Top positive review
Entertaining will be much easier now, especially Thanksgiving and other holidays.
Reviewed in the United States on October 28, 2014
As Ina Garten points out, "there is ahead of time and there is WAY ahead of time." That's why she's included recipes that cover a wide range of "make ahead" schedules. Some of them, especially soups (one example is Zucchini Basil Soup) and gravy (Make Ahead Turkey Gravy with Onions and Sage) can be completely cooked and frozen for months. Others can only be made a few hours - or perhaps a few days- ahead of time.
This includes Thanksgiving turkey. Although it seems obvious now that she's suggested it, I like the idea of cooking and slicing the turkey well before guests arrive....just have to make sure it stays warm.I bought this book primarily to streamline our Thanksgiving and other holiday menus - especially since we have both meat lovers and vegetarians in the family.
UPDATE: I tested two recipes on October 30th. See info below.
I plan to make Roasted Vegetable Lasagna for the vegetarian option, and freeze it and that solves the main course situation. There are also some side dishes and desserts in here that I'll be contemplating, perhaps the Cauliflower and Carrot Puree (can be prepped ahead of time but not frozen).
UPDATE: I tested both and they're delicious. I've made an extra lasagne for the freezer, following the freezer instructions, and plan to defrost and test how it works after being in the freezer. Will update again then. I don't like to use any untested recipes although Ina's are reliable.
The majority of these recipes are NOT frozen ahead of time so if you're looking for a freezer cookbook this isn't the one. You might want to keep this in mind but it didn't bother me. I'm happy to simply save time and not be a frazzled host. The main sections are cocktails, To Start (primarily appetizers), Lunch, Dinner, Vegetables, Dessert, and Breakfast.
Here's the major pros of this cookbook:
1. Lots of vegetarian options: Warm Fig and Arugula Salad, Tomatoes and Burrata (a type of cheese), Quinoa Tabbouleh with Feta, Zucchini and Goat Cheese Tart and plenty more.
2. Minimal to no last minute prep. When guests arrive, relax and have dinner ready to serve in minutes. No messy kitchen.
3. A complete menu and a schedule for cooking and prepping Thanksgiving dinner. This includes making 2-3 dishes a day, starting on Monday with the Carrot and Cauliflower Puree, then seasoning the turkey on Tuesday and taking out the gravy base out of the freezer to defrost (or making it that day), cutting the brussels sprouts for roasting, etc. There is also a timetable for cooking everything.
If you're a traditional sort when it comes to Thanksgiving, there isn't a recipe for cranberry sauce or traditional mashed potatoes in here. No pumpkin pie either. There is, however, a make ahead mashed potato recipe that - although it deviates from traditional - is yummy and stays creamy even when prepared in advance. I'm excited about trying a variation on old-fashioned mashed potatoes. And of course, pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce can be made well ahead of time. We do both at least a day ahead.
Points worth considering:
1. Many of the recipes are very heavy on cheese, especially the vegetarian options. You might want to consider this factor if you're watching your dairy consumption.
2. Make ahead does not generally mean freezer recipes in this book. Depending on your expectations, this may be a disappointment. As noted, however, this didn't bother me.
3. A fair amount of the recipes may not be kid friendly or they use relatively exotic ingredients. We've always encouraged our kids to "push the envelope" and experiment with different foods - sometimes successfully and sometimes not.
Also includes a list of Make-Ahead menus for various occasions as well as a complete recipe index.