For Thanksgiving this year I bought our bird a week in advance because last year I learned that all the other home cooks in my town buy theirs a week in advance, leaving only 5- or 35-lb. turkeys for those of us who'd rather wait. If you did the same, thawing a frozen turkey by transferring it from the freezer to the fridge is still the ideal method. I was taught was to allow 24 hours thaw time in the fridge per 5 pounds of frozen meat; Butterball say 1 day per 4 pounds, and has an entire page here with info on how to thaw your bird safely.
We love baked apple anything, and I wanted a lighter dessert this year for Thanksgiving, so I'm going to try the puff-pastry apple strudel recipe in the December 2009 issue of Cooking Light. They don't have it posted online yet, but there's a similar recipe here on Pepperidge Farm's Puff Pasty site. If I can find my candy thermometer, I'm also going to try a recipe CL has in the holiday issue for popcorn brittle -- you use popcorn instead of nuts; I bet the kids will love it.
Before people start to e-mail, my recipe for no-brainer fudge is here.
My favorite holiday centerpiece is an edible one, and I usually make mine out of apples and nuts. But this year in deference to my daughter's braces I'm going to make one from white, red and concord grapes and some gold-wrapped chocolate coins. If it turns out well I'll post a pic of it on the photoblog.
Thanksgiving is my one old-fashioned full-blown all-out cooking day during the year, and friends who drop in to visit early before they go home for their feast often ask me what they can bring. I suggest donuts, coffee cake or a brunch item that can be served easily and immediately to my drop-in guests (including the ones who bring it.) These are great because I don't have to prepare them or make stove or oven space for them, and they provide a gathering point for everyone else, which keeps them out of the kitchen and my hair (I love you guys, but if you touch my crudites before the platter is finished again, I'm going to hurt you.)
If you have hungry little ones with nothing to do, you might set up a card table with the ingredients they'll need to assemble this fun fruit turkey either as a snack for themselves or as a dessert alternative.
For those of you who dread turkey disasters on the big day, Butterball also has their annual holiday Turkey Talk-Line open once again this year: 1-800-288-8372 qeekdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. CST, or if the turkey isn't on fire you can also e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you all have any special T-Day preps or tips you'd like to share? Let us know in comments.