PARKERSBURG - Preparation and planning can make a Thanksgiving day meal less of a chore.
The Thanksgiving day meal doesn't have to be an expensive, time-consuming, stressful process.
West Virginia University Extension officials offer a few healthier, less expensive and less stressful options for Turkey Day.
Photo by Pamela Brust
Selecting and preparing a Thanksgiving day meal can be a real chore, but the WVU Extension Service offers ways to make it easier and healthier this season.
"Thanksgiving tends to be a very carbohydrate-heavy meal which leaves us feeling sluggish or sleepy after eating. Eating two small meals that day may help keep this from happening," said Gwen Crum, Families and Health agent with the Wood County office of the WVU Extension Service.
"Also, find a way to work off some of those excess calories by spending the morning participating in the Turkey Trot at Parkersburg City Park or spend the afternoon outside passing the football instead of inside watching football on TV," Crum recommended.
Beverly Glaze, a registered dietician and adult program specialist with WVU Extension Service's Family Nutrition Program, advises families to plan their meal around their budget and not the other way around.
Glaze advises starting with a headcount and a plan in advance. Stick with specific recipes and break each dish down into the ingredients needed. Keep a Thanksgiving shopping list and take advantage of holiday sales, Glaze recommended.
"With all the food sales around the holidays, buying items like rolls or whipped cream will probably be cheaper than making them from scratch," Glaze said. "However, going the homemade route gives you options for healthier substitutions in your recipes, like skim milk instead of whole."
To keep things healthy, she recommends filling your plate with four equal sections for fruit, vegetable, grain and protein groups.
For an even healthier and more filling option, Glaze suggested choosing whole grains for at least half the grain selections to improve cardiac health.
She said managing leftovers is another good way to ease Thanksgiving costs. Glaze makes a turkey soup each year with the leftover turkey and vegetables, she said.
"Boil the turkey carcass for an hour to loosen the little remaining pieces of meat. Instead of throwing out those leftovers, they become a main ingredient for a turkey soup," Glaze said.
Beverly Glaze's Turkey Soup Recipe
1 Turkey carcass
4 cups celery, diced
4 cups carrots, sliced
1 package frozen peas
1 medium onion, diced
4 cubes chicken bouillon
1 large package egg noodles
Put turkey carcass in a large soup pot, add water to cover carcass. Heat to boiling over medium-high heat. When water starts to boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 1 hour. Remove the turkey carcass, let cool on a cookie sheet. Once cooled, remove meat and add back to the soup pot along with the celery, carrots, onion, peas and bouillon cubes. Simmer until vegetables are soft. Add noodles and boil for about 10 minutes or until noodles are tender. Let cool before serving.
The WVU Extension Service recommends using turkey tips from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ensure a safe meal.
First, decide if you want a fresh or frozen turkey. If you plan to purchase a frozen bird in advance, be sure you have adequate freezer space to accommodate it. If you opt for a fresh bird, plan to make your purchase one to two days prior to cooking your meal.
Next, decide what size bird you need. If you want to serve a whole turkey, the USDA recommends this calculation: one pound of turkey for each person you plan to feed.
If you buy a frozen bird, factor safe thawing time into your schedule. The USDA recommends two safe options, refrigerator thawing or cold-water thawing.
To use the refrigerator method, keep the frozen turkey in its original wrapper. Place the bird in a refrigerator that registers at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Thawing will take approximately 24 hours per 4 to 5 pounds of turkey. For example, a 16- to 20-pound turkey will take four to five days to thaw.
If you purchase a frozen turkey a day or two before your dinner guests are due to arrive, the cold-water method is your safest thawing method. Keep the turkey submerged in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes. Safe thawing requires approximately 30 minutes of cold-water time per one pound of turkey. For example, a 16- to 20-pound turkey will take eight to 10 hours to thaw.
Finally, roast the bird in a 325-degree Fahrenheit oven. Cooking times will vary depending on the size of the bird. For specific cooking times and other safety steps, check the USDA's website at www.fsis.usda.gov.
The turkey is ready when the minimum internal temperature is 165 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the bird. Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and in the thickest part of the breast.
For more information, go to the WVU Extension website at www.ext.wvu.edu. For more recommendations on healthy and cost effective Thanksgiving planning, contact Gwen Crum in the WVU Extension Service Wood County office at 304-424-1969.