What to make before all the scramble of the holidays sets in? Well, quite a few things that will ease your preparation for Christmas dinner, an easy egg dish that's so good for brunch and a bonus of dessert to tuck in the freezer along with ice cream.
Take the fuss out of mashed potatoes with this simple recipe that can be prepared way in advance.
12 peeled potatoes, about 4 lb. (2 kg)
1 pkg. (500 g) cream cheese, cubed
1/3 cup (75 ml) butter
1 cup (250 ml) sour cream
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup (50 ml) each, parsley and green onions
Bread crumbs (optional)
Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until fork tender. Drain, mash until smooth, then mash in cream cheese and butter. Blend in sour cream, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste and minced parsley and/or green onions. Spread evenly in 8-inch (2L) baking dish. Sprinkle with bread crumbs if desired.
(Make-ahead: Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days or overwrap with heavy-duty foil and freeze for up to 2 weeks. Let thaw in fridge, about 1 day. Add 10 minutes to baking time.)
Bake in 400°F (200°C) until golden on top and hot, about 20 minutes.
Makes about 10 servings.
Mushroom Herb Stuffing
While you can’t stuff the bird the day before, you can make the stuffing that day, or even earlier, thanks to the freezer. How great is that - all the messy preparation done well ahead!
2/3 cup (150 ml) butter
3 cups (750 ml) thinly sliced leeks or chopped onions
3 cups (750 ml) chopped mushrooms
2 cups (500 ml) diced celery
1 large apple, peeled, cored and diced
1 cup (250 ml) dried cranberries or currants
2 Tbsp. (30 ml) crumbled dried sage leaves
1 Tbsp. (15 ml) crumbled dried thyme
1 tsp. (5 ml) each salt and freshly ground pepper
12 cups (3 L) cubed white bread (1 lb./450 g loaf)
1 cup (250 ml) slivered almonds or sliced hazelnuts, toasted
1/2 cup (125 ml) finely chopped parsley
In a large Dutch oven, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add leeks, mushrooms, celery, apple, cranberries, sage, thyme, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until vegetables are tender and aromatic, about 30 minutes. Let cool.
Add bread; toss to coat.
(Make-ahead: Scrape into airtight container and freeze for up to 2 weeks. Let thaw for 1 day in fridge.)
Add almonds and parsley; toss well.
Makes about 14 cups (3.5 L) stuffing, enough for an 18 lb. (8 kg) turkey.
Tip: A sturdy sourdough (crusts removed) or good homemade-style white bread from Ace Bakery produces a stuffing where the bread holds its shape without melding into a mushy ball.
Bake-Ahead Fudgy Brownies
Rich and moist, these brownies are irresistible snacks, but they are even better as a holiday dessert. Think along the lines of brownie squares set in a dessert bowl and topped with vanilla ice cream and a generous drizzle of dark chocolate sauce. IQF (Individually Quick Frozen) raspberries, just thawed, can nestle nicely beside the brownie.
4 oz. (125 g) 70% chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup (125 ml) butter
3/4 cup (175 ml) packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. (10 ml) vanilla
3/4 cup (175 ml) all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. (1 ml) each baking soda and salt
3/4 cup (175 ml) chocolate chips
Line 9-inch (2.5 L) square metal cake pan with parchment paper or brush with butter; set aside.
Place chocolate in large heatproof bowl. Set over saucepan of barely simmering water; heat, stirring until almost melted. Remove from heat; stir until smooth. Let cool.
In large bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and smooth. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, then vanilla. Stir in chocolate.
In separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. Add all at once with chocolate chips to chocolate mixture; stir to combine. Scrape into prepared pan, smoothing top.
Bake in centre of preheated 350°F (180°C) oven until skewer inserted into centre comes out with moist crumbs, about 25 minutes.
Let cool on rack. To freeze, turn brownies out onto cutting board; trim off thin crusty edges. Either leave whole or cut into quarters so there’s flexibility as to size of brownies, or cut into 16 squares. Wrap whole or quarters with vapour-proof plastic wrap or heavy duty foil and enclose in airtight container. Layer smaller squares with waxed paper in airtight container. Freeze for up to 1 month.
Makes 16 servings.
Variation: Espresso Brownies: Make as above, with this addition. While chocolate is cooling, dissolve 1-1/2 tsp. (7 ml) instant espresso powder or instant coffee into vanilla. To serve, choose coffee ice cream and garnish with chocolate sauce and chocolate covered coffee beans.
Christmas Breakfast Strudels
Make-ahead for Christmas morning, or any brunch occasion. The recipe comes from food stylist, cookbook author and television cook, Pam Collacott in Ottawa.
1/2 cup (125 ml) butter, divided
2 Tbsp. (30 ml) all-purpose flour
l cup (250 ml) milk
l/2 cup (125 ml) shredded old Cheddar cheese
l/4 tsp. (1 ml) salt
Pinch freshly ground pepper
1 cup (250 ml) diced smoked ham
6 large eggs
2 Tbsp. (30 ml) minced parsley
2 tsp. (10 ml) minced chives or green onion tops
1/2 tsp. (2 ml) crumbled dried thyme
8 sheets phylo pastry
3 Tbsp. (45 ml) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
In medium saucepan, melt 2 Tbsp. (30 ml) of the butter over medium heat. Stir in flour; slowly whisk in milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened. Add cheddar, salt and pepper; stir until cheese melts. Chill until needed.
In large non-stick skillet, scramble eggs with ham, parsley, chives and thyme, until just firm but still moist. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Add egg mixture to cheese sauce; mix well. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Melt remaining butter. Keep unused phylo under plastic wrap until needed. Brush 1 sheet of phylo lightly with melted butter. Fold sheet in half, long edges together. Brush with butter. Spoon l/8 of the egg mixture onto one short end of phylo, leaving a 1-inch (2.5 cm) border around filling. Sprinkle 1 slightly rounded tsp. (5 ml) of the Parmesan on egg mixture. Roll up as jelly roll, tucking in sides of phylo to completely enclose egg mixture. Do not roll too tightly or phylo will split during baking.
Place strudel seam side down, in rigid airtight container if freezing, or on buttered baking sheet if using immediately. Brush top with butter. Repeat, making 7 more strudels.
(Make-ahead: Freeze for up to 2 weeks. Bake from frozen, adding 20 to 25 minutes to baking time.)
Bake in centre of preheated 375° F (190° C) oven until puffed and golden, about 13 to 16 minutes. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
Makes 8 servings.