Theresa Freed: [00:00] On this week's episode, you'll hear from Johnson County K-State Extension experts who will help you put on a Thanksgiving meal that won't disappoint. You'll get tips on timing and shortcuts to make meal prep a little easier. Also, find out how to prevent cross contamination when cutting and cooking so your guests don't get sick. Finally, find out where you can get some great recipes to start the holiday season off right.
Announcer: [00:23] Whether you live in or just love Johnson County, Kansas, JoCo on the Go has everything Johnson County. Here's what's happening and what's coming up in the community you call home.
Theresa Freed: [00:37] Thanks for joining us for JoCo on the Go. I'm your host Theresa Freed a Johnson County resident and employee of Johnson County government. The holiday season is a great time of year to gather with family and friends and enjoy a feast or two. For some, thinking of those major meals can cause a little bit of stress. So today we're here to help. And here to get us started is Gaylene Van Horn and David Stallings, they're master food volunteers with the K-state Extension Office and Johnson County. Thank you both for being here.
Gaylene VanHorn: [01:04] Thanks for having us.
Theresa Freed: [01:05] Well, let's get started with Thanksgiving since it's rapidly approaching. Turkey is sort of the star of the meal, but there are so many ways to cook it and if you haven't cooked one before, it can be a little bit tricky to get the timing right and just to know when, what all you're supposed to put on it, including the foil, the seasonings and all that good stuff. So what's the best way to cook a bird?
Gaylene VanHorn: [01:25] Well, I think everyone sort of has their preferred way of cooking a bird. And my preferred way is to use an oven bag and I put my turkey in there and I usually put it breast down so that the breasts gets, has more moisture as it cooks. And I butter the outside of the bird as well as put some butter inside, a little bit of celery and onion to give it a little bit of flavoring. And how we enjoy the bird is to have it pretty much fall off the bone. It's certainly not a Norman Rockwell looking bird when we serve it.
Theresa Freed: [02:02] So do you start out by cooking it upside down the way you would traditionally think of cooking it? Right,
Gaylene VanHorn: [02:07] Right. Yes. This goes in upside down, stays in the oven the whole time that way. And I usually cook it about 325, but I know that Dave does his a little bit differently and there are people that use air fryers, which I've never tried. But you know, it's always fun to go someplace new and have them make the turkey so that I don't have to do it.
Theresa Freed: [02:29] All right. Do you want to chime in about your favorite?
David Stallings: [02:31] Well, I think we do the traditional oven roasting and try to put 4 or 8 cups of broth under the pan or in the pan under the bird. So the, the oven feels like it's fairly moist or the air is moist, so it just doesn't dry out the turkey quite as fast. And then toward the end, maybe the last 30 or 45 minutes, we tent it with aluminum foil. So finish out, but toward the end we're also checking the temperature of the breasts because we want to make sure we don't undercook it or overcook it. And usually by checking regularly with a digital thermometer, we get the timing right and then we get it out and we let it rest.
Theresa Freed: [03:10] Okay. So that little thermometer that comes in it and pops up red. So is that the indicator that you need or do you need something else?
Gaylene VanHorn: [03:17] Well, you should be using a digital thermometer and it should be at 165 to really ensure that the turkey is done. Because in my case, if it has a little pop up, it's at the bottom of the pan so it doesn't pop up. Very good.
Theresa Freed: [03:32] That makes sense. Okay. All right, so you're cooking for the very first time you open up the package. What are some of the key things you need to do as soon as you open it up?
Gaylene VanHorn: [03:41] Well you want to make sure you take the giblets that are inside out and you're not supposed to be washing the turkey before you put it in your oven. It's a safety feature because if you wash it, you're spreading germs kind of all over your kitchen all over your sink. So you don't want to be doing that. But so it's important and usually people buy frozen turkeys and you want to make sure it's thawed, but you don't want to be thawing it out on your kitchen counter. So 3 to 4 days prior to Thanksgiving Day, you want to make sure you take it out of your freezer, put it in your refrigerator and make sure it stays cold and let it thaw in the refrigerator.
Theresa Freed: [04:21] And then not touching anything else, I guess in the refrigerator. I'm great. All right. Any other advice for cooking a turkey for the first time?
David Stallings: [04:28] Well, I think I'm just about anytime I'm cooking something that complicated or that large for that matter where we are, where we're feeding a lot of people, I almost always go to the internet and just start reading several articles and recipes and guidelines cause I'm always willing to learn how to do something better. So before I start while it's thawing in the refrigerator, I try to read up on what I need to be doing so I can get the timing of all the different steps correct. So it's really important to be prepared to know what you're doing.
Theresa Freed: [04:56] Okay. So the next thing we want to address is the side dishes. There are some very traditional side dishes that everyone has at Thanksgiving. So what are some of those and what do you enjoy?
David Stallings: [05:05] Well my family has a recipe that for cranberry sauce and it includes the mini marshmallows as well as oranges. And so if we have any other kind of recipe for cranberries, it's just not going to work. So people are very traditional and they see the meal as a sort of a comfort opportunity. So if they don't have the traditional sides, then they start wondering why not.
Theresa Freed: [05:31] Everything's just ruined, right?
Gaylene VanHorn: [05:32] Yeah. We've had, interestingly enough, we've had over the last five years, my youngest nephew who's at that time was in his twenties. We wanted to change our, our meal and he was like not letting it happen. He had very specific things we had to have. We had to have mashed potatoes and gravy and of course some sweet potatoes. And we have a family cranberry recipe as well. And then you know, he's have to have pumpkin pie, although he said we could get by with just chocolate pies. That was okay with everybody. But some of us still want pumpkin pie for a dessert. But yes, it's very traditional and it's so surprising. People really, I think it is a comfort meal for a lot of people. It's, you know, one time that we celebrate that we really aren't doing so many other things that we can just enjoy the meal together and the conversation that we have with our families.
Theresa Freed: [06:29] Any thoughts about rolls? Are there certain kinds of rolls that are best for Thanksgiving?
David Stallings: [06:36] Homemade, probably homemade. Right? And, and through the program we've learned how to bake. And so having rolls or a variety of other kinds of bread are very important. But if you enjoy baking, that's the time to really show off with the dinner rolls that you can make.
Theresa Freed: [06:52] Okay. And juggling what you have to put in the oven and where it needs to go. That can be a real challenge too. Do you have any advice on the timing of putting things in the oven?
Gaylene VanHorn: [07:00] Well, I mean it is tricky cause I do my turkey for, you know, a number of hours. Fortunately I have a second oven at home that I, and I use both of them during Thanksgiving and when neighbors have had their Thanksgiving, they've asked to borrow my oven if I don't have company. So it's like maybe you need to make sure your neighbor would allow you to use their extra oven or you know when people bring things, if they can, they come just sort of before you eat. They have their things hot and bring them in hot. But there's always that challenge of juggling your things in the oven.
Theresa Freed: [07:37] Okay. So first priority is getting the turkey in the oven, right?
Gaylene VanHorn: [07:39] First priority is getting that turkey in the oven.
Theresa Freed: [07:42] Okay. And how much do you have to baby the turkey in terms of checking on it? Basting it. I'm not sure how that works.
David Stallings: [07:48] Well I think the turkeys are coming with so much moisture already basted or pre-basted that at least we don't look at it until the last hour or so. Mostly just to make sure that the temperature is consistent. Cause every time you open the door the temperature seems to drop 20 degrees and it's a challenge enough just to keep the temperature at the right place. So we try not to disturb it until toward the end. Just a little bit safer and more consistent on the temperature.
Gaylene VanHorn: [08:16] And with it being in a baking bag, I usually don't disturb it and I, you know, just kind of leave that oven closed and let it do its thing.
Theresa Freed: [08:25] And when you take it out of the oven, are you supposed to let it sit for a little while or do you start carving it right away?
Gaylene VanHorn: [08:30] Well, in my case, you know, I want it to fall apart, but I do take it out. I do take it out and let it sit for a few minutes cause it's just too hot to handle even to have the pieces fall apart and put on the plate.
David Stallings: [08:42] Yeah. And we're normally doing the typical carving. And and of course you want it to to cool down, but you also want the moisture in the, in the meat to sort of settle back into the meat. So we normally have a carving platter that we use just to hold it in place. But I think the key is to just choreograph all the different dishes. And my wife is very linear and she's an excellent cook. So we will sit down and actually plan out all the steps. And one of the pieces that's easy to forget is how much time it takes to get the turkey ready. We put it on the plate to put on the table. You sometimes think that you're just going to pull the turkey out and it goes to the table. But we got about 30 more minutes of work before that happens.
Gaylene VanHorn: [09:22] I think even more than the oven sort of distribution is, you know, getting your mashed potatoes and the gravy they had seems to be the trickiest part. Cause the mashed potatoes cool really quickly and getting, you need the turkey out to use the gravy. And so that is my dilemma usually it's like, okay, somebody's gotta be there to mash the potatoes at X time and sort of, that's the coordination almost more for me than actually the oven space.
David Stallings: [09:48] You're exactly right. I think how well people perceive your mashed potatoes is almost as important as the turkey because if you screw that up then it's sort of like something's wrong. Something's out of sync. Cause everybody knows it's not that hard to make mashed potatoes. It's real easy to make them cold, but it's really important for the mashed potatoes to be ready.
Theresa Freed: [10:09] Okay. Good advice there. And we talked a little bit about dessert, pumpkin pie is a very traditional dessert and apparently chocolate pie is very good as well. There are, are there any other things you would recommend for the holiday?
Gaylene VanHorn: [10:20] I always liked something pumpkin just because it's traditional for Thanksgiving time and I love pumpkin so it's that sort of a must have for me.
David Stallings: [10:31] We try to stay away from the cream pies because they just, especially meringue cause there's just so much going on and so much moisture sort of with all the food on the table. So when I was a kid we had many failed attempts at pecan pie. My mom was not a great pie maker. But now we always have pecan pie cause that's just a sort of a staple pie that's also just seem to be traditional and everybody likes that much pecan.
Theresa Freed: [10:57] Right. And how much advance time do you need to start working on your desserts? Because I know with pumpkin pie you need to let it cool in the refrigerator. Is that right?
Gaylene VanHorn: [11:04] Where are you can or you can usually, because Thanksgiving is such a complicated meal, I would try to get my desserts done before the day. Actually Thanksgiving day or the day you're doing your Thanksgiving meal, just to give you a little more time to take breath and enjoy the time that you're, you know, working on the meal.
David Stallings: [11:25] Right. That's a great idea. And it's easy to do the night before if you if you plan ahead, but you can even do it a couple of days ahead cause the pies are gonna be okay in the refrigerator and then you take them out Thanksgiving day and let them get to room temperature if that's what you want.
Theresa Freed: [11:39] Oh, okay. And it does free up the oven space. Right, exactly. Which is very important that day. Another question. When you have guests who are on restricted diets, we want to accommodate them as much as we can. So people with dietary restrictions in terms of things like dairy or sugar, are there things that we can do to help with that?
David Stallings: [11:59] I think you can ask. I think if you have family members, you probably know what their what their issues are. But if you're having new people for Thanksgiving dinner that it's, if you're going to invite them into your home and feed them. A lot of times when we're guessing other people's houses, if we have a gluten issue or something, we'll, we'll mention that so that they feel comfortable because the last thing you want is for someone to go home and be unhappy or not feeling well. So I think it's just a courtesy to ask and then do what you can to accommodate that.
Gaylene VanHorn: [12:28] I would agree. And just, you know, tell, tell them, you know, this happens to have gluten in here. We have a gluten free option, whether it be fruit or something very simple, but just to have that available for them. A lot of people who have, or from my experience, a lot of people who do have these kinds of allergies or you know, problems with different kinds of foods, they really don't want you, particularly in a big event, don't want you to go to a lot of extra trouble to make it something special just for them.
Theresa Freed: [12:57] One more question. Very important. What is your favorite place to get recipes?
Gaylene VanHorn: [13:01] Well, we get a lot of great recipes at the extension office. Every time we have a class it's like, Oh wow, I need to try that. And then there are others to try and I use a lot of those. My sister's a great place to get recipes too. She is, I don't know where she gets all of them, but she has some great ones as well. So I would say family and Extension and a lot of places like that.
David Stallings: [13:22] My wife's family, mother and father are both excellent cooks and they put together a little notebook. And so the first place I go for, especially the traditional food is to the notebook because I know if I cook it that way, I'm safe at least with my wife. But you know, once you get past the traditions in your home, there's just so much information on the internet. And so one of the things that we go to often as the America's Test Kitchen cause it's a very technical sort of detailed and you know that it's been tested quite often and there are often videos to show you actually how to prepare it. So that's one of my favorite.
Theresa Freed: [13:55] All right, that's some great advice and thank you both for being here today.
Gaylene VanHorn: [13:58] You're welcome. Glad to be here.
Theresa Freed: [14:00] Continuing our conversation about holiday food prep. Another important thing to consider is contamination. If you're hosting a holiday meal, how can we make sure guests have a great time and don't leave with a case of food poisoning. to shed some light on this issue, I'm joined by Crystal Futrell also with the Johnson County K- State Extension Office. Thanks for being here.
Crystal Futrell: [14:18] Thanks so much for having me.
Theresa Freed: [14:20] All right. So why do we see a greater risk of contamination around the holidays in the winter months?
Crystal Futrell: [14:25] With the holidays, you've got a lot of people cooking a lot of things. They may not be cooking often throughout the rest of the year, so they may be a little rusty with their food safety awareness in the kitchen. Also you've got families coming together. And we always are concerned with food safety. We're always concerned with our high risk populations. So that's the very young, the, you know, the elderly and the very sick. So that tends to kind of happen when you, you said it's just kind of a perfect storm. You've got maybe an inexperienced cook or someone not used to cooking a lot of food and you felt a high risk population opportunities. So a lot of reasons why people might get sick.
Theresa Freed: [15:08] Okay. So people just not being as careful as they should be. And you have a lot of chaos in the kitchen. People grabbing spoons and knives and not really knowing the history of where they've been. Right.
Crystal Futrell: [15:16] More worried about getting things done. And on the table then than how they maybe get there.
Theresa Freed: [15:21] Okay. That makes sense. So what are some of the ways to avoid getting sick from spoiled or contaminated food?
Crystal Futrell: [15:28] I would say just be aware of what's required to keep your food safe. We kind of have a saying in the food safety world. Keep hot things hot, keep cold things cold. Germs, love room temperatures, they love to sit out. They love food that sits out for a long time. So just being mindful that you want to maintain your temperatures and, and put things away as soon as you can. And then making sure that anything you're preparing knowing what the appropriate cooking temperature is. So like for that turkey, making sure it gets to 165 so things like that would be helpful.
Theresa Freed: [16:04] Okay. So it seems like there are certain foods that are especially prone to contamination like turkey. So what are some of those foods?
Crystal Futrell: [16:11] Well, certainly poultry. You know, salmonella is a huge issue with, with poultry, but, but other things are as well. So, I mean there's Campylobacter and just a whole host of bacteria and that you can't see, you can't smell, you don't know they're there. So it's always important to try and treat things with, with kid gloves. So, but certainly any kind of meats, raw meats you need to watch out for cross contamination issues. But even things like cooked vegetables. Any kind of chopped or or cooked produce items are at risk for bacteria contamination. So just making sure that, that you're cooking things to the correct temperature and taking care of them once they're done as well.
Theresa Freed: [16:55] Okay. So I take the turkey out of the oven, I let it sit for a little bit as we heard. That's very important. I put it on a platter and I serve it to my guests. So how long can the turkey sit out because I'm sure people are picking on it throughout the night?
Crystal Futrell: [17:08] Yes. I been to so many dinners where, you know, Thanksgiving is served at lunch and then it doesn't go away. And then we come back for it for dinner and it's just been sending out for six hours. So the general rule is you can leave things out for up to two hours. So that's kind of the magic window is two hours, but after two hours it's got to go into the fridge.
Theresa Freed: [17:31] Okay, that's very important. So what are some other ideas? I know anything with eggs or mayonnaise can be an issue. Maybe that's more with warm weather outside or in the hot sun, but what are some other things?
Crystal Futrell: [17:42] So really anything that's chopped. So if you have kind of like a crudité platter, just celery and carrots and ranch dip just to nibble on. So what do you any produce that is chopped that's at, at risk. Any produce that is cooked. So even like your, your mashed potatoes, your, you're dressing your, you're stuffing, your corn casserole, sweet potato casserole. So once it's cooked, you know, it becomes kind of a, a food safety hazard, but it needs to be maintained. So again, that all of that applies, that two hour window applies.
Theresa Freed: [18:16] Okay. Is there anything that should get just thrown out instead of going back into the fridge after a certain time?
Crystal Futrell: [18:22] Yeah, after that two hours. Or if you've got, especially if you've got a buffet, a buffet line where it's being handled readily by young hands or if it's just kind of sitting out and you've got pets running around. So maybe, maybe it's just not worth kind of trying to hold onto that and just maybe starting over or, or just being very cognizant of, of trying to keep that as pristine and, and food safe as you can.
Theresa Freed: [18:50] Right. And you bring up a good point with little hands. They're not super great with making sure they're wiping noses with tissues and washing hands. So you got to watch out for the colds and flus around food.
Crystal Futrell: [19:01] And I guess that's a good point too. It's just making sure when, when you're cooking or before you, you're eating washing hands, make sure you've got ample soap, clean towels, and washing those hands for about 20 seconds.
Theresa Freed: [19:13] And if you do get sick, what are some of those indicators that somebody might not be doing so great
Crystal Futrell: [19:17] From food poisoning related? Well there's always kind of those GI signals, you know, the, the diarrhea, the vomiting. Anyone who says they get this, the 24 hour stomach flu actually has kind of a mild case of food borne poisoning. So be mindful of that. But another thing, I often hear this as you know, people get through Thanksgiving and they say, Oh, well no one's we made it, you know, come Monday morning, no one's gotten sick. I must've done everything okay. But for some folks it can take up to several weeks before symptoms emerge. So just watching out for, you know, upset stomach, diarrhea, nausea, make sure to get rest and lots of water.
Theresa Freed: [20:07] Okay. So hopefully nobody gets that with their Thanksgiving meals. We've gotten a lot of great tips today to make the holiday great. But what are some other places people can go to get information, not just about food safety, but also recipes?
Crystal Futrell: [20:19] Well. Our website is a johnson.k-state.edu so we'll, we'll have lots of resources on there on the Health and Food Safety page on, on how to make sure that your Thanksgiving is a happy, delicious, and healthy one.
Theresa Freed: [20:34] All right, that's great information. Thank you for being here today.
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