Thanksgiving is almost here! Can you all believe it?! Soon, it’ll be time to wash the bird, stuff it full of delicious stuffing (put mine on the side please!), and then we get to feast!
There are so many things to prep and get ready for this holiday, so let’s go through some of the basics first, like proper storage and handling of the turkey, and then how to safely cook the bird so everyone can enjoy it.
Whether you buy your turkey fresh or frozen, make sure to keep it at the proper temperature to avoid food borne illnesses, such as E. coli. If your turkey is frozen, make sure to thaw it properly in the refrigerator, which may need a few days to thaw. And remember, when you’re storing raw poultry, make sure to keep it on the bottom shelf! This will make sure that if the bird leaks, it won’t contaminate your other food in the fridge.
Make sure to always rinse your bird before cooking and to wipe down your sink very well when done. I always like to wash all of my veggies, potatoes, etc. before I rinse the bird in the sink. This will help with cross contamination and reducing the risk of food borne illness.
When cooking your bird, make sure to set your oven to a temperature of no less than 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Slow roasting your turkey takes time, but keeping your family safe is most important, so be patient and take the time to fully cook the bird. Here is a guide on how long to cook your turkey based on the weight of the bird, among many other helpful tips that will help you with the turkey season!
Lastly, make sure to properly cook and check the temperature of the turkey. Always have a thermometer handy and make sure that the turkey is cooked thoroughly. When checking the temperature, make sure to check the thickest parts of the bird, or in other words, the innermost part of the thigh, the inner wing and the thickest part of the breast. Make sure your turkey is cooked to the proper internal temperature of no less than 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
OK, I promise this is my last comment about cooking the turkey. Please DO NOT cook your stuffing inside the turkey cavity! I know, I know… it gives you more flavor because it’s getting the turkey drippings and making everything more flavorful. But it also risks not allowing the turkey to fully cook. And, it allows the stuffing to not properly be cooked, as well! No one wants soggy, E. coli filled stuffing, do they?! No thanks! Cook stuffing on the side and smother that baby with some gravy!
Rant over! Now let’s talk about one of the life-long questions about turkey… Does it really make you sleepy? Do we go into a turkey coma because we ate too much? Or is it something in the food that makes us relatively tired?
Being a registered dietitian, I had to learn about all of the amino acids that our body needs, essential and non-essential. It is said that the essential amino acid Tryptophan is the cause of our sleepiness after our Thanksgiving feast. Let’s explore more into that, shall we? Let’s clarify: essential amino acids need to be consumed through food for our body, and non-essential amino acids are made by our body! So, Tryptophan needs to be consumed in order for our body to utilize it.
Tryptophan is an amino acid that can make other chemicals in our body, such as Serotonin (which plays as a “mood balancer”) and Melatonin (the “sleepy” chemical)-. It is said that Tryptophan is the main cause of the sleepiness after our meal, but some are saying that it’s possibly just the excess amount of carbohydrates we’re consuming, the alcohol we’re drinking and the possible “vacation” mode that everyone is on.
That being said, what are your thoughts? Coming from a professional point of view, I believe that it’s also the excess amount of carbs we’re consuming (potatoes, rolls, stuffing, yams) and the fact that everyone is relaxed and having a good time. Also, if you’re like my mom and me, we’re planning and prepping for up to a week before! And once the dinner is finally over and everything is cleaned up, we fall onto the couch and we’re ready for a nap!
So does Tryptophan come into play? I’m saying yes and no. My college degree comes with a lot of science and chemistry background, so we dietitians have to be somewhat of a scientist, as well as a foodie! I’m saying no to Tryptophan because of what I stated above and many other factors that come into play with the entire Thanksgiving meal. I’m saying yes to Tryptophan because being that we’re eating an excess amount of carbohydrates, this will elevate our insulin secretion, and therefore gives Tryptophan an easier roadway to be absorbed into the body. It has been stated that since the insulin is being concentrated on our carbs, Tryptophan, in a sense, becomes more “concentrated” and can then start the process of turning into Serotonin and then Melatonin (the “sleepy” chemical). But this is only in a perfect world of where the turkey or Tryptophan is the only thing being eaten!
Like I said, it could go either way! It just depends on what makes sense to you and what you believe, because in the end, we’re all still tired and usually take a nap, so why fight over it?!
All this Tryptophan talk is making me sleepy, so let’s wrap up this article with one of my favorite parts to talk about: Fabio’s recipes! Let’s all take a look at something we can create using leftovers from our Thanksgiving feast. Check out this recipe: Turkey, Pepper Jack and Apple Sandwich! Is there anything better than a leftover turkey sandwich? I don’t think so! Add your leftover turkey breast or my fave, the dark leg meat, and slap it on some good ol’ sourdough bread! Nothing says Thanksgiving like a turkey sandwich.
Want something a little fancier? This is a great recipe to get rid of the leftovers but still impress those guests who couldn’t make the first dinner. Check out Fabio’s Roasted Turkey with Fontina-Stuffed Potatoes. You still have turkey breast leftover, now just whip up those fabulous Fontina potatoes and enjoy a great twist on a Thanksgiving dinner! Talking about these delicious dishes is making my mouth water.
I hope everyone has an amazing holiday, enjoyed with family and friends! And remember to always have fun with your food! And I’ll change it up for you readers just a little bit: For Thanksgiving, make it simple, make it somewhat healthy, and make it delicious!!!