Happy Thanksgiving

Turkey ready to carve

Happy Thanksgiving from the AnswerLine staff: Liz Meimann, Beth Marrs, Marcia Steed, and Marlene Geiger. Enjoy your day. We will return to work on Monday December 2.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Thanksgiving two ways!

It seems that there are two different schools of thought about Thanksgiving. Either you want to make everything (or nearly everything) on Thanksgiving day, or you like to cook as much as possible ahead of time so that you can relax and enjoy the holiday. This theory holds true with our callers and the AnswerLine staff. We thought it would be fun to compare methods so that you can choose the right method for your family.

Liz:

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. There isn’t much to be done ahead of time, besides planning and grocery shopping. You don’t have to remember to buy gifts for everyone, think up costumes for the family, or make sure everyone has something new for Easter and dye eggs. In our family, the menu is fairly standard. We might try a new dish on occasion, but family members request the same old standards every year.

I like to do most of my cooking on the Thanksgiving day. I do make the dough for my crescent rolls ahead of time, and shape and then freeze the rolls. I take them out of the freezer Thanksgiving day and thaw them and then bake them fresh for dinner. I often make cheesecake or French silk pie for dessert. Both items need to be prepared the day before for best results.

I do get up very early on Thanksgiving and do have a very helpful husband. We get the turkey ready, no washing, but I do remove the neck, giblets and the plastic piece holding the legs together. I saute onions and celery as my husband tears bread for the stuffing. We always have a large turkey so it does take a while to cook. I do stuff the bird, but loosely to keep it all safe for my family. I usually get my tables set the night before, so all I need to do after the turkey is in the oven is peel potatoes, prepare sweet potatoes and make a vegetable or two. Often I do ask guests to bring a salad or vegetable or relish. Sometimes, depending on the number of guests, we may have them bring drinks or appetizers. Usually, everyone pitches in and we enjoy the day immensely.

Beth:

Our family tradition of cooking the turkey a day before Thanksgiving started one year when we were traveling and we were in charge of making the turkey. My dad cooked the turkey, cut the meat off and put it in a cake pan with the juices to keep it moist. It was cooled down, covered with foil and ready to reheat on Thanksgiving morning. The meat is put in the oven at 350 degrees to heat for an hour or two (depending on the size of your turkey) until the meat temperature reaches 165 degrees F. The best part is the meat is moist and tender especially when reheating in the juices and the messy part of cooking and cutting the meat off the bones is done! After the turkey is heated the juices are drained for making fresh gravy. Our family prepares the turkey this way every year now and we are passing this tradition down to our kids as they start to fix Thanksgiving meals themselves.

No matter which method you and your family prefer, we have experts at AnswerLine that can help you with your questions. Happy Thanksgiving.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Lets talk about turkey

Frozen turkey

This seems like a fairly simple subject, but as we progress through the month of November, our calls about turkey change. When people are shopping for turkey, they want to know about servings per pound of turkey. We tell them to plan on about one pound of turkey per person. Plan on more if you want to have some leftovers.

Other callers want to know about buying a fresh turkey or thawing a frozen turkey. We tell callers to plan to use the fresh turkey within two days after purchase. Fresh poultry is very perishable. Frozen turkey should be thawed in the refrigerator, if possible. Allow twenty four hours for every four to five pounds of turkey you have purchased. If you are thawing in a spare refrigerator, like the one I use in my basement that doesn’t get opened very often, plan on the four pounds. If you thaw in a refrigerator that gets opened regularly, you should be able to thaw five pounds every twenty four hours.

If you forget to thaw the turkey, no need to panic. You can thaw a turkey in cold water in the sink. Leave the turkey inside the bag it came in and immerse it in a sinkful of cold water. Allow 30 minutes per pound of turkey. A 12 pound turkey should take about 6 hours to thaw. Keep in mind that if you thaw your turkey in the sink, you should change the water every 30 minutes. The thawing turkey will make the cold water much colder. Plan to cook the turkey as soon as it is thawed.

If you don’t have the time to thaw the turkey entirely before cooking, you should know that you can safely cook a turkey from the frozen state. Plan to take the turkey out after a few hours of cooking to remove the neck and giblets and then return it to the oven. You should allow an extra 50% cooking time with a frozen bird. So, a cook time of 2 hours would become 3 hours with a frozen turkey.

The safest way to cook a turkey is unstuffed. That allows the turkey to cook quickly, evenly, and thoroughly. Even if your turkey has the red pop-up indicator, you should use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the thigh and breast meat. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, past the dimple in the stem. Be sure not to touch the bone with the tip of the thermometer. The bones conduct heat faster than the meat and might indicate that the bird is at a higher temperature than the 165 degrees Fahrenheit minimum.

If your family must have stuffing cooked inside the turkey, remember these tips. Prepare the stuffing and place it inside the turkey just before placing the bird in the oven. Fill the cavity of the bird loosely with stuffing. Check the temperature of the stuffing as you are checking the temperature of the thigh and breast meat. Stuffing, too, should be at 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Remember to store leftovers in the refrigerator within 2 hours. Slicing all the meat off of the turkey carcass will allow you to store it in a smaller space in the refrigerator.

If you have more questions about Thanksgiving turkey, ask us at AnswerLine. You can call us at 1-800-262-3804 in Iowa, 1-800-854-1678 in Minnesota or 515-296-5883 from anywhere else. During the week leading up to Thanksgiving, we will be open from 9-4. We work through the noon hour so you can reach us then if that is your only opportunity. Email us at answer@iastate.edu or comment on our Facebook page. We love to help and Thanksgiving is one of our favorite holidays.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Thinking outside the box: Part 3

Today we will consider a newer appliance with lots of possibilities for quickly helping with Thanksgiving preparations. While the Instant Pot was invented in 2010, it was not widely available until a few years ago. Some consumers try to use it for nearly everything they cook, but many use it only occasionally. If you are an occasional user, we have some suggestions for you that will help with Thanksgiving dinner.

Instant pot

There are recipes available for cooking stuffing in the Instant Pot. Typically, you will prepare stuffing in a smaller pan (spring-form or small bundt) inside the pot. Using a sling made of foil will help you remove it after cooking is complete.

If ham is on your menu, the instant pot can do a great job of cooking it, especially if your ham is a spiral sliced ham. The moisture inside of the Instant Pot will keep the ham moist and juicy. You can also cook pork tenderloin, beef, or turkey breast in the pot, too.

Desserts are also possible in the instant pot. I’ve made cheesecake in mine. Pumpkin Bread pudding would definitely be a flavor in keeping with the holiday.

This year, I will try to make my turkey stock for the turkey and rice soup I traditionally make on the day after Thanksgiving. I want to see if I can cut back on the time it takes to boil the turkey carcass.

No matter what is on your menu this year, consider all the appliances that you have in your kitchen to see how you can best prepare Thanksgiving dinner. Enjoy!

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Thinking outside the box: Part 2

Today we will consider two more kitchen appliances that have been around for a long time. Slow cookers or crock pots have been in our kitchens since the early 1970s. Around the same time, microwave ovens began to be sold commercially. This appliance, too, can be an enormous help when you are preparing so many different foods.

The first thing that comes to mind when I think about using the Crock Pot is starting stew in it before I leave for work so we can eat pretty quickly after a long day at AnswerLine. Few people serve stew for Thanksgiving but there are still a number of ways to use the Slow Cooker that day.

Crock Pot with turkey
Turkey cooked in Slow Cooker

If you plan on a soup course for dinner, of course the slow cooker will be a great place to cook it. You can prep the ingredients the night before and start the cooker early in the morning. By dinner time, the soup will be ready.

No space in the oven for the traditional green bean casserole? Consider using the slow cooker for the green beans. This recipe will be ready to eat in three hours; get it started when you are getting the turkey in the oven.

We also have this information in our files for making dressing in a slow cooker:  

  • Never mix wet and dry ingredients until you are ready to cook the dressing.
  • Precook vegetables, such as onions or celery. 
  • Always use pasteurized eggs or Egg Beater type products for eggs.
  • Fill the cooker with the correct amount of food – never less than 1/2 or more than 2/3 full.
  • Stir once or twice during the cook time, if desired or the dressing may get crusty on the side.
  • Cook the dressing or stuffing on high for 45 to 60 minutes and then reduce heat to low and cook 4-8 hours.
  • Check the final temperature with an accurate food thermometer. The end temperature should be 165 degrees.

You can also use the Slow Cooker to hold a dish at a safe temperature for serving. If you won’t have enough room on the stove top to make mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes while the rest of the meal is cooking, make the potatoes ahead of time and use the Slow Cooker to keep it warm. Simply preheat the Slow Cooker by turning it on high after you have filled it with water. When you get the potatoes ready, dump out the water and fill with potatoes. At that point, you can turn the cooker to the low or keep warm setting.

The microwave can be used to cook most any part of the Thanksgiving meal. We often use it to heat up the green bean casserole and then when it is hot, we add the onion rings and put it in the oven to brown after the Turkey has been removed.

Reheating foods that were prepared in advance is another great use of the microwave. You can quickly reheat dishes that others brought to share, or those that you prepared the day before. The speed and convenience of the microwave will stretch your cooking space considerably

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Thinking outside the box

Every family has their own holiday traditions. The typical Thanksgiving meal of turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and cranberry sauce is not standard at every celebration. Some families choose to pass on turkey and serve ham or roast beef instead. Usually, there are number of side dishes that accompany the entree. One common theme seems to be that there is often not enough oven or stove-top space to cook everything at the same time. This is when we need to start thinking outside the box.

We have been talking about this issue a lot lately at AnswerLine as we try to think of ways to stretch your cooking space. Over the last few years, it seems that the number of new kitchen appliances on the market has exploded. We can adapt our cooking methods to include newer appliances as well as older appliances. Slow cookers and toaster ovens are still useful. Multi cookers and Instant pots also solve problems.

This is the first of a three part blog examining some different ways to cook your Thanksgiving meal. Today we will focus on electric roasters. These appliances have been available for many years; they are very useful when you are preparing a large and varied meal.

The roaster will function in the same way an oven does, so you can either cook in the insert pan or place a smaller pan inside the roaster. Be sure to add some water into the bottom of the electric roaster underneath the insert pan for the roaster to function well.

Electric roasters can be used to cook turkey and any other type of meat. They function much like an oven but typically will not brown; if you want browned, crispy turkey skin you may need to put it in the oven or under the broiler for a bit after it is cooked.

You can bake potatoes inside the electric roaster or reheat a pan of make-ahead mashed potatoes. If you need a place to cook the green bean casserole or a pan of scalloped corn, the electric roaster can cook it evenly and fairly quickly. You can also cook dressing inside the roaster and there are even desserts that you can cook in it. Or, consider warming your rolls in the roaster.

Adding an electric roaster to your kitchen for the holiday, even a borrowed one, can make cooking Thanksgiving dinner a bit less stressful

Next Monday, we will examine ways you can use your crock pot to make Thanksgiving dinner.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Thinking about Thanksgiving

cartoon illustration of turkey chef holding platter with pumkin, pie, nuts, fruits and autumn leaves

It is time to start thinking about Thanksgiving again at AnswerLine. We get so many Thanksgiving questions every November that we like to begin thinking about Thanksgiving early in the month. We like to review our turkey thawing and cooking directions and other information related to popular questions that callers ask.

One important dilemma that callers often have is not enough oven space for a turkey and ham or roast beef. Also, there are a number of common side dishes competing with the turkey for oven space. Callers often want to know how long ahead of time they can prepare and then reheat a dish.

This may be a time to think a bit outside the box for cooking methods. We have often heated our green bean casserole in the microwave to precook it and then added the onion rings and put the casserole in the oven when we took the turkey out. Since the turkey should rest before carving, it allows the green bean casserole top to brown and get a bit crisp before serving.

It seems that we all have multiple small appliances that we can use to prepare Thanksgiving dinner. Many people have crock pots, instant pots, microwave ovens, toaster ovens, or electric roasters. If we take the time to think of all the options early in the month, then preparing Thanksgiving dinner could become less stressful. As always, call us at AnswerLine if you want to discuss your options.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Pumpkin Pie

Many of us will be making pumpkin pie during this Fall season. And many of us have favorite pumpkin pie recipes that have been in our families cookbook for many generations. Whether your recipe uses evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, a milk alternative,  is a “lighter” version or gluten free there are some tips for helping make a pie with better results and keeping the pie safe.

Pumpkin pie is considered a custard-based pie so it must be refrigerated to keep it safe to eat. Do not leave the pumpkin pie at room temperature for more than two hours. Custard-based pies do not freeze very successfully. If you want to make the pie ahead of time you  might want to consider freezing the crust and filling separately then after thawing in the refrigerator putting the pie together and baking it. When you are baking the pie be careful not to overbake it as that will cause the pie to crack. Remove the pie from the oven before the center is completely set. The internal temperature of the pie will help it finish baking.

You may want to mix your filling ingredients together the day before you are planning to make the pie to give the spices a chance to blend. For a twist on the crust, one site I looked at suggested replacing 1/4 cup of the flour with 1/4 cup cornmeal to add an interesting texture to the crust since the filling is so smooth. To make your own pumpkin pie spice at home combine 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg and 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves. This will substitute for 1 teaspoon of commercial pumpkin pie spice.

Pumpkin pie is a delicious dessert addition to a special Fall meal. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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Pumpkin Season!

Pumpkin Season is upon us! Pumpkins are a Fall favorite for our family. They have both culinary and ornamental uses for us. They are delicious in pies and other desserts, fun to paint and display indoors or out, fun to carve into jack-o’-lanterns as a family activity and of course used in Fall decorations.

Pumpkins are a member of the Cucurbitaceae family along with squash, cantaloupe, cucumber, watermelon and gourds. Pumpkins are considered a type of squash. They are typically round with slightly ribbed deep yellow to orange skin.

If you want to store your pumpkins for use at Thanksgiving or later, place them in a single layer where they don’t touch each other in a cool, dry place (ideally 50-55 degrees F). The room should have good circulation to prevent moisture from forming on the surface of the pumpkins which causes decay. Do not store the pumpkins near apples, pears or other ripening fruit as the ripening fruit releases ethylene gas which shortens the storage life of pumpkins. If you store pumpkins correctly you can expect them to last 2-3 months.

Spend Smart Eat Smart has a great recipe for pumpkin pudding that is low calorie and can be used as a snack or dessert. If you prefer to use fresh pumpkin you can substitute 1 and 3/4 cups mashed fresh pumpkin for the 15 ounce can called for in the recipe.

The USDA SNAP-Ed Connection has more recipes, information about pumpkin nutrition, and how to preserve pumpkin.

If you want to preserve your uncarved pumpkins, start with soaking the pumpkins in a solution of 1 gallon water, 2 T. bleach, and a squirt of dish soap for 15-30 minutes. Rinse and dry well. You can then coat the pumpkins with a spray matte sealer.

Enjoy the abundance of pumpkins this Fall!

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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Preparing for winter

Winter scene
Winter scene

Weather forecasters are busy predicting a second winter storm for the north west.  After all the rain we have had this fall, I’m starting to think about getting ready for winter myself.  Over the years, I’ve learned that as winter approaches I need to check the pantry to make sure I have enough staples to make it through being snowed in for a couple of days. Since I live on a farm, we usually have a freezer (or two) filled with enough beef and pork to provide meals for several months. When the kids lived at home, we always had a big garden and canned and froze a variety of fruits and vegetables. Now that it is just my husband and myself, I always try to have a variety of commercially canned and frozen vegetables and fruits on hand. As long as I keep my flour, sugar, and oil containers reasonably full, I know that I can bake just about anything else we might need. Keeping powdered dry milk on hand also helps me avoid the grocery store when everyone else is rushing in to pick up that loaf of bread and gallon of milk. We don’t really enjoy drinking reconstituted milk, but when you need milk for baking it is great to have some in the house. We have blogged over the years about keeping a winter kit inside the car with items you may need if you get stuck in the snow. I try to check my kit before Christmas so that I have those things fully stocked when the first big storm hits. We have also blogged about understanding weather terms and just how to prepare your home and pets to stay safe. We are lucky to live in a time when it is so easy to wait out a winter storm and stay safe. I’m still waiting for those first snow flakes to fall.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

More Posts - Website

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