Food Prepping Ahead for a Family Day with Very Little Cooking

We had been hoping for a day trip to the beach on Saturday. It had been raining here though, every day for more than a week. When we saw that the beach wasn’t going to work out, we still wanted to spend the day together in a leisurely way.  In order for it to be leisurely for me, food needs to be mostly prepared ahead.

We couldn’t be sure if the weather might cooperate to let us sneak in pool time between showers or if we would be spending the day inside.  I wanted food planned that would work for a pool day or watch a movie and play cards kind of day.

I wanted to have some easy, snacky-but-filling food on hand so that whatever we ended up doing wouldn’t have to be interrupted with food preparation.  I also wanted to have a simple supper and dessert prepped that could be thrown in the oven without having to be tended to.

What to serve?

At Christmas time when we were at the mall shopping for my daughter, my son-in-law pointed out the meat and cheese baskets for sale and told me he loved them. I made a mental note. I instinctively knew my other two carnivorous guys would like that too.  I decided our day would start with a meat and cheese tray and fixins that would go well with it.

For this family day, I set out to create something similar.  It hit all the important points: filling, easy to make ahead, flavorful, easy to put away and get back out throughout the day if we wanted to.

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Our Menu for the day:

For all day snacking: a meat and cheese tray served with a tangy pineapple mustard, raspberry chipotle fruit spread, club crackers, kalamata olives, grapes, and french bread with olive oil for dipping.

For supper: I already had ingredients on hand to throw together a spaghetti-ish casserole and made another loaf of french bread (can you have too much french bread?) and salad.  Earlier in the week I cooked ground chuck with onions for another meal.  I cooked the whole family size pack and froze about 2 lbs to use for later, it came in handy for this meal.  The romaine hearts were already washed and cut so it only took me 5 minutes to cut a cucumber and grape tomatoes and add some parmesan cheese to the salad.

Dessert:  a peach cobbler made from peaches I had frozen earlier in the week when a friend had picked some and given them to me.   I put the cobbler together while the spaghetti casserole was in the oven then it cooked while we ate our supper.

I prepped all the food the morning before the kids got here, except the peach cobbler which was super quick to throw together last-minute.  I put the bread in the oven when I knew they were on their way.

I have included some pictures from our day but don’t have pictures of everything. I wanted to keep the day easy and not worry too much about being able to document everything. I’m too willy-nilly, throw-it-together-on-a-whim and don’t measure anything to be a true food blogger, I just enjoy sharing with you all what is working for me.

The Meat and Cheese Tray

I planned to serve just the summer sausage, but for my picky eater (Jessie) I added some mesquite flavored turkey.  She didn’t care for the summer sausage.

I will save you the running around like a crazy person in Wal-Mart (like me) and asking two different employees where to find summer sausage. I knew I had bought it at Wal-Mart before, and was pretty sure it was out in front of the deli area. Nope, not this time.  You can find Summer Sausage in the section with the beef jerky and microwave popcorn and nuts (for snacking not the baking section).

There are of course a variety of cheeses you could choose; I went with cheeses I already knew my guys liked. Sharp cheddar, smoked cheddar (found in the cheeses not behind the deli counter but in that area) and Muenster.

I sliced all the cheeses using a cheese slicer. When my now SIL saw me use it when they were engaged he added one to their registry. We enjoy our kitchen gadgets around here.

If that looks like a lot of meat, it is! I was feeding 6 total, and 3 of them are guys that can eat! We did have leftovers, which we were happy about.

I was excited to use my new daisy tray for the first time.  I painted this recently (my first time doing ceramics) when I went with other Down syndrome mamas in our F.R.I.E.N.D.S. group for a mom’s night out.

The Sauces are what really make this special.

I wanted this to really seem like the fancy baskets with the sauces and not just meat and cheese on a cracker. How have I never known about these yummy sauces? The sauces really make this so deliciously savory.

I’m completely in love with this raspberry chipotle fruit spread and am going to find more ways to use it. It is so, so good. Sweet, a little tangy and not truly hot, it has just the right amount of kick.

I also wanted a tangy but not hot mustard. They had a LOT of choices of different types of mustards at Wal-Mart. Even with all those choices I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for so I made one. I can’t find the recipe I used 🙁   It had Dijon mustard, soy sauce and pineapple preserves in it.  I added more preserves than it called for.  It was good but could stand to be perfected, so I won’t mind trying another recipe next time or shopping ahead somewhere else for a store-bought version.

French Bread with Olive Oil for dipping:

I bought a loaf of pre-sliced french bread at Wal-Mart for $1 in bakery area.

I melted butter in the microwave and used a silicone basting brush to brush the butter along the top and drip some between the slices.  I  baked the bread for a few minutes (till it looked right) at 400 degrees.

I used this Taste of Home recipe for olive oil for dipping.  I accidentally left out the rosemary and it was still good.  I had intended to go get some fresh from the garden and then forgot to.  If I had realized how much it would make I might have made less than the whole recipe.  It leaves you with some dry mix to use for later.  So, consider if you want to have leftover or you might want to make less than the full recipe.

Spaghetti-ish Casserole

These are estimates for your convenience.  I was just using what I had on hand.

elbow noodles approx 1 1/2 lbs

ground chuck cooked with onions approx 2 lbs

large jar of Ragu traditional sauce (or your favorite)

italian seasoning to taste

mexican cheese blend, its what I had on hand, use whatever you have! (however much you want melted on top)

A loaf of pre-sliced french bread (I got at Walmart for $1 in bakery area)

Saturday morning, I cooked and drained elbow noodles that I thought would be the right amount for the pre-cooked meat and sauce I had.  I mixed the meat, noodles and italian seasoning together,  covered it with foil and stored in fridge till ready to bake.  Everything in it is pre-cooked, so it just needed to be heated.  I cooked at 350 till warm then added cheese on top and baked a few more minutes to melt the cheese.

This was a super simple casserole that I made because I had the ingredients on hand and wanted to keep the day super simple and focused on family time, not cooking.

I melted butter in the microwave and used a silicone basting brush to brush the butter along the top and drip some between the slices then baked the bread for a few minutes (till it looked right) at 400 degrees.

Peach Cobbler

I’ve been using this cobbler recipe for years.  In fact I keep this recipe in the clear cover on the front of my recipe binder because for a while I was using this pretty frequently.  although the recipe is for Blackberry Cobbler (my absolute favorite!) I’ve also made it with blueberries, peaches, or frozen mixed berries.

I used the peaches I had and I’m not sure the exact quantity.  I had not measured them when I froze them.  I wouldn’t use a lot less than what the recipe calls for, but if you use a little more it never hurts.

By the time of day the kids were all here, it wasn’t good swimming weather so we spent the day inside.  We sat around the table for a long time talking and eating.  We watched a movie and then ate supper and played some cards.  We played a card game called Nuts that we all enjoy.  Jessie loves it and begs us to play more often.

When we’re all together, it doesn’t really matter to me what we do, as long as we’re together <3

Till next week friends,


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