Smart tips for party planning

kpurvis@charlotteobserver.comNovember 6, 2012 

DEVILEDEGGS_FO_030608_DRE_039f_03-19-2008_7411OSJT.jpg

DAVID EULITT/The Kansas City Star--03062008--Deviled eggs (1 of 12) for COB placement on page. shrimp with baby cucumber and chives

DAVID EULITT — MCT

  • Can I freeze it? The trick to keeping your cool while hosting is to do what you can in advance. Here’s a list of what freezes – and what doesn’t. Remember: Always cool cooked food completely before wrapping and freezing. To cool a batch of something like soup, place the pan of hot food in a sink with ice water. Yes Baked goods: Cakes, including frosted ones; cookies and brownies; breads; rolls; quick breads and muffins. Fruit-filled pies: They can be frozen baked or unbaked. Baking supplies: Butter, nuts, chocolates and specialty flours such as rye or whole wheat. Eggs: You can freeze lightly beaten whole eggs removed from their shells. Unbeaten egg whites can be frozen. Egg yolks get gummy; stir in 1/8 teaspoon salt or 1 1/2 teaspoon sugar or corn syrup for every four yolks, label and freeze. Cooked eggs that include yolks and whites, such as scrambled eggs. Unbaked casseroles: They can go straight into the oven without thawing; just add 10 to 15 minutes to the baking time. Meat, fish and poultry: Raw or cooked, just make sure it’s sealed tightly. Raw meat will keep longer than cooked. Remember that the length of time is important for quality, not safety: An uncooked turkey in its original wrapper can be safe for years, but will eventually suffer from freezer burn. Cooked rice and pasta: If they’re frozen with a sauce, they’ll absorb much of it by the time they’re reheated. Cooked beans are also OK to freeze. Sauces/gravies: Tomato- or broth-based sauces and gravies. Mayonnaise: It separates, although you may not notice it in a mayonnaise-based casserole. Produce: Vegetables prepped for freezing (most need to be blanched in boiling water, then shocked in cold water. Vegetables and fruits will be soft after thawing, but the difference isn’t noticeable when they’re cooked.) Most fruits can be frozen without sugar for a few months, although you need to use syrup or sugar to freeze longer. Milk: It may separate and will need to be shaken up. Make sure you remove some from the container to allow for expansion. No Eggs: In the shell. Boiled eggs, such as diced, cooked egg whites or filled deviled eggs. Sauces: Those thickened with cornstarch or egg-based, such as Hollandaise, which will separate. Vegetables: Lettuces, celery, radishes, cucumbers. Desserts: Gelatins; meringue toppings or egg-white based frostings; custards and cream puddings. Maybe Cheeses: Hard cheeses will become more crumbly, but you can freeze them if you’re planning to grate them (or freeze pre-grated). Soft cheeses, such as cream cheese or brie, can’t be frozen. Soups: Broth-based soups freeze well, cream-based soups don’t. Soups with cooked rice or pasta will freeze; soup with potatoes will darken or get an off taste. Potatoes: Raw potatoes will turn dark or change taste. Potatoes boiled alone or in a broth-based soup may change flavor or texture. Potatoes mashed with butter and milk will freeze fine, although they may be watery when thawed. Cream- or cheese-based sauces: Most, such as bechamel, will freeze, although they may separate and need to be stirred back together while reheating.

Dress: Let your guests know what kind of party you’re having, especially what kind of clothing style – dressy to down-home – is expected.

Diet: Plan for dietary restrictions (vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, etc.). Ask when you’re issuing invitations. And guests, remember: Let your host know if you have a health issue that limits what you can eat, but understand that the whole party can’t be shaped by one guest.

Platter principle: Fill several small platters rather than one big platter. Scatter them around the house to keep people from congregating in one spot. Refrigerate them; whipping out a loaded platter is quicker and less messy than refilling a platter during the party.

Remove a slice: People never want to be the first to take something, whether it’s a slice of cake or wedge of cheese.

Displays: Think in levels when you arrange a buffet or dessert table. Use upside-down vases or cake tiers to put food at different heights. Lifting things adds visual interest, and it makes some things easier to pick up if they’re above the table surface.

A gift for the hostess: If you’re a guest, remember that flowers are nice – but not if your host has to drop everything to find a vase. Bring the flowers arranged in a vase, or take them by as a thank-you the next day.

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