It’s holiday time. What’s your emergency plan?

November 18, 2011 · 20 comments

Note: this is a sponsored post: Pepperidge Farm asked me to try their Stone Baked Artisan Rolls, and challenged me to find ways that a home cook can be rescued during this oft-harried season. You might rightly wonder how a semi-locavore like me goes about taking coupons and compensation for trying supermarket rolls? Well, it all goes back to realism — I am frequently asked by friends what I do when I just don’t have time to bake bread — what are the options at the market? I usually share my personal list of best-option supermarket breads, and when those aren’t available I tell people what ingredients to avoid. When Pepperidge Farm contacted me, I responded with a request for the ingredient list. While enriched flour is not ideal, it was thankfully unbleached, and the rolls contained nothing I couldn’t pronounce, no HFCS — i.e., a best supermarket scenario.* Seemed like something worth trying, especially for holiday emergencies.

And while I’m not beyond faking illness for some coupons (did someone say Extreme Couponing?) or radically adjusting my lifestyle for free food opportunities, the story below really and truly happened. Ask my kids the next time you see them, they might be permanently traumatized by the scenes they witnessed in the dark of that night.

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And by emergency plan, I don’t mean anything that concerns stockpiling dry-goods (not that there’s anything wrong with that) or making sure you have a generator in the basement (does anyone actually have those?). I mean what you do when, during this season of generosity and giving, of sharing meals and visiting, your dinner plan serving 4-6 unexpectedly turns into serving 6-8, and you want it to still feel like a festive holiday.

Or, like the scenario that played out at our house just this week: someone (ahem… the cook) in your house falls prey to one of the countless bugs and viruses going around during this time of “sharing.”

Each Wednesday, we host a group of people from our church for dinner — usually, it’s a crowd of 15 (including us and 6 combined offspring). Yesterday afternoon, I had just gotten a giant stockpot of our beloved Tuscan White Bean stew into the oven to slow-simmer for a couple hours when I noticed I had that feeling. You know, when you kind of think your lunch didn’t quite settle right, and wow, that feeling is lingering, and I hope it doesn’t go down that road. Tim came home at 5pm, and I told him I needed to go lie down for a bit, before the crowd showed at 6.

Fast-forward that hour: on a downward spiral, I’m in bed, wearing my puffy winter coat, still shivering under two down comforters. Tim checks in, and asks what still needs to be done for dinner: he needs to make mac-n-cheese for the kids, and we needed bread to go with the soup.

If you know little else about me, you know I am a bread-baker. I make our sandwich bread about 75% of the time, and go through phases of making our dinner breads as well. There are many ways to make bread ahead: you can freeze whole loaves, to be thawed and crisped later in the oven, or you can freeze par-baked rolls, pizza crusts, and flatbreads, to be thawed and fully baked at a later date. While I often have something par-baked in our freezer, either homemade or from a local bakery, last night I had nothing, save for the fact that I’d fortuitously found the Pepperidge Farm rolls at the grocery store earlier in the day (those blissful hours when I still felt normal, part of the living).

Tim is great in the kitchen, but most often tackles breakfast. This was one of those rare times when it was so nice to be able to say, “Get the rolls out of the freezer, and follow the directions on the package.” He did as told, and by the time our guests arrived the kitchen smelled of fresh-baked bread and Tuscan herbs. Not that our friends would’ve turned and walked out the door if the meal had not been complete — but I felt better (upstairs, in that tossing/turning/freezing/burning sort of way) knowing that their bellies would be full and their bowls sopped clean.

So, tell me: what are your secrets for keeping your kitchen ready for what hits it during the holiday season? How do you make sure your guests feel warm, fuzzy, and well-fed, even when the unexpected happens? I’ll be posting next week, a few of my own ideas, and would love to add yours to the list.

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* Ingredients for the rolls: Unbromated unbleached enriched wheat flour (flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate [vitamin B1], riboflavin [vitamin B2], folic acid), water, contains 2% or less of: salt, white rice flour, malt syrup, yeast and sesame seed meal.

 

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{ 19 comments }

Sarah Partain November 18, 2011 at 2:07 pm

Stocking the freezer is definitely one way I prepare! Meat, sauces, and now bread. Great post!

Amy November 18, 2011 at 2:40 pm

I don’t usually have guests but I like to have some small homemade items available to take as host/hostess gifts (usually pair food item with a candle or basket or something). The kinds of things I keep — an extra loaf of pumpkin bread, some Oreo Truffles (Katy, you don’t want to know) — would be good in case of unexpected company.

That said, it WOULD be nice to have something not-sweet available in a pinch and those rolls looks good. We haven’t settled on a bread for Thanksgiving yet, I might pick some up this weekend!

Katie November 18, 2011 at 2:45 pm

I always have frozen roll dough in my freezer. I feel better about serving something that has risen in my kitchen than crescent rolls! :)

My backup is always the frozen veggies and the grill though. We always have some type if meat stocked in the freezer – and normally enough to feed a few families. I just defrost and stick on the grill, add the frozen veggies and some fresh fruit.

Rebecca November 18, 2011 at 2:59 pm

I try and make double portions of soups and freeze half for a later date – not next-day leftovers, but an honest-to-goodness sick day or family visit that’s requiring more food than I’d thought. Besides that, I could use more ideas. I often have an exhausting day, only to open the fridge and think, “Shoot. I have to make a meal from scratch.”

Bethany R Robbins November 18, 2011 at 3:45 pm

I love my “bucket bread” (artisan bread: http://robbinsabroad.blogspot.com/2009/05/5-minute-bread.html). I keep a bucket of dough in the fridge, ready to bake at all times. I also keep the pantry stocked of spicy mixed nuts and dried fruit and some brie in the fridge for those last minute get togethers. Who doesn’t like fresh bread, cheese and nuts??
I also learned, while living in Africa, to ALWAYS have tea and cookies on hand. You just never know.

punkinmama November 18, 2011 at 3:50 pm

My back-up plan is to never plan to host a holiday meal at my house ever. I guess I should also work on a plan for a fall-back in case the person who IS hosting gets sick… hmmm…

Melissa November 18, 2011 at 3:54 pm

As for guest…I just spent two days shopping so the fridge and freezer are both well stocked. However, I didn’t think about bread for the Thanksgiving meal so I may give these rolls a try. They sound like a healthy alternative to homemade since I will neither have time or space to make homemade rolls.

BTW, I do know folks up here in the hills with generators in their basement and I would love to have one in mine in the future. When you live on a well and the power goes out (which it does A LOT) there is no water. See my point. :) Not to mention you stand to lose all those crops you put up in the summer.

Sarah-Jane Carter November 18, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Ah…finally…Katy joined the ranks of normal:) And made me feel less guilty.
I love me some frozen dough!!!
Do you have a pic of these rolls or packaging so I can look for them. As I only make homemade bread about 3 times a year:)

katy November 18, 2011 at 5:38 pm

S-J, click on the link in the first sentence, it’ll show you the package.

Sarah-Jane Carter November 18, 2011 at 5:06 pm

oh..and my emergency plan is eating out or ordering pizza…..

erin from swonderland November 18, 2011 at 8:29 pm

Punkinmama is cracking me up. I don’t ever plan ahead or have any kind of emergency plan. I know I know. But frozen bread that doesn’t have weird extra stuff in it always works for me.

moosh in indy. November 18, 2011 at 9:28 pm

I used these the other night in a pinch and they were really good! I’m going super chill for Thanksgiving this year and these may just make an appearance.

As far as preparedness?

I always have frozen cookie dough and pie shells.

Always.

Gillian November 19, 2011 at 8:57 am

So glad dinner was saved by the rolls! Sorry you got sick…hope you are all better now!

Gillian November 19, 2011 at 8:59 am

Oh, and my emergency plan is usually frozen pizza or ordering in. :) must run in the family!

Lynn November 19, 2011 at 11:31 am

Sorry you were sick but glad you had the rolls. I need to purchase them for a meal I am bringing to a family soon!
Love your blog!

Nancy November 19, 2011 at 1:56 pm

Why is it you are always reminding me of my grandmother? She cooked three huge meals a day for 6 kids and a husband. She raised her own animals and milked her own cows and even rung the necks of the chickens with her bare hands. That sounds made up, but to hear any of her children tell it, she was amazing in her chicken-neck-wringing skills. But anyway, my whole life, I have associated Pepperidge Farms with her. Even though she baked pies and cakes and rolls on an almost daily basis, she would buy Pepperidge Farms frozen cakes. When I was little, that was all I knew they made and every time I hear that name I think of her.

But that isn’t about how I’m preparing for emergencies. I usually don’t and my incredibly adept husband sweeps in and saves the day and me just about every time. But the holiday season is so full of activities and visitors, so we stock up on sandwich meat, rolls, and cheese. We use rolls for little sandwiches all the time but it’s hard to find ones Will can have. If I have to, I can whip up a pot of chili or soup in 30 minutes, pull out the sandwich fixin’s and voila! I am excited to hear about these rolls because they have no eggs or milk in them, which would make them great for Will. And then there is the Sarah-Jane tried and true method – Papa John’s and Domino’s have had the same phone number for 20 years. :)

designhermomma November 19, 2011 at 8:26 pm

We have a generator, it’s a hand me down that my dad gave michael. (my dad is a builder, he has an excuse, I guess)

I have a few frozen items that I love, mostly from Trader Joe’s, if we’re being honest.

I’m going to try these rolls out this winter while I take a hiatus from the kitchen due to the new babe.

Thanks for being our guinea pig.

Stefanii Ferenczi November 20, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Butter, milk, and cheese in the freezer, 90% of the time. When in a pinch, those 3 ingredients go a long way in making something last minute.

Also, 2 pasta dishes (tuna with capers and olives and a lemon-cream pasta) that I always have ingredients for. A nice side of pasta can stretch many a meal. And 2 different soups that use all-pantry ingredients. I once made an absolutely inedible soup for community group, but didn’t discover its utter in-edible-ness until half the group arrived. Lemon-cream saved dinner.

And my parents had a generator and all kinds of crazy in the basement. My mother bought into the whole Y2K scare BIG Time.

Angie @ Just Like The Number November 23, 2011 at 9:02 am

I’m with Emily on a few of the Trader Joe’s things. A hunk of good cheese and their package of cured Spanish meats would pair well with the frozen rolls I think! I’ll definitely have to stow some of those in my freezer. I love making my own bread, but with me trying to get used to juggling work and meal planning, I could use a little help.

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