It’s basmati rice that makes Greek Style Rice Pilaf so special. An especially aromatic grain used for centuries in India and Pakistan, basmati doesn’t usually show up in a Greek-styled pilaf. But I prefer its naturally nutty taste to the blandness of the usual varieties of long-grain rice. (There’s a reason that basmati means fragrant in Hindi.) The seasonings, of course, are also key: sauteed spinach spiked with red pepper flakes, feta cheese, olives and dill.

Walnut oil is our oil of choice because it complements the pear’s sweetness. (It also happens to be wonderful drizzled on vegetables, raw or cooked, and on all sorts of cheeses.) My favorite brand is La Tourangelle from France, but there are many other brands, both domestic and imported, that will do the job. Just be sure to store it in the refrigerator once you’ve opened it because walnut oil — like any other nut or seed oil — can go rancid easily if left at room temperature too long. Still, if you don’t want to invest in a bottle — it’s a little pricey — use safflower or sunflower oil instead.

The best thing you can do for yourself is to start planning your holiday menu early, making sure it includes plenty of make-ahead items. Have a week of dinners to use up everything in your freezer, then start loading it up with soups, stocks, appetizers, and pies. When the time comes, you can pull things out to defrost, and then you’re just doing a lot of reheating and a little bit of day-of assembly.

Cook once but eat twice has long been the battle cry of the make-ahead meal, with Italian comfort foods such as lasagna and eggplant parmesan perhaps being the poster-children of this eat-one-freeze-one movement. So I overhauled these Italian casseroles into my Eggplant and Spinach Parmesan, a healthier veggie-filled version that are actually quite easy to pull together, and freeze beautifully.