First, take a close look at your family’s favorite recipes and consider what can be made ahead. That could mean slicing and dicing early, cooking a step in advance or making stocking your freezer and pantry with the ingredients you’ll need.
Let your family be involved in prepping in advance sturdy fare like broccoli and carrots (which can be cut and stored along with other ingredients that are used at the same time) as well as more moist or pungent ingredients like onion or peppers that should be stored separately.
Think about cooking in stages. Many recipes can be prepared through certain stages and refrigerated, though the skill for picking the right stage comes with practice.
I spoke to Paula Wamsley from Sharpsburg, Md., on a quick make-early dish and she shared this Cranberry Gelatin recipe. Dissolve 1 large or 2 small boxes of cherry or raspberry Jell-O into two cups boiling water. Add a 20-ounce can crushed pineapple (do not drained), 1 can whole cranberries and stir. If you like, add 1 cup walnuts.
Pour into Jell-O mold or whatever you plan on serving it in and chill as directed on the package. To take out of mold, lower into hot or warm water for a couple seconds and it will release easily. You can also use individual dessert dishes and add a bit of whipped cream. “This is a great dish to prepare ahead,” Paula promises.
Elizabeth Hess of Martinsburg has a great tip for serving a festive Holiday Punch Fruit Cubes. A few days before a family gathering, drain a can of fruit cocktail, then add some of the fruit to each section of two empty ice cube trays. Next, fill with either ginger ale or Sprite, then freeze. Voila, an easy and decorative ice cube to add pizazz to your punch.
Looking for a way to spruce up your table? If you have several dinner guests, enlist your favorite young people to make Decorative Napkin Holders using a paper towel roll. Cut the roll into 2-inch pieces. Decorate with ribbon, use markers to create a design, even add your guest’s names to make it special.
You also can use a paper napkin to craft a Turkey Place Setting. For each, you’ll need a small round pine cone and a paper cupcake filler cut in two. Place the half-liner on the pine cone to form a tail and then use a small piece of red pipe cleaner to form the turkey’s neck and head. Under the neck, place a small piece of paper with the name of the person seated in that spot.
Once the meal is over and everyone has retired to the living room, we cooks are always thinking of what to do with leftovers. With turkey, you can have the traditional sandwiches, turkey salad, turkey soup, barbequed turkey and so on, but I have a perfect recipe to take advantage of your leftover turkey.
My Everything Casserole is an all-in-one combo that bakes up hearty and creamy. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish with cooking spray and set aside. In a large bowl, combine 2 cups coarsely chopped cooked turkey, 2 cups diced celery, 1/2 cup cooked rice, 1/2 cup slivered almonds (optional), 2 Tablespoons finely chopped onion, 1/3 cup chopped green bell pepper, 2 Tablespoons lime juice, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. In a medium bowl, combine 3/4 cup mayonnaise and 1/2 cup mushroom soup (undiluted) and add to turkey mixture and stir to combine all ingredients. Pour mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Top with around 1/2 cup crushed potato chips. Bake 30 minutes and serve immediately. Your family will love it. You can serve it with a side dish of fruit and or a salad.
Feedback is a food columnist’s best friend. If you have thoughts on this column or ideas for future columns, write to Patt Welsh at firstname.lastname@example.org.