At some point this holiday season, if you haven’t already, you’re going to have a crowd to cook for, whether it’s for gifts from your kitchen or for entertaining guests.

Since I cook three meals a day for 30 people all summer long, I thought it might be helpful to detail the process I go through for those who only face this once or twice a year. Who knows, maybe it will give you the confidence to host your brood for the first time yourself.

I plan on most everything being done ahead of time. In my work, that means done, or at least prepped, before breakfast.

For you, that means at least the day before if not weeks before, depending on the dish.

I also make sure there are only one or two dishes that require fussing, such as cutting the meat and making the sauce at the end.

Everything else — bread, mashed potatoes, vegetables gratin, for example — needs to be able to sit for a while.

Then have another good look at your menu. Is there anything that can be made and frozen?

The menu should be planned and shopped for fully ahead of time. Think about the space you have — refrigerator, freezer, oven and counter — and plan accordingly.

Mentally follow your meal from the start to the finish and think about what will you need: what pots, cutting tools, platters, serving utensils or garnish.

Cooking is obviously what you’ll be doing the day of, so don’t be dealing with any of the table setting that day. Have the table set the day before, pressed linens, candles, polished cutlery, wine glasses, centerpiece — everything.

And remember, whatever happens, your family and friends are there to see you and spend time together. If a dish ends up a disaster, know that it will be a good family story later and the food is not the highest reason you are gathered.

It’s a vehicle to circle around the table in community. Let it be that and let the rest go.

RAISIN, WALNUT AND MOLASSES GRANOLA

2/3 cup canola oil

2/3 cup honey

1/3 cup molasses

2 cups coconut

1 cup chopped walnuts

8 cups whole rolled oats

2 cups raisins

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Heat the honey, molasses and oil together in a small saucepan. In a large bowl, add all of the dry ingredients, except the raisins, and toss together with the warm honey and oil mixture.

Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes to one hour, or until the color has changed to a golden brown. You’ll need to stir occasionally. Add the raisins and then let cool completely, again, stirring occasionally. Store in an air-tight container.

Makes 12 cups.

CRANBERRY GINGER GRANOLA

Dried blueberries are also terrific in this recipe, although the cranberries are a little less costly in most places.

1 cup honey

1 cup canola oil

3 tablespoons vanilla

1 cup coconut

1 cup flax seed

1/2 cup sesame seed

1/2 cup sunflower seed

1/4 cup minced crystallized ginger

1/2 cup brown sugar

8 cups whole rolled oats

11/2 cups dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Heat the honey and oil together in a small saucepan. Add vanilla. In a large bowl, add all of the dry ingredients, except the cranberries, and toss together with the warm honey and oil. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes to one hour or until the color has changed to a golden brown. You’ll need to stir occasionally.

Add the cranberries and then let cool completely, again, stirring occasionally. Store in an air-tight container.

Makes 12 cups.

CINNAMON PECAN OATMEAL COOKIES

For larger cookies, use a number 12 scoop or another utensil to form 2-inch balls of dough. Bake for 15 minutes instead.

1 cup unsalted butter

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

11/4 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

3 cups whole rolled oats

1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine butter and both sugars until creamy. Add the eggs one at a time and then the vanilla.

Sift all dry ingredients into bowl, add the oats and pecans, and mix until just incorporated. Scoop the dough onto a baking sheet using a number 40 scoop or two teaspoons.

Bake for 10 minutes or until the centers are just cooked and the edges are still lightly golden.

Makes about 3 dozen.

DULCE DE LECHE

2 cups heavy cream

1/3 cup sugar

Pinch of sea salt

Combine all ingredients with a whisk and heat on medium-high. Bring to a full boil. The color will begin to change to a beige/light caramel several minutes into the process. At this point, watch over your pot, whisking occasionally until the mixture complete changes to a deep caramel and thickens. Transfer immediately to a cool bowl.

Makes 1 cup.

 

Anne Mahle of Rockland is the author of “At Home, At Sea,” a recipe book about her experiences cooking aboard the family’s windjammer. She can be reached at:

[email protected]