Thanksgiving Holiday Odds and Ends

With the holiday coming up, it's easy to start feeling overwhelmed. I usually begin the month of November with lots of plans to overhaul the kitchen and spend the week before Thanksgiving experimenting with fabulous new recipes. By the time I've reached the "one week to turkey day" mark, I'm so exhausted the idea of actually roasting the bird has me feeling pretty unenthusiastic. (Realizing that I've brought all the stress -- and aching muscles -- on myself doesn't help much.) I'm an old hand at this cycle of holiday madness because I repeat it every year to one degree or another.

One sure cure, for me anyway, is to grab a cup of hot tea and a well-earned break. If you're stopping to regain your sunny disposition between bouts of holiday frenzy, these odds and ends will provide some diversion:

Common things you didn't know - but probably should have realized. This first comes courtesy of Gabby Noone at BuzzFeed. It's a very enlightening list of: 18 Everyday Products You’ve Been Using Wrong. I admit some of these items took me by surprise, like the little aluminum foil tab thingies. If you haven't seen this list yet, it's a quick, often surprising read. Enjoy.

Have a Pet Safe Holiday - I'm a dedicated pet lover and always make a special effort to include my cats and dogs in the festivities. There are dangers though; from a guest accidentally letting an indoor cat outside, to canine stomach upsets from too many surreptitious treats slipped under the table. Make arrangements to keep your pets secure and healthy this holiday season. I really enjoyed this timely article (recommended by my husband) about foods not safe for dogs. Thanksgiving Day Foods That Can Kill Your Dog. Please note that sage and nutmeg are on the list, as well as a couple of other entries that might make you glad you invested in the click.

Thanksgiving Recipes - If the prospect of serving the same old dishes makes you feel like yawning, try something new -- or attempt an old standby in a new way. This New York Times Primer about Thanksgiving cooking should get you started: Essential Thanksgiving.

Turkey Cooking Times - Your mom's holiday bird may have been dry year after year, but it wasn't her fault. The old U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) cooking guidelines for turkey recommended an internal temperature of 175 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit, (or thereabouts). That has changed. The new safety guidelines drop the temperature to 165 degrees Fahrenheit (YES you read that right), which makes it a lot easier to prepare a flavorful bird with fully cooked dark meat and (still) moist breast meat. This change may require a welcome adjustment to your older recipes. If you want to learn more, please visit the USDA Turkey Basics: Safe Cooking page for details.

Here are some other things to remember:

  • Double check your recipe ingredients now. It's easier to dash to the store on Tuesday to pick up something you've forgotten than to wait until Thursday (Thanksgiving) morning.
  • Clear your kitchen countertops the day before Thanksgiving to give yourself plenty of room.
  • Don't forget to take the innards out of the bird -- front and back. Yes, this is a newbie mistake, but it's also one of the most common gotchas of turkey day.
  • Take any butter you need to soften out of the fridge sooner rather than later. Trying to soften butter in the microwave may seem like an enlightened idea, but it can go horribly wrong.
  • If there's no carving guru in your family, consider cutting the bird in the kitchen and serving it sliced and jointed on a platter. It's easier. An electric knife is great for this, too.
  • After serving, return dishes to the fridge within two hours to avoid problems with spoilage.
  • If this is your first Thanksgiving wearing the hostess apron, take a look at my TLC article: 10 Tips for Thanksgiving Newbies for more suggestions and a laugh or two.
Here's hoping your dressing is moist, your pie crust is flaky and your fowl is succulent and browned to perfection.

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