is inspiring.  Despite the fact that Keith is a professional chef, his recipes are not intimidating and are written in a way that will inspire simple home cooks like myself to prepare these delicious recipes and eat seasonally.

I was so excited when I learned about Chef Keith Snow's new venture, Thoughtful Harvest.  Thoughtful Harvest Tomato Sauces are created by Chef Snow to provide consumers with an alternative to highly processed store-bought foods. This Chef uses the best ingredients from US based, local family farms and artisan producers.  His pasta sauces are formulated by him and created in his very own kitchen!  Amazing!!  I couldn't love this more.  On nights when life is too crazy to Prep Ahead, you can pop open a jar of this premium tomato sauce and dinner is still homemade, fresh from Chef Keith Snow's very own kitchen!

Great news!!!  Thoughtful Harvest is offering to send one lucky Prep Ahead reader a jar of one of their premium pasta sauces!  Here is what you need to do to enter the giveaway:

1.  Go to the Prep Ahead and Dine In Facebook Page and "like" it!
2.  Leave a comment below this post indicating that you are entering the giveaway!

One lucky winner will be chosen at random. The contest ends Friday, August 27th 11:59 pm EST.  Good luck!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

prep ahead breakfast wraps

There are two weeks left of summer but I have already started thinking about crazy, back to school, weekday mornings.  My kids get up at the crack of dawn and we are still rushing around and flying out the door just in time to see the bus pull up at the top of our street. 

I want my kids to eat a healthy, homemade breakfast before they begin their busy day but during the school year this can be a challenge.  This is why I have already started to stock my freezer with some morning essentials.  Last week I made a batch of my freezable french toast sticks with homemade cinnamon bread and this weekend I made and froze a big batch of pancakes.  This morning, I spent 20 minutes making these quick and healthy breakfast wraps.  I wrapped them in saran wrap and stuck them in the freezer for the perfect make and take homemade breakfast.

6 eggs
2 T milk
salt and pepper to taste
1 T butter or canola oil
1 cup cheddar cheese
3/4 cup diced canadian bacon or turkey bacon or peppers or onions  (Whatever you like!)
4 whole wheat flour tortillas (8 inch)-We used Joseph's brand low carb flax wraps

1.  Whisk eggs, milk, salt and pepper in a large bowl.
2.  Heat butter or oil in a large skillet and add egg mixture; cook and stir over medium heat until completely set.
3. Stir in ham and cheese (or whatever additions you have chosen to use!).
4.  Spoon egg mixture in the center of each tortilla and role up.  I like to slice them in half, wrap them in saran wrap and freeze in a large ziploc bag.

To Use Frozen Wrap:  Remove plastic wrap and wrap in a paper towel.  Microwave on high 30-60 seconds or until heated through.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Melinda's Quiche

I'm not exactly sure who Melinda is but she makes a darn good quiche and I'm inclined to give credit where credit is deserved!  I was so excited when my best friend's mom and friend, Mary, sent me some recipes she thought I might want to try.  This recipe immediately caught my eye for two reasons. First, it calls for a half a pound of bacon and second,  all of the directions were written in one step.  Could it be any easier (and tastier)?

My mother-in-law was staying with us overnight and I thought it was the perfect opportunity to try this dish. Quiche is a great breakfast to serve to house guests.  It's something that can be prepped and made ahead of time and heated up by the slice in the morning.

Melinda's Quiche
1 pie crust (I used Pillsbury but if you are feeling ambitious, Ina Garten's perfect pie crust recipe is great!)
1/2 lb bacon slices, chopped (You can use the Boar's head pre-cooked or lay your bacon on a broiler pan and cook for 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven.  This is how I always cook bacon.  Set it and forget it.
1 medium onion, thinly sliced or minced
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup milk
3 large eggs beaten
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard (optional-I must have skipped over this ingredient when I was making the quiche last week!  It tasted fabulous without it but next time I will have to add it in!)
2 cups (packed) coarsely grated Gruyère cheese* or a mixture of parmesan and gruyere (An 8 ounce block of gruyere was about 2 cups shredded).

Cook bacon and crumble into pie shell.  Sprinkle cheese on top.  Mix remaining ingredients and pour into shell.  Bake at 375 for 45 minutes or until firm and brown.

*You can buy a block of gruyere cheese near the deli at your local supermarket.  If you bring it to the counter, they will shred it for you!

Prep ahead plan:  I cooked my bacon in the morning and left it in the fridge.  After the kids went to sleep I took 10 minutes to throw together the quiche and baked it!

Thanks for the great recipe, Mary!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

mexican lasagna..a freezer to oven meal

I love a meal that requires 30 minutes of effort and yields dinner for two nights.  By sauteing 2 pounds of beef or turkey rather than one, you can make an extra lasagna to stick in the freezer to serve for dinner on a busy night.  This recipe is so easy and so yummy.  If you're serving more than five people you may want to bake both pans.  It goes fast!!!

You can customize the lasagna however you like.  Here is the recipe I use but you could easily add olives, cilantro or jalapenos to the layers.  Top with scallions if you are feeling fancy.


  • 2 pounds ground beef or turkey
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 (4 ounce) can diced green chili peppers
  • 1 (10 ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chile peppers (I use Rotel brand)
  • 1 (16 ounce) jar taco sauce
  • 1 package taco seasoning
  • 1 (16 ounce) can refried beans
  • about 16 (8 inch) flour tortillas
  • 1 lb cheddar cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, saute the ground beef, onion and garlic until beef is brown. Drain any excess fat. Mix in the green chile peppers, tomatoes with green chile peppers, taco seasoning and taco sauce. Stir mixture thoroughly, reduce heat to low, and let simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Spray a 9 inch round/2 inch deep casserole dish with cooking spray (I use the disposable foil pans.  It makes clean up easy and they are perfect for freezing.). Spread a thin layer of meat mixture on the bottom of both pans. 
  4. Spread a layer of refried beans on a tortilla and place it face down on the meat mixture.  Add another plain flour tortilla on top of that one. Followed by more meat mixture, then a layer of cheese. Repeat tortilla with beans, plain tortilla, meat, cheese pattern until all the tortillas are used, topping off with a layer of meat mixture and cheese.
  5. Bake uncovered for 20 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until cheese is slightly brown and bubbly.

Prep Ahead Plan:  Take 30 minutes to assemble the lasagnas the night before.  Cover one and put it in the fridge for the next day and follow the baking instructions above.  Wrap the other pan very well and freeze it.  When ready to bake, remove from freezer and bake at 350 degrees for about 40-50 minutes until bubbly and heated through!

Friday, August 6, 2010

prep ahead stuffed peppers

In an effort to avoid our yearly surplus of green peppers, I decided to plant only one green pepper plant in our garden.  It is our least favorite of the pepper varieties as we prefer the colored ones in our salads and fajitas.  We have yet to pick a ripened colored pepper from one of the ten plants we have growing but have picked at least twelve from the one green pepper plant.  Figures.

We hadn't had stuffed peppers in a while and as I was making it, I remembered exactly why it is one of my favorites!  I love a meal that takes less than 30 minutes to prepare the night before and includes all of the essential ingredients that make for a well balanced dinner;  vegetables, a lean meat and a serving of whole grains.  And as an added bonus, the kids get a kick out of eating from a "pepper bowl!"


  • 6 green bell peppers
  • salt to taste
  • 1 pound lean ground turkey (or beef)
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup uncooked brown or white rice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 2 (10.75 ounce) cans condensed tomato soup* or 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
  • water as needed
  • *you may not need all of the soup


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cut the tops off the peppers, and remove the seeds. Cook peppers in boiling water for 5 minutes; drain. Sprinkle salt inside each pepper, and set aside.*
  2. In a large skillet, saute beef, garlic and onions until beef is browned. Drain off excess fat, and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the tomatoes, rice, 1/2 cup water and Worcestershire sauce. Cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until rice is tender. Remove from heat, and stir in the cheese.
  3. Stuff each pepper with the beef and rice mixture, and place peppers open side up in a 9 X 13 baking dish. In a medium bowl, combine tomato soup with just enough water to make the soup a gravy consistency. Pour over the peppers.
  4. Bake covered in a 350 degree oven for 25 to 35 minutes, until heated through and cheese is melted and bubbly.
*If you don't mind your peppers a little crunchy, just skip this step!

PREP AHEAD PLAN:  Take about 30 minutes to prepare steps 1-3 the night before.  Cover the baking dish and leave it in the fridge overnight!