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Thanksgiving 2017: Most popular desserts

Thanksgiving is about family, gratitude, togetherness, gathering and of course, turkey. It’s about all the fixings, too: macaroni and cheese, green bean casserole, gravy, mashed potatoes.  And don’t forget about those tasty leftovers. For those with a sweet tooth, Thanksgiving wouldn’t be the same without its traditional desserts. 

From the traditional pumpkin pie to the more modern pumpkin cheesecake making appearances on holiday tables, here is a rundown of some of the most popular Thanksgiving desserts.

Pumpkin pie

Perhaps the most popular Thanksgiving dessert, pumpkin pie is an easy favorite. Traditionally, pumpkin, either freshly roasted and pureed or canned, is mixed with a spice blend of nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves and mace. A flaky, buttery crust is often pre-baked, then pie filling, typically mixed with eggs, milk and butter, is poured into the crust and baked until it is browned and set. For a variation, butternut squash can be used in lieu of pumpkin pie filling.

Sweet potato pie

With sweet potato pie, the same pumpkin pie spice blend of nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves and mace is used along with the pre-baked crust. Some additions to the filling can add more dimension to this dessert: orange zest, fresh grated ginger and brown sugar being examples. Use organic garnet yams or any other organic variety for the best flavor of sweet potatoes. Also, roast the potatoes versus boiling or microwaving.

Pecan pie

Pecan pie isn’t for the faint at heart and for those who are novices to all things sweet. You’ll only need a sliver of this pie, concocted of pecans, corn syrup or molasses, eggs, sugar, vanilla and butter. For the ultimate pecan pie experience, serve with a heaping scoop of ice cream on top. One popular variety of pecan pie is a chocolate one, where dark chocolate is added into the mix with the pecan filling. Also, pecan pie can be made into bite-sized pieces to enjoy as pecan pie bars or squares. For this version, the pie is baked in a sheet pan and cut into small squares.

Apple pie

An all-American favorite, apple pie is a popular Thanksgiving dessert choice. To prepare an apple pie, cut, peel and cook apples on top of the stove. Mix with spices, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and a little vanilla. A few varieties of apple pie include the lattice pie crust, featuring crisscrosses of dough across the pie and Dutch apple pie, with crumbs as the pie topping.

Pumpkin cheesecake

Pumpkin cheesecake is a seasonal spin on a beloved dessert and a perfect item to add to the Thanksgiving dessert melange. There are two approaches to this dessert: mixing in the pumpkin with the cream cheese, eggs and sugar to bake in a browned graham cracker crust or create one layer of pumpkin pie over one layer of cheesecake. Swirls of the pumpkin in the cheesecake can be added for artistic flair.

Cranberry pie

Cranberries are more than the sauce to go with a heaping serving of turkey and stuffing. They can play a starring role in a season-friendly dessert. When cranberries are cooked, they impart a tangy, slight bitterness to taste, making it a perfect companion to a buttery crust or even a spongy, fluffy cakelike batter as a variation. To prepare this pie, start with fresh or frozen cranberries that have been defrosted in a food processor. Pulse to chop and combine the cranberries with sugar, walnuts, cornstarch, orange zest, salt and nutmeg to a desired consistency, then pour mixture into crust and bake.

Pumpkin roll

A creamy and simple dessert option, the pumpkin roll is a classy version of the well-known cake roll and a popular Thanksgiving dessert. For traditional pumpkin rolls, a pumpkin spice cake is baked in a jelly roll pan, cooled, and then a cream cheese filling is added to the interior of the cake before rolling up and sprinkling the outside with powdered sugar.

Egg custard pie

Simplicity is the name of the game with this custard dessert. Milk is combined with eggs, sugar, milk, vanilla or nutmeg then baked in a pie crust. And ta-da. That’s it. Simple, indulgent and good.

Thanksgiving 2017: Alternative ways to spend the holiday

For many Americans, Thanksgiving is steeped in family traditions, but for those seeking alternative ways to spend Thanksgiving, there are plenty of options. Here are ideas for a nontraditional Thanksgiving that are creative, fun and sure to create fond memories for years to come.

Volunteering

One way to spend Thanksgiving is giving back to others. Pick either the early morning of Thanksgiving, the afternoon, the evening when most everyone will be napping from eating or the entire day to help out in a local food pantry, volunteer at a shelter where they are feeding the homeless/less fortunate or create your own way of giving back that fits local community needs. For help on figuring out where you can be of help, visit VolunteerMatch.

Getting out of town

Switch things up this year and get out of town for Thanksgiving. Spend Thanksgiving week relaxing beachside with a drink, exploring a city through its food in restaurants and eats from the street or immersing yourself in cultural or local traditions. Book early as you can to avoid higher flight prices and hotel rates. Get creative with leaving and returning dates. For instance, it’s likely to be cheaper to leave for a Thanksgiving trip on the day of and return a week later rather than the following Sunday, when a lot of other travelers will be doing the same.

Friendsgiving

A buzzword in recent years, Friendsgiving is intended to be an addition to family traditions and not a replacement. Plan a Friendsgiving Thanksgiving dinner, lunch or brunch the weekend before the holiday and assign friends to bring different dishes to lessen the load of hosting. Create a signature drink for the event and leave a portion of Friendsgiving for games and revelry.

Cocktail party

Snazz it up and turn Thanksgiving into a fancy affair with a cocktail twist. Hire a bartender to curate a Thanksgiving-esque selection of drinks featuring cranberries and spiced liqueurs, for example. Create a fun invitation that spells out the dress code.

Potluck dinner

Instead of being overwhelmed with all the moving parts inherent in pulling off a Thanksgiving dinner, opt to ask guests to bring a different dish. Delegate all you need and separate it into categories: meats, side dishes, desserts, drinks. Assign guests on what to bring based on their strengths.

Themed party

A spin on the cocktail party idea, set a theme for Thanksgiving and run with it. If Italian themed, make only Italian dishes for the food, settle on a certain region of Italy and pick wines from there and play movies set in Italy after dinner and as dessert is being eaten.

A museum day

Spend the day gazing at works of art on Thanksgiving. Some museums are open on Thanksgiving, and it’s a great time to check out an art collection without large crowds. After an afternoon of reflection and inspiration, follow up with a nice dinner at a nearby restaurant.

Get active

Thanksgiving is a great time to go for a run and thankfully, many cities have racing options, often affectionately referred to as Turkey Trots, for those who want to burn a few calories on America’s biggest eating day. To find a race near you, visit Active.com.

Thanksgiving basics: How to cook a turkey

Turkey is typically the star of the Thanksgiving Day table, but the idea of cooking a giant bird can be daunting. Cooking a turkey is surprisingly easy, but you’ll need to take precautions to make sure the bird is properly handled and cooked to a safe temperature. To ensure a holiday meal that everyone will enjoy, following this guide to how to cook a turkey. How to store a turkey before it’s cookedIf you’ll be cooking your turkey within one to two days after you buy it, you can store it in the fridge in its original packaging. But if you won’t be serving it for a few days or more, it should be frozen, keeping it in its original wrapping. How to thaw a turkeyA frozen turkey will need to be thawed before it’s cooked, but it needs to be kept at a safe temperature while it’s thawing. Don’t leave it out to thaw on the counter, because if it’s left out for more than two hours, bacteria in it can grow rapidly. You can thaw your bird using any of the following methods: Microwave: This method is ideal for small turkeys. Unwrap your turkey and check your microwave’s owner manual for defrosting times and the power you should use. Refrigerator:  Check out Betty Crocker’s thawing chart to see how much time you’ll need. Even small whole turkeys (three to four pounds) take about a day, so plan far ahead of time, because big birds take days to thaw. Cold water: Put the turkey in a plastic bag and submerge it in cold water. You’ll need to keep the water cold by changing it every 30 minutes. This method takes about 30 minutes of defrosting per pound of turkey. How to cook a turkey Butterball recommends the following steps: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Drain the turkey’s juices, and pat it dry with paper towels. Put the turkey, breast side up, in a shallow roasting pan. Tuck the wings back to help stabilize the turkey, and spray or brush its skin lightly with vegetable or cooking oil to help it get that nicely brown appearance. Insert an oven-safe meat thermometer deep in the lower part of the thigh. When the temperature on your thermometer reaches 180 degrees, your turkey will be done. Put the turkey in the oven, and when it’s about two-thirds done, cover the breast loosely with a piece of aluminum foil to help prevent overcooking. When its thigh thermometer reads 180 degrees, remove your turkey from the oven and let it stand on a platter for 15 minutes before carving. For approximate cooking times, check out Butterball’s chart, which lists times for stuffed and unstuffed turkeys by their weight.  To stuff or not to stuff It’s safer to cook stuffing in a casserole dish since it’s easier to make sure it’s thoroughly cooked and doesn’t cause food poisoning. If you decide to stuff the turkey, do so right before you cook it, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises. The stuffing should reach a temperature of 165 degrees when it’s in the bird. Leave it in the turkey for about 20 minutes after you take it out of the oven. How to carve a turkeyThis task becomes easier if you let your turkey stand for about 20 minutes before carving. This will also give you a juicier end product, since the standing time lets the juices reabsorb into the meat.Put your turkey on a cutting board, and use a meat fork (a large fork with two tines) and a sharp carving knife to do the job. Place the turkey breast-side up, and pull the leg away from the body until the thigh bone pops out. Then cut through the joint.Slice along the breast bone to remove the breast meat, and then cut off the wings. Separate the thigh from the drumstick and slice pieces from the bone.  How to store turkey leftoversAs tempting as it can be to leave the turkey and fixings out all afternoon so everyone can continue to nibble on it, it should be refrigerated as soon as possible. Otherwise, bacteria can grow, which can cause food poisoning. The temperature inside the refrigerator should be at 40 degrees or colder to safely store leftovers. 

Top Thanksgiving food safety tips

Thanksgiving is one of the most anticipated meals of the year, so make it memorable for the right reasons. Thanksgiving food safety guidelines include tips on proper storage, food preparation and temperature recommendations and will prevent your guests from ending up with food poisoning.Follow these Thanksgiving food safety tips from the United States Department of Agriculture from the first trip to the grocery store to the final serving of leftovers. Buying a turkey: If you are going to serve a fresh turkey, buy it no more than two days before Thanksgiving. Keep it in the refrigerator until you're ready to cook it, on a tray that can catch any juices that may leak.Thawing the turkey: The USDA recommends thawing the turkey in the refrigerator, but you'll need plenty of time since refrigerator thawing requires 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds. You can also resort to the microwave, following the manual's instructions very carefully, or the cold water method, which takes 30 minutes per pound."Never thaw your turkey by leaving it out on the counter," the CDC warns. "A frozen turkey is safe indefinitely, but a thawing turkey must defrost at a safe temperature.”Be sure to remove the giblets after thawing and before cooking, and to cook the thawed turkey immediately if you defrost it using the microwave.Cooking a turkey: Wash your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before touching any food you’re preparing to prevent infection or illness spread. But don't wash the turkey! That only spreads pathogens onto kitchen surfaces. Keep raw turkey separated from all other foods and use separate cutting boards, plates and utensils to handle raw turkey.Cook the turkey until it reaches 165 °F, using a food thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the breast, the innermost part of the thigh and the innermost part of the wing.Practice safe stuffing: Even if a stuffed bird is a family tradition, the safest way to avoid food poisoning is to cook stuffing outside of the turkey in a separate casserole dish, where you can make sure it is cooked to a temperature of 165°F at its center (use a meat thermometer to check.)If you choose to stuff your turkey, noted the USDA, you can still prepare the ingredients ahead of time, but you should keep wet and dry ingredients separate and chill the wet ones. Add the wet ingredients to the dry right before filling the turkey cavities and cook the turkey immediately. Use a food thermometer to assure the center of the stuffing cooks to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F. The right way to handle Thanksgiving leftoversFor many foodies, Thanksgiving leftovers are the best part of the meal. They'll make gourmet renditions like crispy mashed potato and stuffing patties. But even if you just microwave green bean casserole and put together turkey sandwiches, the proper handling of leftovers is an important part of Thanksgiving food safety."Clostridium perfringens are bacteria that grow in cooked foods left at room temperature," the CDC notes. "It is the second most common bacterial cause of food poisoning. Symptoms can include vomiting and abdominal cramps within six to 24 hours after eating."To prevent food poisoning from leftovers, follow this advice from the USDA :

  • Get leftovers into a refrigerator within two hours to keep bacteria from growing on the food.
  • Store leftovers in shallow pans or containers so they'll cool faster and spend less time at the unsafe temperatures between 40 °F to 140 °F.
  • Never store stuffing inside a leftover turkey; store meat and stuffing separately.
  • Don't eat leftovers that have been in the refrigerator more than three or four days. Consider Tuesday as the toss date. Freeze leftover turkey up to four months, the USDA recommends.
  • Discard turkey, stuffing or gravy that has been left out at room temperature for more than two hours, or more than an hour in temperatures above 90 °F.
  • Reheat turkey to an internal temperature of 165 °F. Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature.

For more information about food safety (in English and Spanish), call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854. . It's available 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday.

 

Stuffing vs dressing: Is there really a difference?

Almost everyone agrees that the traditional mix of spices, bread and other ingredients that's served at Thanksgiving is delicious.

>> Read more trending news

But when it comes to what to call this yummy dish, people are divided. Is it stuffing, dressing or something else entirely? And does the way it's prepared make a difference in what it's called?

Below, liftestyle experts from Martha Stewart to writers at Southern Living weigh in and take sides in the stuffing vs. dressing debate:

Lifestyle expert Martha Stewart says that although she can't remember anyone in her family actually stuffing the bird, she still calls it stuffing and argues there's no real difference between stuffing and dressing. Of course, she also describes its consistency as somewhere between a pudding and a custard, so Martha may not be the best source for this debate after all.

Southern Living says the difference between stuffing and dressing may come down to whether you say "y'all." Using Google Correlate, the site looked at the which states search for dressing recipes vs. stuffing and found that they don't overlap. If you're in the South, you're very likely to look for dressing recipes. Northern states are the biggest searchers for stuffing recipes. Needless to say, Southern Living declares itself as firmly on Team Dressing.

Reader's digest notes that the National Turkey Federation says the terms are used interchangeably.

Food Network mentions the traditional view of stuffing being cooked inside the bird and notes that both dressing and stuffing have the same ingredients. In a nod to regional differences, the author of the article, who's from Michigan, says that her family's table always had several selections of what they called stuffing, although none were stuffed inside the bird.

In a Food & Wine article, Michelle Darrisaw remembers having cornbread dressing at her family's table and says that boxed Stove Top stuffing is definitely dressing. When she went to college in Atlanta, she learned that some people -- her peers from northern, northeastern or West Coast states -- used the term stuffing. To further muddy the water, all her friends from Pennsylvania call it "filling."

Butterball even commissioned an infographic on the matter that shows the difference doesn’t necessarily come down to region.

RELATED: 6 easy side dishes anyone can make for Thanksgiving Day

The verdict

Ultimately, if you're a purist, you may insist that dressing is cooked outside the bird and stuffing is cooked inside of it. If you're a Southerner, you probably call it dressing, no matter how it's prepared. And if you're from outside the South, you'll probably enjoy a serving of stuffing this Thanksgiving.

The following recipes show how to make the dish, cooked inside and outside the bird:

Cornbread Dressing

From: Food Network

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 large Vidalia or Spanish onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • ¾ cup water
  • 6 cups cubed (1-inch pieces) store-bought or homemade cornbread (about 1 pound)
  • 1/3 cup fresh sage leaves (about 12) with stems removed
  • 2 large eggs, beaten

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter; add the onions and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook, stirring often, until light golden-brown, about 6 to 8 minutes, and remove from the pan to a small plate. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the water, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the skillet and allowing the water to simmer just a couple of minutes to infuse the onion flavor. Remove from the heat.

3. Put the cornbread in a large mixing bowl.

4. Melt the remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a small pan over medium heat and let it bubble until the milk solids to start to turn golden. Add the sage leaves and briefly fry until they begin to crisp, about 30 seconds. With a slotted spoon, remove sage and put on top of cornbread to drain and crisp. Remove the butter from the heat.

5. Add the eggs and cooked onions to the cornbread and pour the browned butter over the mixture. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add the onion infused water, a tablespoon at a time, gently folding, until cornbread is evenly moistened but not soggy.

6. Pour the dressing into a 9- by 11-inch baking dish and bake in the preheated oven until the top is golden brown and the dressing is set in the middle -- about 30 minutes.

Roast Turkey with Wild Rice, Sausage and Apple Stuffing

From: Food Network

Ingredients

Stuffing

  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cooking apple, such as a Golden Delicious, Gravenstein or Rome, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 2 ribs celery with leaves, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, minced
  • Pinch ground mace or nutmeg
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pound fresh Italian-style turkey sausage, casings removed
  • 1/2 cup pecan pieces, toasted
  • 1/4 cup freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley  

Turkey

  • 1 (8 to 10 pound) turkey, fresh or thawed
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
  • 2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Stuffing

1. Combine the wild rice, water, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until the rice is tender and just bursting, about 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.

2. Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position and remove other racks. Preheat to 325 degrees.

3. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, apple, celery, garlic, thyme, mace, remaining 1 teaspoon salt and pepper. Cook until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in sausage and cook about 5 minutes more. 4. Stir the cooked wild rice, pecans and parsley into the vegetable mixture. (This can be made the day before.)

Turkey

1. Remove turkey parts from neck and breast cavities and reserve for other uses, if desired. Dry bird well with paper towels, inside and out. Melt the butter together with the poultry seasoning. Salt and pepper inside the cavity. Loosely add the stuffing to the cavity, set the bird on a rack in a roasting pan, breast-side up, and brush generously with the seasoned butter, then season with salt and pepper. Tent the top of the bird with foil.

2. Roast the turkey for about 2 hours undisturbed. Remove and discard the foil. Baste with the remaining butter. Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees and continue to roast until an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees when inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, about 20 to 25 minutes more. Remove turkey from oven and tent with foil for 15 minutes before carving.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade star lineup announced

Big-named stars will headlining this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for 2017.

Jimmy Fallon, Smokey Robinson, Wyclef Jean and Leslie Odom, Jr. will be joining 98 Degrees and the Goo Goo Dolls for the annual New York City spectacular, People reported.

>> Read more trending news

Broadway will also highlight new shows like “Anastasia,” “Dear Evan Hansen,” “Once on This Island” and “Spongebob Squarepants.”

Don’t forget about the massive balloons the parade is known for.

This year Olaf will join the parade, along with Chase from “Paw Patrol.”

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will kick off at 9 a.m. on Thanksgiving.

Photos: Target’s hot holiday toys for 2017

What toys will be on your children’s holiday lists? Target says these are the hot toys this year.

Photos: Walmart lists hot toys for 2017

What will kids be asking for this year? Take a look at what Walmart predicts will be the hot toys for 2017.

Photos: Heidi Klum 'thrills' at 18th annual Halloween party

Supermodel Heidi Klum paid tribute to Michael Jackson by wearing an elaborate costume inspired by ‘Thriller’ at her 2017 Halloween party.

Dad's Ben Affleck-inspired Halloween costume sparks outrage from other parents

A Nebraska man sparked backlash after a parent posted a picture of his costume in a Facebook group.

>> See the photo here

According to KETV, the ordeal began when Hugo Mendoza wore a black, hooded robe while holding a duffel bag and a toy gun — the orange cap indicating that it was fake was missing — while attending the Monster Mash Bash with his girlfriend and daughters at Oak View Mall in Omaha. Desirae Anson, who was attending the event with her children, recalled that family members told her “You know, we should probably go,” believing that a shooting was about to take place. A picture Anson later posted of Mendoza in a Facebook group received about 800 reactions and 500 comments.

>> On Rare.us: Married couple who survived the Las Vegas massacre has met a sad end

Mendoza defended himself to KMTV, saying he was simply wearing a costume inspired by “The Town,” a 2010 movie starring Ben Affleck which depicted bank robbers.

"I mean, if it was something bad, why would they sell it? I was there to have a good time with my daughters and my girlfriend. I wasn’t there to scare little kids or make people feel uncomfortable," he said.

Anson held her ground, saying that she couldn’t tell if the gun was real or fake. Others in attendance, including Amber Hall, also voiced discomfort as the scene reminded them of the Van Maur shooting, which occurred at Westroads Mall in 2007.

>> Read more trending news

“In 2007, I was going through the Omaha Police Department recruit academy and, as part of that, we watched the mall, the Von Maur shooting,” Hall recalled. “The videos, the radio calls, since then even now, that’s all that’s ringing through my head.”

Oak View Mall and Westroads Mall owner GGP has since said that it did “not allow any form of mask, prop or costume deemed inappropriate or offensive.” The Omaha World-Herald attempted to contact mall security about the incident, but the person who answered the phone could not comment.

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