IF THE MERE thought of Thanksgiving, just three weeks away, makes you panic, you're not alone. The pressure to produce a spectacular meal with all the trimmings is enough to drive the most organized to distraction.
Here are some recipes you can make now and freeze for turkey day. Just be sure you allow yourself enough time to defrost and reheat the dishes, as necessary.
Pumpkin pies can be made ahead and frozen for three months. Pies must be baked before freezing or crust may become soggy. Thaw baked pies at room temperature 30 minutes then bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until warm.
Don't waste time making a from-scratch pie crust. We used Pillsbury's All Ready Pie Crusts, found in most supermarket dairy cases. These crusts are very simple to use, and unlike frozen pie PTC crusts, there are no rigidly crimped edges to give you away. There are two nine-inch crusts in each Pillsbury package. We used one crust for the bottom of the pie and cut leaf shapes from the second crust.
To do this, take a sharp knife and carefully cut small leaves from the crust. Score lightly with the tip of a knife to make veins and stems. Press leaves firmly on top of the edge of the unbaked pie. Tiny scraps of dough can be rolled to look like berries and pressed between the leaf shapes. Brush this top crust with beaten egg white and sprinkle lightly with sugar.
Almost any baked pumpkin pies can be frozen. Let the pie cool and wrap securely in foil before freezing. Use your favorite recipe or try this classic one from Libby's.
All recipes are from ''The Thanksgiving Cookbook'' by Holly Garrison, Macmillan Publishing Co. $22.95, 1991.
Libby's Famous Pumpkin Pie
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 16-ounce can solid-pack pumpkin
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 12-ounce can undiluted evaporated milk (not condensed milk)
Basic pie crust pastry for a nine-inch single-crust pie, plus extra crust to make decorations, if desired
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, pumpkin, sugar, salt, spices and evaporated milk with a wire whisk just until mixed. Overmixing may cause unattractive bubbles on the surface of the pie. Pour the filling into the crust. Bake in the lower third of the oven for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350 degrees. Continue to bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until a knife inserted between the center and the edge comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack before cutting.
If your family loves a sweet potato casserole topped with marshmallows, they'll flip over this unusual dish.
Sweet potato balls
2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large even-size chunks
4 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons milk or orange juice
1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind, optional
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups corn flakes
8 regular size marshmallows (not miniatures)
Place the potatoes in a medium-size saucepan and cover with water by about 1 1/2 inches. Bring to a boil, then cover and boil slowly over medium-high heat until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes thoroughly and mash until smooth with an electric mixer or by hand. There should be about three cups.
Beat in the butter, brown sugar, milk, orange rind and salt. Sprinkle the corn flakes on a sheet of waxed paper and crumble them a little with your fingers. Scoop up a heaping one-third cup of the sweet potato mixture and shape it around a marshmallow to make a 2 to 2 1/2-inch ball. Gently roll the ball in the corn flakes and place it on a buttered baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining sweet potatoes and marshmallows. Place the baking sheet in the freezer for two or three hours, or until the balls are frozen solid. Remove from baking sheet and place in freezer-safe container. Make sure seal is airtight. Balls can also be wrapped securely in a double-layer of aluminum foil. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake the frozen potato balls for 20 minutes. Serve immediately. Makes eight balls.
A bountiful bread basket is a Thanksgiving staple. Fortunately, for busy cooks, breads and muffins also freeze well for up to one year. After baking, cool completely and wrap securely in foil and freeze. Before serving, unwrap slightly and let thaw at room temperature. This will take about two to three hours. Reheat, wrapped in foil, in a 350-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until warm. Muffins and breads can also be reheated in the microwave. Wrap them in microwave-safe paper towels and microwave for a few seconds or until warm.
Maple Walnut Muffins
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup apple juice or cider
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon maple extract, optional
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup chopped walnuts, divided
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl until well blended. In a small bowl, mix the apple juice, maple syrup, egg, and maple extract with a wire whisk until well blended. Whisk in the oil. Stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture, along with three-quarters cup of the walnuts, just until blended. Spoon the batter into 12 muffin-pan cups that have been lightly greased or coated with non-stick vegetable spray. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with the remaining walnuts, dividing evenly. Bake for 16 to 18 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the muffins in the pan for five minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely before freezing. Makes 12 muffins.