One way to prevent holiday stress is to prepare some of the food ahead of time and freeze it. From casseroles to cookies you can have a large portion of your holiday food prepared before the actual day arrives.
“Some things freeze better than others,” said Tammy Roberts, nutrition and health education specialist with University of Missouri Extension. “Things that may not have the quality you would be proud to serve include meringue, cream or custard pie fillings, mayonnaise, sour cream, and vegetables you would use for a salad such as lettuce, cucumbers, radishes and celery.”
Roberts said that uncooked potatoes and cooked pasta don’t often freeze well on their own but you can get great results with these foods in a casserole.
Roberts offered the following tips for quality home-frozen foods:Foods that will be reheated before serving should be slightly undercooked before freezing. This helps to assure the end product won’t be overcooked. Cool foods quickly before freezing. This can be done in the refrigerator or by setting the prepared casserole in a pan of ice water. A hot glass baking dish can crack or break when placed in ice water, use caution. Be sure to wrap your food well. Air shortens shelf life and can impact color, flavor and texture in undesirable ways. Cheese or crumb toppings on casseroles can become soggy or dry in the freezing process. Add these when the dish is being reheated to serve.
It is hard to find information about how long it takes to reheat a frozen dish such as a casserole. Roberts says to use the oven setting at which the dish was originally cooked and to start with just less than double the original cooking time. For example, if the original cooking time was 30 minutes, start with about 50 minutes from the frozen state but be sure to check it often at the end of that time. A good clue that a casserole is thoroughly reheated is when the edges are bubbling and the center is hot.
For more information and tips, refer to the MU Extension publication Quality for Keeps: Freezing Home-Prepared Foods. It can be downloaded for free or you can call your local University of Missouri Extension office to request a copy.
To view this article online, go to http://missourifamilies.org/features/nutritionarticles/nut442.htm