How to roast a turkey safely

Turkey is the meal of choice on Thanksgiving. And while you can find a turkey at nearly every grocery store in the country, that doesn’t mean that everyone knows how to roast a turkey—and do it safely—once they have that big bird home. Here are several tips to remember on Thanksgiving day when it’s time to talk (and eat) turkey!

If you’re buying a fresh turkey, it’s important to take extra precautions handling and preparing the turkey to minimize the risk of harmful bacteria. In fact, the USDA recommends avoiding pre-stuffed fresh turkeys for that very reason. Don’t buy the fresh turkey any more than 48 hours before you intend to cook it.

Frozen turkeys are the most convenient to prepare. They can be kept frozen indefinitely (think of it as suspended animation if you will). Once it comes to thawing your frozen turkey, you’ve got three options: in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave.

In the fridge, allow approximately 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds to thaw. Thawing in cold water is a much quicker process; allow roughly 30 minutes per pound of turkey. If using cold water, you’ll need to change the water every 30 minutes and make sure the turkey is well wrapped so no water gets through to the bird. In the fridge, keep a pan beneath the turkey to catch any juices that may leak! If you’re nuking your bird this Thanksgiving, your best bet is to consult your microwave oven owner’s manual, which you probably tossed a long time ago. Once it’s thawed, you’ll want to cook it immediately.

So what does one do with those giblets? Remove them from the turkey cavity and cook them separately. That’s what!

The timetables for roasting a turkey can vary whether you’re cooking an unstuffed or stuffed turkey and of course, depending on the weight of the bird. You’re definitely going to need a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey and the stuffing. Check out the USDA’s guidelines on recommended cooking times to make sure you don’t ruin the turkey.

It is safe to cook a turkey from a frozen state, but it’ll take you 50% longer, which may be fine by you, especially if you prefer to skip the thawing phase. Definitely, most definitely, wash your hands, the utensils you’re using and anything else that comes in contact with raw turkey and raw turkey juices. Are you sufficiently frightened by the thought of bacteria ruining your Thanksgiving meal? Don’t worry about it as long as you’re following all the rules.

Source: USDA

Thanksgiving by the numbers

By now you’ve probably asked yourself, “How many millions of turkeys will be eaten in the U.S. this Thanksgiving?” It’s not exactly the type of thing you’d probably Google. Unless you’re a numbers or stats freak. In that case, read on. And even if you’re not, here are some facts and figures about Thanksgiving, courtesy of the U.S. Census Bureau.

If the number 248 million doesn’t mean anything to you this Thanksgiving season, it should. That’s how many turkeys are expected to be raised in 2011. Put all these turkeys in one room and we might have a problem on our hands.

It’s not clear if questions about cranberries and cranberry sauce were on the most recent U.S. Census form, but somehow those clever folks figured out that in 2011, America will produce 750 million pounds of cranberries. No word on how many Craisins will be made.

If you love sweet potatoes, then 2011 is your year. That’s because the U.S. will churn out a whopping 2.4 billion pounds of sweet potatoes. No wonder many places serve sweet potato fries these days. Now if we could only invent a lighter sweet potato we could save on shipping costs.

That’s nothing compared to green beans. Sure, they’re a magical fruit and all that jazz, but check this out: America will produce 656,340 tons of green beans this year. So when your Thanksgiving green bean casserole turns out to weigh half a ton, don’t say we didn’t warn you.

And did you know there are 116.7 million homes in America? That’s a lot of potential Thanksgiving gathering places. And as for those poor turkeys? They don’t stand a chance. The average U.S. citizen will consume 13.3 pounds of turkey in one year.

Well, anyway you slice and dice these numbers; at least that one lucky turkey that gets pardoned by the President can breathe a little easier—for this year anyway.

Keeping your kids busy on Thanksgiving

Ah, it’s Thanksgiving, you’re celebrating with a family get together and uh-oh, how are you going to keep the kids out of your hair while you prepare the big meal? Here are some ways to keep the young ones distracted, if not entertained while you prepare all the Thanksgiving trimmings.

Take them to the Thanksgiving parade – Chances are there’s a local Thanksgiving parade near you. If so, taking the kids and letting them get their energy out may pay off later in the afternoon when they’re tuckered out.

Send the kids outside to play in the leaves – If you’re thinking ahead, you will have raked (or blown) all the leaves into a big pile. Point at the pile of leaves, tell the kids they can’t jump in it no matter what, and then walk away. Leaf play will ensue.

Stick them in front of the TV – This is really an easy way out, but sometimes firing up a DVD or Nickelodeon and letting the kids veg out in front of the boob tube is the only way to get stuff done on Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving skit – Task the wee ones with putting on a Thanksgiving “play” in which they explain pilgrims, Indians and the meaning of Thanksgiving. Encourage the kids to dress up as Thanksgiving characters.

Write down what you’re thankful for – Ask the kids (and adults too) to write down what they’re thankful for. After dinner, read the notes and try to match up the note with the family member. If the kids are really creative, ask them to draw the things they are thankful for and then have your own Thanksgiving art show.

Make decorations – For the creative types, some construction paper, scissors, glue and crayons may be all that is needed to fire up some homemade Thanksgiving decorations that can be stored away and brought out every Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving word games – See how many words the kids can make out of the word “Thanksgiving.” Also, spell out Thanksgiving and underneath each letter, have the kids try to name as many things as they’re thankful for that start with each letter.

Create an indoor scavenger hunt – This can be a really fun game for kids, plus you can suggest to them that they’ll find most of what they’re looking for away from the kitchen so you can keep them out of your hair and your eye on the turkey or ham.

Jobs in the kitchen – If they’re ready for the responsibility, give the little ones some jobs to do in the kitchen. Just make sure it’s not something they can easily make a mess of, because, well, you know how kids are …

Let them help set table – If you haven’t already set your Thanksgiving dinner table, it might be a good job for the kids. Just don’t be surprised if they get the forks, knives and spoons mixed and they end up on the wrong side of the table setting!

The best Thanksgiving foods of all time

When it comes to Thanksgiving, eating until you’re stuffed is par for the course. While the main course usually consists of turkey, there are plenty of awesome foods that we get to chow down on while we celebrate the holidays with family and friends.

Nothing beats turkey for Thanksgiving. And there are plenty of ways to prepare turkey including roasting, braising and grilling. But perhaps the most delicious way to enjoy turkey on Thanksgiving is deep-fried turkey.

Honey-glazed ham is right up there with turkey for best Thanksgiving food. Spiral hams are delightful, especially when paired with rich and flavorful mustard. Plus, leftover ham makes for a great sandwich.

As long as there are potatoes on the Thanksgiving menu, you know it’s going to be a great holiday meal. Scalloped potatoes are a favorite. Mixing cheddar with potatoes can take them to that elusive “next level” of awesomeness. Sweet potatoes are also a Thanksgiving treat that are hard to pass up.

Fresh-baked rolls are just so good on Thanksgiving! Put a small slab of butter on a crescent roll that is just out of the oven and still warm—nothing could taste better! Except perhaps, dipping the rolls in hot gravy. “Pass the rolls please” is a request you’ll hear a lot at the table on Thanksgiving Day.

Stuffing yourself with stuffing is a Thanksgiving pastime that everyone loves. Stuffing is the best when you skip the Stove Top and make your own from scratch. It’s a great comfort food and goes well with turkey. And it’s made all the better with … you guessed it, gravy!

Thanksgiving traditions we love

Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate the important things we have in our lives. It’s about reconnecting with family and friends, going back home and eating a lot of food!

Is there anything more comforting and nostalgic than coming home? That is if things haven’t changed too much. Coming home helps us reflect on our past, where we’re at in our lives presently and where we’re going in the future.

The night before Thanksgiving is often called the biggest party night of the year. Meeting up with college or childhood friends at the local bar and enjoying a few adult beverages is a fun tradition, especially for the younger folks. Woo hoo!

If you enjoy watching football, you may as well camp out in front of the television all day and night on Thanksgiving. College and NFL games are broadcast each year and there is plenty of football coverage on ESPN to flip over to during halftime.

Americans love parades, especially on Thanksgiving. There are at least four major Thanksgiving parades in the U.S. including the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (New York), 6abc  IKEA Thanksgiving Day Parade (Philadelphia), America’s Thanksgiving Parade (Detroit) and McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade (Chicago).

Making a wish with the wishbone from a turkey is a great tradition, especially for the kids. Gather everyone around the table, get two people to tug at each end of the wishbone and whoever gets the bigger part of the bone will have all their wishes come true! (OK, maybe not, but it’s a nice thought …)

Community participation is a big part of the Thanksgiving holiday. A lot of runners will participate in local 5Ks, affectionately named turkey trots. And people spend Thanksgiving helping others, by serving meals to those in need and visiting with residents in nursing homes.

Meal preparation on Thanksgiving can be a lot of work, although it’s more fun when others chip in to help. Carving the turkey is a fun tradition as well and all the hard work and holiday planning pays off when it’s dinnertime!

Here’s to hoping your Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday and that you get to give thanks for all the blessings in your life. Happy Thanksgiving!

Traditional holiday meals

If you’re fighting the battle of the bulge, the holidays can be a challenge since so much of the celebration the holidays revolves around food. You may as well embrace it. Just make your New Year’s Resolution early to hit the gym and try to get back down to fighting weight. In the meantime, here are some of the top traditional meals.

For Thanksgiving, a honey-glazed ham with scalloped potatoes is often a popular choice. Turkey is the default meal in America and in recent years, fried turkey has increased in popularity. That said frying a turkey can be a tricky, if not dangerous proposition and proper safety precautions should be taken to minimize the risk of fire.

If the main course wasn’t enough at Thanksgiving, the dinner table is usually loaded up with filling sides such as stuffing, cranberry sauce, butternut squash and plum pudding. Some vegetables are always good to throw into the mix; often times a veggie platter with dip will be served as an appetizer.

For Christmas, St. Nick is a fan of the old-school snack: a plate of cookies and a glass of milk. Christmas main meals are similar to Thanksgiving, with either ham or turkey served.  Beverages such as eggnog and mulled cider are often served at Christmastime. And warming up with a cup of hot chocolate is always good if there’s a chill in the air. Christmas desserts include mince pie, fruit cake and candy canes.

Sufganiyot are one of the most popular foods during Hanukkah, as are latkes (potato pancakes). Cheese is another food often served during Hanukkah. You’ll often see cheese dips (in handmade round challah bread bowls) and cheddar gelt wafers out on the dinner table. And for dessert, there is always room for just a little more cheese in the form of cheesecake.

Kwanzaa culminates in a feast on the last day of the holiday, December 31st. Traditional Kwanzaa meals include rich and hearty stews, chicken dishes, collard greens, black-eyed peas, squash and okra.

Holiday disasters caught on video

The holidays are a time to celebrate with family and friends. But it’s also a time to exercise safety and be careful. There are a lot of travelers out on the road and a lot of precious cargo out there. And then there’s lots of cooking at home. All it takes is a little bit of carelessness to result in a whole lot of disaster. While some of these holiday disasters are improbable, keep in mind they all really happened. So never say never, because it could happen to you.

Turkey frying safety video – Thinking about frying a turkey for Christmas or Thanksgiving? Be mindful you do it properly and minimize your risk of causing a fire.

31 Christmas Falls in 35 Seconds – As easy as it is to get caught up in the Christmas spirit, it’s also equally easy to lose one’s balance and end up on the floor.

Cat hates Christmas costume – There really is a never a good time to dress a cat up in a costume. And if you think your kitty will be happy just because it’s Christmas, think again.

Camel falls into crowd at Christmas service – It’s really tempting to bring a camel into a church service, but at this video shows, it’s probably not a really good idea.

Kid vomits while Christmas caroling – Stage fright at its best. Everyone take cover!

More than 1,000 birds fall dead from sky on New Year’s Eve – Not the way you’d expect to ring in the New Year.

Christmas Eve turkey frying fire – Frying a turkey is dangerous stuff, especially if you’re not prepared to deal with a fire. Leave turkey frying to the professionals if at all possible.

Turkey that used to love to dodge traffic is killed on road – This beloved turkey wasn’t lucky enough to receive a pardon from the President nor was he very good at dodging traffic. Sad stuff.