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Lonnie says ‘don’t sweat small stuff of holidays'

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Only three days until Christmas; I hope you are not getting overly tired and stressed out from all of your shopping and cooking. This is a good time to re-think your strategy for your big meal. Maybe you have your Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve, which can also make a bigger rush to get everything done.
Get yourself a cup of coffee or tea, sit down and let’s talk. As my husband says, “don’t sweat the small stuff ‘cause it’s all small stuff.” He’s absolutely right. You can make things much more simple for yourself and now is the time to start.
In catering, I learned I had to “prep” things ahead of time if I was ever going to get a meal delivered on time. Look at your menu, and if you don’t have it written down, do it right now. By doing this you won’t forget to make that favorite casserole the family always wants. Now go through your menu and determine which foods can be made ahead. For example; gelatin salads, marinated vegetables and even some casseroles can be made ahead, ready to pop in the oven.  
You can make a mashed potato casserole by putting it all together a couple of days ahead of time, then popping it into the oven the day of your meal. Did you know, you can make mashed potatoes a couple of hours ahead of time, then put it in your crock pot on warm or low and have it ready for your meal without that last minute hassle? Vegetables for your relish tray  can be cleaned and cut up two days ahead of time, along with all the fresh vegetables you plan on having for dinner.
If you are preparing a turkey and it is frozen, it needs to defrost in the refrigerator about five days ahead of time. A beef roast can be prepped ahead by seasoning it with a rub or putting it in a marinade two days ahead and keeping it in the refrigerator. It will be even more tasty when you do this. For a beef roast, I like to make a rub of Kosher salt, pepper, dried rosemary, minced garlic, thyme and basil. I will coat my roast with a little Kitchen Bouquet, make a few holes in the roast and place a garlic clove in it, then rub on the herb mixture; wrap it in saran wrap, place in the refrigerator until ready to cook. Bake at 500 degrees F. for fifteen minutes, turn oven down to 350 degrees F. and bake 16 minutes per pound for medium or 18 minutes per pound for well-done. Using the meat thermometer is the best way to insure it’s done.
Here’s a snappy little recipe for a side dish that can be made at least three days ahead. I give you
Cranberry Chutney

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2 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple ( Drain Pineapple well and pat dry with paper towels)
1 (16-ounce) can whole berry cranberry sauce
One-fourth cup firmly packed brown sugar
One-half teaspoon ground ginger
One-fourth teaspoon salt
1-2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced (I use 2, be careful of the seeds)
3 green onions, chopped
Stir together pineapple and next 4 ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, simmer, stirring often,  for 5 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat, stir in peppers and green onions.  Cover and chill until ready to serve.  Makes 3 cups.

Merry Christmas everyone, keep it simple and enjoy!

P.S. The SHOP WITH A COP COOKBOOK makes a great gift!

Lonnie Sundermeyer is a retired professional caterer residing in Ghent, Ky.