Make Ahead Meals

One of the telltale signs of school starting again is the way days suddenly don’t have enough hours anymore. And sadly, some families respond by existing entirely on fast food (a good idea for neither taste buds nor waistline) or on less-than-wonderful frozen dinners from the supermarket.

We are not about prohibition around here: we think you and your family can enjoy either of these shortcuts once in a while. We won’t even cringe if you call the shortcut a “treat.”

But we devote a good time of our time developing new products to finding ways they can help time-pressed back-to-school families make dinner using fresh ingredients and at least as much style and satisfaction as they feel like pursuing. Dinner together is important to us. And we are convinced that dinner together is important to your family as well.

One of the solutions that works best in most homes is making meals ahead of time – which often equates to making several meals at once (completely or at least partially, depending on the dish) when you have time, and then enjoying them when you’re too busy to cook a day or two later. You often need an ally for this adventure, and the pasta sauces and other products gathered under the Mom’s brand should prove to be that excellent ally.

For one thing, a pasta sauce or other meal starter is already a make-ahead meal. Your own grandmother may or may not have passed down a comparable recipe. But just know that our commitment at Mom’s is to prepare sauces and starters directly from such recipes. By the nature of cooking, we are actually handling the most time-consuming of tasks, creating the lush, soul-warming traditional flavors that need only pasta or perhaps a protein or a handful of fresh vegetables to become a custom masterpiece.

If you simply plan school-night menus around Mom’s products, from several quite different pasta sauces to soup to starters for everything from chili to meatloaf to chicken pot pie, you are already way ahead of the game.

For some households, this head start is enough. For others, those families with even tighter schedules or with kids old enough to crave even more creative flavors, Mom’s can be the jumping-off point for numberless culinary adventures. The result is something we like to call not leftovers – since technically those involve eating the same thing another time – but “second generation dinners.” For home cooks willing and able to set their imaginations free, the sky is the limit.

When people asked us initially how to do this, we shook our heads and shrugged our shoulders – the freedom to taste simply came naturally around here. But one trick we have learned: never get totally caught up in a use something is marketed for or what cuisine it’s associated with. For the first, know that “pasta sauce” is terrific on pasta but actually an amazing addition to endless sauces and gravies. For the second, our best example is ethnic association, like Italian This or Mexican That or Chinese Something Else.

Such descriptions can be useful markers on our culinary journey. But they don’t and never should keep us ignorant that, for instance, many tomato-based curries in India are built around tomato (of course), onion, garlic, salt, hot pepper, lime juice and cilantro. Anyone who refuses to see “Mexican salsa” hidden away here is just being difficult.

Cooking without borders is certainly one way to prepare more than one meal at a time but not succumb to the sameness of traditional leftovers. Tex-Mex chili or meatloaf, for instance, can be turned into Indian curry with the addition of curry paste (no, not curry powder), a splash of milk for smoothness and a couple handfuls of green peas. Serve it over basmati rice. Just be ready to tell somebody you are having exotic Indian “keema” for dinner tonight.

All-American chicken pot pie filling can be used to cook rice and some sausage and seafood, with hopefully a flourish of saffron, and become a satisfying Spanish paella. And as anyone who’s ever worked in a restaurant for ten minutes will assure you, there’s pretty much nothing on earth that isn’t better in a taco.

We love eating this way, and we love cooking this way. Invite every member of your family to get creative, to recognize the flavor links that “connect the dots” from cuisine to cuisine, unrecognized links to largely undiscovered flavors. Along the way, by making such meals in advance, you are feeding your family with deliciousness it would be hard to achieve one night at a time. You are also starting an important conversation. If all people’s cuisines can find so much common ground, then perhaps all the people who cook and eat those dishes might be able to as well.

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