Holiday Food Related Q&A's

from USU Extension in Weber County….
As we enjoy the holidays it seems there are plenty of “how to” questions that come along with this season of the year. Here are a few of the most common questions USU Extension gets. Maybe they are some of yours too, and here’s how we answer them.
How to freeze, which freeze well, can you freeze the dough….etc???
Most cookies freeze well. Good to know, as many of us try to get a jump start on the holidays to save us at least some stress at the last minute. The key to freezing cookies is not in the cookie, but in the wrap. 
  • Each type of cookie you are planning to freeze will need to be considered for its storage container. Some can be stacked in short stacks (like in a Pringles can), some need to be kept flat in rigid containers, and others will do fine in plastic bags.
  • Double-wrap the cookies securely with a good quality plastic wrap, then aluminum foil, and write the date and the type of cookie on the outside of the package or container.
  • When you are ready to eat your frozen cookies, just let them come to room temperature with the package partially opened for ”breathing”, or, for you impatient types, pop them in the microwave on high for about 30 seconds. (Times will differ depending on the size of cookie you're defrosting.)
  • Baked cookies will keep in the freezer for a month or two. If they are left much longer, they go stale.
  • Even cookies with frosting can be frozen.
Most cookie dough freezes extremely well and can be kept frozen for up to 6 weeks.
Double-wrap dough in plastic wrap to prevent freezer burn and absorption of odors from your freezer.
  • Write the type of cookie dough and the date it was frozen on the outside of the package.
  • When you are ready to bake, let the dough defrost in the refrigerator. We do not recommend (for food safety reasons) leaving the dough out at room temperature for more than 30 minutes to defrost, so plan ahead.
Even bar cookies, like brownies and lemon bars, can be frozen, once baked. Shortbreads, tea cookies, and frosted sugar cookies freeze quite nicely too.
Many folks are not aware that adjustments in candy temperatures need to be made according to atmospheric pressure and altitude, so they wonder why their candies are not turning out. This may not be the only answer to candy problems, but it is certainly a big one. Recipes are designed for sea level, so at our altitudes we must decrease the cooking temperature on candy. On the day that you are making cooked candies, place your candy thermometer in a pan of boiling water. Allow it to reach temperature. If that temperature of boiling water that day is 203 degrees, subtract that amount from sea level boiling water temperature of 212 degrees F. EXAMPLE: 212-203= 9 degrees. Now, subtract 9 degrees off of your candy recipe’s temperature, and that is the temperature you use for your candy.
Another way to figure it if you do not want to go to that bother is to lower the cooking temperature given in the recipe by approximately 2 degrees for every 1,000 feet of elevation. EXAMPLE: 4500 ft. X 2 = 9 degrees.
Note: Some days atmospheric pressure changes things a bit too, so the water boiling test is a touch more accurate.
Can I freeze my pies ahead of time? Do they do better to pre-cook then freeze, or can I freeze them unbaked?
Good news to those questions . . . most pies freeze quite well either way. Again, the trick is in wrapping it well. Here are some pointers:
Fruit filling preparation—Add a tablespoon extra cornstarch or 2 tablespoons extra flour to the filling whether you are baking before freezing or freezing unbaked. Frozen fruit fillings have a tendency to go a little runny when frozen, so the extra thickener helps.
Suitable Packaging—The best material for freezing pies is heavy-duty aluminum foil and/or freezer-grade plastic wrap.  I like to double wrap mine.
Storage Time at 0? F.—Baked fruit and pecan type pies--6 months; pumpkin--2 months; fully prepare chiffon pies--1 month; baked pie shells--4 to 6 months; unbaked pie shells--2 months.
Thawing baked pies—Leave baked fruit and pumpkin pies in their wrapping and thaw at room temperature for 30 minutes, or uncover and warm them in a 350? F. oven for a few minutes. Unwrap baked pie shells and thaw at room temperature. Thaw unbaked pie shells at room temperature or bake them (frozen) for 8 to 10 minutes at 475? F. Thaw chiffon pie at room temperature for 1 hour prior to serving.
Baking unbaked frozen pies—Frozen unbaked fruit pies and pumpkin pies can be taken straight from freezer to oven. Take the frozen pies from the freezer and place them in a 450? F. oven for 20 minutes. Then reduce the temperature to 350? F. for about 40 minutes—depending on the pie—check at 30 minutes.   Protect pie edges if getting too brown with strips of aluminum foil wrapped around edges.

One thing you definitely do NOT want to do is put a cold glass, Pyrex® or ceramic pie dish into a hot oven. If the dish is cold, then you must start in a cold oven.
Pies that do not freeze well—custard pies, meringue pies and cream pies. They will be watery and separate after thawing.
Note: Pie dough can also be frozen—it keeps beautifully for a number of months if well wrapped. Just roll it in balls (size depends on pie size needed), wrap, and freeze.
How much of what do I plan on when feeding a crowd? This is probably one of the biggest puzzlers for most folks when the “family gets together”. Here are some pointers:
·         Generally a meat serving is 3-4 oz. of cooked meat—without bone. Example: 12 lbs. ground beef will make meatloaf enough for around 40.
·         15 lbs. ham for 50 people.
·         Figure ¾ pound per person when deciding how much whole turkey to buy, so if you are serving 25 people, you would figure you would need about a 19-pound bird. This will not leave you much meat for leftovers; so if you want more leftovers, figure at least a pound to a pound and a half per person.
·         Cooked veggies or veggie side dishes will be about half a cup.
·         For salad greens plan on at least 1 cup per person.
·         For fruit salad or Jell-O salad, figure a half a cup per person.
·         5 to 6 9x13-inch pans will serve approximately 100 people as a side dish—when 1/2 to 2/3 full.
·         10 9 x13-inch casseroles will serve approximately 100-120 people as a main dish.
·         8 gallons of a drink = 100 10-oz. servings
·         10 lbs potatoes (or sweet potatoes) for serving 25 people, as scalloped or mashed…one potato per person for weight will vary depending on potato sizes when baking.
·         6 cups uncooked rice (approx. 3 lbs.) to serve 25 when cooked.
·         3 16-oz. packages of frozen corn or peas will yield approx. 25 ½ cup servings.
·         4 16-oz. cans cranberry sauce will serve 25 people (figure about 2-3 tablespoons per person)
·         Plan on 4-6 pieces per person on appetizers. ½
·         For stuffing or dressing it takes about 5 loaves of bread to make enough to serve 50 people (½- to ¾-cup serving size)…or about 6 quarts of dry bread, cubed. If you are using pre-packaged mixes for stuffing, read the container for servings provided.
·         One average sized cantaloupe (around 4 lbs.) will yield about 4 cups cubed fruit.
·         One large pineapple will yield about 5-6 cups cubed pineapple.
·         One medium apple will yield about 1 cup cubed fruit.
·         4 cans of olives to serve 25.
·         4 lbs. cauliflower or broccoli florets for 25 on a veggie platter.
·         2-3 bundles of celery sliced in 3” pieces to serve 25 on a veggie platter.