It’s the week to load our carts and kitchens with food for what could easily be the biggest meal of the year. And since few of us will be out hunting for a turkey or trading food with our Native American neighbors, here are a few shopping ideas for a traditional and nutritious Thanksgiving:
Turkey: According to the National Turkey Foundation, most of us (88 percent of Americans) will have turkey on our Thanksgiving table this year. Nutritionally, turkey is considered a lean protein food … before we smother it with gravy.
Need someone to talk turkey? Poultry professionals are ready to answer questions at the Butterball Turkey Talk Line (1-800-BUTTERBALL, or 1-800-288-8372) daily from 8 am to 8 pm, Central Time. And this year we can even text questions 24/7 the entire week before Thanksgiving! That number is 1-844-877-3456.
Incidentally, the most common question received by the Butterball experts is how to thaw the big bird. Answer? Unopened wrapper on a tray in the refrigerator, breast side up. Allow at least 1 day of thawing for every 4 pounds of turkey.
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Stuffing: Traditional cornbread stuffing – IF it is made without added wheat flour or other gluten-containing ingredients – can be a great dish for friends and family who avoid gluten (a protein in wheat, rye and barley). And you can make everyone happy without having to do two separate recipes. Find not one, but two gluten-free stuffings for Thanksgiving at www.epicurious.com.
Winter Squash: Yes, that includes our traditional pumpkin. But don’t forget all the other members of the winter squash family including butternut (one of my favorites), acorn, and kabocha (named for the Japanese word meaning “squash”). Nutritionally, the orange and yellow flesh of these hardy vegetables are rich in fiber and antioxidant vitamins A and C. Serve them roasted, mashed or in soups.
Sweet potatoes: And here’s the age-old question. What’s the difference between a sweet potato and a yam? According to the North Carolina Sweet Potato farmers — who grow more of this tuber than any other state — what we tend to call “yams” are most likely sweet potatoes. A true yam is similar to a white potato and usually imported from Caribbean countries. American sweet potatoes are traditionally orange-fleshed although they can also be white or even purple. So even though we may interchange the words, the USDA requires that orange-colored sweet potatoes always be labeled “sweet potato”… because they are.
Most important, these orange-colored vegetables that jazz up our Thanksgiving table are loaded with anti-inflammatory substances that have been shown to slow certain disease processes and premature aging caused by too many relatives in the kitchen.
Put all these foods together and what do we have? A nutritionally complete traditional holiday feast.
And there might even be room for pumpkin pie.