Home & Garden

Ready to party?

December is probably one of our most social months. People throw parties, families get together, friends drop in to wish you well. With a little forethought, purposeful shopping and some cooking and prepping when time is available, you can make entertaining easier on yourself and reduce the usual holiday-time stress.

Make Ahead

If you have a freezer, you can get a jump on things. Many holiday foods can be prepared a day, a week or even further ahead of time. Pies can be frozen, either baked or unbaked. Dinner rolls or biscuits can also be baked the week before. Salad dressings can be prepared. Casseroles, stews and soups can be made 1-2 days early and often taste better when reheated.

Prep Ahead

Not everything can, or should be made early. But you can break up some of the work over two days, or get some chores done early in the day to be finished later.

Blanch vegetables. When ready to serve, either reheat quickly in boiling water or the microwave, or saute them in butter and seasonings. 

Prepare green salads but omit the dressing. Refrigerate right in the serving bowl, covered with a damp cloth, or toss veggies into a zip-lock bag.

Measure out ingredients, label container with dish they’re for.

Set the table. Lay out serving dishes and utensils, label what they will be used for. 

Tips for freezing pies

Unbaked: In pans, place in freezer bag. Can stack crusts with freezer or parchment paper between pans. Fill or bake while frozen.

○ Flat rounds on board with foil or paper between. Roll frozen or slightly thawed.

○ Dough ball. Thaw before rolling.

Baked:  Wrap in foil or other freezer wrap. Thaw in wrapping 10-20 minutes before filling.

Filled pie, unbaked

Fruit or nut: For uncooked fruit add 1T additional flour or tapioca if filling is juicy. Don’t cut vents in top crust until ready to bake. Bake from frozen, 450 degrees for 15-20  minutes.  Reduce temperature to 375o and continue to bake until crust is brown.

○ For cooked filling, substitute Clear Jel for regular thickener to prevent separation of the juice. Cool before pouring into shell (for a single crust pie, filling may be frozen separately).   

○ Bake frozen, 425o, 30-40 minutes.

Pumpkin: Prepare filling as usual, chill. Pour into chilled crust. Bake from frozen 400 degrees, 10 minutes, then reduce to 325 degrees until custard is set. 

Filled pie, baked

○ Fruit or nut only. Cool completely, freeze before wrapping or packaging. Before serving, let stand at room temperature at least 15 minutes, then reheat at 350 degrees until warm, around 30 minutes.

Garlicky Greek Beans

1 lb green beans

2 T butter (or olive oil, or 1T of each) 

1 large clove garlic, minced or pressed

2 T dry breadcrumbs

1 tsp lemon zest (optional)


Cook green beans until crisp-tender. Plunge into ice bath to cool, drain and pat dry. May be done to this point up to 2 days ahead.

Melt butter in a large sauté pan. Sauté garlic 30 seconds, or just until fragrant. Add green beans and toss to coat with butter. Sprinkle on breadcrumbs and toss again. Cook, stirring occasionally, until beans are warmed through and crumbs are toasty brown. 

Top with lemon zest, if using, and serve. 

Makes 4-6 servings.



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