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Published: Tuesday, 11/24/2009

Company's Coming: Plan on leftovers, new menus, and breakfasts

BY KATHIE SMITH
BLADE FOOD EDITOR

Whether you have a house full of company over the extended holiday weekend or at other seasonal gatherings in the coming days, it's important to plan your menus.

Perhaps you can use leftover turkey in soup, salads, casseroles, and sandwiches.

Or maybe you need to plan another menu for a holiday gathering. Whether it's a tree-trimming party or Christmas caroling, it doesn't have to be costly or time-consuming.

People should realize that the holidays are a time to enjoy. Not only should your guests enjoy your hospitality, you should enjoy their company.

Here are three flavorful ways to have a delicious celebration.

First, that leftover turkey can be used in many ways if unexpected company arrives. Turkey pot pie, turkey divan, and adding it to a cobb salad are recipes I always use. I try to slice as much turkey for sandwiches as possible, and then use the rest for casseroles, salads, and soups.

Turkey Risotto with Artichoke Hearts and Sun-Dried Tomatoes is another tasty recipe for lunch or dinner. Risotto should be made with arborio rice. The risotto must be stirred constantly for about 20 minutes to coax the starch from the rice kernels and give the dish its creaminess, writes Rick Rodgers in Sur La Table Tips Cooks Love (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $15).

The nice thing about this recipe is that rice, canned artichoke hearts, and sun-dried tomatoes can be staples in your pantry. The recipe can also be saved for a winter night.

If you have planned a weekend event, an inexpensive stew makes a wonderful, warm entree. After a day hunting for the Christmas tree, putting up lights, or caroling, this dish will satisfy family and friends.

Beef Stew with Cranberries & Roasted Root Vegetables is a great winter meal. "This is an excellent recipe," said Angela Benko, who tested the recipe for The Blade.

Use two pounds of boneless beef chuck or round cut into one-inch pieces or use beef stew meat. The beef is browned, cooked in moist heat, and simmered on the stove top. Cover the pan tightly. Simmer gently until the beef is fork-tender. There's no stirring and no peeking. You can overcook braises and stews, writes Mr. Rodgers in Sur La Table Tips Cooks Love. Overcooking leads to dry, stringy meat.

Meanwhile, the beets (or potatoes), parsnips, and onions roast in the oven. "The beets and parsnips were very good. I didn't expect it to be that good," said Mrs. Benko. However, she noted that the red color of the beets bleeds into the parsnips and onions. So you can use small new potatoes or yellow beets in this recipe to avoid that. Also if the pan sauce (or natural gravy) is too thin, you might want to double the cornstarch dissolved in water to thicken it.

Complete this party menu with warm crusty rolls and a mixed green salad tossed with fresh orange segments, candied almonds (packaged in the nut section or the produce section of the supermarket), and a prepared balsamic vinaigrette.

There are so many ways to make that favorite pumpkin pie.

The classic method is to use one can of evaporated milk with the solid-pack pumpkin. For a Sour Cream Pumpkin Pie, use one and a half cups of sour cream in place of the evaporated milk.

Another twist on the classic is Pumpkin-Ginger Pie with Golden Marshmallow Topping. It has a streusel layer of gingersnap cookie crumbs, pecans, light brown sugar, butter, and flour that's sprinkled on a crust-lined pie plate.

The pumpkin filling is spiced with grated fresh gingerroot and pumpkin pie spice. The topping is miniature marshmallows.

"I didn't think the pie was too sweet," said Mrs. Benko, who also tested this recipe. "Watch the marshmallows closely when they are under the broiler (at least seven inches from the element) or they will burn." It takes only 30 seconds to lightly brown the marshmallows. You can also brown them in the oven. To prevent excessive browning on the pie crust while broiling the marshmallows, cover the crust edges with strips of foil.

There's nothing like the fragrance of fresh muffins or quick bread in the oven when overnight visitors wake up. Or a special breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon, toast and jam, or muffins sends travelers on their way with happy memories of the holiday weekend.

Quick breads can be used for any occasion. Have a slice with coffee for breakfast, pack them as a snack for travelers, or eat as a daytime snack.

Quick breads typically have a crack down the center of the loaf. When the loaf is warm, it's apt to crumble when cut. When cooled, a serrated knife cuts even slices.

These loaves are convenient to make ahead of time. They can be frozen by cooling completely, wrapping tightly with plastic wrap and then with aluminum foil, and freezing. To defrost, thaw at room temperature.

Cranberry Sour Cream Coffee Cake baked in a 9-by-13-inch pan will top off any holiday brunch. A glaze is drizzled over the baked coffee cake.

Contact her at:

food@theblade.com

or 419-724-6155.



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