In The Kitchen - Make Ahead Meals

In the next few weeks Cassandra’s Kitchen will have a new addition…one of the women that works with us, Michelle, is having her third little babe! Those first few weeks at home can be a whirlwind – especially with a 4 and 2-year-old on summer vacation. We've gathering ideas for some Make Ahead Meals for Michelle and her family – with a stocked fridge and freezer, yummy food is one less thing they need to worry about.

As you may know, there is an entire Barefoot Contessa cookbook dedicated to preparing dishes ahead of time - aptly titled “Make It Ahead.” The cookbook focuses on preparing for a dinner party ahead of time, a little different than preparing for a new baby, but there are some great tips and ideas that work for both.

It’s always good to have something that can be frozen and cooked/warmed as needed. Spinach Lasagna Roll-ups are always a favorite of mine and are perfect because they can be frozen in smaller portions, instead of as a big pan. In the fall and winter, I make these all the time. They're stuffed with spinach, so it's a perfect (sneaky) way to get some healthy greens into the diet of your little ones. Although, they aren’t usually on my summer menu, but they are a total comfort food, and I know from experience that sometimes amidst all the ‘new baby’ chaos, you just need something yummy and filling. Lasagna Roll-ups are great with greens and the Balsamic Vinaigrette recipe on our Salad Dressing Bottle

Ina’s Gazpacho is also a great meal/snack to make ahead. It will keep in the fridge for about a week and honestly, the flavor gets better with every day. It’s fresh and light, and once it’s prepared, it requires no prep except spooning it into a bowl and maybe adding some avocado, crème fresh, or croutons on top. These plastic containers are perfect for transport and refrigerator storage.

And last but not least, I will definitely send over some Chocolate Chunk Cookies. An easy cure for anyone’s sweet tooth and a good bribe for any 4 or 2-year-old! I don’t usually add the walnuts, unless requested, because you never know with food allergies, but I have found that this 1.6 inch stainless scoop makes the perfect sized cookies. These can be rich, so I try not to make them too big. And do not skip Ina’s tip to dampen your hands and press the dough down before baking, it just helps them cook evenly and with the perfect thickness. My personal tip is to use pre-cut parchment paper - they make clean up so much easier and extend the life of your sheet pans.

Not too much longer until Michelle’s due date, we’ll be sure to keep you posted with baby news and in the meantime, we’d love to hear some of your favorite Make Ahead Meals.



Spinach Lasagna Roll-ups


12 uncooked lasagna noodles
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 ½ cups ricotta cheese
2 ½ cups (10oz) shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups chopped fresh spinach (or as much as you would like)
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 jar meatless spaghetti sauce (I use Rao’s)



Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions; drain. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the eggs, cheeses, spinach, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Spread 1/3 cup cheese mixture over each noodle; roll up carefully.

Pour 1 cup spaghetti sauce into an ungreased 13in x 9 in baking dish. Place roll-ups seam side down over sauce. Top with remaining sauce. Bake, uncovered, at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until heated through. Yield: 6 servings.

Adapted from Taste of Home



1 hothouse cucumber, halved and seeded, but not peeled
2 red bell peppers, cored and seeded
4 plum tomatoes
1 red onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
23 ounces tomato juice (3 cups)
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup good olive oil
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
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Roughly chop the cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, and red onions into 1-inch cubes. Put each vegetable separately into a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until it is coarsely chopped. Do not overprocess!

After each vegetable is processed, combine them in a large bowl and add the garlic, tomato juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Mix well and chill before serving. The longer gazpacho sits, the more the flavors develop.

Copyright 1999 The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, All Rights Reserved

Chocolate Chunk Cookies


1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts (optional)
1 1/4 pounds semisweet chocolate chunks


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the butter and two sugars until light and fluffy in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time, and mix well. Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt and add to the butter with the mixer on low speed, mixing only until combined. Fold in the walnuts and chocolate chunks.

Drop the dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, using a 1 3/4-inch-diameter ice cream scoop or a rounded tablespoon. Dampen your hands and flatten the dough slightly. Bake for exactly 15 minutes (the cookies will seem underdone). Remove from the oven and let cool slightly on the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

2001, Barefoot Contessa Parties! All Rights Reserved.


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1 comment

I am a diabetic and enjoy your web site as well as many others but am wondering why more recipes for
diabetics or modification ideas for recipes to accomodat
those of us who need to limit sugar. I use Splenda to
for my sugars, but using butter is a problem for
me. I am soon to be 83 so will appreciate your reply.
Food Network is great and I thank you so much. I
enjoy your sincere and loving smile when you speak
of your husband. The love you share is very heartwarming.
My husband passed 4 years ago and is missed every
day of my very lonely. Please respond via internet and
not on live broadcast. And will you suggest a very good
olive oil. As you refer to in many of your recipes

aarlene woodson

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