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The Prairie Post of White City, Kansas

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Cooking Ahead for Holiday Meals

It is hard to believe that the holiday season is just around the corner. Last minute hurried food preparations can drain any cook's holiday spirit. Consider some of the following tips to help you take some of the hassle out of your holidays, while keeping food quality and food safety a top priority.

A11 Perishable Foods Avoid leaving perishable foods (such as meats, fish, poultry, eggs, cooked dry beans, dairy products, and cut fruits and vegetables) at room temperature for more than two hours. This includes the total time for preparation and serving.

Fruits and Vegetables Assemble vegetable casseroles a day in advance, cover, and refrigerate. Bake the day of your dinner, planning for 15 to 20 minutes extra heating time. Heat until they are hot and steaming throughout. Cut washed fruits and vegetables within a day of your meal for salads and relish trays. Keep cut fruits from turning brown by coating them with lemon, orange, or pineapple juice, or a commercial anti-darkening preparation. Cover and store them in the refrigerator above raw meats and below cooked items.

Protein Foods Purchase fresh raw meat, poultry, or seafood no more than 1 to 2 days before your holiday meal. Freeze for longer storage. If you have frozen meat, poultry, or seafood, place it on a tray on the lowest shelf in the refrigerator and allow approximately 24 hours for each 5 pounds of weight for it to thaw. If you cook meat, poultry, or seafood the day before your meal, refrigerate it in small portions in shallow pans within 2 hours of cooking. You can place loosely covered foods in the refrigerator while they are still warm. Cover them tightly when completely cooled. On the day of your meal, reheat until hot and steaming, to 165 degrees Fahrenheit as measured with a food thermometer.

Baked Goods Almost all types of cookies, cakes, breads, and muffins can be baked in advance and frozen for up to 2 months. Avoid freezing cakes with whipped cream or other soft fillings, since this will result in a soggy cake upon thawing. Cook baked goods completely before storing them in airtight moisture-proof containers. Thaw cheesecake in the refrigerator, covered, where it will remain fresh for seven to ten days. Thaw non-perishable baked goods at room temperature in their freezer container to prevent them from drying out.

For more information on holiday food safety, contact the Flint Hills Extension District office in Council Grove at 620.767.5136 or the office in Cottonwood Falls at 620.273.6491.



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Original Publication Date: November 5, 2015



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