(StatePoint) It’s become an annual tradition that as soon as we bid adieu to chrysanthemums, the cornucopias and the turkey dinner, the frantic countdown to Christmas begins. From the countless holiday soirees and batches of bulk baking, to battling the crowds in a futile attempt to secure the most sought-after toy, or remembering to move the elf each night, ‘tis the season to be exhausted.
This year, whether you’re hosting a yuletide bash or looking for simple and satisfying ways to feed the family, consider taking a break from the madness with “55 Days of Cheesemas,” which offers not only a lineup of easy, cheesy and crowd-pleasing recipes, but also a chance to win daily prizes – many of which can help you in the kitchen this season. After whipping up a quick, yet delectable appetizer or side dish, sit back and escape the day’s hustle and bustle with a virtual game certain to summon childhood Christmas fun by visiting 55daysofcheesemas.com. Navigate a fast-paced obstacle course as an elf to deliver cheese and you’ll receive the chance to win prizes daily from the Borden Cheese Delicious Delivery game, including an Instacart gift card for $500.00.
Need some simple entertaining ideas? Here is one sanity-saving, cheeselicious recipe that is guaranteed to delight tastebuds and impress guests.
Cheesy Pimento Wheels
These zesty, bite-sized, baked pinwheels are loaded with creamy pimento cheese, serving as the quintessential appetizer at any holiday celebration.
Yields: 18 wheels
• 16 ounces Borden Shredded Cheese (Triple Cheddar, or any mix of Sharp, Mild or Monterey Jack)
• 4 ounces softened cream cheese
• 1/3 cup mayonnaise
• 4 ounces diced pimentos (drained)
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon black ground pepper
• 1 large egg
• 2 tablespoons water
• 2 sheets puff pastry (thawed)
1. Combine the shredded cheese with softened cream cheese and mayonnaise in a medium size bowl. Stir together to create a consistent texture.
2. Add the diced pimentos, salt and pepper, and stir.
3. Add the egg and water in a small bowl, and whisk to combine.
4. Brush the egg wash over the top of the puff pastry. Spoon the pimento cheese on top, spreading it out into a consistent layer.
5. Roll the puff pastry carefully to create a roll. Then gently slice the roll into 1-inch-long sections using a sharp knife.
6. Lay the rolls into a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat or foil. Make sure to not crowd the rolls or they will stick to each other while baking.
7. Bake for 20 minutes at the temperature indicated on the puff pastry package, until rolls are golden, and the cheese is bubbly.
8. Cool for about 5 minutes and then remove the rolls from the pan.
To find more inspiration for tasty sides, flavorful entrees and breakfasts for a crowd, visit bordencheese.com/cheesemas.
With crowd-pleasing recipe ideas and chances to win prizes, a season traditionally filled with soirees, shopping and stress can be made a little tastier and little more fun.
PHOTO SOURCE: (c) philly077 / iStock via Getty Images Plus
(StatePoint) As we find ourselves surrounded by an abundance of this year’s “must-have” items, our shopping lists are often dictated by retail experts all claiming to offer the ultimate gift-giving guide. But there’s no need to spend a fortune or face the aggravation of competing with crowds for sold-out products. Sometimes, the most rich and memorable gifts can be created in the kitchen.
To put a touch of finesse on your sweet treats, take a cue from the experts and use Plugrá butter, which professional pastry chefs prefer because of its slow-churn and extra creaminess. Unlike other butters, Plugrá uses the right balance of specially selected cream and butterfat, resulting in a texture that harmoniously bends and blends to help craft homemade, confectionary masterpieces.
Using the finest ingredients, Plugrá’s executive chef, Linda Hall, developed a decadent brownie recipe that’s certain to spice up gift-giving.
“Nothing says indulgence like a gooey, chocolaty brownie, however, most people have been there, done that. This year, dial it up a notch by adding spices and flavors that evoke warmth and coziness. My recipe is reminiscent of a hot cup of Mexican hot chocolate that has cinnamon and vanilla notes,” says Hall.
To get you inspired this season, Plugrá partnered with other premium ingredients brands to create a brownie with better results. The Mexican Hot Chocolate Brownies recipe below embraces a savory note produced by Spice House’s strongest and sweetest Vietnamese “Saigon” cinnamon, along with a kick of chipotle pepper. The decadent flavor is also emphasized by using fair and sustainable Manjari dark chocolate from leading chocolate brand, Valrhona, in addition to Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract, which uses premium, hand selected beans and a slow extraction process to produce the richest tasting vanilla. Additional holiday recipes can be found by visiting plugra.com/recipes.
Mexican Hot Chocolate Brownies
Source: Plugrá Kitchens, Chicago, Illinois
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 30 Minutes
• 5 ounces unsweetened chocolate
• 10 tablespoons Plugrá European Style Butter, unsalted
• 4 large eggs
• 2 cups sugar
• 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 tablespoon ground Saigon cinnamon from the Spice House
• 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder or cayenne pepper
• 2 teaspoons Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract
• 6 ounces Valrhona Manjari 64% Dark Chocolate, chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a 9x13-inch square pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
2. Place the unsweetened chocolate and butter in a large, microwave safe bowl. Microwave on HIGH for 3 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds or until melted.
3. Stir in the sugar until well blended.
4. Beat in the eggs.
5. Stir in the remaining ingredients until just blended.
6. Spread the batter on the prepared pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the pan to see if it comes out clean.
Package your dessert in a decorative tin or box and handwrite the recipe for the gift that keeps giving!
PHOTO SOURCE: (c) Premyuda Yospim / iStock via Getty Images Plus
(StatePoint) While you may primarily associate insect invasions with warmer weather, bugs are liable to make themselves at home in your living spaces during all four seasons.
In fact, it is actually common to see an uptick in spider activity in your home during the colder months around their mating season. What’s more, most bugs are far more resilient than you may realize, and can survive on little food and under strange conditions. (A cockroach can live for an entire week without its head!)
To make your holiday guests’ stay more pleasant, banish these unwanted visitors by taking the following steps:
• Clean up: The holiday season means more meats, crumbly sweets and sugary treats around the house. But most bugs don’t need much food to survive. In fact, a cockroach can survive for months on a single crumb of food! After cooking and baking, be sure to wipe down surfaces and sweep up crumbs thoroughly. You should also shake out carpets and vacuum rugs in your dining room or anywhere crumbly cookies and cakes are enjoyed.
• Defend entry points: Did you know that many of the steps you can take to improve energy efficiency in cool weather have the added benefit of helping to keep bugs out of your home? Keep entry points of your home sealed, such as the garage door, and caulk small cracks in your home’s foundation and siding. These measures will go a long way toward regulating the temperature in your home, and also toward preventing insect infestation.
• Banish bugs without hesitation: While many traditional bug sprays direct you to clear the room during and after use, there are effective alternatives that allow you to spray and stay that won’t disrupt your holiday festivities. Zevo, a brand of nature-inspired insect control products, has sprays for spiders, ants, wasps and whatever other critters are hunkered down in your house this season. Zevo’s BioSelective technology, made of essential oils, targets and shuts down biological pathways found in bugs. It’s safe for use around people and pets when used as directed. For more information, visit www.zevoinsect.com.
• Mind firewood: Everyone loves a roaring fire during the holidays. However, bugs can commonly make their way into your home via firewood. Store firewood outdoors under a tarp to keep it dry (moist firewood attracts bugs) and don’t bring it inside until you plan to burn it.
While the holiday season is all about welcoming guests, you don’t need to extend that invitation to pests. Make your home more inviting to your friends and family by taking steps to keep bugs at bay.
It was dreadfully cold; it was snowing fast, and was almost dark, as evening came on—the last evening of the year. In the cold and the darkness, there went along the street a poor little girl, bareheaded and with naked feet. When she left home she had slippers on, it is true; but they were much too large for her feet,—slippers that her mother had used until then, and the poor little girl lost them in running across the street when two carriages were passing terribly fast. When she looked for them, one was not to be found, and a boy seized the other and ran away with it, saying he would use it for a cradle some day, when he had children of his own. So on the little girl went with her bare feet, that were red and blue with cold. In an old apron that she wore were bundles of matches, and she carried a bundle also in her hand. No one had bought so much as a bunch all the long day, and no one had given her even a penny. Poor little girl! Shivering with cold and hunger she crept along, a perfect picture of misery! The snowflakes fell on her long flaxen hair, which hung in pretty curls about her throat; but she thought not of her beauty nor of the cold. Lights gleamed in every window, and there came to her the savory smell of roast goose, for it was New Year's Eve. And it was of this which she thought. In a corner formed by two houses, one of which [Pg 38]projected beyond the other, she sat cowering down. She had drawn under her little feet, but still she grew colder and colder; yet she dared not go home, for she had sold no matches, and could not bring a penny of money. Her father would certainly beat her; and, besides, it was cold enough at home, for they had only the houseroof above them; and, though the largest holes had been stopped with straw and rags, there were left many through which the cold wind whistled. And now her little hands were nearly frozen with cold. Alas! a single match might do her good if she might only draw it from the bundle, rub it against the wall, and warm her fingers by it. So at last she drew one out. Whischt! How it blazed and burned! It gave out a warm, bright flame like a little candle, as she held her hands over it. A wonderful little light it was. It really seemed to the little girl as if she sat before a great iron stove, with polished brass feet and brass shovel and tongs. So blessedly it burned that the little maiden stretched out her feet to warm them also. How comfortable she was! But lo! the flame went out, the stove vanished, and nothing remained but the little burned match in her hand. She rubbed another match against the wall. It burned brightly, and where the light fell upon the wall it became transparent like a veil, so that she could see through it into the room. A snowwhite cloth was spread upon the table, on which was a beautiful china dinner service, while a roast goose, stuffed with apples and prunes, steamed famously, and sent forth a most savory smell. And what was more delightful still, and wonderful, the [Pg 39] goose jumped from the dish, with knife and fork still in its breast, and waddled along the floor straight to the little girl. But the match went out then, and nothing was left to her but the thick, damp wall. She lighted another match. And now she was under a most beautiful Christmas tree, larger and far more prettily trimmed than the one she had seen through the glass doors at the rich merchant's. Hundreds of wax tapers were burning on the green branches, and gay figures, such as she had seen in the shop windows, looked down upon her. The child stretched out her hands to them; then the match went out. L ittle THE Match Girl ------------------- ------------------ BY: HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN Still the lights of the Christmas tree rose higher and higher. She saw them as stars in heaven, and one of them fell, forming a long trail of fire. "Now some one is dying," murmured the child softly; for her grandmother, the only person who had loved her and who was now dead, had told her that whenever a star falls a soul mounts up to God. She struck yet another match against the wall, and again it was light; and in the brightness there appeared before her the dear old grandmother, bright and radiant, yet sweet and mild, and happy as she had never looked on earth. "Oh, grandmother," cried the child, "take me with you. I know you will go away when the match burns out. You, too, will vanish, like the warm stove, the splendid New Year's feast, the beautiful Christmas Tree." And lest her grandmother should disappear, she rubbed the whole bundle of matches against the wall. [Pg 40] And the matches burned with such a brilliant light that it became brighter than noonday. Her grandmother had never looked so grand and beautiful. She took the little girl in her arms, and both flew together, joyously and gloriously, mounting higher and higher, far above the earth; and for them there was neither hunger, nor cold, nor care;—they were with God. But in the corner, at the dawn of day, sat the poor girl, leaning against the wall, with red cheeks and smiling mouth,—frozen to death on the last evening of the old year. Stiff and cold she sat, with the matches, one bundle of which was burned. "She wanted to warm herself, poor little thing," people said. No one imagined what sweet visions she had had, or how gloriously she had gone with her grandmother to enter upon the joys of a new year. * From "Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales." By permission of publishers—Ginn & Company.
A shoemaker, by no fault of his own, had become so poor that at last he had nothing left but leather for one pair of shoes. So in the evening, he cut out the shoes which he wished to begin to make the next morning, and as he had a good conscience, he lay down quietly in his bed, commended himself to God, and fell asleep. In the morning, after he had said his prayers, and was just going to sit down to work, the two shoes stood quite finished on his table. He was astounded, and knew not what to say to it. He took the shoes in his hands to observe them closer, and they were so neatly made that there was not one bad stitch in them, just as if they were intended as a masterpiece. Soon after, a buyer came in, and as the shoes pleased him so well, he paid more for them than was customary, and, with the money, the shoemaker was able to purchase leather for two pairs of shoes. He cut them out at night, and next morning was about to set to work with fresh courage; but he had no need to do so, for, when he got up, they were already made, and buyers also were not wanting, who gave him money enough to buy leather for four pairs of shoes. The following morning, too, he found the four pairs made; and so it went on constantly, what he cut out in the evening was finished by the morning, so that he soon had his honest independence again, and at last became a wealthy man. Now it befell that one evening not long before Christmas, when the man had been cutting out, he said to his wife, before going to bed, "What think you if we were to stay up to-night to see who it is that lends us this helping hand?" The woman liked the idea, and lighted a candle, and then they hid themselves in a corner of the room, behind some clothes which were hanging up there, and watched. When it was midnight, two pretty little naked men came, sat down by the shoemaker's table, took all the work which was cut out before them and began to stitch, and sew, and hammer so skilfully and so quickly with their little fingers that the shoemaker could not turn away his eyes for astonishment. They did not stop until all was done, and stood finished on the table, and they ran quickly away.
Next morning the woman said, "The little men have made us rich, and we really must show that we are grateful for it. They run about so, and have nothing on, and must be cold. I'll tell thee what I'll do: I will make them little shirts, and coats, and vests, and trousers, and knit both of them a pair of stockings, and do thou, too, make them two little pairs of shoes." The man said, "I shall be very glad to do it;" and one night, when everything was ready, they laid their presents all together on the table instead of the cut-out work, and then concealed themselves to see how the little men would behave. At midnight they came bounding in, and wanted to get to work at once, but as they did not find any leather cut out, but only the pretty little articles of clothing, they were at first astonished, and then they showed intense delight. They dressed themselves with the greatest rapidity, putting the pretty clothes on, and singing,
"Now we are boys so fine to see,
Why should we longer cobblers be?"
Then they danced and skipped and leapt over chairs and benches. At last they danced out of doors. From that time forth they came no more, but as long as the shoemaker lived all went well with him, and all his undertakings prospered.
Canned cranberry sauce is The Devil and don't let The Devil in your house this Thanksgiving by: Mike Jordan
This Thanksgiving, many good people throughout the South will fall victim to the greatest trick The Devil ever pulled. They (maybe you) will put on their plates — in addition to so many wonderful vegetables, proteins, carbs, gravies and sweets — terrible, horrible slices of canned cranberry sauce. And when they do whatever it is people with mouthfuls of canned cranberry sauce do (Chew? Smush? Swish?), they will know — regardless of whatever religious beliefs they do or don't have, that they have sinned.
Don't let it be you. Cranberry sauce is The Devil. And just as The Devil does when he takes other forms, canned cranberry sauce has one goal: to make you think you're winning but to ultimately damn your soul.
Canned cranberry sauce is a congealed, can-shaped red blob of floppy and gross goo. Canned cranberry sauce looks like a gummy bear made of beef liver. Canned cranberry sauce is ribbed.
You know how you can tell it's evil? Look how tight it pushes up against the can—so much, in fact, that it takes literally the exact form of the can's interior in a futile attempt to escape eternal can-damnation. Nothing should look like that. It's canned Hades. Also, the shape never changes. If you keep that stuff around after Thanksgiving it'll look exactly the same forever, like McDonald's fries.
It's so gross. I just saw some in my mind and did one of those Jim Carrey dry-heaves. Also, it's red. Like devil-red. It's not a coincidence. Imagine if it also had horns, a pitchfork, a long tail with an arrowhead tip, a slick goatee and a widow's peak. Maybe then you'd listen.
Before you go trying to correct me, I know full-well that the gelatinous yuck of canned cranberry sauce is caused by pectin, which occurs naturally in fruit. And I know that pectin is in many things I eat — some of which I probably ate this morning, including strawberry jam or grape jelly on my chicken biscuit. But that's different, because when I take my butter knife, scrape the top layer of the jelly/jam and spread it on my biscuit, I'm not starting from a mass of jiggle-matter that is somehow defying laws of gravity and temperature by standing in place without something to hold it. Those jellies and jams are in containers, like Mother Earth intended. Real sauce doesn't behave like that; at least not sauce that comes from a decent Southern home.
And this isn't some attempt to shame canned cranberry sauce for having too much sugar or whatever. NEWSFLASH: IT'S THANKSGIVING. Nothing is healthy! Everything has too much sugar today — even the salt! To be honest, canned cranberry sauce is relatively healthy, aside from the fact that an average-sized slice of a popular store-bought brand contains all the sugar an adult should have in a whole day (and wouldn't you rather have pie for that price?).
But this isn't about your cholesterol level, or blood pressure, or whatever the doctor warned you to watch when she insisted you "enjoy Thanksgiving responsibly" as if Thanksgiving came with a bottle of Jim Beam or something. Well, maybe it does...
Anyway, this is bigger than your health! This is about the future of the South, and standing up for the right to call a can of translucent red cranberry jelly a can translucent red cranberry jelly, and not "sauce." Sauce is liquid. Sauce makes everything better. Sauce is boss. Gravy is sauce! Put some gravy on your plate and a cornbread stuffing angel gets its wings. Put a slice of canned cranberry sauce, looking like a round 1970s waterbed filled with tomato aspic, and you ruin all the lovely architecture of your oversized Southern Thanksgiving meal.
It all comes down to the simple truth. Canned cranberry sauce is not sauce; it's jelly. And putting jelly on a plate of cornbread stuffing, mac and cheese, collard greens, green beans, turkey, ham, yams, corn, etc., is an abomination.
This is about enjoying Thanksgiving dinner. This is about remembering that cranberries are wonderful, and that there are ways to enjoy them that don't require you bending your mind into a formless shape and questioning the laws of nature and physics. This is about truth, and the truth is that canned cranberry sauce is The Devil. And The Devil is a lie.
Do the right thing and keep The Devil out of your house and way down in the hole, meaning the can, this Thanksgiving. With the lid on.
Shared from https://www.southernthing.com/
(StatePoint) One of the best ways to ensure you give thoughtful, meaningful holiday gifts is by consulting gift guides that offer unique ideas for everyone on your list. Whether you’re shopping for a fashionista or an athlete, get inspired to make the holiday season brighter for your loved ones with the following ideas:
• For book worms: Give the book worms in your life a gift that keeps on giving with a three-month, six-month or 12-month subscription to Book of the Month. Membership can be tailored, as users can pick from five popular selections every month, select one or more books at a time, or even defer their choice until the following month.
• For music makers: Regardless of their skill level, musicians deserve a powerful, portable and versatile keyboard. Designed for music lovers who enjoy playing anytime, anywhere, the Casiotone CT-S1 has a sleek design 9-pound design, features strap pins and can be powered with six AA batteries, making it a great choice for those in bands and other performers. Aside from its portability, its stereo grand piano sound, 61 full-size keys with touch response, plus 60 other AiX-powered studio-quality tones, means this instrument looks as good as it sounds. Wired or wirelessly, users can also link the keyboard to Casio’s dedicated Chordana Play, an app that enables tempo and key changes in addition to displaying music scores and a piano roll. These features are great tools for those learning to play, those expanding their skills and experts alike.
• For pet parents: Whether your loved one’s pet is cuddly or not, they can snuggle up to their animal friend with a personalized pet pillow from Get Photo Blanket. Simply upload an image of the pet, and the site will create a custom throw pillow -- the perfect décor for adoring pet parents!
• For fashionistas: Great accessories can complete any outfit. For those who appreciate a stylish, clean design without compromising functionality, consider the stainless steel EDIFICE EFSS570DC-1A from Casio, which features a slim case and modern gray octagonal bezel with soft yellow accents. With solar power capabilities, water resistance up to 100 meters and a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, as well as features that include a date display, stopwatch and three dials to display seconds, stopwatch minutes and stopwatch seconds, this will become your gift recipient’s go-to timepiece no matter the occasion.
• For athletes: From CrossFitters to marathoners to triathletes, all those who work out hard know that protein is essential for repairing muscles. Simplify your favorite athletes’ post-workout refueling sessions and boost their recovery with a High Protein Fitness Box from gift snack box e-tailer, Bunny James.
With a little inspiration you, can spoil loved ones with unique gift ideas that show you care this holiday season.
PHOTO SOURCE: (c) Prostock-Studio / iStock via Getty Images Plus
(StatePoint) Whether you’re a beginning baker or an experienced entertainer, having the right tools can make the process of holiday party prep faster, easier, more festive – and ensure you can achieve expert-level results. Here are a few must-haves to add to your holiday shopping list.
• Spatulas That Make You Smile. From cookie batters to mashed potatoes, everyone needs a quality spatula to whip up their favorite holiday dishes. And now you can have both fun and function with Tovolo Spatulart Spatulas featuring double-sided holiday designs and puns. With a nylon core, these high-quality spatulas provide strength for the heaviest mixing jobs, silicone edges that remain flexible for easy scraping, and an FSC-certified wood handle. They’re the perfect environmentally conscious way to add a tremendous tool with a touch of whimsy to the kitchen roster.
• Mix Without the Mess. A quality set of mixing bowls is a must for any baking, cooking, prep or storage. While there are many types of bowl sets, stainless steel is ideal for its durability and lightweight design. Choose a set that offers nesting, for easy and efficient cupboard storage; lids to keep foods fresh; deep sides to avoid messes; and a rolled lip for easy pouring.
• Basics for Better Baking. Move over parchment paper—serious bakers know the key to perfect baked goods is a quality baking mat. In addition to insulating your pan for even cooking and baking, baking mats protect your pans from baked-on food and grime and prevent sticking, without any paper waste. Additionally, they can double as a work surface featuring grid lines for cookie sizing and spacing, while also offering easy clean-up—just drop them in the dishwasher.
• Classy Containers for Clean Up. Speaking of clean-up, disinfecting wipes have become a staple in most kitchens. Luckily, you can now store your wipes in style with Spectrum Decorative Disinfecting Wipe Containers. Available in four fashionable finishes to fit in with any décor, the rust-resistant containers fit 35- to 75-80-count wipes packages and feature a push-button lid and non-slip bottom for easy one-handed access.
• Shape Up Your Cocktails. Once your food menu is set, don’t forget the beverages. Create memorable cocktails and mocktails everyone will be talking about with uniquely shaped craft ice. Tovolo offers a variety of craft ice molds—from spheres and sports balls to novelty and holiday shapes. Requiring minimal prep, the easy-to-use molds stack in your freezer to save space and will make you look like a master mixologist.
Having the right tools makes all the difference when you’re whipping up culinary creations. Be sure to equip yourself right for a season of easy and festive holiday prep.
(StatePoint) It may be the season of cheer, but for many, the holidays are rife with anxiety about expenses. A recent survey shows that staying on budget is Americans’ top concern this holiday season, followed by incurring long-term debt, shipping costs and being charged late or hidden fees.
Here are five tips to protect your holiday budget:
1. Set a spending cap with friends and family. Americans plan to spend $998 on gifts this holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation. ‘Tis the season for giving, but make sure you don’t overspend. Know your budget up front and communicate that with loved ones. Another idea to limit spending is to put everyone’s name into a hat. Each person draws one name and buys a gift for just the person they selected. You can add a bit of intrigue by keeping the identity of your recipient a secret until you open gifts!
2. Take advantage of deal days. Timing is everything for getting the best prices. Do your homework in advance to pay significantly less. The typical big sales days include Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which offers online deals focused on clothing and travel. Plus, Super Saturday before Christmas is great for last-minute gifts.
3. Purchase gift cards with peace of mind. Gift cards are a popular, convenient gift, but some would-be buyers may hesitate to purchase them out of fear that the business may end up closing, especially those still struggling during the ongoing pandemic. Erie Insurance is taking away that concern with gift card reimbursement coverage, which is provided to certain eligible homeowners at no additional charge. The coverage provides reimbursement for up to $250 per gift card at local businesses within 100 miles of a customer’s home if the business permanently closes within a year after purchase. Reimbursement coverage is limited to $500 per policy period.
4. Track when products are discounted with a browser extension. Do you want the best deals but don’t have the time to spend searching for them? There are extensions you can download on web browsers that will compare prices and even apply the best coupon codes at checkout.
5. Use credit card rewards. You’ve earned those points throughout the year and now is a great time to cash them in. The simplest way to use points is for gift cards, as it’s one of the top requested gifts and there are many categories to choose from, including restaurants, clothing and grocery stores. Another option is to take advantage of the money saved from a statement credit to cover the expense of holiday gifts.
Being mindful of your spending now can help you have a low-stress holiday season and start the new year off on the right foot.
PHOTO SOURCE: (c) juliannafunk / iStock via Getty Images Plus
Worried about defrosting, basting or carving that big bird? These cooking hacks will make prepping your holiday feast much easier.
Right about now, that holiday meal prep fear starts to settle in. You've invited your friends and family to Thanksgiving, but now the realization that you have to
cook a very large piece of poultry --
and perhaps a dozen other dishes — is beginning to keep you up at night.
Whether you're hosting Thanksgiving for the very first time, or you’ve completed the gauntlet before, it's never too late to learn a new tip or trick when it comes to cooking turkey. TODAY Food caught up with experts at Butterball to get the truth about what it really takes to make the best bird.
I’ve made a big Thanksgiving meal several times now and I’ve gotten it down to a manageable production. But there is always some element that causes me to break out into a cold sweat each year.
This year, I wanted to be extra prepared, so I attended Butterball University, which was led by the very same folks who man the company's famous Turkey Talk-Line each year. Here are seven top tips and tricks I learned that will help simplify and perfect your holiday cooking routine.
1. Set an alarm for Sunday, Nov. 21.
Here’s the ugly truth: It can take up to a week for a very large turkey to defrost. Not defrosting the bird in advance is one of the biggest blunders that novices make. In fact, Butterball says thawing inquiries are the most asked hotline questions.
It takes a shocking amount of time to defrost a turkey. Butterball recommends one day for every four pounds of poultry. So, if you have a 20-pound bird, that’s five whole days of thawing time, which means you can put your turkey in the fridge on Nov. 17. A smaller bird (think 10 pounds or less) should start thawing on Monday. Once the turkey is completely defrosted, you have three days to cook it. You can calculate how long it will take to thaw your turkey here.
2. Make a foil coil.
Courtesy Butterball Last year I looked for my roasting pan rack on Thanksgiving morning to no avail. I just put the bird in the pan and let it roast. But what I should have done was make a “coil of foil.” The reason why a rack is important is that it elevates the turkey, allowing air to circulate for more even cooking.
Christopher Clem, a Butterball Turkey Talk-Line expert, told me that lifting the turkey up also "exposes more of the surface area for drippings to collect.” The turkey drippings, which can be used for a succulent gravy later, will also be a richer brown color when they’re allowed to collect under the bird, instead of just around it.
If you can’t find your rack or don’t own one, simply take a piece of aluminum foil (a 4-inch wide piece will do), roll it lengthwise and then wind it into a coil. Depending on the size of your turkey, you’ll likely need to place two or three homemade coils under your turkey. This is also one of Katie Lee's favorite Thanksgiving hacks.
3. Do the right wing tuck.
So you’ve carefully removed the giblets from your turkey and placed it into your roasting pan. Think you're ready to roast? Think again. Don't forget about those pesky wings, which can splay out and make your bird a little wobbly.
The trick to stabilizing a turkey is to take those wings and tuck them tightly under the bird. And if you’re one of those folks who likes to stuff their bird, the wing tuck will also help keep the stuffing secure.
4. Skip basting the bird and get under the skin.
The Butterball team was very clear that basting is a waste of time. Basically, whatever you put on the skin of the bird is just going to roll off because the skin acts “like a rain coat,” according to Clem. That means that your pan drippings might be delicious, but the actual turkey meat doesn’t get the benefit of the butter or broth that you’re using to baste.
If you want to put your own personal spin on a turkey, the smartest thing to do is get between the turkey breast and the skin and smear it with some herbed butter. Take a stick of butter, soften it and then combine with chopped fresh herbs, like sage and thyme. Then use your hands and rub the mixture directly onto the turkey, under the skin. If you have time, the Butterball team suggests taking the herbed butter, putting it on waxed paper and freezing it. Then you can simply cut it into little pieces and stick those under the skin. Use the end of a wooden spoon to distribute the pieces evenly, which is less messy than spreading it with your hands.
5. Carve the breast off the turkey.
If the defrosting and cooking process didn’t throw you off, just wait until you have to slice into that 20-pounder. “Carving is another terrifying moment for new cooks,” Clem said. It can be a stress-inducing moment for sure, especially if you don’t have the right tools.
When shopping for a carving set, find one that includes a long, thin knife that is designed to slice through meat, plus a two-pronged fork to steady the turkey while you carve it. If you don’t have a carving set or don't want to buy one, Clem suggests grabbing the “thinnest, longest blade you have” and pairing that with a large fork — or even a wadded-up paper towel to protect your hand.
Before you dive in, make sure your turkey is steady. To steady a bird, place a damp kitchen towel under your cutting board. And unlike all the Thanksgiving movies and commercials that you’ve seen, you will not begin by slicing down into the turkey breast. Why? “The fibers in the muscle run parallel to the body, so you get long ropes of muscle fiber” when you carve it that way, says Clem. Instead, carve off the entire breast and then slice it against the grain (end to end) to ensure that the meat is tender and not tough.
6. Wrap it up.
So your beautiful, golden bird is perfectly cooked ... but then you receive a text from your brother that he’s stuck in traffic and will be late. No problem! Simply cover the entire turkey with foil and then place a clean kitchen towel on top. These layers work as insulation and the Butterball team ensures me that this method will keep your turkey hot (but not overcook it) for 45 minutes to an hour. In the meantime, that gives you plenty of time to bake off a pre-made pie or make gravy.
7. Good gravy.
By the time I’ve cooked the turkey and let it rest for 20 minutes, my crew is generally champing at the bit to sit down and eat already, which leads me to skip making gravy. It’s totally cool if you’re ready to have a glass of Pinot at this point, but if you do want to make the gravy, it will be worth the effort: here is how Clem recommends you do it. Pour all the turkey drippings into a heatproof pan and wait for 15 minutes for the fat to rise to the top. Remove the fat (saving 1 to 2 tablespoons) with a large spoon and discard. Add ¼ cup of all-purpose flour to the pan with the drippings, plus the reserved turkey fat, 1 or 2 cups of water and bring to a boil for 5 minutes. Easy peasy and delicious!
Hopefully these hacks will help you feel more prepared and less freaked out about making your Thanksgiving meal, whether you're cooking a cozy meal for two or a feast for 40. As Clem likes to tell the folks who call him on the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line, “You are not alone. Everyone is just as stressed. We’re all in this together.”
And if you do encounter some last minute glitches, you can always give Clem and his Butterball buddies a call at 1-800-BUTTERBALL.