Safely preparing holiday foods ahead of time

Make your holiday a little less stressful by preparing some foods ahead of time.

This is a busy time of year for all of us. All the parties, shopping and cooking that is done take’s time and planning. It is helpful to make some items ahead of the rush so we can relax a little and enjoy family and friends come time for the event. To lighten the load of the last minute cooking, consider what items can be made ahead of time.

Michigan State University Extension recommends cleaning your work space and surfaces, as well as keeping hands washed. This is one of the easiest ways to prevent bacteria traveling from one food item to another and a very important step.

First, know how many people you will be serving so you can make the appropriate amount of food. Also limit the number of items you serve. There may be certain foods that are family traditions which may make limiting your items difficult, but just start a new tradition with a less number of foods. Assign favorite dishes to different family members.

Instead of having two salads have one. Your make-ahead items can be the vegetables and homemade dressing. Do this the day before your dinner. This will allow more time for you to enjoy your company. Wash all fresh vegetables the day before and store them in the refrigerator above raw meats. Vegetable trays can be put together the day of the gathering.

University of Nebraska indicates that making casseroles the day ahead can be very helpful on time. Assemble the casserole, place the item in the refrigerator and bake the next day. It tastes just as fresh as if you created it the day of the event.

Other foods that can be prepared a day or two ahead are cakes, pies and other baked goods. These foods can be stored for many days ahead as long as they are properly stored. Keep them in air tight containers in a cool, dry place. Cakes and pies could be prepared and frozen for the special day.

Being prepared and having items safely ready and stored in advance can allow time for each of us to enjoy family and friends. Remember to store foods in a refrigerator set at 41 degrees Fahrenheit, or below to keep bacteria from growing. Use leftovers in two or three days for best quality.

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