Your freezer can be your best friend during the holidays. Scenario: your phone rings at 4 PM on a Saturday before Christmas. Friends from out of town are driving through and want to see you. Instead of panicking, you stroll over to your freezer and choose from several appetizers made weeks ahead.
A few minutes of thawing and reheating in the microwave, and you have time to quickly vacuum the rugs, light the fire in the fireplace, and straighten the rooms.
In half an hour, your friends come into your cozy warm house, smelling wonderful aromas, and are treated to a choice of appetizers with some nice white wine. Freeze ahead holiday foods will make this possible!
You can do this very easily with this selection of recipes that are easy to make and freeze and reheat beautifully. This is the time to stock up on holiday foods to make the season brighter. Many appetizers, entrees, cookies, salads, and breads freeze very well.
You can adapt recipes slightly; cook soups 10-15 minutes less than the recipes call for, undercook pasta, and add potatoes and cheese during the reheating process. If you're feeling really ambitious, this week is also a good time to do some serious Once a Month Cooking to fill your freezer with weeks and weeks of entrees.
To freeze foods safely, you need to make sure that your freezer temperature is zero degrees Fahrenheit or lower.
Use a freezer thermometer to check the temperature. Foods that are to be frozen need to be cooled quickly to keep ice crystals as small as possible. Rather than freezing one large, deep casserole, divide it into two smaller, shallow casseroles, cool quickly in the refrigerator, then wrap tightly and freeze.
Using packaging meant specifically for the freezer is important to avoid freezer burn. Freezer burn is actually dehydration; the food loses moisture when not properly wrapped. The food isn't unsafe to eat, just not appetizing. You can cut away small amounts of freezer burn if most of the food is unaffected.
To reheat foods, you can bake in the oven at 350 degrees, reheat on the stovetop on medium low heat, or cook in the microwave oven at 60-70% power. Foods generally need 1/3 to 1/2 more cooking or baking time than the original recipe called for. To reheat on the stovetop, add a few tablespoons of liquid to the frozen food and heat with the cover on, stirring occasionally. Baked goods can stand at room temperature, in the freezer wrapping, until thawed. You can thaw entrees, soups, and appetizers in the refrigerator (NEVER at room temperature) before reheating if you like.
And make sure to clearly mark each package with the recipe name, reheating instructions, and the date. Keep a running total of what's in your freezer and rotate foods often.
I also choose this time of year to clean out my freezer and defrost it if necessary. Throw out anything that is more than one year old and anything that is not carefully wrapped. Then stock up on freezer wraps, containers, tapes, ziplock bags, and markers and let's start cooking!
Go to the next page for the wonderful recipes!
Many foods freeze well, especially what home economists call 'combination casseroles' that include meats, sauce, vegetables, and pasta. If you aren't sure about a recipe that you would like to freeze, go ahead and make it and serve it to your family. Reserve a small portion, wrap it, and freeze. Then thaw that portion and reheat it. If the quality is maintained through the freezing process, you'll know you can freeze the entire recipe.
For cookies, shape drop cookies into balls and freeze solid, then pack; bake frozen, adding a few minutes to the baking time. For roll out cookies, divide dough into portions and shape each into a 1/2" thick disc; freeze. Let stand until thawed and shape and bake as directed. For bar cookies, line the pan with foil, press in the crust or cookie, then freeze. Remove the dough, wrap and freeze. Make the filling just before you bake the bar cookies.
Here are some of my favorite recipes for freezing ahead.
Appetizers and beverages welcome your guests into your cozy house from the frigid temperatures and snow of the season. Try Shrimp Puffs, Mini Quiches, and Filo Onion Rolls to get the party started.
Freeze Ahead Holiday Breads
Breads are warm and welcoming too, and a fabulous addition to any holiday meal. These special and easy recipes are perfect, including Easy Sourdough French Bread and My Grandmother's Parker House Rolls.
Cookies are necessary for any holiday celebration. And these recipes fit the bill. From Roll Out Butter Cookies to Butter Pecan Cookies and Treasure Chest Bars, you'll find some amazing treats everyone will love.
Ending a meal with a spectacular dessert is the perfect way to celebrate the season. These cakes, pies, and other frozen goodies are incredibly good, including Black and White Brownie Pie and Nut Lover's Brownies.
Freeze Ahead Entrees
Once you have the entree planned, the rest of the meal is a snap. From Pizza Spaghetti Style to Overnight Lasagna and Creamy Stuffed Shells, these delicious main dishes are perfect for the holidays.
Frozen salads are really quite special. These recipes are designed to be served frozen, so you don't even have to thaw them! Just pull them out of the freezer, serve, and enjoy.
Freeze Ahead Holiday Soup Recipes
Soups are the perfect food for the holidays. They're warming, comforting, and just plain delicious, and so simple to make. Serve them with some easy breads you bought from the bakery, or one of my quick breads!