Entertaining family or friends for the holidays? Preserve the fabulous flavors of fall by using farm-fresh veggies and fruits to make an assortment of delectable starters, sides, and desserts ahead of time. Each of these dishes freezes really well, so when it’s finally time for Christmas or Hanukkah (or Kwanzaa!) dinner, you can easily check a few things off your to-do list. — Alison J. Bermack
Savory Sweet Potato Casserole 1 of 7Savory or sweet, whipped or baked, sweet potatoes are a fixture on the holiday table. Get them local and fresh at your farmers market and make a simple pureed side dish to freeze for your festive meal. The traditional sweet potato casserole made with brown sugar, evaporated milk, pecans or marshmallows freezes like a charm. But for something a bit different, how about a savory sweet potato side dish using sage and Romano cheese?
Make savory sweet potato casserole
Throw-as-you-go Soup 2 of 7A bowl of soup offers a warm and hearty welcome to holiday guests. Wander the market and gather root and vine vegetables for this hearty flavorful soup that captures the essence of fall and freezes exceptionally well. From celery, onions, sweet potatoes, carrots, and parsnips to squash of every kind, collect what's available at your market to create a tasty soup. Throw an apple or two in the bags as well for a hint of sweetness to complement the earthy flavors.
Make throw-as-you-go soup
Pumpkin Biscotti 3 of 7A white chocolate drizzle adds a finishing touch to the subtle pumpkin taste in these crunchy, flavorful cookies. They're made with fresh pumpkin puree, which is superior to the canned kind and will make a difference in the taste of your treats. Plus, it's loaded with vitamin A, is low in fat, easy to make, versatile for cooking and baking, and freezes well.
Make pumpkin biscotti
Potato Latkes 4 of 7With a quick re-heating resulting in a crispier bite, potato pancakes are actually even better when made ahead and frozen correctly. And when you use farm-fresh potatoes and onions, you'll achieve a superior taste. Serve them on a platter with a side of applesauce for Chanukah or pass them around with a dollop of sour cream (and caviar, if you wish) as cocktail food. Make them with sweet potatoes or a combination of both sweet and Yukon Gold potatoes, and you're in for a real holiday treat.
Make potato latkes
Parsnip Puree 5 of 7Parsnips, which look like white carrots but taste even sweeter, are exceptional when whipped and pureed. Plus, whipped and pureed vegetables happen to freeze really well, too. Boiled and pureed with butter, salt, chicken stock and a tinge of nutmeg, they are a great make-ahead holiday side dish. Add a touch of heavy cream before serving to make this puree extra indulgent.
Make parsnip puree
Carrot Cake Muffins 6 of 7Carrots, most plentiful and at their finest in the fall, are prime ingredients for sweet holiday cakes, muffins, and cookies. Make carrot cake in muffin form ahead of time for individual treats that can be used from the freezer as needed. These delicious bite-sized treats are more moist than most, thanks to two secret ingredients. Freeze them without the frosting and then pipe some on just before serving for a make-ahead holiday treat that's sure to please!
Make carrot cake muffins
Apple Pie Filling 7 of 7With the saying "as American as apple pie," we're quite accustomed to thinking a holiday isn't a holiday without homemade apple pie. It's hard to resist the temptation to buy one from the store, but it'll be much easier to make one yourself if you carve out a bit of time now to peel, core, and slice a variety of farm-fresh apples. Then, with a few simple ingredients, you can make and freeze apple pie filling that can easily be defrosted and baked in prepared pie dough. How's that for homemade pie in a pinch?
Make apple pie filling
Alison Bermack is the founder of Cooking With Friends, the popular lifestyle and cooking website. She blogs, publishes a newsletter and has written food articles for various websites, magazines and companies including Babble.com, njfamily, ediblejersey, NJ Star Ledger, Nestle, and many others. She also teaches a wide range of cooking classes, both privately and at the Adult School in Montclair, NJ.