Thanksgiving basics: How to cook a turkey

Published: Wednesday, November 08, 2017 @ 6:42 PM

Thanksgiving - By the Numbers

Turkey is typically the star of the Thanksgiving Day table, but the idea of cooking a giant bird can be daunting. Cooking a turkey is surprisingly easy, but you’ll need to take precautions to make sure the bird is properly handled and cooked to a safe temperature.
 
To ensure a holiday meal that everyone will enjoy, following this guide to how to cook a turkey.
 
How to store a turkey before it’s cooked

If you’ll be cooking your turkey within one to two days after you buy it, you can store it in the fridge in its original packaging. But if you won’t be serving it for a few days or more, it should be frozen, keeping it in its original wrapping.
 
How to thaw a turkey

A frozen turkey will need to be thawed before it’s cooked, but it needs to be kept at a safe temperature while it’s thawing. Don’t leave it out to thaw on the counter, because if it’s left out for more than two hours, bacteria in it can grow rapidly.
 
You can thaw your bird using any of the following methods:
 
Microwave: This method is ideal for small turkeys. Unwrap your turkey and check your microwave’s owner manual for defrosting times and the power you should use.
 
Refrigerator:  Check out Betty Crocker’s thawing chart to see how much time you’ll need. Even small whole turkeys (three to four pounds) take about a day, so plan far ahead of time, because big birds take days to thaw.
 
Cold water: Put the turkey in a plastic bag and submerge it in cold water. You’ll need to keep the water cold by changing it every 30 minutes. This method takes about 30 minutes of defrosting per pound of turkey.
 
How to cook a turkey
 
Butterball recommends the following steps:
 
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Drain the turkey’s juices, and pat it dry with paper towels.
 
Put the turkey, breast side up, in a shallow roasting pan.
 
Tuck the wings back to help stabilize the turkey, and spray or brush its skin lightly with vegetable or cooking oil to help it get that nicely brown appearance.
 
Insert an oven-safe meat thermometer deep in the lower part of the thigh. When the temperature on your thermometer reaches 180 degrees, your turkey will be done.
 
Put the turkey in the oven, and when it’s about two-thirds done, cover the breast loosely with a piece of aluminum foil to help prevent overcooking.
 
When its thigh thermometer reads 180 degrees, remove your turkey from the oven and let it stand on a platter for 15 minutes before carving.
 
For approximate cooking times, check out Butterball’s chart, which lists times for stuffed and unstuffed turkeys by their weight. 
 
To stuff or not to stuff
 
It’s safer to cook stuffing in a casserole dish since it’s easier to make sure it’s thoroughly cooked and doesn’t cause food poisoning.
 
If you decide to stuff the turkey, do so right before you cook it, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises. The stuffing should reach a temperature of 165 degrees when it’s in the bird. Leave it in the turkey for about 20 minutes after you take it out of the oven.
 
How to carve a turkey

This task becomes easier if you let your turkey stand for about 20 minutes before carving. This will also give you a juicier end product, since the standing time lets the juices reabsorb into the meat.

Put your turkey on a cutting board, and use a meat fork (a large fork with two tines) and a sharp carving knife to do the job. Place the turkey breast-side up, and pull the leg away from the body until the thigh bone pops out. Then cut through the joint.

Slice along the breast bone to remove the breast meat, and then cut off the wings. Separate the thigh from the drumstick and slice pieces from the bone. 
 
How to store turkey leftovers

As tempting as it can be to leave the turkey and fixings out all afternoon so everyone can continue to nibble on it, it should be refrigerated as soon as possible. Otherwise, bacteria can grow, which can cause food poisoning. The temperature inside the refrigerator should be at 40 degrees or colder to safely store leftovers.
 

Black Friday 2017: What to buy, what to avoid

Published: Thursday, November 16, 2017 @ 11:35 AM

Black Friday 2017 Deals

On Black Friday, you’ll want to know which items to stand in line for, and which items to buy after the holiday season has passed. You can end up saving a lot of money (and time) by shopping smart as you weave your way through the crowds or shop online.

What to buy on Black Friday:

Home appliances  They may not be the sexiest of gifts, but small and large home appliances often are priced to sell on Black Friday. From electric mixers and coffeemakers to refrigerators and dishwashers, Bankrate.com says it’s worth checking out the deals on these items on Black Friday.

Televisions (basic models): While some analysts say January, leading up to the Super Bowl, is the best time to find a television at a good price, there are still plenty of TV deals on Black Friday. Keep in mind that lower-end models tend to be priced the most competitively, making Black Friday the perfect time to pick up a television for a second bedroom or the kids’ room. If you are looking for a high-end television, it’s better to wait until after Black Friday.

Mainstream laptops and tablets: Shoppers will find many basic laptop models at bargain-basement prices on Black Friday. Power users looking for good deals on high-end laptops should wait until after Black Friday.
The same logic applies to tablets. There will be plenty of Black Friday doorbusters featuring basic tablet models; just don’t expect steep discounts on iPads.

Gaming system bundles: Nerdwallet says gaming system bundles should receive good discounts on Black Friday. In years past, gaming system bundles have been priced up to $50 off the regular price on Black Friday.
 
What not to buy on Black Friday:

Furniture: The furniture sales cycle resets in the summer, so if you wait until Black Friday, you won’t be getting the best deals, according to The Street. And while buying outdoor furniture in winter might seem like a wise plan, retail experts say most of that merchandise has been removed from the floor to make room for holiday items by Black Friday, so you won’t find great deals on the remaining products. 

Toys: Unless your child is hoping for one of this year’s hottest toys, it’s actually better to wait until Cyber Monday or early December to shop for toys, according to Bankrate.com. The toy that is priced up to half-off on Black Friday may end up being priced up to 75 percent off if you wait.

Winter clothes: Avoid spending your shopping money on winter clothing during Black Friday, because it generally sells at a much deeper discount soon after the holiday season ends. 

Workout equipment: You might think that the best time to purchase workout equipment is during Black Friday, but the biggest deals on fitness equipment actually take place right after the turn of the new year.

Tools: You can still get your husband that tool set he’s been wanting for Christmas, just wait to purchase it until December, when tools and equipment sell for the largest discounts.

Gift cards: There are rarely good deals on gift card purchases on Black Friday. The Street says this is because gift cards are the gift choice of procrastinators, so wait until just before Christmas to score better deals.
 
Holiday decor: Although you might want to buy a few special ornaments or decorations for your house on Black Friday, plan ahead by purchasing next year’s décor right after Christmas, when seasonal items are sold at clearance prices.

Thanksgiving 2017: Best ways to show gratitude

Published: Friday, November 10, 2017 @ 10:58 AM

Thanksgiving - By the Numbers

As you prepare for the holiday season, maybe you’ve been wondering about the best ways to give thanks on Thanksgiving. Well wonder no more.

There are alternative ways to spend Thanksgiving that will embrace the true spirit of the holiday. From volunteering your time, to including others in your celebration and other creative ideas, there are plenty to give back and show your appreciation for others this time of year.

Take a look at some of the best ways to give thanks on Thanksgiving.
 
1. Volunteer to help make the holiday brighter for someone less fortunate

It’s been said that giving is better than receiving, and volunteering your time on Thanksgiving Day is a good way to reap the benefits of the old adage.

From soup kitchens and food pantries to churches and Meals on Wheels, serving or delivering food to less fortunate families is a great way to spend a few hours on Thanksgiving Day. The time commitment may be minimal but it’s far outweighed by the benefits.
 
2. Extend an invitation to someone who would welcome the company

It’s never fun to be alone on the holidays. Whether widowed or single, orphaned or separated from family by geography, the prospect of celebrating a holiday by yourself is never fun.

Consider giving someone a much-needed respite from a solo holiday by extending an invitation for lunch or dinner. It may be a small gesture, but it could mean a world of difference to the invitee!
 
3. Make an extra meal to share this Thanksgiving season

The demands of the season can put a strain on households on a tight budget. This year when you’re planning your Thanksgiving feast, make a second one to share with a family who may may not be able to provide one for themselves. By fostering the festive spirit of thankfulness through a meal, you can brighten the holidays for others.
 
4. Make a donation

A component of thankfulness is sharing with others, and donations are an excellent way to achieve this. What’s more: it’s not just money that organizations are looking for. Donating gently used home goods and clothes to your favorite charity is just as important as cash donations.
 
5. Visit a nursing home or hospital

Patients in nursing homes or hospitals often face holidays alone in a situation that is trying at best. This Thanksgiving, take an hour or two and go put a smile on the faces of patients who are alone for the holiday. A kind or caring word, a sincere hug and a few quiet moments of conversation could be the difference for a patient between a lonely day and a feeling of warmth and goodwill.
 
6. Break out the crafts

Prepare to cultivate a spirit of thankfulness among the youngest members of your family this holiday. Set aside time to teach them even the simplest of Thanksgiving crafts like Pilgrim hats, cardboard napkin rings, turkey hands and pinecone placements. The children will be thankful for the art instruction, but they’ll be even more thankful for the quality time.
 
7. Help guests express their thankfulness

If you’re planning to host a crowd this holiday, allowing the guests to share their gratitude is a great way to give thanks on Thanksgiving.

A great way to encourage guests to really think about what matters most to them is to offer them cards on which to write the things for which they are most thankful.

Another way to get the thankful juices flowing is to create a Thanksgiving tree as a centerpiece for your holiday. Use cardboard or construction paper leaves in varying colors and encourage friends and family to take a leaf or two on which to write their thanks and wishes. By the time the day is over, the branches will be full of thanks and your guests will be encouraged to keep sharing.
 
8. Share your favorite memories

Add another level to your thankfulness by asking family and friends to share favorite holiday memories and stories. By remembering the past in a warm way and vocalizing the things that have meant the most, you and your family will find your way to a deeper state of gratitude.
 
9. Take all of the gratitude, and find a way to make a difference

After a day of sharing, use the memories and thanks as a starting point to help others. Be it family time or possessions, relationships or momentous occasions, use the items listed throughout the day to find creative ways to make a difference to others.

Thanksgiving 2017: Most popular desserts

Published: Thursday, November 09, 2017 @ 12:30 PM

Thanksgiving - By the Numbers

Thanksgiving is about family, gratitude, togetherness, gathering and of course, turkey. It’s about all the fixings, too: macaroni and cheese, green bean casserole, gravy, mashed potatoes.  And don’t forget about those tasty leftovers. For those with a sweet tooth, Thanksgiving wouldn’t be the same without its traditional desserts. 

From the traditional pumpkin pie to the more modern pumpkin cheesecake making appearances on holiday tables, here is a rundown of some of the most popular Thanksgiving desserts.

Pumpkin pie

Perhaps the most popular Thanksgiving dessert, pumpkin pie is an easy favorite. Traditionally, pumpkin, either freshly roasted and pureed or canned, is mixed with a spice blend of nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves and mace. A flaky, buttery crust is often pre-baked, then pie filling, typically mixed with eggs, milk and butter, is poured into the crust and baked until it is browned and set. For a variation, butternut squash can be used in lieu of pumpkin pie filling.

Sweet potato pie

With sweet potato pie, the same pumpkin pie spice blend of nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves and mace is used along with the pre-baked crust. Some additions to the filling can add more dimension to this dessert: orange zest, fresh grated ginger and brown sugar being examples. Use organic garnet yams or any other organic variety for the best flavor of sweet potatoes. Also, roast the potatoes versus boiling or microwaving.

Pecan pie

Pecan pie isn’t for the faint at heart and for those who are novices to all things sweet. You’ll only need a sliver of this pie, concocted of pecans, corn syrup or molasses, eggs, sugar, vanilla and butter. For the ultimate pecan pie experience, serve with a heaping scoop of ice cream on top. One popular variety of pecan pie is a chocolate one, where dark chocolate is added into the mix with the pecan filling. Also, pecan pie can be made into bite-sized pieces to enjoy as pecan pie bars or squares. For this version, the pie is baked in a sheet pan and cut into small squares.

Apple pie

An all-American favorite, apple pie is a popular Thanksgiving dessert choice. To prepare an apple pie, cut, peel and cook apples on top of the stove. Mix with spices, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and a little vanilla. A few varieties of apple pie include the lattice pie crust, featuring crisscrosses of dough across the pie and Dutch apple pie, with crumbs as the pie topping.

Pumpkin cheesecake

Pumpkin cheesecake is a seasonal spin on a beloved dessert and a perfect item to add to the Thanksgiving dessert melange. There are two approaches to this dessert: mixing in the pumpkin with the cream cheese, eggs and sugar to bake in a browned graham cracker crust or create one layer of pumpkin pie over one layer of cheesecake. Swirls of the pumpkin in the cheesecake can be added for artistic flair.

Cranberry pie

Cranberries are more than the sauce to go with a heaping serving of turkey and stuffing. They can play a starring role in a season-friendly dessert. When cranberries are cooked, they impart a tangy, slight bitterness to taste, making it a perfect companion to a buttery crust or even a spongy, fluffy cakelike batter as a variation. To prepare this pie, start with fresh or frozen cranberries that have been defrosted in a food processor. Pulse to chop and combine the cranberries with sugar, walnuts, cornstarch, orange zest, salt and nutmeg to a desired consistency, then pour mixture into crust and bake.

Pumpkin roll

A creamy and simple dessert option, the pumpkin roll is a classy version of the well-known cake roll and a popular Thanksgiving dessert. For traditional pumpkin rolls, a pumpkin spice cake is baked in a jelly roll pan, cooled, and then a cream cheese filling is added to the interior of the cake before rolling up and sprinkling the outside with powdered sugar.

Egg custard pie

Simplicity is the name of the game with this custard dessert. Milk is combined with eggs, sugar, milk, vanilla or nutmeg then baked in a pie crust. And ta-da. That’s it. Simple, indulgent and good.

Thanksgiving 2017: Alternative ways to spend the holiday

Published: Thursday, November 09, 2017 @ 11:12 AM

Thanksgiving - By the Numbers

For many Americans, Thanksgiving is steeped in family traditions, but for those seeking alternative ways to spend Thanksgiving, there are plenty of options. Here are ideas for a nontraditional Thanksgiving that are creative, fun and sure to create fond memories for years to come.

Volunteering

One way to spend Thanksgiving is giving back to others. Pick either the early morning of Thanksgiving, the afternoon, the evening when most everyone will be napping from eating or the entire day to help out in a local food pantry, volunteer at a shelter where they are feeding the homeless/less fortunate or create your own way of giving back that fits local community needs. For help on figuring out where you can be of help, visit VolunteerMatch.

Getting out of town

Switch things up this year and get out of town for Thanksgiving. Spend Thanksgiving week relaxing beachside with a drink, exploring a city through its food in restaurants and eats from the street or immersing yourself in cultural or local traditions. Book early as you can to avoid higher flight prices and hotel rates. Get creative with leaving and returning dates. For instance, it’s likely to be cheaper to leave for a Thanksgiving trip on the day of and return a week later rather than the following Sunday, when a lot of other travelers will be doing the same.

Friendsgiving

A buzzword in recent years, Friendsgiving is intended to be an addition to family traditions and not a replacement. Plan a Friendsgiving Thanksgiving dinner, lunch or brunch the weekend before the holiday and assign friends to bring different dishes to lessen the load of hosting. Create a signature drink for the event and leave a portion of Friendsgiving for games and revelry.

Cocktail party

Snazz it up and turn Thanksgiving into a fancy affair with a cocktail twist. Hire a bartender to curate a Thanksgiving-esque selection of drinks featuring cranberries and spiced liqueurs, for example. Create a fun invitation that spells out the dress code.

Potluck dinner

Instead of being overwhelmed with all the moving parts inherent in pulling off a Thanksgiving dinner, opt to ask guests to bring a different dish. Delegate all you need and separate it into categories: meats, side dishes, desserts, drinks. Assign guests on what to bring based on their strengths.

Themed party

A spin on the cocktail party idea, set a theme for Thanksgiving and run with it. If Italian themed, make only Italian dishes for the food, settle on a certain region of Italy and pick wines from there and play movies set in Italy after dinner and as dessert is being eaten.

A museum day

Spend the day gazing at works of art on Thanksgiving. Some museums are open on Thanksgiving, and it’s a great time to check out an art collection without large crowds. After an afternoon of reflection and inspiration, follow up with a nice dinner at a nearby restaurant.

Get active

Thanksgiving is a great time to go for a run and thankfully, many cities have racing options, often affectionately referred to as Turkey Trots, for those who want to burn a few calories on America’s biggest eating day. To find a race near you, visit Active.com.