5 Dinner Recipes You Can Prep in the Morning

When you get home from work in the evening, the last thing you want to do is cook dinner. That’s where takeout comes in. But most of the time, the delivery boy not only brings you your favorite dinner, he also delivers you unwanted fat and calories — all for a dollar amount you usually wouldn’t spend on a homemade dinner. If you know you won’t feel like cooking past 5 p.m. but still want to put a healthy dinner on the table, prepare ahead of time and check out these 5 dinners you can make in the morning. Some enlist the crockpot, while others don’t require cooking at all. All of the dishes are delicious, and we guarantee you’ll want to add them to your dinner rotation.

1. Slow-Simmered Meat Sauce with Pasta

pasta and meat sauce

Pasta with meat sauce | Source: iStock

The obvious way to prepare your dinner in the morning is via the slow cooker, the lazy chef’s best friend. If you think ahead and throw your sauce ingredients in the crockpot before work, you’ll come home to a house that smells mouth-watering and you can dig right into dinner. This recipe for slow-simmered meat sauce with pasta from Cooking Light serves 8, and the sauce will cook in the slow cooker for 8 hours on low. Once you get home from work, all you need to do is boil water and cook the spaghetti.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped carrot
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 (4-ounce) links hot Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 pound ground sirloin
  • ½ cup kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
  • ¼ cup no-salt-added tomato paste
  • 1½ teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 (28-ounce) can no-salt-added crushed tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 cup no-salt-added tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 16 ounces uncooked mafaldine pasta
  • ½ cup torn fresh basil
  • 3 ounces shaved fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions: Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and carrot to pan; sauté 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute, stirring constantly. Place vegetable mixture in a 6-quart slow cooker. Add sausage and beef to skillet; sauté 6 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Remove beef mixture from skillet using a slotted spoon. Place beef mixture on a double layer of paper towels; drain. Add beef mixture to slow cooker. Stir olives and next 6 ingredients into slow cooker. Cover and cook on low 8 hours. Stir in oregano.

Prepare pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Serve sauce with hot cooked pasta; top with basil and cheese.

2. Sausage and Swiss Chard Strata

strat with cheese and spinach in a white ceramic baking dish

Cheesy strata casserole | Source: iStock

Next up is a savory bread pudding recipe from Martha Stewart that can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The sausage and Swiss chard strata can be made ahead and it requires only 15 minutes of prep time. You’ll make it in a baking dish with the sausage layer on the bottom, the chard mixture in the middle, and the bread on top. This sophisticated breakfast for dinner is so good that you’d probably even make it even if you had to do all the grunt work after your 9 to 5 — which you don’t.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound bulk sweet or spicy Italian sausage
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard (1 pound), stems diced medium, leaves torn into 2-inch pieces and rinsed
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 day-old baguette, cut into ½-inch slices
  • 2½ cups whole milk
  • 7 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese (3 ounces)

Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat a large skillet over medium-high. Add sausage and cook, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon, until browned, 5 minutes. Transfer sausage to a small bowl, leaving behind as much fat as possible. Add shallots and chard stems to skillet and cook over medium until shallots are translucent, 3 minutes. Add a little water to pan and cook, stirring and scraping up browned bits from skillet with spoon. Add chard leaves and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted, 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Spread half the sausage in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and top with half the chard mixture. Top with bread, overlapping slices slightly. Top with remaining sausage and chard mixture. In a large bowl, whisk together milk and eggs, season with salt and pepper, and pour evenly over top. Firmly press on strata to submerge bread in egg mixture. Cover dish tightly with foil and let sit 10 minutes, or refrigerate up to overnight.

Bake strata 45 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with cheese, and bake until cheese melts and egg mixture is mostly absorbed and set in center, 6 to 10 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

3. White Chicken Chili

White Chicken Chili in white plate

White chicken chili | Source: iStock

Everyone knows white chicken chili, but did you know you can make it ahead and have it ready for you as soon as your day comes to a close? Follow this recipe from The Kitchn and make your dinner dreams come true. This chili feeds a family, yielding 6 to 8 servings, and it’s made with ingredients that are likely already in your pantry. You’ll cook the chili on low for 8 hours and then put the finishing touches on the dish in the last 30 minutes.

Ingredients:

  • 1½ to 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thighs, or a mix
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 (4-ounce) cans diced green chili peppers, preferably “fire-roasted”
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1½ to 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon coriander
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 (13.5-ounce) can cannellini or navy beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • To serve: shredded monterey jack cheese, lime wedges, chopped cilantro, sour cream, hot sauce

Directions: Combine the chicken, onions, celery, green chili peppers, garlic, cumin, 1 ½ teaspoons of salt, coriander, oregano, and bay leaf in a 6-quart, or larger, slow cooker. Stir to make sure the spices coat everything, and nestle the chicken into the vegetables. Pour the chicken stock over top, covering the chicken and vegetables by an inch or so.

Place the lid on the slow cooker. Cook for 4 hours on high or 6 hours on low.

About 30 minutes before the end of cooking, remove the lid of the slow cooker and add the beans and corn. Taste and add another ½ teaspoon of salt or other seasonings as desired. Add the lid back on and cook for the remaining time.

Lift the chicken from the slow cooker and shred it into large, bite-sized pieces with two forks. Stir the chicken back into the soup and remove the bay leaf.

Serve with shredded cheese, wedges of lime, chopped cilantro, and sour cream.

4. Bean and Butternut Tacos with Salsa

tacos with salsa

Tacos and salsa | Source: iStock

Next up: tacos. You really won’t be able to resist this dinner with the promise that it can all be prepared ahead of time. If you’re a morning person, make the salsa and bean filling for these vegetarian tacos before you go to work and then simply reheat the filling before dinner. The fiber and protein in these bean and butternut tacos make them a dinner you can feel good about eating, and you then won’t feel guilty going to town on the guacamole. Flavor your tacos with homemade salsa and you’ll have tacos on your dinner table before you even take your tie off.

Ingredients:

Salsa:

  • 8 ounces tomatillos
  • 2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 1 jalapeño pepper
  • ¼ cup sliced white onion
  • ½ ripe avocado, diced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

Tacos:

  • 4 cups diced peeled butternut squash
  • 3 to 4 small dried red chiles
  • 2 cloves garlic, unpeeled, smashed and left whole
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¾ teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican, divided
  • ½ teaspoon salt, divided
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin seeds, plus ½ teaspoon ground toasted cumin seeds
  • divided
  • 2 cups cooked pinto beans, drained
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 8 (6-inch) corn tortillas
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • ½ cup finely shredded and chopped red or green cabbage
  • 8 teaspoons crumbled queso fresco, or feta cheese

Directions: To prepare salsa: Bring a pot of water to a boil. Remove husks from tomatillos and rinse well. Cook the tomatillos in the boiling water until soft, 5 to 8 minutes. Drain and set aside. Toast garlic cloves, jalapeño, and onion in a dry medium skillet over medium heat, turning occasionally, until browned, fragrant and soft, 5 to 7 minutes.

When cool enough to handle, peel the garlic. Remove the jalapeño stem and remove seeds if desired. Combine the tomatillos, garlic, jalapeño, onion, and avocado in a blender or food processor. Process until smooth. Stir in cilantro, salt and pepper. Set aside for topping the tacos.

To prepare tacos: Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Put squash in a medium bowl and, using kitchen shears, finely snip chiles to taste into small pieces into the bowl. Add garlic, oil, ½ teaspoon oregano, ¼ teaspoon salt, and whole cumin seeds; toss to coat. Arrange on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake until soft and beginning to brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Peel and finely chop the garlic when cool enough to handle; stir into the squash.

Meanwhile, combine beans in a small saucepan with the remaining ¼ teaspoon oregano and ¼ teaspoon salt, ground cumin, chili powder, and pepper. Heat over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes.

Warm tortillas one at a time in a dry large cast-iron skillet over medium heat until soft and pliable. Wrap in a clean towel to keep warm as you go. Spoon ¼ cup of the warm beans into each tortilla; divide the roasted squash evenly among the tacos and top each with cilantro, cabbage, ½ cup of the salsa, and cheese.

5. Meatloaf with Creamy Onion Gravy

traditional meatloaf with ketchup glaze

Traditional meatloaf | Source: iStock

Meatloaf is another dinner you can make in the morning. In fact, the loaves can be made, covered, and refrigerated for up to 4 days. Therefore, you can do all the prep work in the morning, or even the weekend before. Meatloaf is a nostalgic dinner dish, but when you add creamy onion gravy as this recipe from Food & Wine suggests, you take it from traditional comfort food to a fancy feast. It also serves 12, meaning it can feed a crowd, or be easily stored as leftovers. Before you write off the dinner that your grandma used to make for you as a kid, give this make-ahead recipe a shot and think again.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 large carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 celery rib, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1½ cups panko bread crumbs
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 pounds ground beef chuck
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • ½ pound Monterey Jack cheese, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • Gravy

Directions: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. In a medium skillet, heat the oil. Add the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes. Scrape the mixture into a very large bowl and let cool. Add the panko, eggs, mustard, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, 1 ½ tablespoons of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper and stir to form a paste. Using your hands, work in the ground meats and cheese until combined.

Line a large roasting pan with parchment paper. Firmly pat the meat mixture into 2 loaves, about 10 inches long. Arrange the loaves 3 inches apart on the parchment and roast in the lower third of the oven for about 1 hour, until lightly browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the loaves registers 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Let the meat loaves rest for 15 minutes, then cut into thick slices and serve with gravy.

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