By Michaela Gibson Morris
Holiday season meal planning and preparation can be a taxing exercise.
However, with help from St. James Catholic Church and All Saints' Episcopal Church, the solution can be as close as the freezer.
Both the Ladies of St. James and the Episcopal Church Women are serving up culinary short-cuts for beleaguered cooks in the form of tasty dishes at their annual sales in November.
"It's very convenient for the holidays," to have great-tasting casseroles on hand, said Melissa Oakes, who oversees frozen foods for the All Saints' Food Fair.
Early birds definitely get the best selection at both the St. James and the All Saints' sales.
"We have a long line when we open the door," at 7 a.m., Oakes said. The most sought-after dishes disappear quickly, and all the goodies are usually snapped up before lunch.
At the St. James sale, which includes a rummage sale, an early appearance is a necessity for shoppers planning to take home a meal or two.
"We usually sell out in the first hour," said Barb Baumann, food chairwoman for the Ladies of St. James Fall Food Bazaar and Rummage sale.
At both sales, the dishes are offered in a variety of serving sizes to accommodate single folks and small families as well those organizing for large family get-togethers.
This year the Ladies of St. James have added appetizers to their line-up of popular frozen casseroles and soups this Saturday.
"We were trying to add some variety," Baumann said. "This gives them a complete meal" from beginning to end.
The group chose three tasty hors d'oeuvres: Mushroom roll ups, crab squares and hanky pankies, which are pizza squares. The crab squares and hanky pankies are already cooked and ready to warm and serve.
"You can pull out whatever you need," said Cheryl Sanna, Ladies of St. James vice president.
The mushroom roll ups come in rolls that just have to be sliced and baked.
Preparations for the food bazaar are a group effort. In the months before the food sale, the ladies' club has cook days to prepare the different recipes. Members of the parish contribute ingredients and money for the cook days.
By the beginning of November, freezers are full of the tasty dishes. This year's line-up includes three casseroles, chicken rotelle and two kinds of stuffed shells; three soups, sausage-spinach-bean soup, white chili and Tuscan chicken; and the three appetizers.
In addition to the frozen dishes, there will be fresh baked goods and some tasty holiday gifts, Baumann said. The group has put together chocolate chip cookies and brownies in jars. The layered mixes come with directions and are already wrapped in pretty bows. They are also selling mugs with premade coffee mixes.
"They would make great teacher gifts É or holiday happies for neighbors," Sanna said.
The Ladies of St. James use the money raised through the food bazaar, rummage sale and raffle to help a variety of programs including scholarships, Sav-A-Life, youth mission trips and the St. Vincent de Paul fund for the needy, Sanna said.
Regulars to the All Saints' Episcopal Church Food Fair, to be held this year on Nov. 15, typically come ready to stock up, Oakes said.
"We've had customers come in with wagons," Oakes said. Other customers bring laundry baskets and boxes to tote home their culinary treasures.
Most of the dishes are created at home by the church members and brought to the church frozen, ready for the sale. The offerings vary from year to year, but many of the favorite dishes reappear each year by popular demand.
"It's really a mix," Oakes said. "Some things are very holiday-oriented," such as yeast rolls and dressing.
Others, like Huntington chicken and breakfast casseroles, are great anytime, Oakes said.
The Episcopal Church Women do get together to fix large batches of a few of the most long-running and much-demanded casseroles and soups, such as Huntington Chicken.
In addition to tasty casseroles, soups and baked goods, the Episcopal Women also will be serving up their first cookbook "Cooking with the Saints" at their annual food fair.
"We have some wonderful cooks," said Mary Lou Parks, Episcopal Church Women publicity chairwoman. "I'm tickled to death" to have these recipes compiled in one cookbook.
The cookbook includes many of the favorite food fair recipes from over the years as well as the recipes served at the church's annual Lenten luncheons, Parks said.
The Episcopal Church Women plan to use the money raised from the food fair and cookbook sales to fund outreach programs in the community as well as church projects. Past outreach programs have included the Haven Acres community center, Regional Rehabilitation, SAFE and CASA.
All Saints' recipes
(Mary Lou Parks)
4 cups sliced yellow squash
1-2 cup chopped onions
35 buttery round crackers, crushed
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 eggs beaten
3-4 cups milk
1-4 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place squash and onion in large skillet with just enough water to cover bottom of skillet. Cover with lid and cook over low heat until squash is tender, about five minutes. Drain well.
In a medium bowl, mix together cracker crumbs and cheese. Stir half of cracker mixture into cooked squash.
In a small bowl, mix eggs and milk. Stir egg mixture into squash mixture, followed by the melted butter, salt and pepper. Mix well and spread into 9-by-13-inch pan. Cover top with remaining cheese and cracker mixture. Dot with butter. Bake for 25 minutes, or until browned on top.
6 eggs, beaten
6 bread slices, cubed
1 cup grated American cheese
1-2 teaspoon salt
1 pound hot sausage, cooked and drained
2 cups milk
Beat eggs and milk together. Set aside. In a 9-by-13-inch Pyrex dish that has been buttered, place bread cubes all over the bottom. Spread crumbed sausage all over the bread. Pour eggs and milk mixture all over the bread and sausage. Sprinkle cheese on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or an hour. Cover with aluminum foil for the first 30 to 45 minutes of baking. Remove foil and bake for a few more minutes to further melt cheese and brown top.
For best results, refrigerate casserole overnight before baking. Serve with biscuits.
(Served at Lenten luncheon)
3 cups cooked chicken, chopped
1 package, long grain and wild rice
1 can cream of celery soup
1 medium jar chopped pimentos
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup mayonnaise
2 16-ounce cans French cut green beans
1 can sliced water chestnuts
salt, pepper to taste
Cook rice in chicken broth with a little less liquid than called for on the package directions. Mix chicken with next seven ingredients (cream of celery to salt and pepper). Sprinkle with paprika and chopped parsley. Place in large casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees until thoroughly heated.
St. James' recipes
1 package crescent rolls
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
1 small can mushrooms, chopped
garlic salt to taste
1 egg white
Roll out entire package of crescent rolls, pinch seams together and make rectangle shape on cookie sheet.
Cream together cream cheese, mushrooms and garlic salt and spread on crescent rolls. Roll up crescent roll into a log and pinch seam together. Beat egg white and brush on both sides of log, then sprinkle with poppy seeds. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to form, then slice log into1-8- or1-4-inch pieces on a cookie sheet.
Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm. Log can be frozen in wax paper and foil. If frozen, cut and add egg white and poppy seeds before baking.
1 6-ounce can crab (or imitation)
1 stick margarine, soft or melted
1 4-ounce package shredded cheddar or Swiss cheese
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
dash of hot sauce
dash of Worcestershire
15 slices white bread
sprinkle of paprika
Trim crusts off bread. Mix together other ingredients except paprika. Spread on bread. Cut into squares or triangles. Place them on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Freeze on a cookie sheet until frozen then place in a freezer bag to be used as needed.
2 to 21-2 loaves Party Rye
2 pounds breakfast sausage
1 pound Velveeta
1 teaspoon catsup
1-2 teaspoon garlic salt
3 teaspoon oregano leaves
1 14-ounce jar pizza sauce
sprinkle of parmesan cheese
Brown and drain sausage. Add all other ingredients except for parmesan cheese. Mix ingredients on low heat until cheese is melted. Spread it on the Party Rye and place on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Bake 5 to 10 minutes at 450 degrees.
Freeze on a cookie sheet until solid, then place in a freezer bag to be used as needed.