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Start Planning Your Holiday Meal Today
by Katie Cullum
If I were to tell you that Thanksgiving is less than a month away, would you be surprised?
What if I tell you that you could start your Thanksgiving cooking today and avoid
The good news is that with a little planning, you can have a wonderful Thanksgiving
meal and still have time to spend with family and friends. You have about 3 weeks
until the big event, so start today to avoid the last-minute rush.
Start now by making out your menu. Carefully consider what foods you will serve,
taking into consideration any special dietary needs of those attending, and think
about the quantity you will need to prepare. When planning, limit your menu to a
few favorites, so you have less to prepare. This will also help keep your budget
down. If you are hosting a gathering, most people don’t mind bringing a dish or two,
this can help save you time and keep costs reasonable for everyone.
Go ahead and bake your cookies now. Bake them according to recipe directions, cool,
wrap in moisture proof packaging and freeze. Then simply remove them from the freezer
to thaw, one day before you need them.
Now you have time to clear out the refrigerator and freezer. Using the food in the
refrigerator AND freezer now will help your budget and also help you make room for
Review your menu and prepare your bread for dressing/stuffing. Go over your menu
and pare it down if necessary. You probably don’t need 10 different desserts. Prepare
some healthy options also! Go ahead and bake, cook and crumble your bread. Storing
it in freezer quality containers or bags will ease your preparation time.
One week before the holiday, start preparing your desserts. Now is the time to bake
and freeze your cakes, and pies. These can be done a few days in advance and still
taste fresh, or they can be frozen for longer storage. A thawed, freshly baked pie
will taste better than a pie that has been baked before freezing. To prevent a soggy
crust on your pie, brush pie shells with slightly beaten egg whites. For fruit pies,
add one additional tablespoon of flour or one half-tablespoon cornstarch to thicken.
Unfortunately, cream or custard pies and those with a meringue topping will not freeze
well and will lose quality quickly. For the best results prepare these the day before
the meal. The pie shells can be baked a few days ahead to save time.
Along with your pies, you can also bake your cakes and sweet breads. Place cooled,
baked layers in freezer bags, removing as much air as possible, seal well and freeze.
Just freeze them unfrosted, then add the frosting or filling when you take the cake
layers out of the freezer and allow them to thaw.
It’s not necessary to assemble and cook grandma’s vegetable casserole the day of the
meal. Assemble it the day before and refrigerate. Then bake the day of the meal.
Be sure to plan 10 to 15 extra minutes cooking time for the refrigerated casserole.
With a little pre-planning, you can make your Thanksgiving meal less stressful on
you and have more time to enjoy the holiday. Start today.
Here’s a dinner roll recipe to help get you started. Freeze and Bake Dinner Rolls
are great to make ahead and freeze. These can be frozen for up to four weeks.
Remove from freezer, place on greased baking sheets. Cover; let rise in warm place
until double in size, about one and one half (1 1/2) hours. Bake at 350 degrees for
15 minutes, or until golden brown and done. Remove from baking sheets and serve.
*These can also be baked immediately if desired.
If you would like to receive a timetable to help you plan ahead for a safe holiday
meal, contact Katie Cullum at the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service
in White County at 2400 Old Searcy Landing Road in Searcy, call 501-268-5394, or e-mail
me at email@example.com.