Plan ahead for holiday baking with these tips for freezing pie:

* Pie crust: Freeze baked or unbaked. Freeze in pie pans to prevent damage. Bake unbaked crust from freezer at 475 degrees, or fill and bake as usual.

* Unbaked fruit pie: Make as usual and add one extra tablespoon of thickener. Do not cut vents in top crust until ready to bake. Freeze in pan. Package. The bottom crust tends to get soggy, but fruit flavor is fresher. Bake without thawing at 450 degrees, 15 to 20 minutes. Reduce to 375 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes, or until brown.

* Pumpkin pie: Prepare as usual and chill filling and fill unbaked, chilled crust. Bake without thawing at 400 degrees, 10 minutes. Reduce to 325 degrees to finish baking.

Gift of cookies

It's the holiday season so spread some cheer with a box of cookies. Here are some tips for mailing cookies from the kitchens of King Arthur Flour.

* Bar cookies or crisp cookies ship well. Bar cookies retain moisture longer. Crisp cookies have low moisture. Both need to be wrapped well.

* Use a sturdy box with soft packing material like bubble wrap. Put each cookie in a cupcake liner to help prevent damage.

* Put cardboard in the freezer bag and pack the bag snugly to prevent shifting. Cushion with bubble wrap and fill box so it is snug. For extra padding, pack inside another box. Close, seal, label and ship!

About the leftovers

For some people, the best meal of the holiday season is the leftovers. So here are some ideas to savor the meal again.

* Turkey soup: Save the turkey carcass and simmer it with aromatic vegetables to make savory soup base.

* Casseroles: Combine the turkey or ham with the vegetables and make a casserole, pot pie or even a Shepard's pie.

* Turkey chili: Use white beans, onions, celery, corn, chilies and broth to make this hearty soup.

* Sandwiches: Slice the turkey; add cranberry sauce, and other toppings on a whole wheat bread for a tasty sandwich.

* Enchiladas: Find your favorite chicken enchilada recipe and substitute turkey for a festive meal.

* A fix for soggy salad: Limp salad greens are not very appetizing. So how can this problem be averted? Salad greens have a waxy cuticle layer that stops watery liquids from penetrating the leaves. But oil breaks down this waxy layer.

A couple techniques can help this problem. First, for a simple vinaigrette, toss the salad with vinegar first, and then add the oil. The second method is to use an emulsified vinaigrette made of vinegar, oil, mayonnaise and mustard. The vinegar surrounds the oil droplets and traps them. This keeps the oil from soaking into the leaves.

Water testing kits

Kansas Department of Health and Environment and Kansas State Research and Extension strongly recommend at least annual water tests for coliform bacteria and nitrate. However, a reliable indicator of safe water requires more bacteria tests, at least each quarter. Water should be tested for common impurities and nuisance contaminants every few years. Except for a few cases of gross contamination, they change slowly so a test every three to five years is adequate. These tests form a basis for comparison to detect possible contamination.

Just because water appears clear and tastes good does not mean it is safe to drink. Most contaminants that affect health are not detected by our senses. Safe wells are the best assurance for safe drinking water. If your water comes from a private well, well location out of the pathways of contaminants, well construction that meets current standards, site management to protect well from contamination, and annual well maintenance are essential for a safe well. Water testing is an essential part of annual well maintenance.

* How to take a water sample: Instructions for collecting a water sample usually accompany the sample container from the laboratory. Use the container provided and follow directions to ensure a representative sample. If no directions are given, contact the laboratory or refer to K-State Research and Extension publication "Taking a Water Sample, MF-963." Samples should always be taken from cold, unsoftened and untreated water. Select a faucet that is regularly used. Remove the aerator and allow the water to run several minutes. For lead tests, sample the first flush after water has remained in the system overnight.

Water test kits are available from the Finney County Extension Office. The kit contains sample bottles and instructions for the procedure to collecting a sample. K-State Research & Extension publications on the subject are available.

Family traditions

Family rituals and traditions are instrumental in establishing strong family foundations. A tradition is a custom or belief that is passed from one generation to another. In addition to creating good feelings and positive emotions, traditions promote family bonding and provide a sense of belonging, stability, understanding and love that strengthens family cohesiveness. Traditions demonstrate what is special about a family. Many meaningful traditions even become a ritual when we repeat them for their symbolic value. Many families have long-standing traditions, but often times not everyone knows how the tradition came to start. By sharing life stories and talking with previous generations, one can gain an appreciation for family history and possibly even better understand the past.

New family traditions often develop with the addition of children. The transition to parenthood can be overwhelming and full of uncertainty. Creating traditions, rituals and routines allow a predictable pattern in family life which contributes to a parent's capability and efficiency. The child comes to rely on these repeated patterns of family life as a form of stability and certainty in the family system. Children and parents with family traditions have a greater sense of belonging and self-esteem.

Activities to try:

* Attend a holiday church service or program.

* Create a "snowed-in" activity box complete with board games, cards and puzzles.

* Bake cookies together.

* Make hot chocolate and share stories.

* Fill a stocking for everyone at Christmas and add the same items as something to look forward to.

* Buy a dated family holiday ornament each year.

* Allow the kids to open one gift before the holiday.

* Start a themed or special ornament collection for children. Add to this collection every year and then pass the collection on to the child when he/she moves away from home.

* Support a community service project Toys for Tots, angel tree, soup kitchens, fruit baskets or food boxes.

* Watch holiday movies reserve a special time each year to do so.

* Go caroling sing your favorite holiday songs.

* Go on a holiday light-viewing drive wear your pajamas.

* Build a gingerbread house.

As you recognize the traditions and rituals in your families take time to also recognize the strength you gain from them and the sense of self that they help bestow. Traditions make your family unique and afford you with a sense of understanding, continuity, closeness and appreciation for one another. Start today by recognizing how even simple daily activity makes your family special and realize that those "little things" are memories in the making.

Source: University of Kentucky Extension

K-State Research & Extension Finney County is the front-door source to your everyday questions for information and knowledge. Every question is of value to you and us. Give us a call at 272-3670, or better, walk in our front door at 501 S. Ninth St., for information to help you make a better decision.