by Staff Reports
Fall is a perfect time to start planning for holiday gatherings and festivities.
The first thing you’ll want to do is to come up with tentative menus for the holiday meals. Here are some questions to think about:
- How many guests do you expect at the table?
- Are there any particular dietary requirements? For example, does anyone have food allergies, or will you need to have food for vegans or vegetarians?
- When deciding on your menu, don’t forget appetizers and beverages.
- Will other people be bringing food? If so, make a master list of who is bringing what.
- Get your recipes ready. If you want to try something new or different on the big day, use this advance time to experiment. No worries, your family really won’t mind a holiday meal preview. (Hint: Make copies of your recipes and then put together recipe books to give out as gifts. This will be much-appreciated and long-treasured).
- Make your grocery shopping list, too, and buy what you can in advance. Some items seem to disappear at the holiday season — like French-cut green beans for green bean casserole. Try finding that the week before Thanksgiving! Buy those frozen and canned goods now.
- Do you need to order anything in advance? A fresh farm turkey, for example? Seriously, do that now.
- Do you have all the appliances and tools you need? Are your knives sharp? There’s nothing worse than looking for the potato masher 15 minutes before dinner is supposed to be served. If you need something, make a list and then watch the sales between now and then.
- What about decor? Need a new tablecloth? Candles? Perhaps you like funky dishes or you don’t have a serving bowl that’s large enough. Before buying new, maybe you want to poke around in thrift stores.
- Don’t worry. By planning in advance, you can still be flexible, but this will give you a basic plan to work with. Deciding on your menu now will save that last minute frazzle.
Fix & Freeze
First, you’ll want to clear out some freezer space. Make sure you have some freezer-strength plastic bags and a permanent marker. Label and date everything you place in the freezer. You’ll be glad you did. Here are ideas for what you can cook and freeze now:
Casseroles — These are great for potlucks or large family gatherings. (Hint: Double the ingredients and make two at once. Cook one up for dinner now and freeze the other).
Breads and rolls — Make your dough now, shape it and then freeze. When needed, pull it out, let it rise and bake. This works quite nicely for cinnamon rolls — just make a quick glaze while they’re baking. No one will ever know.
Cookies — You can shape the cookies into balls (press them down a little) and then freeze the uncooked dough on a cookie sheet. Once frozen, transfer to a zipper bag. Then when you need fresh cookies just bake up as many as you need directly from the freezer. No need to thaw. Imagine having warm cookies ready on a moment’s notice. (Hint: If you only need half a dozen or fewer, bake them in your toaster oven).
Soup broth — When you find a great deal on whole chickens, it’s time to cheer. Pop the chicken into a pot (a spaghetti pot with an insert makes this process really easy) on the stove and cover with water. Let it simmer for several hours or overnight.
Pull the chicken out of the pot (this is where that insert comes in handy), remove the meat and toss the bones. Reserve half the liquid for soup now. Let the rest of the broth cool down, and then pour about 2 cups into gallon-sized freezer bags. Seal carefully, and then lay the bag(s) flat on a cookie sheet. Place in the freezer removing the cookie sheet when bags are frozen solid. Then whenever your recipe calls for 2 cups of broth, pull out a bag and thaw. (Note: You can do the same thing with turkey legs. It’s a great base for gravy).