Do what you can ahead to avoid stress


Linda Conway Eriksson - Contributing Columnist



I’m coasting into Christmas and the New Year.

That means no more scrambling to find the perfect gifts. Furthermore, if it’s not decorated by now, dust it off and settle for clean and shiny. Take one more sane and civilized look at the dog-eared list of gifts for those near and dear. (Just to be sure nobody’s been left out or inadvertently has an abundance of riches under the tree.)

I need to send messages to each cell phone reminding kids and grandkids of the optimum time of arrival so we can visit before dinner time.

Most gifts are wrapped by now, and will drift down to settle under the tree in the next two or three days. Part of the fun and enjoyment of the season is allowing my eyes to look over the wrapped gifts in the days immediately before the grand opening on Christmas night.

Make no mistake there are last-minute things to be done, for sure. Dinner can’t be table-ready two days in advance of Christmas dinner for 14.

At some point before the cars are lining up in the driveway and the first knock sounds at the back door, I will have to walk a circuit of the first floor of the house to be sure every little mess is picked up and put away, the tables are set (although there have been years when the grandchildren helped with the table setting after they got here), and the rolls are formed and rising. Since I know that my children will bring food, it’s far more hospitable of me to police the kitchen to see that they have counterspace and room in the oven to finish off their offerings.

We’ll all end up in the kitchen together, cooking, noshing on hors d’oeurvres, toasting the season, and catching up before dinner. It’s how our family rolls at the holidays.

Among the dishes I can make ahead is this one. It goes with everything, people really like it, and it’s just a little different from the everyday. With a 30-minute warm-up before it goes to the table, it pleases everyone.

MASHED POTATO CASSEROLE

3 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1 inch cubes

3 quarts water

2 teaspoons salt

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup fresh whole milk

3/4 cup chopped fresh chives (about 3 bunches)

salt and pepper

1 tablespoon chilled butter, cut into pieces

Butter a 6-8 cup ovenproof dish.

Run 3 quarts water in a large pot. Bring to a boil; add potatoes and salt. Cook for about 12 minutes or until tender. Drain potatoes; return to same pot.

Add cream cheese and mash well. Add sour cream and milk and then chives; fold in to mix thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon potatoes into prepared dish. Dot with chilled butter.

Preheat oven to 375. Bake potatoes until heated through and beginning to brown on top, about 30 minutes.

Makes six to eight servings

This dish can be made two days ahead and kept chilled. Remove from refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours. Reheat in preheated oven for 45 minutes (top will begin to brown).

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Linda Conway Eriksson

Contributing Columnist

Linda Conway Eriksson can be reached at lindaconwayeriksson@gmail.com.

Linda Conway Eriksson can be reached at lindaconwayeriksson@gmail.com.

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