While we may not be having the large gatherings we’re used to this holiday season, I still plan to make a special dinner on Christmas. It will be much smaller this year, but I love having the family gather around the table. I also enjoy spending time with them rather than rushing around in the kitchen. My make-ahead mashed potatoes are a lifesaver when it comes to convenience. It’s the one dish everyone wants, but it always seems like I’m standing over a pot of steaming spuds at the last minute, wishing there was an easier way. Usually, potatoes will turn gray if you try to prepare them ahead, but I found a way to make it happen — and with delicious results. First, you start by baking rather than boiling the potatoes (save the skins for my loaded potato skin recipe). After that, it’s a simple blend with rich and creamy additions, and then into the fridge it goes. It will last for two days. When you’re ready to serve, reheat in the microwave and you’re finished. It will not only be your family’s favorite dish, but yours as well!

Belle’s Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes

3-4 pounds of russet potatoes

2 cups heavy cream

6 tablespoons butter

Salt and Pepper to taste

Place potatoes directly on the rack of the oven and bake for about an hour. You want them to be very soft. Remove from oven and let cool a bit. Using an oven mitt, slice the potatoes in half and scoop out the flesh. Put it in the bowl of your stand mixer. (Save the potato skin shells to use for Belle’s Loaded Potato Skins on my website). Using the whisk attachment, mix the potatoes to remove any chunks. In a saucepan, heat the cream and butter until the butter is melted. With the mixer on low, slowly pour in the cream. Scrape the sides often, until the potatoes are smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Place the potatoes in a large microwave safe bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Store in the fridge for up to two days. To reheat, poke a few holes in the plastic wrap and microwave on 75 percent power for about 15 minutes. Serve with a couple pats of butter, if desired.

Brenda Stanley is the mother of five children, including two sets of twins and a grandmother of eight. She is a cookbook author and novelist. For more recipes and information, visit her website www.talesofthedinnerbelle.com.