Calm before the storm

Cynthia
Cynthia Stone
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If you still have shopping to do, you’re beyond my help. If you’re relatively under control, however, don’t panic now — we’re in the home stretch.

If among the last-minute preparations for the big holiday you can manage a wee bit of kitchen planning, tomorrow could be stress-free.

Obviously, you can peel and refrigerate your vegetables ahead of time — put potatoes in water and cover them completely to prevent discoloration.

You can also make your dressing, handle dessert, and, of course, get a leg up on breakfast.

Traditional Turkey Dressing

Why not make the dressing tonight? I rub a handful all around the inside of the turkey but there is absolutely no reason to stuff the bird tightly. It only lengthens the cooking time, ensuring a tough, dry breast.

Not only that, you have to rush to remove it before you can carve. I would much rather bake it separately, then stir in some of the turkey juices and the handful of stuffing from inside the cavity, for the perfect result every time. This amount should feed 8 to 10 as a side dish.

If you have dressing-crazed family members, however — as I do — you might consider doubling this.

1/2 cup unsalted butter — not margarine, please

2 large onions, finely diced

1/4 cup (or to taste) savory

1 tsp. poultry seasoning

1/2 tsp. salt and pepper

2 large bunches Italian flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped

pinch ground ginger (because my mother says it prevents heartburn)

1 loaf white sandwich bread

Melt butter in a large frying pan. Add onions and savoury and cook until onion is soft but not brown. Stir in poultry seasoning and cook another minute. Add salt, pepper, parsley and ginger. Cool, then pour over bread in a large bowl. Toss to coat bread thoroughly. Taste the mixture now and add a little more salt if needed — it should taste just as you would like to eat it. Tumble into a large baking dish — don’t pack it down too tightly — and cover. If it’s not a huge amount, instead of using a baking dish, I fashion one out of heavy-duty aluminum foil so I can poke it into one side of the oven, bending to fit the space I have left. Bake at 325 or 350 F for about 30 minutes — depending on the size of the dish and what temperature you have your turkey on. You can uncover and ramp up the heat for a few minutes if you like crunchy bits in the dressing.

Cheery Cherry Cheese Dessert Squares

My sister has asked for this recipe on her last two birthdays, instead of birthday cake. It is lighter than many traditional desserts, but every bit as festive. You can also make it tonight — in a few minutes — and it will be ready whenever you are tomorrow.

1-1/4 cups graham wafer crumbs

1/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup melted butter

2 cups whipping cream (divided)

1/2 cup icing sugar (divided)

2 tsp. vanilla (divided)

1 8-oz. package softened cream cheese

1 can cherry pie filling

Stir together graham wafer crumbs, sugar and melted butter. Reserve 2 tbsp. of the crumb mixture and press the remainder into a greased 9-inch by 11-inch baking dish. Bake at 350 F for 6 minutes; cool completely.

Whip cream with 1/4 cup of the icing sugar and 1 tsp. of the vanilla; set aside. Beat cream cheese until fluffy. Beat in remaining 1/4 cup icing sugar and half the whipped cream, along with remaining 1 tsp. vanilla.

Spread over graham crust. Top with cherry pie filling, spreading evenly over the cream cheese layer. Top with remaining whipped cream then sprinkle reserved crumb mixture on top. By all means, if you have maraschino or candied cherries left from baking, decorate the top.

Bacon and Egg Big Breakfast Strata

Breakfast is always a nuisance on Christmas morning, especially if you have kids, so here’s the plan. Make this delicious strata tonight and put it in the fridge. Tomorrow when they get up, take it out of the fridge and let it sit at room temperature while the presents are being ripped to shreds, then pop it in the oven. Everyone will be ready for a hunk of this, believe me. The green chilies add a marvelous spicy note to this dish, but leave them out if you prefer. I also add hot sauce, but that’s in your hands, as well.

4 cups thickly sliced day-old bread, cubed

2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese (or a mixture of cheeses you like)

1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese

1 lb. bacon, fried crisp, drained and crumbled

2 cans evaporated milk (regular, 2 per cent or skim)

10 eggs

1 small can green chilies (optional)

1 small onion, grated

2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

2 tsp. Dijon or grainy mustard

1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper

Place bread cubes in a greased 9 x 13-inch baking dish.

Sprinkle grated cheese and goat cheese evenly over top, followed by the bacon.

Whisk together milk, eggs, green chilies, onion, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt and pepper until smooth and pour over top. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight. Remove from fridge at least 30 and up to 60 minutes before putting it in the oven.

Bake at 325 F for 50 to 60 minutes or until centre is set. Remove foil after 45 minutes to brown the top.

Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John’s. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John’s, NL, A1E 4N1.

Organizations: The Telegram

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  • Frank Blackwood
    December 27, 2010 - 05:11

    Great family treats Cynthia..Guess who's dropping by for the Squares? Love the Cherry Cheese Squares! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year Frank Blackwood Newfoundland Writer