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Save Time With Michael Smith’s Make Ahead Meals ~ A Review and A Beefy Barley Kale Stew Recipe

| October 1, 2015 | 6 Comments

IMG_8515It’s been almost a year since I reviewed Michael Smith’s cookbook, Family Meals and I can honestly say that I refer to that cookbook regularly. I can also say that I was very excited to hear Michael Smith was publishing another cookbook, this time called Make Ahead Meals: Over 100 Easy Time-Saving Recipes.

This cookbook has exactly that – plenty of nutritious and delicious meals that you can make ahead of time, freeze and prepare easily. And as we fall back into our busy school and work routines, September is the perfect time to start planning meals ahead of time so that you can still eat healthily despite time constraints.

We all know it can be a challenge to prepare a healthy home cooked meal every day of the week, but with some tips and advice from Michael Smith it’s not as hard as you might think.

I decided to see just how easy making a good meal ahead of time can be by making the El Paso Shepherd’s Pie recipe. My family loves Shepherd’s Pie and Michael Smith’s variation on the traditional recipe makes it healthier and (I think) tastier.

The recipe was a huge success – and I don’t just mean in flavor. With an hour preparation time, the recipe made two 2L pans of Shepherd’s Pie (good for 4-6 servings each) – one that can stay in the refrigerator up to a week and one that I immediately put in the freezer where it can stay for up to a month. Two meals in the time it took to make one AND the portions are so hearty that we had leftovers from one of the pies for another meal!

Make Ahead Meals Cookbook

As you may know I am a big fan of Michael Smith’s recipes and cooking. His meals are always simple to make and made with local ingredients that you can pretty much find at any grocery store. Make Ahead Meals has over 100 recipes including soups, stews, slow cooker favourites, casseroles and even some delicious baked goods including a moist, delicious take on a Canadian favourite – carrot cake.

And if you’re like me and don’t always know how long something can sit safely in the fridge, every recipe features ideas and tips on how to cook ahead (i.e. what you can do the day before and what’s left to do the day of) to save time as well as specific storage instructions for both the refrigerator and freezer.
The front section of the book even shares tips on how to get yourself, your pantry and your kitchen organized so that you can make planning your meals ahead a time an effortless and systematized regular activity. The idea behind this cookbook is to help families stay away from nutritionally empty processed foods and make home cooking easy, fun and delicious – this includes breakfast, lunch, dinner and even dessert!

With fall in mind I thought I would share one of the recipes from Make Ahead Meals that I think sums up the recipes in this cookbook well – traditional, but more nutritious. I can smell the rich ingredients in Michael Smith’s Beef Barley Kale Stew just by reading the ingredients and can hardly wait to try it along with the Bacon Chipotle Chili and Louisiana Chicken Stew…. Yum…

Beefy Barley Kale Stew

Yield: Makes 8 bowls, easily doubled in a larger pot

Beefy Barley Kale Stew

Photo from Make Ahead Meals Copyright © Michael Smith 2015. Reprinted by permission of Penguin Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Photography credit: Ryan Szulc.

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.


  • 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


  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 flavor. 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
  3. then, patiently tenderizing the meat, releasing its richness and building deep beefy flavor.
  4. 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.


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.

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.

I would love to see and hear your thoughts on Michael Smith’s new cookbook Make Ahead Meals. Share your thoughts in the comments below or on social media using hashtag #MakeAheadMeals. Bon Appetit!


Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of Michael Smith’s Make Ahead Meals from Penguin Canada to review, but the opinions stated in this post are all my own.



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Category: Books/Magazines, Breakfasts, Food, Friday Food Frenzy, Main Dish, Recipes, Reviews, Thursday Reviews, Weekly Themes

About the Author ()

In addition to being a freelance writer and blogger, Tracy is a virtual assistant specializing in marketing and communication at She is also a devoted mother to an imaginative daughter and wife to her best friend of more than fifteen years. In her spare time she enjoys baking, kayaking, snowshoeing, walking her energetic Australian Shepherd, and cuddling with her perpetually grumpy cat. Depending on the time of day, Tracy's downtime is spent with a good book and hot cup of fair trade coffee or a glass of Canadian red wine. Author's website.

Comments (6)

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  1. mrdisco says:

    that beef stew looks awesome

  2. Elizabeth Matthiesen says:

    This sounds like a super recipe book, I especially like the fact that there are specific storage instructions for both the refrigerator and freezer.

  3. kathy downey says:

    Beefy Barley Kale Stew looks like a nice hearty soup

  4. Amy Lovell says:

    That soup sounds delightful! Would be great for a dinner on a chilly evening thanks!

  5. kathy downey says:

    Thanks there are a lots of great tips in the post

  6. That looks so very delicious!

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