Father’s Day is just on the horizon! In my family, we have a string of mom’s birthday, Mother’s Day, Dad’s birthday, Father’s Day. It’s a whole spring of special days! And I don’t know about you, but at our house, Sunday’s can be a little bit crazy–or at least Sunday mornings. My husband and I get up early to be at worship rehearsal (thankfully the kids are old enough to dress and feed themselves), I co-lead the first half of the service, we visit with folks a bit, and by the time we make it home we’re beat.
The LAST thing I want to do is make a giant meal.
So throughout the winter months, I got into the habit of crockpot Sunday dinners or make ahead meals like this one. Just find a day when you have a moment to put a few things together and pop them in the freezer for Sunday. Take a freezer meal out to thaw before you leave for church or overnight in the frig. I even use my programmable oven (LOVE this thing) to come on at a set time and gently warm our food so it’s ready when we walk through the door!
Since I didn’t want to be stuck in the kitchen all Saturday or Sunday, I put the majority of our Father’s Day meal together on Thursday this week. BBQ meatloaf (cause it’s a man’s meal–and there must be much meat), twice baked cheddar bacon potatoes and green beans (which I’ll just pop out of their jars and season up right before we eat).
In the interest of helping us all work smarter in the kitchen, I thought I’d share my strategies for getting it done quickly, easily and with as many layers of flavor as possible.
- Always start with the bacon. If ANY part of your meal includes the need to brown up some bacon, do that first. I diced up a bit and browned it in my big cast iron pan. After I removed the brown pieces with a slotted spoon, I used that same pan to soften and brown the onion, pepper and garlic for the meatloaf. That equals extra savory bacon flavor in the meatloaf without adding any actual bacon (cause it’s expensive and I’ve got to make it stretch). To get even more mileage from that nicely seasoned pan, I made that night’s dinner frittata in it as well.
- Make your oven do double (or triple) duty. Whenever it’s possible, I try to condense the time my oven is on. It’s energy and money that I’m saving, not to mention heating up the house in the summer. That means I’ll bake up an entire week of muffins at once. Or I’ll do two loaves of sourdough at the same time. For this meal, it was as easy as popping the baked potatoes on the top rack and the meatloaf on the lower. Another tip–if you’re using two or more racks at once, especially for baked goods like cookies or muffins, set your timer for just half the baking time and switch the trays half way through to get more even results.
- Use the “flash freeze” method for individual items. For the twice baked potatoes, I scooped out the baked potato skins, seasoned them and mixed them with butter and cheddar and bacon, spooned the filling back into the shells and put them on a flexible mat in the freezer–uncovered and with space between them. A couple hours later, they were hard and ready to put into a freezer bag. So Sunday I can easily pull them out and warm them in the oven. Flash freezing keeps things from sticking together (like berries) and keeps ice crystals from building up.
If you have the time and ingredients today, why not get ahead for your weekend? Here’s some other easy make ahead meals that Dad is sure to love…
- Lasagna or other pasta bake
- Chicken fried steak strips
- Spinach bacon quiche (yes, men do eat quiche!)
- Spaghetti (prep the sauce today and just boil pasta on Sunday)
- Pulled BBQ chicken or pork (can even let the slow cooker do all the work!)
- Steak hoagies (brown the meat, peppers and onions today and just assemble later)
I’m sure there’s a slew of others. I’ll also be making my dad a special dessert and my daughter and I will be baking up some treats for my husband. But Sunday’s dinner is out of the way and tucked in the freezer!