Post by food blogger Regan Jones, R.D., The Professional Palate

Everybody knows Santa sneaks down the chimney on Christmas Eve and bestows upon dreamy residents a sackful of presents. It’s a good system...go to bed empty, wake up full.

So when are Leprechauns gonna wise up and get with the program? Just think of the increased interest in St. Patrick’s Day if there were a pot of gold waiting to greet you on March 17th. The green guys would definitely give the man in red a run for his money.

While it’s a good thought, it's probably not gonna happen.


But as the old saying goes, time is money. And who couldn’t use a little more of both? Luckily, I’ve discovered that by prepping meals in advance, I’ve actually got a little more time on my hands when the dinner rush sets in. So I guess you could say my freezer is filling up with its own "pots of gold."

Fellow food blogger, Robin Plotkin, and I have been talking a lot lately about the idea of cooking ahead. In contrast to make ahead meals, we’re focusing on “get-ahead ingredients”... foods prepped in advance and stashed away for dinner in a snap.

Take for instance my Chicken-and-Asparagus Pesto Pizza (pictured above). I roast chicken, asparagus, and red bell peppers in advance and stash in the freezer. (They can all be roasted in the oven on baking sheets at the same time, taking out quickest cooking items in stages). When it’s time for dinner, I simply press out the dough, add toppings, and sprinkle on the cheese. Dinner is done.

The key is to cook enough in advance that ingredients serve more than one meal. Inspired by this Roasted Corn and Chicken Quesadilla recipe, I layer pre-roasted chicken and red bell peppers along with frozen corn and shredded cheese in tortillas for an easy chicken quesadilla.

I do recommend a few tips, though, to make the most of your freezer stash:

  • Invest in high-quality zip-top bags. Nothing’s worse than pulling food from the freezer with an off-taste.
  • Make use of wax paper and cooking spray to stack and separate ingredients that would otherwise stick together (roasted bell peppers and pancakes, for instance).
  • Don’t be afraid to freeze. I’ve even started freezing baked potatoes. The texture inside does change slightly, but when using in a Twice-Baked Potato or topping with your favorite veggies and cheese, it isn’t noticeable. The potatoes pictured here were made with the same pre-roasted asparagus as the pizza.

Although all of this may not equal a cauldron full of coins, a quick, delicious dinner on the table is, at least at my house, truly worth it’s weight in gold.