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Holidays on ice

Thanksgiving to New Year's Day can quickly become a blur of parties, dinners and potlucks. But the holidays don't have to mean making the entire Thanksgiving dinner Thursday morning or baking cookies on Christmas Eve.
/ Source: The Knoxville News-Sentinel

Thanksgiving to New Year's Day can quickly become a blur of parties, dinners and potlucks. But the holidays don't have to mean making the entire Thanksgiving dinner Thursday morning or baking cookies on Christmas Eve.Take a few hours to prepare and freeze some dishes before festivities begin. Freeze cookie dough this weekend for an upcoming December celebration at work. To give yourself time to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, freeze a salad or cake layers this week.

On Thanksgiving Friday, turn leftover turkey into a casserole that can be frozen and heated on a rushed December evening.

Wrap food to freeze in clear plastic wrap; food can also be covered in aluminum foil. Many cooks recommend placing wrapped food in heavy-duty plastic storage bags. Make sure air is out of bags before closing.

Belinda Ellis, White Lily Foods Co.'s consumer service manager, likes to use the new press-and-seal freezer wrap.

Rolls, biscuits and breads freeze well. Breads work best if baked and cooled completely before being frozen, Ellis says. Let bread thaw before reheating. Corn bread for dressing can be baked, crumbled and frozen in a freezer bag for as long as a month.

Piecrusts can be made ahead, too. Ellis makes them in a food processor and then rolls them into disks. She stores the disks individually in 2-gallon plastic bags and stacks the bags in a pizza box in the freezer. Crusts should be thawed in the refrigerator before being used for pies.

Cookie dough and cake layers can be made now for use in December. Cooking instructor Barbara Tenney freezes the layers of her jam cake and says the cake is easier to frost when the layers are still frozen.

Johanna Parkins of Morristown makes batches of cookie dough that can be frozen up to three months. She shapes the dough into logs. The logs can be any length; Parkins prefers them to be about 11/2 to 2 inches thick and 3 to 4 inches long. The logs are wrapped in plastic wrap and put in freezer bags.

She writes the type of cookie and its baking directions on the bag, as well as any glazing or frosting directions. "That way, you don't have to go back and look," she says. "You have the information right there."

When she's ready to bake, Parkins removes the logs she needs and slices them. Drop cookies can be made after dough is slightly thawed, by pinching off mounds and placing them on the baking sheet.

Here are some recipes from Parkins and Tenney that can be frozen and used during the holiday season:

Enchilada casserole 3 cups shredded cheese (Cheddar or Mexican mix are recommended)

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 block (8 ounces) cream cheese (low-fat may be used)

4 cups cooked chicken or turkey (leftover Thanksgiving turkey can be used, as well as precooked chicken breasts purchased in grocery)

1 can (10 ounces) salsa (hot, medium or mild)

2 cans (10 ounces each) enchilada sauce

Flour or corn tortillas

1 can (15 ounces) corn, drained well

1 can (15 ounces) black or pinto beans, rinsed and drained well

Set 2 cups of cheese aside for topping. In olive oil, cook onion until tender. Add chili powder, cumin, garlic powder and cream cheese. Mix; let cream cheese melt. Mix in chicken, salsa and the remaining cup of shredded cheese.

Spray 9-by-13-inch casserole with cooking spray. Spread layer of enchilada sauce on bottom; cover with tortillas and then with half of cooked mixture. Mix corn and beans, and sprinkle over chicken layer. Repeat layers. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

To freeze: Cover well with plastic wrap and place in large food-storage bag. Can be halved and frozen in two dishes.

Source: Johanna Parkins

Cheese smackles 1/2 pound grated sharp Cheddar cheese

2 sticks butter or margarine

2 cups Rice Krispies cereal

2 cups plain flour

1/2 teaspoon red pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

Pecans for topping

Cream cheese and butter. Mix in remaining ingredients. Shape into logs of desired length; wrap each in plastic wrap and put in freezer bag.

When ready to bake, cut logs into 1/4-inch slices. Logs may be thawed or still frozen. Place half a pecan on each slice. Bake at 350 degrees 15-20 minutes. If still frozen, more time may be needed. Serves 10-12 as a holiday appetizer.

Source: Johanna Parkins

Waldorf salad 1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup pineapple juice

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon salt

11/3 cups heavy cream

1/2 cup miniature marshmallows

1/2 cup red seedless grapes, cut in half

1/2 cup crushed pineapple, drained

2 medium apples, diced and with skins left on

1/2 cup diced celery

1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, roughly chopped

8 fresh or maraschino cherries for garnish

8 sprigs fresh mint leaves for garnish

Combine sugar, pineapple juice, lemon juice and salt in saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until thick. Remove from heat and let cool.

Whip cream and fold into syrup mixture. Stir in marshmallows, grapes, pineapple, apples, celery and nuts. Spread mixture in 8-by-8-inch pan. Cover with plastic wrap and put in plastic storage bag. Freeze until frozen through (at least two hours). Tenney said it can be frozen up to 6 weeks.

Remove salad from freezer 5 minutes before serving. Cut in eight squares. Garnish each square with cherry and mint.

Source: Barbara Tenney

Jam cake 1 cup butter

1 cup sugar

5 eggs, separated

1 cup strawberry jam

1 cup apricot jam

1 cup seedless blackberry jam

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 tablespoon baking soda

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 teaspoon vanilla

Caramel icing (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 9-inch cake pans. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat egg yolks well; add to mixture and mix well. Add the jams; mix well.

Sift together flour, cinnamon and nutmeg. Dissolve soda in buttermilk. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture, alternating with buttermilk (begin and end with flour). Stir in nuts and vanilla. Beat egg whites until stiff; fold gently into batter. Pour in pans. Bake 35-40 minutes. Cool in pans 10 minutes and then move to racks.

To freeze: Wrap layers individually in plastic wrap and place in plastic bags.

Caramel icing 2 cups brown sugar

1 stick, plus 2 tablespoons, butter

1/2 cup milk

2 teaspoons vanilla

3 cups powdered sugar

Cook sugar, butter and milk 31/2 minutes. Add vanilla and sugar. Mix well and spread on cake.

Source for cake and icing: Barbara Tenney

Peanut butter cookies 1 cup butter, melted

2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 tablespoons molasses

11/2 teaspoons soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup peanut butter

2 eggs, beaten

21/2 cups plain flour

Mix butter, sugar, vanilla and molasses. Add soda, baking powder and salt; mix well. Add peanut butter; mix well. (Parkins says spraying measuring cup slightly with cooking spray helps get peanut butter out easily.)

Mix in eggs, and then mix in flour. Roll into logs, wrap in plastic wrap and put in freezer bags.

To bake, cut logs into 1/4-inch slices and put on baking sheets. When slices slightly thawed, make crisscross pattern with fork. Bake 8-10 minutes, or until edges are golden.

Source: Johanna Parkins

Amy McRary may be reached at 865-342-6437.