GIRARD — Anyone feeling the pressure of last-minute holiday food preparation should try a few of these tips from Barbara Ames, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent at K-State Research and Extension. These tips will cut time from day-of food prep and allow for more time to be spent enjoying holiday festivities with friends and family.
When it comes to fruits and vegetables, Ames suggested assembling casseroles a day in advance. Dishes should be covered and refrigerated then baked day-of, adding 15 to 20 minutes to the bake time. She said washed fruits and vegetables can be pre-cut for relish trays within a day of the meal and coated with lemon, orange or pineapple juice to prevent them from turning brown. Cut fruits and veggies can be stored in the refrigerator above meats, but below cooked items to keep them fresh.
Ames said anyone dealing with frozen meat should place the frozen item on a tray on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator and thaw 24 hours for each five pounds of weight. Ames said meats cooked the day before the meal should be refrigerated in small portions within two hours of cooking. Warm foods should be loosely covered then place in the refrigerator and covered tightly once they’ve cooled. On the day of the meal, they should be reheated until hot and steaming, around 165 degrees.
Ames warned against leaving any perishable foods at room temperature for longer than two hours.
Baked goods can also be baked in advance and frozen for up to two months, though Ames suggested avoiding freezing cakes with whipped cream or other soft fillings as they will get soggy once they’ve thawed. Frozen cheesecakes can be thawed uncovered in the refrigerator where it will remain fresh for up to seven days.
Ames said holiday cooking doesn’t have to be a hassle and that planning ahead may very well be the key to a more enjoyable, stress-free holiday.