Southwest-Inspired Make-Ahead Meal

For my “make-ahead” posts, I pull together recipes from this site and around the web to create complete meals you can make in advance. Make these three dishes ahead of time and you’ll have a delicious weeknight vegetarian meal ready in minutes! 

The Theme

I love the cuisine of the American southwest and one of my favourite ingredients is chipotle peppers. These smoked and dried jalapenos are the “theme” for this vegetarian meal, adding depth and spice to the three components. 

You can make these recipes 1-3 days in advance. Prepare them on a weekend for a Monday or Tuesday dinner. In fact, these dishes taste better if they sit a little longer. They also use up ingredients you might have left over from other dishes, including: cilantro, lime, canned tomatoes, and flour tortillas.

The Vegetable–Smoky Squash Bisque

A spicy and tasty squash soup from the LCBO’s Food and Drink magazine. You can adjust the amount of chipotle to control the heat. Note that I don’t typically have celery on hand and always make this soup without it, but it tastes just fine. It may need a little extra salt to compensate; just taste test to be sure. I also substitute lime for the lemon and make half the soup for our little family of three. 

Notes & Tweaks

  • You need a blender. 
  • Although the recipe says you can use a dried chipotle, I think the chipotle in adobo works better. 
  • Peeling and chopping the squash takes time, which is why I suggest this as a weekend project. To save time, you can buy pre-cut squash. I don’t recommend frozen squash since it becomes a bit too watery and dilutes the flavour.

Find the recipe here: Smoky Squash Bisque

The Main–Bean and Cheese Quesadillas

Whip up a batch of refried beans and use them in a quesadilla. Follow the link to the refried beans recipe below, then scroll down for quesadilla instructions. 

Notes & Tweaks

  • The refried beans recipe makes a fair amount. You may have leftovers, but you can use them for lunch the next day as a dip for nachos or in a hard taco shell.

Find the recipe here: Easy Refried Beans

The Side–Fresh Salsa

Fresh salsa adds so much flavour to a southwest-inspired meal. The one I linked to below is from Cooking Classy and it comes together quickly. Lime and cilantro are essential for the fullest flavour.  

Notes & Tweaks

  • You need a food processor. 
  • This salsa can get a little thin, so I drain the canned tomatoes and remove the seeds from the fresh tomatoes. 
  • As the author suggests in her notes, I use fire-roasted canned tomatoes and I substitute a chipotle in adobo for the jalapeno. 

Find the recipe here: Easy Homemade Salsa

Serving Suggestions

  • If possible, take the soup, salsa, and beans out of the fridge about 30-60 minutes before serving to bring them to room temperature.
  • Reheat the soup on medium-low heat, stirring regularly to ensure it does not scald. Keep it covered so it doesn’t thicken too much and check the heat often to ensure is it at a low simmer and not boiling. Once it is hot, turn off the burner and leave it covered to retain heat while you make the quesadillas. When serving the soup, remember the drizzle of whipping cream and garnish of cilantro. They really add a lot to it.
  • Prepare the quesadillas, cut into wedges, and place on plates. Put some salsa in a bowl with a spoon so people can take the amount they like.

Smoky squash bisque, part of a make-ahead meal.
Bean quesadillas with fresh salsa, part of a make-ahead meal.

Image of clock: 48416777 © Igor Netkov |

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