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Planning ahead for holiday gatherings

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Updated: 2/03 12:06 pm

(BPT) - No matter what time of year it is, the kitchen is always the busiest room in the home. That's especially the case during the holiday season. With the added stress of planning the perfect menu and creating the ideal holiday atmosphere for your guests, it's no surprise that many people feel overwhelmed with the planning process.

One major stress reliever is to create a planning list prior to those get-togethers - which can help give you peace of mind, even if you anticipate a full house. With this 'Countdown to Guests Timeline' from Peter Thornhill, executive chef at LG, you'll feel prepared to take on whatever the holiday season brings!

Two weeks out:

Planning in advance is critical for hosting a successful family gathering this time of year. At this stage, plan out your menu, keeping in mind the number of people you are expecting. From this, create a shopping list, and note what menu items can be made ahead of time.

One week out:

Do your grocery shopping now. If you can, try to schedule your trip in the middle of a week day, so you can avoid the large crowds. Schedule the prep work for everything on the menu and prepare those items that can sit for a couple of days without perishing. Also tackle the major housecleaning - try and do one room a day to help spread out the task and make it more manageable.

Three days out:

Gather the dishes you'll need for preparing and serving the food, and give them a good wash, if needed. If you're serving a turkey, be sure to thaw it in the refrigerator. Also take the time to decorate your home. Use seasonal flowers to create DIY centerpieces.

One day out:

Prep everything you can. Peel potatoes and carrots and store them in cold water in your refrigerator. Cut up vegetables to store in freezer bags in your refrigerator and tear up bread for the stuffing to dry out overnight. With all of this prep work, your refrigerator is going to be put through its paces. New Energy Star certified French-door refrigerators like those from LG with a special Door-in-Door compartment within the refrigerator door allow you quick access to your most commonly used and favorite foods - like milk, eggs or juice, without having to open the entire refrigerator. This feature ensures less cold air escapes, conserving energy.

Also preset your stations. If you're creating a drink station, precut garnishes, purchase ice and have everything else in place. The same goes with the dining room table. Preset the serving dishes and polish any silverware, if needed.

The day of:

Timing is crucial to pull everything off. Be sure to eat a complete breakfast, because you'll need the energy! To ensure all your food is cooked and ready to serve without delay, select LG ranges feature Infrared Grill technology that eliminates the need to preheat when broiling your turkey, while still allowing the food to be juicy inside and crisp on the outside. Some models offer two separate oven compartments, which means you'll have flexibility to cook multiple items at different temperatures saving you time to focus on other planning details. This allows you to present your menu items hot and ready to eat, all at the same time.

'While you have your main dishes, sides or desserts in the oven, prepare your salads and drinks to be chilled in the refrigerator, and check over the guest areas to make sure they are stocked with the necessities,' Thornhill says.

Clean-up tip

Take advantage of timesavers to help with clean-up after the holidays are over. For example, many new ranges feature EasyClean technology, cutting oven cleaning time from hours to minutes and without the use of harsh chemicals or high heat.

With these smart tips, you'll be able to maximize efficiencies enjoy your guests this holiday season. In need of a good dessert to serve? Try Chef Thornhill's pecan pie recipe that will have your guests begging for a second serving.

Deep Dish Pecan Pie

Ingredients for pie crust

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup shortening, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, cold

1/2 cup butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, cold

1/2 cup water

Directions:

Combine flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the cubes of butter and shortening and coat with flour. Gently divide the cubes into smaller pieces and continue to mix until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add water to the mixture until it just comes together. You may not need all of it. Shape into a ball. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours. Preheat oven to 400 F. Roll out dough on a lightly floured counter until it is about 1/2 inch thick. Press dough into an 8 inch round cake pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 20 minutes or until crust is set but not too brown. Set aside.

Ingredients for pie filling

1 3/4 cups white sugar

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup butter

1 tablespoon cold water

2 teaspoons cornstarch

3 eggs, beaten

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

3 tablespoons cognac or brandy

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a saucepan, combine the sugar, maple syrup, 2 tablespoons butter, water, and cornstarch. Bring to a boil, and remove from heat. In a saute pan, melt and brown the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, then add the pecans. Stir to coat. Turn the heat off and add the cognac or brandy to the pecans. Carefully ignite the boiling alcohol with a stick lighter; wait for the flames to die down. Set aside. Add about 1/4 cup of the syrup mixture to the eggs and whisk to combine. Repeat this process two more times, and then add the egg mixture back to the rest of the syrup. Stir in salt, vanilla and pecans. Pour into pie shell. Bake in preheated oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until filling is set in the center. Remove and let cool before slicing and serving.

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