It is again time for giving thanks and feasting.
Whether you are an expert cook or a new cook, it can be stressful trying to make sure you have enough food or accommodating guests with food concerns or allergies.
To help your holiday meal go smoothly, consider a few holiday meal planning tips.
When was the last time you looked at the expiration dates on the foods in your fridge? Depending on your style of cooking, there might be quite a few expired items.
I was stunned by the “best used by date” on some items in my refrigerator. I only use certain items at the holidays or when I am having a large gathering. I had aerosol whipped cream sitting in my fridge for apparently two years!
Emptying and cleaning the fridge is a great way to make sure there is room as you prepare for the holiday. To make more space, take out beverages and items that might just roost there but don’t need refrigeration. A cooler filled with ice can be great tool when it is time to celebrate.
As you receive RSVPs, check if anyone has special dietary requirements. The holidays can be a challenging time for those with food allergies. An estimated to be 4 percent of adults and 8 percent of children in the U.S. have them.
Now, what about that turkey? Basted or self-basting turkeys can include common allergens such as soy, wheat and dairy. The safest bet is choosing a turkey with minimal ingredients clearly listed on the food label.
Select a few recipes and foods that will store well at room temperature to avoid an overloaded oven or refrigerator on the day of the event. This includes breads, pies or crisps and appetizers, such as nut mixes, olives and pickles. Hardy vegetables like onions, carrots and potatoes can be purchased a week ahead of time. Salad greens and perishable vegetables are best bought one to two days before the meal.
Calculate anticipated cooking times and temperatures to make sure you have the necessary equipment to get everything done on time. To determine the cooking time for a turkey, refer to your recipe or a standardized cooking time chart based on the turkey’s weight. Stuffing should always be done in a separate dish so temperatures for your bird are more consistent. Make sure your food thermometer is in working order and calibrated.
By Monday before Thanksgiving, put that frozen bird in the fridge to thaw, or a quick thaw can be done by putting the bird (well-wrapped) into a large pan and letting cool water run through the pan. Once the bird has thawed, pat it dry. Do not rinse the bird – microblasts of water can spray across counters spreading bacteria that can cause foodborne illness.
That instant-read thermometer will be useful to check safety and doneness of the turkey. If you wait for a pop-up thermometer, your bird is over-cooked.
My family eats a pretty simple traditional meal, including many of the most common Thanksgiving foods: turkey, stuffing/dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce (for me), dinner rolls and butter and, of course, pumpkin pie. Most of these foods can be healthy until we start adding relatively large amounts of fat to them.
When we peel the potatoes, we lose fiber and nutrients. Butter and whole milk or cream are added, adding quite a bit of fat to that innocent potato. Consider cutting back or even swapping out some of these ingredients to achieve a lower fat, tasty version. It also helps to keep your guests from feeling so full.
Whatever you do, enjoy your family and friends. This is a wonderful time of year.
Wendy Rice is the family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6461.Wendy Rice