Cookbook Corner: Make Ahead Meals | Food Bloggers of Canada

When I received the Make Ahead Meals cookbook by celebrity chef Michael Smith, I knew this was a cookbook I wanted to review just by looking at the beautiful food photos on the front and back covers.

Now that school has started and the lackadaisical days of summer are over, the over 100 recipes in the Make Ahead Meals cookbook will save you time in the kitchen while preparing great-tasting meals. The beginning chapters offer tips on how to spend time to save time, stock your pantry shelves, fill the fridge, freeze ahead and organize your kitchen.

The next seven chapters include recipes for: Granola Bars; Tortilla Quiches; Really Good Focaccia with Dried-Tomato Butter; French Lentil Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette; Fall Flavours Salad; Smoked Salmon Salad with Anchovy Dressing; Beefy Barley Kale Stew; Crockpot Chicken, Barley and Leeks; Really Big Lasagna; Gujarati Red Dal and Basmati; Punjabi Butter Chicken; El Paso Shepherd’s Pie; Pork Tenderloin with Bacon Gravy; Goat Cheese Polenta with Thyme-Stewed Tomatoes; Brown Rice and Lentils; Chipotle Chicken Enchiladas; Slow Cooker French Onion Soup with Rye and Gruyère; Double Ginger Chocolate Cookies; and Orange Vanilla Pound Cake.

All the recipes are well written, easy to follow, accompanied by beautiful photos, and list instructions on what to prep today for tomorrow, as well storage tips to refrigerate and freeze.

Cookbook Corner: Make Ahead Meals | Food Bloggers of Canada

I really liked the way the index was set up. Apart from having the alphabetical listing of the recipes, each chapter also displays photos with the page numbers of the recipes.

Recipe Testing

Cookbook Corner: Make Ahead Meals | Food Bloggers of Canada

I really had fun testing some of the recipes in this cookbook, starting with the Double Ginger Chocolate Chip Cookies on page 227. I prepared the dough the day before I baked it.

This recipe calls for a double dose of ginger, both grated and candied. I liked the contrast of the chocolate and ginger flavours, but my taste team (husband, daughters and son-in-law) gave it mixed reviews. Some did not like the taste of ginger in the chocolate chip cookies while the others were on the fence.

The next recipe I tested was the Tex-Mex Chipotle Chicken Filling on page 193. Once you prepare the ingredients, it’s easy to put together. The chicken filling turned out full of flavour. Make sure you remove all the cartilage from the chicken thighs.

I used the Tex-Mex Chipotle Chicken Filling to make the Chipotle Chicken Enchiladas on page 196. The enchiladas took minutes to assemble and once heated through took minutes to devour. This recipe got the ‘thumbs-up’ from the taste team, although two found bone cartilage in their enchiladas.

Cookbook Corner: Make Ahead Meals | Food Bloggers of Canada

The last recipe I tested for this review was the Beefy Barley Kale Stew on page 71. I prepped the vegetables in advance and cooked the stew the day after. The trick to making this stew is to take the time to brown the beef cubes all over. I thought there was a lot of liquid added to the stew but it’s absorbed through cooking the barley. I didn’t serve it with horseradish as suggested in the recipe as none of my taste team likes it. This was another ‘thumbs-up’ recipe even though I thought my youngest daughter would not like the barley.

I would certainly recommend the Make Ahead Meals cookbook for any cook who wants to expand their cooking repertoire. It’s a cookbook that encourages you to step out of your comfort zone and try new recipes. I have bookmarked many more recipes to make. Out of the four recipes I made, three were given the ‘thumbs-up’ by my family and that’s good enough for me.

Thanks to Penguin of Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited, below is the recipe for Beefy Barley Kale Stew.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Beefy Barley Kale Stew
The rich flavors of browned beef only get better when they’re stewed with tender barley and finished with hearty kale. This stew is comfort food at its best—rich and satisfying, hearty and healthy, and filled with fresh green flavor. Add just about any other green vegetable you can think of: broccoli, asparagus,peas, edamame, savory greens, Brussels sprouts. Makes 8 bowls, easily doubled in a larger pot. Today for Tomorrow: Prep the vegetables a few days in advance. Store tightly sealed in a zip-top bag. • Fully cook the stew now (see Storage Tip) and reheat anytime during the next several days.
Serves: 8 bowls, easily doubled in a larger pot
  • 2 pounds (900 g) of stewing beef, cut into roughly 1-inch (2.5 cm) cubes
  • A few generous splashes of vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • A 5 ½-ounce (156 mL) can of tomato paste
  • 8 cups (2 L) of water
  • 2 cups (500 mL) of red wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) of salt
  • Lots of freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup (250 mL) of barley
  • Leaves from 4 or 5 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 bunch of kale, tough center ribs removed, leaves torn or cut into small bite-size pieces
  • Prepared horseradish
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  1. Heat your largest thick-bottomed pot over medium-high heat while you gently dry the beef on a few paper towels. Splash a pool of oil into the pot, swirling to cover the bottom with a thin film. Without crowding the pan, carefully add a single sizzling layer of beef. This is your only shot at adding the rich, deep flavors that can only come from respectfully browned meat. Listen to the heat. Sizzle is the sound of flavour. Too loud, though, and a sizzling pan becomes a smoking-burning pan. When the beef is deeply browned all over, transfer it to a plate. Repeat with the rest of the beef, 10 to 15 minutes in total. Pour off any excess oil, leaving behind any browned bits of goodness.
  2. Add the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, tomato paste, water, wine, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Return the beef and any juices to the pot. Stirring occasionally, briefly bring the works to a furious boil, then reduce the heat to a slow, steady simmer. Cover tightly and gently simmer for an hour or so, stirring now and then, patiently tenderizing the meat, releasing its richness and building deep beefy flavor.
  3. Stir in the barley and cook for another hour or until the beef is meltingly tender and the barley deliciously chewy. When it’s time to eat, discard the bay leaf and return to a simmer. Stir in the thyme and kale, cover, turn off the heat and rest just long enough to wilt the greens, a minute or two. Serve with lots of sharp horseradish.
Storage Tip
Refrigerate: Tightly seal the stew and refrigerate within 30 minutes of cooking.
Store for up to 6 days before reheating.
Freeze: Portion, tightly seal and freeze for up to 30 days. Reheat straight from
the freezer or thaw in the refrigerator for 1 or 2 days before reheating. Tightly
seal leftovers and store in the refrigerator for just a few days.

Michael Smith is a celebrity chef and author of eight other cookbooks. Visit his website at or you can reach him on Twitter and Instagram.

Make Ahead Meals by Michael Smith can be purchased from online booksellers (Amazon, Indigo, Barnes and Noble, etc.) or from your local bookstore.

Make Ahead Meals by Michael Smith
Publisher: Penguin Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited
Softcover: 256 pages
ISBN: 978-014319216-9

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Recipe from Make Ahead Meals Copyright © Michael Smith 2015. Reprinted by permission of Penguin Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Photography credit for Make Ahead Meals book cover and Beefy Barley Kale Stew: Ryan Szulc.


Make Ahead Meals by Michael Smith was sent to me for review by Penguin Canada for the Food Bloggers of Canada website. The opinions in this review are my own.
This post contains affiliate links - if you purchase an item via our affiliate link, FBC receives a small 
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The Make Ahead Meals review was written by Liliana Tommasini, author of the aptly named blog My Cookbook Addiction. Her passion for baking and cooking began at an early age. Liliana grew up in an Italian household where each meal was made from scratch with fresh ingredients and Sunday family lunches were always a celebration. She has a passion for collecting cookbooks and is improving her photography skills. Now, Sunday lunches are celebrated in her family. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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