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Thanksgiving Countdown

Thanksgiving is coming. If you’re hosting, you’ve got a lot to do. Here’s a basic countdown you can use to help get everything to the table on time.

10 Days Before Thanksgiving: The Plan

Plan your turkey method: A turkey doesn't have to be roasted in the oven; you can deep-fry or grill it to free up oven space, but figure out what you want to do and make sure you order the turkey. Make sure your roasting pan is big enough and that it will fit in your oven. Think through oven and stove space: Make sure not all your side dishes need last-minute oven or stove time, and consider swapping in a few dishes that can be served at room temperature.

Match your menu to your serving dishes: A good classic piece of advice is to pull out all your serving platters and dishes and label what dish goes in them with sticky notes. This not only ensures you have enough serveware but makes it easy to delegate the transferring of food into these dishes. Don't forget trays for appetizers and desserts, too.

Check kitchen equipment: Check for a meat thermometer, pie and casserole dishes, trussing string, enough pots and pans, a potato masher, and anything else you might need to pull off cooking Thanksgiving dinner. If you haven't used your oven in a while and it tends to be finicky, make sure it still works!

Delegate dishes: This is the time to finalize who's bringing what. And even if you're not doing a potluck-style Thanksgiving, if guests offer to bring something, don't turn them down. An extra dessert, wine, cheese and cured meats tray for appetizers, and of course, bag of ice, are all welcome things at Thanksgiving. Avoid assigning dishes that need to be cooked at the last minute or reheated, if at all possible.

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Fresh in November

Potatoes are easily available year round. But do you know how to choose and store them? Look for potatoes that are firm and without blemish. Avoid potatoes with any mushy spots. Store them in a cool, dry place. Never store potatoes in the refrigerator. Make sure a bit of air can circulate. If you put them in a bin, make sure it’s not airtight.

Beets are not my favorite vegetable by a long shot, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a good nutritious and delicious (to some) food. Avoid beets with soft, moist spots or shriveled, flabby skin. The taproot, which extends from the main part of the beet, should be slender. When choosing your beets, pick equal-sized ones so that they will cook evenly. If the leaves are attached, they should be small, crisp, and dark green. Beets can stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. To reduce moisture loss from beet roots, cut off the beet greens before storing. Leave at least an inch of the stem attached. Do not wash beets before storing.

Yams are not sweet potatoes, though you will occasionally see sweet potatoes labeled as yams in grocery stores. The two vegetables' shapes can be similar, long with tapered pointy ends, but the skin of a yam is usually dark brown, almost black, and has a rough texture. They are starchy and when cut, release a substance that makes them feel slippery like certain squash does. Select yams that feel firm and have unwrinkled flesh. Store them in a cool, dark, dry place - not the refrigerator.

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Whether you’re planning to make Halloween cookies, Thanksgiving cookies, Christmas cookies or any other holiday cookies, you’ll need a good basic recipe. Here’s one that’s tried and true for use with cookie cutters. The cookie will be firm and a bit crumbly when you eat it. It’s from Pampered Chef.

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How to Give and Receive Gifts Well

As of today (October 21), there are only 65 days until Christmas. That means you are likely to give and receive many gifts in the next couple of months.

Giving Gifts

We have all heard the adage that “it’s the thought that counts.” That’s true, as long as the thought is guided by consideration for the recipient. Is it something that the recipient will enjoy? Here are a few things to consider:

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So You’re Planning a Christmas Wedding

Weddings at Christmas are a great trend. For one thing, family may already be planning to gather. For another, they can be beautiful. Here are some ideas for making the most of your Christmas wedding.

First, think about incorporating Christmas colors. Red and green might be what catches your fancy, but blue and white, deep green and white (think snow on an evergreen), red and white, blue and silver, or purple and gold are also Christmas combinations that can be lovely.

Consider a Christmas-themed keepsake gift. A Christmas ornament commemorating the date would be a great idea.

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Fresh in October

For those of us in north central Indiana, the days of farmers markets have ended until next summer. But you will find the occasional farm/produce store. And you should be able to find local produce in a good local grocery store.

Pumpkins and squash are the big sellers in October. If you’re planning to carve your pumpkin, you’ll want something big with a sturdy, flat bottom. It’s also good if it has a good-sized stem, making it easy to lift the lid (or the whole pumpkin, if you cut out the bottom for your Jack-o-lantern). You’ll want shallow grooves on the flesh for easier drawing/carving.

If you’re using the pumpkins for making pies, cookies, breads, and such, you’ll want to look for smaller pumpkins. They’ll cook quicker and easier. Search out sugar pumpkins or pie pumpkins. They’re smaller anyway, and they have the best flavor.

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Your BOLO List

I still remember the first time I heard the term “BOLO.” I was watching a cop show, and someone said, “Put a BOLO out on …” I wondered what a BOLO was. Eventually, I figured it out. It’s “be on the lookout.”

For quite a while now I’ve kept a BOLO list. It’s a little different than a shopping list. A shopping list is what you need to pick up today or the next time you’re at the store. A BOLO list includes those things that you might not buy right away. You aren’t really searching for them. They’re things you want to watch for.

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Easy Apple Tart

With apples at their peak right now, here’s a recipe to help you make use of them.