One solution to the holiday crush
by Teri Brown
hile other homemakers are spending a good portion of their holidays in the kitchen, chances are Debi Taylor-Hough will be out in the living room with her friends and family, enjoying hers. Why? Because Taylor-Hough has already prepared a good portion of her holiday feasts. They're waiting in the freezer to be thawed and cooked.
"The holidays can be so crazy, throwing in big meals on top of that can put you over the edge," says the Washington homemaker. "Having your meals planned and ready ahead of time can really ease the stress."
Taylor-Hough knows what it's like to be under stress. The busy homeschooling mother of three began practicing once-a-month cooking five years ago to save time and money. She has done both, saving an estimated $24,000 dollars and countless hours in the kitchen since she started. When she realized how much her life had changed she began writing about it.
One of Taylor-Hough's books, Frozen Assets, includes a ten-day holiday plan, designed to make your holidays less stressful. The plan contains not only the traditional Turkey dinner, but also such delicious entrees as Turkey Stuffed Manicotti, Broccoli and Ham Bake, and a Ham and Cheese Quiche. This way after a hectic day of shopping you have a meal ready to go. There's even a Holiday Breakfast Casserole, perfect for New Years or Christmas morning. Imagine having breakfast prepared ahead of time so all you have to do is pop it into the oven then join the fun. When asked if the pre-baked turkey really is good, she laughs, "I've actually had people tell me it is the best turkey they've ever had."
Turns out the secret is not only freezing, but reheating the turkey slices in the broth the turkey was originally cooked in, then pouring it off before serving. This leaves the turkey extremely moist.
Advance planning is the key to stress free holiday baking, "I generally like to begin planning my holiday meals about a month in advance," says Taylor-Hough. "It's close enough to the holiday that I can start getting a feel for what we'll want to eat, but far enough in advance that I avoid last minute preparations"
Shopping ahead of time can also be an economical, allowing you to hit the sales when they arise.
Taylor-Hough has these tips for those wanting to prepare their holiday meals ahead of time.
--Do your planning, shopping and as much preparation as possible before your cooking day.
--When using your favorite recipes do a test drive for your own family before doing it for company. "Most things freeze very well, but the time to find that out is not while you're serving it to company!"
--Pies work best if the crust and filling are both frozen and thawed separately.
--If possible, set your freezer to -10 degrees for 24 hours before your cooking day. This will help to decrease the possibility of spoilage and loss of flavor. Set your Freezer back to 0 once all the food is frozen.
--If doing your holiday cooking in one day, try doing your most complicated recipes early in the day while you're at your freshest.
--To prevent that overcooked or warmed over taste, slightly undercook vegetables, rice and pasta.
The holidays are for friends, family and celebrating, not necessarily cooking. Even those who enjoy cooking for their loved ones like spending some time celebrating. "Careful preparation will also allow you, as the host or hostess, to relax and enjoy your get-together as much as your friends and family," believes Taylor-Hough. Can it get any better than that?
Teri Brown is a freelance writer and the homeschooling mother of two. Her book, Christian Unschooling: growing your child in the freedom of Christ, is now available.