Contact: Allison Benner, College Relations Associate - Media, 610-740-3790


Allen Center for Nutrition Offers Tips for First-Time Holiday Cooks

Allentown, PA (November 9, 2004) - Cooking Thanksgiving dinner can be a daunting task for even the most seasoned cook, but preparing it for the first time ever can be downright frightening. Of course you want everything to be perfect, especially when you know Aunt Martha will be scrutinizing every detail. But fear not - this is Thanksgiving not Halloween! Cedar Crest College professor at the Allen Center for Nutrition, Jane Ziegler, MS, RD, CNSD, LDN, encourages first-time Turkey Day chefs that, with a little planning and preparation, you can prepare a delicious and healthful holiday meal.

"Most people think they need to be up before dawn to make a great meal, so that by the time it's on the table the cook is too tired to even think about eating," says Ziegler. "Some simple tips can go a long way to make cooking 'the big one' a lot less stressful. Two areas that are especially important for novice cooks to remember are preparation and safe food-handling."

Getting It Together….

Ziegler offers the following tips to aid preparation in the days leading up to Thanksgiving:

· Plan! Plan! Plan! Even if lists aren't your thing, jotting down your to-do's for Turkey Day could save you the embarrassment of forgetting important details, like the gravy.

· When confirming the guest list for your dinner, be sure to ask if anyone has food allergies or special dietary concerns that need to be considered when planning the menu.

· Don't try to overfeed your guests. Keep the amount of food you make proportional to the number of people you need to feed. The more you have to cook, the more complicated your cooking becomes and the more time it will take.

· Keep it simple! When cooking a holiday meal for the first time, keep the dishes simple. The traditional foods you expect to see on the Thanksgiving table, like sweet potatoes, turkey and cranberry sauce, don't need much embellishment to have great flavor. If you like, pick just one dish that's a bit more complicated to spend extra time on.

· Focus on the presentation and environment of the table you'll eat at. Not only will it wow your guests, but it can also be arranged ahead of time.

· Invite your guests to arrive a half-hour to an hour before you actually plan to eat. This gives you some extra time if you're running behind schedule and can also save your food from getting cold if anyone is late.

Just in Time!

"One of the easiest ways to save yourself time on the day of the big dinner is to prepare whatever you can the day before," says Ziegler. "Many dishes' ingredients can be combined and then refrigerated until you need to pop them in the oven. Most desserts can also be made a day or two before your meal."

Even the turkey can be cooked a day ahead and, with proper storage, can be served cold or reheated. If this sounds good to you, here's what to do:

· After thoroughly roasting the turkey, let it stand for 20 minutes out of the oven to allow the juices to distribute. Then slice the breast meat. You can leave the legs and wings whole.

· Place the turkey in metal containers with a depth of no more than two inches. Pour the broth over the turkey to prevent it from drying out. Cover loosely and refrigerate. Once it is completely cool, cover tightly.

· On the big day, transfer the turkey to oven-safe pans if your containers are not already suitable. Then cover the pan with an oven-proof lid or foil and reheat in a 350 degree oven until the meat has reached 165 degrees.

For Safety's Sake…

· Don't forget to allow enough time for the turkey to thaw safely. This is best done in the refrigerator allowing 24 hours for each 5 pounds of weight. Be sure to remove the neck and giblets from the body cavities.

· Prevent cross-contamination of foods by keeping raw or thawing meat on a plate on a lower shelf in the refrigerator. This should keep juices from dripping onto other foods.

· As a general rule-of-thumb, do not allow any dish to remain at room temperature for more than two hours total time.

· It's safest to prepare stuffing as a casserole in the oven until its internal temperature is 165 degrees, as opposed to inside the turkey. It cuts down on total turkey roasting time and helps prevent bacteria growth.

· If you don't have one already, invest in a meat thermometer!

· For best safety and quality, eat most leftovers within a day or two, unless freezing for later use.

For more information about planning a great holiday meal or to schedule an interview with Jane Ziegler, please contact the College Relations Office at 610-740-3790.


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