Cook It Forward
The holidays are a time for good company and good food. But cooking nonstop for a special occasion can be a long, tiring, and stressful process. We’re going to get you through that holiday meal without a hitch. Just follow this plan and these make-ahead recipes so that when the big day comes, you can relax and enjoy the festivities with the rest of your friends and family.The Menu
This menu will serve ten to twelve people and includes two appetizers, five side dishes, plus gravy, a frozen fruit salad, rolls, and three delicious desserts:
— Pineapple Cheese Ball and Crackers
— Carrot and Apple Soup
— Perfectly Lemon Green Beans
— Sweet Maple Potatoes
— Mashed Potatoes
— Turkey Gravy
— Simple Stuffing
— Creamed Spinach Gratin
— Frozen Cranberry Raspberry Fruit Salad
— Buttermilk Dinner Rolls
— Hot Apple Cake with Caramel Pecan Sauce
— Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie with Butterscotch Sauce
— Pecan Pie
Three weeks before . . .
Making your meal ahead of time will require quite a bit of your freezer space. Organize your freezer to make room for two cheese balls, a large container of soup, another container of stuffing, the rolls, one cake, and two pies. Next week you’ll need to have additional room for three casserole dishes or six large Ziploc bags, a container of gravy, and a 12-cup muffin pan, so allow for that now, too, if you can. Next, make a list of every ingredient you need, including drinks or mixes, cranberry sauce, butter, and honey. Everything on this list is either nonperishable or will be frozen in the next week. Compare the list to what you have on hand so you will know what you need to purchase. The only exceptions are the fresh green beans, lettuce leaves, and the turkey—you’ll wait until later to pick those up. Set aside some time this week to make the following menu items: the Pineapple Cheese Ball, Carrot and Apple Soup, Simple Stuffing, Buttermilk Dinner Rolls, Hot Apple Cake, Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie, and the Pecan Pie (recipes to follow).
Start with the dough for the Buttermilk Dinner Rolls and let it rise while you prepare the cheese ball, soup, and stuffing. Roll out the rolls and let them rise again while preparing the apple cake, ice cream pie, and the pecan pie. (The apple cake and the ice cream pie are both served with sauces, but you won’t make them until the day before the dinner is served.) Bake the rolls last and let them cool before freezing. Now, your kitchen is going
to smell absolutely delicious, so you might want to double the recipe for the rolls so that
you have some to eat right away.
Buttermilk Dinner Rolls
— 1/4 cup warm water (105 – 115° F)
— 1 (1/4 oz.) package active dry yeast
— 1 tbsp honey
— 2 tsp salt
— 3 1/2 cups flour
— 1 cup whole buttermilk at room temperature
— 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
— 1 egg yolk lightly beaten with 1tbsp water
Stir together water, yeast, and honey in a small bowl and let stand 5 minutes or until foamy. (This is the most important part, so if it doesn’t foam, start over.) Mix salt and 3 cups flour. Add yeast mixture, buttermilk, and butter, stirring until dough is soft and sticky. Knead dough 6–10 minutes on floured surface, adding just enough extra flour to keep it from sticking. When dough is smooth and elastic, form into a ball and put in an extra large, oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover and let rise 1 – 1-1/2 hours or until doubled.
On a lightly floured surface, knead dough several times to remove air. Roll out and cut into 18 short rectangles. Brush with melted butter and fold over once, Parker House style. Place rolls 1 inch apart on a baking sheet. Cover loosely with kitchen towel and let rolls rise again until doubled, 1 – 1-1/2 hours. Preheat oven to 375° F. Brush rolls lightly with egg yolk and water mixture. Bake until rolls are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on bottom, 15 minutes. Cool completely, wrap in heavy-duty foil, and freeze. The day of, thaw and reheat (still wrapped) at 350° F for 12 minutes or until warm.