Monday, May 21, 2018
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A game plan gets cooks set for company

Looking forward to a house full of company during Easter week makes any host think, "Food."

"I'm expecting nine people including three children from 2weeks old to 4 years old," said one reader who wants to spend more time with her grandchildren than in the kitchen. "I need to prepare food ahead. I'm looking for things to freeze, including dinners. The most amount of time I want to spend in the kitchen is doing the dishes. A lot of our friends have grandchildren out-of-town and say the same thing."

Even when college kids and twentysomethings come home for an extended weekend, there are special dinners to prepare when they are not on the go.

My advice:

Plan your menus by starting with your family's favorite recipes. Whether it is a special breakfast of pancakes or blueberry muffins, a fruit pie or homemade cookies, lasagna or fried chicken, think about how you can include the tastes that remind your company of home.

If you can freeze ahead, do so. This is the week to it. A two-crust pie can be assembled, doubled-wrapped in freezer paper, and frozen in a freezer-lock plastic bag. When you want to pull it out, simply let it thaw about 30 minutes and bake according to directions. I often keep an unbaked lasagna in my freezer as well as a baking dish of homemade chicken cordon bleu (four to six chicken breasts stuffed with ham and Swiss cheese).

Look for quick and easy recipes. Seaside Shortcakes won Betsy Dell of New York $2,000 in the Pillsbury Bake-Off. While large refrigerated biscuits are baking, heat half a cup of dry white wine for three to five minutes in a large skillet. Reduce the heat to medium, add a 16-ounce jar of Alfredo sauce, eight ounces of cream cheese, a cup of frozen baby sweet peas, half a pound of shelled, deveined, cooked shrimp, and a six-ounce can of drained crabmeat and mix well. It is cooked eight to 10 minutes until the sauce is smooth. When biscuits are baked, split each in half. Place the bottoms on plate. Spoon half of the seafood mixture over the biscuit bottoms. Cover with the biscuit tops and the remaining seafood mixture. Sprinkle with two ounces of shredded cheddar cheese and one-fourthsuper cup of chopped fresh chives. The recipe serves five.

After Easter, use the leftovers. If ham is to be Easter dinner, plan on ham-and-cheese brunch strata on Monday morning. In a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, layer cubes of French bread with cubes of ham, broccoli florets, and cheddar cheese. In a large bowl, combine six eggs, two and a half cups of milk, two tablespoons of Dijon mustard, and two tablespoons of butter. Pour evenly over the cheese mixture. Let it stand for 15 minutes or cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 , or until golden brown and set.

Make deviled eggs with leftover Easter eggs and sensational ham sandwiches with Sunday's holiday entree. Or if roasted lamb is a traditional Easter dinner, think about lamb pot pie on Monday.

Shop ahead, so your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer are fully stocked. (This may be the time to include convenience foods such as refrigerated pie crust to make that lamb pot pie.) Look for seasonal produce such as fresh asparagus, strawberries, and citrus fruits. Remember to include healthy snack foods such as fruit, cheese and crackers, and juices for all ages.

Now, you can enjoy that company!

Kathie Smith is The Blade's food editor.

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