Taking the stress out of holiday food preparation

Planning ahead can take the stress out holiday food preparation and help guard against food borne illness.

Taking the stress out of holiday food preparation, involves planning and organization. Michigan State University Extension suggests planning your holiday ahead of time to avoid extra stress.

First things first; about a month in advance, pick a date and time for holiday festivities. Next, invite the guests. The invitations should have an RSVP date two weeks prior to the festivity. The guests should also indicate whether they have dietary requirements. Ask guests if they would like to help by bringing an appetizer, dessert, or a side dish.

About one month in advance check to see if there are enough bowls, glasses, plates, silverware, tables and chairs for everyone or will it be necessary to borrow or purchase what is needed?

Plan the menu, being careful to keep food safety in mind. When reviewing recipes, look for recipes to prepare, that have the same oven temperature requirements. To save time and stress, consider preparing and freezing appetizers, cakes, cookies and fruit pies ahead of time. If a whole turkey is the entree, plan on a serving size being one half pound per person. When planning on a frozen bird allow 24 hours of thawing time in the refrigerator per 4.5 pounds of bird. A 20 pound turkey will take roughly four and a half to five days to thaw in the refrigerator.

If deep-fried, smoked, or grilled turkey is the entree, be sure to check to see if the outdoor equipment is in good working order. Have a backup plan in case there is inclement weather on the day of the festivities. To avoid a scarcity of supplies, purchase oil, wood chips and charcoal ahead of time.

Michigan State University Extension recommends checking to make sure the food thermometer is working and is calibrated. To calibrate a bimetallic stem thermometer using the ice water method, fill a glass with ice and add enough clean tap water to make slush. Put the clean thermometer about two and one half inches into the slush and stir it around, being sure not to touch the sides or the bottom of the glass.  Allow thirty seconds for the needle to stop. If the thermometer reads 32 degrees Fahrenheit, no adjustment is necessary. If the temperature does not read 32 F then adjust the reading to 32 F by turning the adjustment nut. Ensure the bimetallic stem thermometer be calibrated once a day if it is in constant use. If the thermometer is dropped, it needs to be re-calibrated. If the thermometer is digital, follow the manufacturer instructions.

One week ahead of time is a good time to shop for the vegetables such as carrots, onions, potatoes, winter squash, parsnips and turnips.

A few days ahead of the festivities, wash, rinse, and sanitize the dinnerware, glasses, cookware, and serving dishes.

One day ahead of time, thaw the frozen appetizers in the refrigerator. Be sure to take the frozen pastries and pies out to thaw as well.

The day of the festivities has arrived, hand washing is a must. Hands need to be washed in warm water with soap for a minimum of 20 seconds. Hands can be the dirtiest utensils in the kitchen. To prevent foodborne illness, hands need to be washed before and after handling raw meat, fish and poultry.

The table is set. Food preparation is almost complete. Everything is in the oven and on the stove cooking.

Guests are starting to arrive. Now is the time to enjoy family and friends because the planning ahead has taken the stress out of the holidays. Planning and care in food preparation also means that foodborne illness will not be an uninvited guest at the holiday festivities.

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