Good grief, it’s November 2nd! How can that be? It seems like just yesterday we were enjoying the wonderful, long, warm days of summer, and yet here we are, into November, having turned the clocks back this past weekend (I finally got my hour of sleep back…YEAH!). Time flies ever so quickly, and seemingly more so the older I get. We go from month to month, season to season and so on. Sometimes I really need to force myself to slow down and enjoy the moments.
Usually, now is the time I crank up the oven and get baking. In a “normal” year, because I make so very many Christmas cookies, my holiday baking would have begun a month ago. This year, however, I am holding off and cutting back a bit with my advance preparation. I am, like many of you, a little anxious about what this holiday season will look like. How much gathering will we be able to do? Will we be able to gather at all? I am hopeful that we can enjoy the holidays in similar fashion to what we are accustomed to, but let’s be practical. We are pandemic weary and anxious about social distances. Chances are pretty good that our holidays will be a far cry from what we have done in the past. That being said, I think we need comfort food now more than ever!
It is my observation that most anything homemade brings a smile to the face of those enjoying it. It’s like a hug in a mug (or a bowl, or on a plate…)! I find my homemade goods are always met with a happy response. I like to be ready for anything that pops up at the last minute, which is common this time of year. I bake and freeze immediately, so I can have baked goods ready at a moment’s notice. Because, as my kids used to tell me, I am one of those “crazy list ladies”, I also like to start thinking about (and shopping for) my holiday meal needs now.
Look in most any Sunday paper and you will find store flyers starting to feature holiday meal and baking supplies. Now is a great time to stock up on nonperishables like canned goods and baking ingredients. I like to watch for sales and pick up a few extras to have on hand. You never know when guests will drop by unexpectedly, or you will need a last minute dish to pass. Who needs the stress of having to run to the store when you can just open a cupboard!
Unless your freezers are already full of cookies like mine, now is also a good time to do some advance prep for those holiday meals. I like to make my stuffing using a variety of breads, so throughout the year I save the last few “ugly” slices of bread in each loaf. I cube them and then toss them in a large zipper bag in my freezer. By doing this, I always have the makings for delicious homemade stuffing or croutons at the ready. You don’t even need to thaw the bread cubes completely before using them. Another quick step is to freeze those last few ounces of gravy, stock or even the last little bit of wine in a bottle (that remain after a meal) in ice cube trays. Fill the trays and freeze solid, then store the cubes in zipper bags. You can easily boost the flavor of soups and stews by adding a frozen flavor cube!
Life today seems full of stressors, so NOW is the time to plan ahead for a stress-free holiday season! Why not start your lists now and think ahead for ease at holiday dinner time!
Our Favorite Stuffing
16 C cubed bread
1 small onion, diced
4 stalks celery, sliced thin
1 pound breakfast sausage
1 T butter
1 to 1 ½ C milk
1 T sage
Salt and pepper to taste
Place cubed bread in a large bowl.
Fry sausage until no longer pink and crumbles well. Remove sausage from pan and add to bread.
Sauté celery and onions in frying pan with 1 T butter and the grease that remains from cooking the sausage. Add salt and pepper to taste and cook until tender.
Add 1 C milk and sage to pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Pour mixture over bread, gently mixing so as not to crumble bread. Add additional milk if stuffing is too dry.
Bake at 350* in buttered casserole dish for about 30 minutes (until crisp on the edges and heated through).
Fully prepared, uncooked stuffing can be made ahead and frozen; store loosely filling a zipper bags. Be sure to allow time to thaw under refrigeration.
To read more of Vicki McGraw’s commentaries on good cooking, fine recipes and perfect party treats, visit www.jamestowngazette.com and click on Join Me in the Kitchen’s own page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.