(Family Features) One of the most memorable moments at any holiday dinner is when a moist, delicious turkey is brought to the table. Everyone grabs their forks at the sight of a perfectly brown bird glistening with juicy flavor.
Make sure your holiday meal is a special one by following these simple tips for making the perfect holiday dinner:
Planning the Meal
- Get your plans in writing, including your menu, how many people will attend, any special dietary needs of guests and what time you plan to serve the meal.
- Buy the turkey early, and look for a bird with a pop-up timer in the breast, which ensures proper cooking time. Learn more at volkenterprises.com.
Thawing the Turkey
- Thaw your turkey in the refrigerator for 24 hours per 5 pounds in weight. For example, a 20-pound bird takes four days to thaw. Thaw it faster by covering with cold water in the sink and changing the water every half hour per pound of turkey.
- Don’t unwrap a frozen turkey before thawing.
- Refrigerate the turkey as soon as it has thawed, or cook it immediately.
Preparing the Bird
- Baste the turkey with extra-virgin olive oil, butter, margarine or wine.
- For an unstuffed turkey, place a stalk or two of celery, seasonings, a cut-up onion and a handful of parsley in the cavity to keep it moist.
- If you stuff the turkey, pack the neck and cavity loosely with stuffing prepared just before you plan to cook the bird.
- Heat oven to 325 F. Place turkey breast-side-up on a rack in a shallow roasting pan.
- Lay a “tent” of foil loosely over the turkey to prevent over-browning.
- The turkey is done when the meat thermometer is 180 F and the stuffing is 165 F. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, look for the red stem to go up on the pop-up timer, press a thumb and forefinger into the thick part of the drumstick to see if it feels soft or wiggle a drumstick to see if it moves easily.
- For easier carving, let the turkey stand at room temperature for at least 20 minutes.
Preparing Homemade Rolls
- Purchase Frozen Rhodes Ready to Bake Rolls, which give you that original homemade taste with no preservatives.
- Coat baking pan and large sheet of plastic wrap with nonstick cooking spray. Place frozen dough on the pan and cover with oiled plastic wrap so it won’t stick to the rolls as they rise.
- Let rolls rise for 4-5 hours, until they double in size. Carefully remove the plastic wrap.
- While you are carving your turkey, put rolls in the oven at 350 F and bake 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.
- Brush tops with butter or olive oil, if desired.
- Dinner rolls can also be used to create side dishes or desserts, such as this Butterscotch Bubble Loaf.
Don’t Forget the Add-Ons
- Surprise your guests with something different from years prior, such as new recipes or add-ons. For example, if you serve salad add something new, such as olives, pearl onions, raisins, nuts or mandarin oranges.
- Mashed potatoes are expected. For a flavor kick, try adding mustard, garlic or other flavors when mashing.
- Add color to your favorite green vegetables by placing pimento or strips of steamed red bell on top.
- Try an unconventional take on stuffing, such as making stuffin’ muffins in muffin tins or serving stuffing inside an empty green bell pepper.
Serving a Sweet Treat
- Watermelon is a source of antioxidants and vitamins, and has more lycopene than any other raw fruit or vegetable.
- You can also opt to serve a sweet treat with your turkey with this recipe for Watermelon Cranberry Sauce.
Planning for Leftovers
- After two hours at room temperature, cooked food should be stored in the refrigerator.
- If possible, carve the entire turkey before the meal and store the extras as soon as everyone has a plate.
- There are many great recipes that feature leftover turkey, such as stir-fry with vegetables, wraps, tacos, burritos and, of course, good, old-fashioned turkey sandwiches.
To help with planning and preparation, and for more delicious recipe ideas for your holiday gathering, visit culinary.net. To learn more about food promotion and view a photo gallery of classic celebrities, such as Bob Hope, Phyllis Diller, Abbott and Costello, Dinah Shore and others, with turkey and other foods, visit adventuresinpr.com.
Butterscotch Bubble Loaf
Recipe courtesy of rhodesbread.com
- 24 Rhodes Yeast Dinner Rolls, thawed but still cold
- 1/2 box non-instant butterscotch or vanilla pudding mix
- 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup butter or margarine
- Heat oven to 350° F.
- Cut dinner rolls in half and dip in dry pudding mix. In sprayed Bundt pan, arrange rolls, alternating with pecans. Sprinkle any remaining pudding mix over top.
- Combine brown sugar and butter. In microwave, heat together about 1 1/2 minutes until butter is melted and syrup is formed. Pour syrup over rolls. Cover with sprayed plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in size, or even with top of Bundt pan.
- Carefully remove wrap. Bake 30-35 minutes. Cover with foil for last 15 minutes of baking.
- Immediately after baking, loosen foil from sides of pan with knife and invert onto serving plate.
Watermelon Cranberry Sauce
Recipe courtesy of watermelon.org
- 4 cups fresh cranberries
- 1/2 cup organic sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
- lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 2 cups minced watermelon
- In 3-quart saucepan over medium-low heat, heat cranberries, sugar, vanilla, lemon juice and lemon zest until simmering. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until cranberries are tender, about 15-20 minutes.
- Reduce heat to low and add maple syrup and cinnamon to pan. Simmer another few minutes.
- Remove from heat to rest 10 minutes. Stir in watermelon and serve warm, or chill and serve cold.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images (holiday dinner table with turkey and vegetables)