Each year, we like to offer readers a week's worth of opportunity to start help them start eating right, and eating well. This time, there's a bonus: Each meal can be made in advance, then refrigerated or frozen.
The dishes are excerpted from "You Have It Made: Delicious, Healthy, Do-Ahead Meals," the new cookbook by The Washington Post's Nourish columnist, Ellie Krieger.
Try them all; the next time you want to give someone the gift of a homemade meal, you'll find that any one of these can fill the bill.
As Ellie recommends in her book, you'll need heavy-duty aluminum foil, plastic wrap, freezer-safe zip-top bags and a permanent marker (for the all-important labeling of your make-ahead meals).
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Go forth, healthfully.
Greek Mixed Greens Pie with Phyllo Crust
1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for the baking dish
6 thick/large scallions, white and light-green parts, trimmed and chopped ( 1/2 cup)
Three 10-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach, kale and/or collard greens, defrosted and squeezed dry (preferably a mix)
7 ounces (1 1/3 cups) crumbled feta cheese
8 ounces (1 cup) low-fat cottage cheese
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
18 sheets (about 8 ounces) phyllo dough, at a cool room temperature
Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the scallions and cook, stirring, until they have softened, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a large mixing bowl along with the greens, feta, cottage cheese, two-thirds of the eggs, the dill, parsley, salt and pepper; stir until well combined.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Brush one 9-by-13-inch casserole dish (or two 8-inch square casserole dishes) with oil. As needed, cut the stack of phyllo sheets to fit the large dish if making one pie or in quarters to fit the small dishes if making two pies. Cover the phyllo with a damp paper towel and keep it covered as much as possible as you work.
Fit 1 sheet of phyllo in the baking dish; brush the dough lightly with some of the remaining oil. Continue to brush and layer until you have 8 sheets in the pan. Top with the mixed-greens filling (or half of it if you are making two pies), spreading the mixture evenly. Then brush and layer the top with the remaining 10 layers of phyllo, brushing with oil as before. If making 2 pies, repeat the process.
Brush the top lightly with the remaining egg, then score the top of the pie with a sharp knife (being careful not to cut all the way down to the filling) into 8 sections for the large pie or 4 sections each for the smaller pies. The dish may be frozen at this point.
Bake for 30 to 45 minutes or until the top is flaky and golden brown.
Make ahead: The unbaked pie can be refrigerated for up to 1 day; add 10 minutes to the baking time. It can be chilled in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic wrap and aluminum foil and frozen for up to 3 months; reheat by placing it in the oven during the time it preheats to 375 degrees; once it reaches temperature, bake for 45 minutes. The baked pie can be cooled completely, then refrigerated for up to 4 days; reheat uncovered in the oven as it preheats to 350 degrees. Once it reaches temperature, bake for 20 to 30 minutes.
Cajun Shrimp in Foil Packets
2 tablespoons salt-free Cajun or Creole seasoning blend
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
21/4 pounds peeled and deveined large (26-30 count) shrimp
2 cooked andouille sausage links (6 ounces total), cut into thin rounds
1 pound (about 2 medium) zucchini, cut into thin rounds
2 large red bell peppers, seeded and cut into thin strips
3 cups frozen/defrosted corn kernels
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1 cup dry white wine, such as pinot grigio
1/3 cup olive oil
Combine the Cajun or Creole seasoning, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl, then add the shrimp and toss to coat.
Lay out 8 large (10-by-18-inch) pieces of heavy-duty aluminum foil on a flat surface.
Divide the andouille sausage, zucchini, bell peppers and corn among the foil pieces, placing the vegetables in the center of each. Top each with shrimp (6 or 7); sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon of the parsley and 1 tablespoon of the basil. Drizzle each with 2 tablespoons of the wine and about 2 teaspoons of the oil. Fold each piece of the foil to form a packet, sealing tightly and leaving a little room inside for air to circulate in the packet.
If baking right away, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Arrange the packets on one or two baking sheets; bake for about 13 minutes or until the shrimp is cooked through and the vegetables are crisp-tender.
To serve, open the packets slowly, being careful to avoid the hot steam. Transfer the shrimp, vegetables and sauce that has accumulated to individual bowls or rimmed plates.
Make ahead: The uncooked packets can be refrigerated for up to 1 day in advance or frozen in zip-top bags for up to 2 months; add 5 minutes to the baking time if refrigerated and about 25 minutes if frozen.
Jerk Pork Loin with Mango Cucumber Salsa
FOR THE PORK:
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup distilled white vinegar
3 tablespoons canola or other neutrally flavored oil
8 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 medium jalapeno pepper, stemmed but not seeded, then coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
One 2-pound boneless pork loin (not a tenderloin)
1 bay leaf
FOR THE SALSA:
1 cup finely diced fresh mango
1 cup finely diced seedless cucumber
3 tablespoons minced red onion
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, or more as needed
1/4 teaspoon salt, or more as needed
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
For the pork: Combine the onion, vinegar, oil, garlic, jalapeño, thyme, allspice, nutmeg, cloves and black pepper in a food processor; puree until smooth.
Place the meat in a large (1-gallon) zip-top bag. Add the marinade and bay leaf, toss to coat, and seal the bag, removing as much air as possible. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours (and up to 2 days).
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Drain the liquid from the zip-top bag, holding in any marinade solids but discarding the bay leaf. Transfer the pork to a rack seated in a roasting pan; rub the marinade solids all over the pork. Roast for about 45 minutes or until the internal temperature of the pork registers 145 degrees on an instant-read thermometer (medium-rare), or for about 1 hour to register 160 degrees (medium).
Meanwhile, make the salsa: Combine the mango, cucumber, red onion, lime juice, the1/4 teaspoon salt and the pepper in a medium bowl, stirring to incorporate. (At this point, the salsa can be refrigerated for up to 3 days in advance.)
Just before serving, stir in the cilantro; taste, and add lime juice and/or salt, as needed. The yield is 2 to 21/4 cups.
Allow the roasted pork loin to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes before slicing into1/4-inch-thick slices. Serve with the salsa.
Make ahead: The pork needs to be marinated in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours and up to 2 days, or in the freezer for up to 2 months. The cooked, sliced pork can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or wrapped well and frozen for up to 3 months; defrost in the refrigerator for 24 to 36 hours. The salsa can be refrigerated (without the cilantro) for up to 3 days in advance.
Turkey Sausage-Stuffed Pizza Pockets
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
1/3 cup homemade or simple store-bought marinara, plus 1 optional cup for serving
4 cups lightly packed, chopped fresh arugula or spinach
1 tablespoon cornmeal or flour, for the work surface
1 pound whole-wheat pizza dough (defrosted if frozen)
1 cup shredded low-fat mozzarella cheese
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the sausage to the pan and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, until it is browned and crumbled, about 4 minutes. Add the 1/3 cup of marinara sauce and cook, stirring, until the sauce's liquid has nearly all evaporated and what's left is just coating the sausage, 1 to 2 minutes.
Stir in the arugula or spinach; cook for about 1 minute or until just wilted. Remove from the heat to cool.
Meanwhile, sprinkle the cornmeal or flour onto a clean work surface. Use a rolling pin and/or your hands to stretch the dough into a large rectangle about 12 by 18 inches. (If the dough keeps springing back, let it rest for a few minutes before you begin to stretch it again.) Use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to portion the dough into 8 rectangles of equal size.
Stir the mozzarella into the cooled sausage-greens mixture. Divide the filling evenly among the rectangles, spooning it on one side of each one.
Brush the border of each rectangle with some of the beaten egg, then close the dough over the filling on each rectangle. Use a fork to crimp the edges and seal each pocket, transferring them to the baking sheet as you work. Brush the tops with the egg, then sprinkle with the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.
Warm the optional cup of marinara, if using, and pass at the table.
Make ahead: The baked, cooled pizza pockets can be wrapped in plastic wrap or foil and refrigerated for up to 4 days; reheat unwrapped on a foil-lined baking sheet in a 350-degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes. Wrapped, refrigerated baked pita pockets can be frozen in a zip-top bag for up to 3 months; reheat unwrapped, placing them directly into a 350-degree oven for 35 minutes or until heated through. Individual pita pockets can be microwaved unwrapped on high for 1 minute.
Asian Shrimp Cakes with Avocado-Wasabi Sauce
FOR THE SHRIMP CAKES:
1 pound peeled and deveined large (26-30 count) shrimp, finely chopped
1 cup whole-wheat panko bread crumbs, or more as needed
1/4 cup finely chopped, seeded red bell pepper
3 tablespoons finely chopped scallion greens
2 tablespoons roasted sesame seeds
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger root
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup canola or other neutrally flavored oil
FOR THE SAUCE:
Flesh from 1 ripe avocado
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, or more as needed
1/2 teaspoon prepared wasabi paste, or more as needed
1/4 teaspoon salt
For the shrimp cakes: Combine the shrimp, half of the panko, the bell pepper, scallions, roasted sesame seeds, egg, cilantro, toasted sesame oil, ginger, lime juice, salt and black pepper in a mixing bowl, stirring until just combined. If the mixture seems overly moist, stir in more panko a tablespoon at a time. Spread the remaining panko in a shallow bowl; you'll need about 1/2 cup for coating, so you may have to add a bit if you used more for the mixture.
Divide the shrimp mixture into 12 equal mounds, then shape each one into a patty about 2 1/2 inches wide and about 1/2-inch thick. Coat each patty well with the remaining panko. Place the cakes in the refrigerator for 20 to 30 minutes to firm up.
Meanwhile, make the sauce: Use a fork to mash together the avocado, lime juice, wasabi paste and salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Taste, and mix in more wasabi paste as needed. The yield is 3/4 cup. If not using right away, cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface and refrigerate until ready to serve (or up to 2 days in advance).
Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add as many shrimp cakes as will fit in the pan without crowding. Reduce the heat to medium-low; cook until the cakes are golden brown on both sides and cooked through, about 5 to 6 minutes per side.
Just before serving, taste the avocado-wasabi sauce; add lime juice and/or wasabi, as needed. Dollop 1 tablespoon of the sauce on each shrimp cake.
Make ahead: The uncooked shrimp cakes need 20 to 30 minutes to firm up in the refrigerator. They can be refrigerated for 30 minutes, then sealed in a zip-top bag and frozen for up to 3 months. The baked shrimp cakes can be cooled and refrigerated for up to 2 days; reheat uncovered in a 350-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Microwaving is not recommended. To reheat frozen shrimp cakes, place them directly into a 350-degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes. The sauce can be refrigerated, covered, up to 2 days in advance.