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65 Make-Ahead Lunches for a No-Stress Mother’s Day

This Mother's Day, make Mom a lunch fit for a queen. From bright salads and mains to luscious desserts, these prep- or make-ahead dishes are two gifts in one: a delicious meal and time spent with you!

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Make-Ahead Hearty Six-Layer Salad

This salad is an all-time favorite. I reach for the recipe whenever I need a dish to pass. It’s easy to make, can be assembled ahead of time and looks great. —Noreen Meyer, Madison, Wisconsin

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Barbecued Chicken Salad Sandwiches

An impromptu picnic inspired this BBQ chicken salad sandwich. An instant summertime favorite, these dressed-up sandwiches have become a mainstay at our house. —Linda Orme, Battleground, Washington
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Sunny Citrus Cheesecake

This beautiful layered cheesecake takes a bit longer to make, but the end result is so worth it! Citrus seems to be the perfect ending for an Easter meal, and the bright flavors really shine in this dessert. —Sue Gronholz, Beaver Dam, Wisconsin
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Carnitas Huevos Rancheros

When I was in college, I was a church counselor in Colorado and had my first taste of Mexican food. Recently, I've learned to make more authentic dishes, like these pork huevos rancheros. It's one of my favorite recipes to serve for dinner with eggs. —Lonnie Hartstack, Clarinda, Iowa
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Strawberry Overnight Oats

These strawberry overnight oats will be ready and waiting for you in the morning. This PB&J-inspired breakfast is both gluten-free and dairy-free. Use more or less sugar depending on the sweetness of the strawberries. —Jolene Martinelli, Fremont, New Hampshire
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Slow-Cooker Chicken Taco Salad

We use this super-duper chicken across several meals, including it in tacos, sandwiches, omelets and enchiladas. My little guys love helping to measure the seasonings. —Karie Houghton, Lynnwood, Washington
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Italian Pasta Salad

This zesty Italian pasta salad recipe combines vegetables and pasta in a creamy dressing. Refreshing and filling, this change-of-pace salad is perfect as a side dish. It's always popular at a potluck. —Tina Dierking, Skowhegan, Maine
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Tomato Beef Barley Soup

When my children were young, I needed a soup that everyone would eat—something filling but also something delicious. My sons really liked barley soup from a can, so I decided to try making it myself. My boys are now young adults, and this is one of the first things they ask me to make when they come to visit. —Karla Johnson, Winter Haven, Florida
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Pineapple RumChata Shortcakes

This deliciously different dessert is made in the slow cooker instead of in the oven. When done, add final touches to the cooled pineapple shortcake jars and serve. —Joan Hallford, North Richland Hills, Texas
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Slow-Cooker Turkey Breast

Try this wonderfully flavored, easy-to-fix slow-cooker turkey breast when you're craving something delicious. It makes a great holiday dish for smaller families, too. —Maria Juco, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
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Sausage-Rice Phyllo Casserole

I created this recipe to use ingredients I had stocked in my kitchen. You can mix up the herbs and spices to fit any taste. Add rosemary or cayenne to give it a little more kick. —Jenn Tidwell, Fair Oaks, California
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Make-Ahead Creamy Fruit Salad

We love fruit salads for our holiday dinners. I experimented and came up with this delicious medley—it reminds us of the tropics in the middle of winter! I sometimes add sliced bananas just before serving. Feel free to use your own favorite fruits. —Joan Hallford, North Richland Hills, Texas
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Make-Ahead Eggs Benedict Toast Cups

When I was growing up, we had a family tradition of having eggs Benedict with champagne and orange juice for our Christmas breakfast. But now that I’m cooking, a fussy breakfast isn’t my style. I wanted to come up with a dish I could make ahead that would mimic the flavors of traditional eggs Benedict and would also freeze well. —Lyndsay Wells, Ladysmith, British Columbia
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Slow-Cooked Barbecued Beef Sandwiches

Chuck roast makes delicious shredded beef sandwiches after simmering in a rich, homemade sauce all day. The meat is tender and juicy and takes minutes to prepare for a weeknight dinner or potluck. —Tatina Smith, San Angelo, Texas
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Greek Chicken Bake

As soon as the weather turns cold, I know it's time to pull out this go-to recipe. I assemble it in the morning, then put it in the oven just before dinner. —Kelly Maxwell, Plainfield, Illinois
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Breakfast Burrito Casserole

A friend gave me this burrito casserole recipe and I modified it to fit our family. It's perfect for a brunch, because you can prep it the night before and bake it the next morning. —Krista Yoder, Due West, South Carolina
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Simmered Smoked Links

No one can resist the sweet and spicy glaze on these bite-sized sausages. They’re effortless to prepare, and they make a perfect party nibbler. Serve them on frilled toothpicks to make them extra fancy.
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Family Pleasing Turkey Chili Exps Tohsoda21 45357 E12 10 1b 7

Family-Pleasing Turkey Chili

My children really love this slow-cooker turkey chili recipe—it's one of their favorite comfort foods. It's relatively inexpensive, and the leftovers are wonderful! —Sheila Christensen, San Marcos, California
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Red Potato and Egg Salad

This flavorful red potato salad with egg is the perfect side for summer cookouts. The red potatoes really dress it up. —Margaret Blomquist, Newfield, New York
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Air-Fryer Lemon Slice Sugar Cookies

Here's a refreshing variation of my grandmother's sugar cookie recipe. Lemon pudding mix and icing add a subtle tartness that tingles your taste buds. —Melissa Turkington, Camano Island, Washington
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Mozzarella & Spinach Breakfast Casserole

Sun-dried tomatoes and sausage add lots of texture and flavor to this gooey casserole. We've even enjoyed it reheated after a night game at our local college. It's always a winner in my book. —Nancy Murphy, Mount Dora, Florida
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Italian Appetizer Meatballs

Store-bought spaghetti sauce speeds up the preparation of these homemade meatball appetizers. Leftovers make terrific sub sandwiches. —Rene McCrory, Indianapolis, Indiana
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Banana Crumb Pudding

Friends and family ask me to make my thick and creamy banana pudding for all occasions. They can't get enough of the wonderful flavor of the fruit and the vanilla wafer crumbs. You can also top the classic southern treat with meringue instead of whipped cream. —Yvonnia Butner, Pinnacle, North Carolina
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Overnight Fruit Salad

I first tasted this rich, old-fashioned fruit salad at my wedding reception many years ago. The ladies who did the cooking wouldn't share the recipe at the time, but I eventually got it. I've made it for many meals, and our daughters copied the recipe when they married. —Eileen Duffeck, Lena, Wisconsin
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Slow-Cooker Frittata Provencal

This recipe means that a delectable dinner is ready when I walk in the door from work. The meatless slow cooker meal also makes an elegant brunch for lazy weekend mornings. —Connie Eaton, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
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Veggie Chopped Salad

My husband's aunt gave me this recipe back in the '80s, and it's been a staple at our house ever since. I like to make it a day ahead because some time in the fridge makes it even better. Be sure to save yourself some leftovers, too. —Madeline Etzkorn, Burien, Washington
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Chicken Broccoli Shells

This cheesy entree is a make-ahead dream. Just assemble it ahead of time and put it in the oven when company arrives. I round out the meal with a tossed salad and warm bread. —Karen Jagger, Columbia City, Indiana
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Cheesy Zucchini Quiche

A few years ago, I found this zucchini quiche recipe that's quick to prepare and freezes well, too. Just put it in the refrigerator to thaw overnight and pop it into the oven when you wake up! —Karen Howard, Lakeville, Massachusetts
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Asparagus and Ham Strata

For a quick and easy make-ahead breakfast, do the prep work the night before. Next morning, just pop it in the oven. This casserole version of quiche is so hearty and delicious. —Alla Gray, St. Thomas, Pennsylvania
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Sesame Chicken Dip

I can't tell you how many times I'm asked to bring this easy dip to holidays, birthday parties or girls' weekend getaways. It's fresh and light, and it has the Asian flavors that make it stand out. The rice crackers are a must! —Dawn Schutte, Sheboygan, Wisconsin
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Cheese & Crab Brunch Bake

Who doesn't love a cheesy seafood casserole that can be pulled together in thirty minutes, popped in the fridge overnight, and ready for its baked up debut the next day? —Joyce Conway, Westerville, Ohio
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Cucumber-Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

Besides being tasty, these little tomato poppers are extra awesome because you can make them ahead of time. At parties, I often triple the recipe because they disappear fast. —Christi Martin, Elko, Nevada
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Avocado Salsa

I was planning a party and thought it might be fun to try a different kind of avocado salsa. This recipe was an absolute success. Scoop it up with chips, spoon it over chicken or steak, or eat it on its own! —Susan Vandermeer, Ogden, Utah
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Cheesy Hash Brown Bake

These cheesy hashbrown potatoes were so popular at the morning meetings of our Mothers of Preschoolers group that we published it in our newsletter. It's a great dish for busy moms because it can be prepared ahead of time. It's perfect for brunches or to serve on Christmas morning. It's creamy, comforting and tasty. —Karen Burns, Chandler, Texas
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Blueberry Romaine Salad

I love to bring this delicious salad to school gatherings. The homemade dressing couldn't be simpler, so I whip it up in advance and just give it a quick toss with the other ingredients when I get to any event. —Kris Bristol, Charlotte, Michigan
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Classic Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes

These make-ahead mashed potatoes save me a ton of time on Christmas day. No more frantically whipping the potatoes while hungry family and guests hang around the kitchen! —Marty Rummel, Trout Lake, Washington
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Orange-Glazed Carrots, Onions & Radishes

Carrots and radishes give color and crunch to this sweet, spicy side. We never have leftovers. If you make it ahead, reheat it and add the walnuts just before serving. —Thomas Faglon, Somerset, New Jersey
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Island Mango Slaw

The cooling effect of mango and Greek yogurt meets jalapeno spice in this snappy take on a slaw. To ensure ripeness, you may want to buy your mango a day or two ahead. —Jenn Hall, Collingswood, New Jersey
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Corn & Onion Souffle

I swapped out my old cheese souffle for one with corn. If you’re souffle-challenged, it helps to use smaller ramekins instead of one big dish. —Lily Julow, Lawrenceville, Georgia
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Mushroom Palmiers

I found this recipe while working at a small-town museum in West Texas. It was the appetizer for a fundraiser a long, long time ago, and it’s still a huge hit at parties. Frozen puff pastry helps make it easy and impressive. The palmiers also freeze well. —Judy Lock, Panhandle, Texas
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Orange-Apricot Mimosa Punch

We make this punch for our annual Christmas brunch, and everyone loves it! I usually triple this recipe for a bigger crowd and garnish the punch with an orange-tangerine ice ring made several days ahead of time. —Kathy McKay, Acworth, Georgia
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Strawberry Bliss

You'll love this homemade puff pastry crust topped with a soft-set pudding layer that has a hint of strawberry flavor. This dessert needs to chill for at least an hour, so it's a fabulous make-ahead dish. —Candace Richter, Stevens Point, Wisconsin
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Limoncello Cream Pie

After a big Christmas dinner, we love the cool refreshment of a frozen lemon pie. Limoncello brings a little sophistication to each smooth, creamy slice. —Jessie Grearson-Sapat, Falmouth, Maine
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Avocado & Garbanzo Bean Quinoa Salad

This delicious quinoa avocado salad is high in protein and holds well in the fridge for a few days. If you make it ahead, add avocados and tomatoes right before serving. —Elizabeth Bennett, Seattle, Washington
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Garden Spinach-Potato Salad

Not only is this summer side dish something to look at, it's a treat for the taste buds, too. The medley of textures and garden-fresh ingredients perfectly complement one another for a delightfully different potato salad. —Marilyn Haynes, Sylacauga, Alabama
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Iced Raspberry Tea

Frozen raspberries lend fruity flavor and lovely color to this pretty iced tea that's good throughout the year. The recipe calls for just a few common ingredients and offers make-ahead convenience. —Lois McGrady, Hillsville, Virginia
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Veggie Ranch Tortilla Pinwheels

These terrific bite-size appetizers are always a hit wherever I take them. They're easy to make ahead of time, and are a great addition to other party fare! —Lori Kostecki, Wausau, Wisconsin
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Easy Potato Rolls

After I discovered this recipe, it became a mainstay for me. I make the dough ahead of time when company is coming, and I try to keep some in the refrigerator to bake for our ranch hands. Leftover mashed potatoes are almost sure to go into these rolls. —Jeanette McKinney, Belleview, Missouri
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Broccoli Salad Supreme

People can't get enough of the sweet grapes and crunchy broccoli in this colorful salad. I appreciate its make-ahead convenience. —Terri Twyman, Bonanza, Oregon
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Lemon Angel Cake Bars

A neighbor gave me this recipe years ago and it's been in flavor rotation ever since. It can be made ahead and serves a bunch, so it's perfect for parties and potlucks. —Marina Castle, Canyon Country, California
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Slow-Cooker Roast Chicken

It's easy to make a whole chicken in a slow cooker. We save the shredded chicken to use during busy weeks. —Courtney Stultz, Weir, Kansas
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Fruit and Cheese Kabobs

We came up with this fresh and fruity summer snack idea. It's easy to make ahead and carry to the ballpark, beach or playground, and the cinnamon-spiced yogurt dip adds a fun touch kids love. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
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Vegetable Strata

We always serve food at our Bunco games, and since one of us is a vegetarian we like to make fun meatless dishes we can all enjoy. This strata can easily be doubled and tastes fantastic hot or at room temperature. —Doris Mancini, Port Orchard, Washington
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Balsamic Three-Bean Salad

Here's my little girl's favorite salad. She devours it just about as fast as I can make it. I suggest preparing it ahead of time so the flavors can get to know each other. —Stacey Feather, Jay, Oklahoma
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Company Green Salad

I partially put this salad together and take the remaining ingredients (candied nuts, seeds, rice noodles and dressing) to mix in at the potluck. Works perfectly every time. —Joan Hallford, North Richland Hills, Texas
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Chicken with Peach-Cucumber Salsa

To keep our kitchen cool, we grill chicken outdoors and serve it with a minty peach salsa that can easily be made ahead. —Janie Colle, Hutchinson, Kansas
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Island Breezes Coffee Cake Exps166506 Sd132779d06 12 3bc Rms 2

Island Breezes Coffee Cake

With the island flavors, this simple pull-apart bread is perfect for a spring brunch. —Debra Goforth, Newport, Tennessee
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Freezer Strawberry Shortbread Dessert

When I’m planning party menus, I appreciate dessert recipes like this; you can make and freeze it up to two weeks before serving. A refreshing slice is welcome after a big meal.—Cassie Alexander, Muncie, Indiana
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Roasted Herb & Lemon Cauliflower

A standout cauliflower side is easy to prepare with just a few ingredients. Crushed red pepper flakes add a touch of heat. —Susan Hein, Burlington, Wisconsin
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Caraway Coleslaw with Citrus Mayonnaise

The combination of caraway and orange keeps this slaw from being anything but run-of-the-mill. I always get requests to bring a big batch to potlucks; proof positive that it's a keeper! I also like to make it a day ahead so the flavors can truly blend. —Lily Julow, Lawrenceville, Georgia
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Chicken Caesar Pitas

Hand-held and picnic friendly, these chicken-stuffed pockets pack a double dose of whole grains from brown rice and whole wheat pitas. The chicken can be made up to 2 days in advance for a fast-fix lunch. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
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Sparkling Oranges

We were living in Texas when I found the recipe for this simple yet elegant salad. I was thrilled— we had a surplus of fresh oranges! All you do at the last minute is garnish and serve. —Janie Bush, Weskan, Kansas
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Icebox Potato Rolls

These tender rolls are a family favorite, and we sometimes have more than 20 people around the table. Make the dough in advance and bake when you're ready. —Barb Linnerud, Boiling Springs, South Carolina
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Party Spinach Spread

This appetizer is delicious, easy and pretty, too! Everyone who tries it asks for the recipe. The spread keeps for several days, so it's great for making in advance for a party. But once you put it out, it won't last long! —Maire Macy, Fort Collins, Colorado
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Buffalo Chicken Deviled Eggs

My daughter Sara loves spicy Buffalo chicken and deviled eggs, so I combined the two. Make and chill a day ahead so the flavors mingle. —Robin Spires, Tampa, Florida

Rachel Brougham
Writer and editor with a background in news writing, editorial and column writing and content marketing.

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