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Tips to help families have safe, happy Thanksgiving

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By Grace Angotti

As we celebrate this national holiday, I wish you and your family a blessed and safe Thanksgiving. You may be traveling miles to be with family and friends or might be staying home welcoming your family. Some of you may be spending a quiet day and for others it may be a big family gathering. On this day, we give thanks for the blessing of the harvest and for our friends and family. 

Thanksgiving tradition 

Thanksgiving is celebrated primarily in the United States and Canada; in the United States it is the fourth Thursday of November and in Canada its the second Monday of October. In North America the history of Thanksgiving is rooted in English traditions with aspects of a harvest festival, even though the harvest occurs well before the November date that Thanksgiving is celebrated in the United States. Several other countries observe similar celebrations.

The main foods gracing our Thanksgiving tables are turkey, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie. 

About 46 million turkeys or about 736 million pounds (334 million kilograms) of turkey will be eaten this Thanksgiving—according to estimates from the United States Department of Agriculture and National Turkey Federation. Minnesota is the United States’ top turkey-producing state, followed by North Carolina, Arkansas, Missouri, Virginia, Indiana and California. 

U.S. farmers also produced an estimated 768 million pounds (348 million kilograms) of cranberries in 2012, which, like turkeys, are native to the Americas. The top producers are Wisconsin and Massachusetts.

The U.S. grew 2.6 billion pounds of sweet potatoes—many in North Carolina, Mississippi, California and Louisiana—and produced more than 1.2 billion pounds of pumpkins. Illinois, California, Pennsylvania and Ohio grow the most U.S. pumpkins.

Safe leftovers

After that big Thanksgiving meal, you will probably have leftovers. They are always enjoyed later. But, be sure to properly store leftovers.    They can save time and money, providing ready-made meals in a hurry and helping stretch our food dollars but must be handled safely.  To prevent food borne illness, be sure to follow these recommendations from the Partnership for Food Safety Education:

• Always wash your hands before and after handling food. Use soap and warm water, and scrub for 20 seconds.

• Refrigerate leftovers within two hours (within one hour if the temperature is above 90 degrees).  Bacteria grow best at 40‑140 degrees, so use an appliance thermometer being sure your refrigerator is 40 degrees or below.

For quicker cooling in the refrigerator, divide leftovers into smaller portions using shallow containers. Hot food can be placed directly into the refrigerator—no need to cool on the counter.

• Before eating, heat leftovers to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Use a food thermometer to check temperature. To reheat soups, sauces and gravies, bring them to a boil.

• When heating leftovers in the microwave, make sure there are no cold spots where bacteria could survive. Cover, stir and rotate food for even heating.

Use or discard refrigerated leftovers within 3-4 days.

Enjoy your leftovers, but be sure to use them safely. For more information on food safety contact http://www.fightbac.org. 

National Family Week 

This week is National Family Week. For more than three decades, the U.S. has honored and celebrated families during Thanksgiving week. Initiated in 1970 through the efforts of Sam Wiley of Indianapolis, Ind., National Family Week focuses on the important role of families in today’s society and honors their contributions to individual and community well-being. 

Not only today but every day appreciate and enjoy your family. Do special activities together.  Here are some suggestions for family activities to enjoy together:

• Do things together that one family member especially loves. Think of other activities to do together.

• Celebrate your family’s history. Take a trip to the neighborhood where you grew up as a young child or visit with some of your oldest living family members. Have them share what life was like when they were growing up.

• Take a hike or a long walk at a special park. Take snacks or a picnic – even in the chilly months….bring hot soup, cider or hot cocoa to keep warm.

• Have a family night, playing games, telling stories singing songs together. 

Enjoying each other will build a strong family foundation. Your children will remember these times as they grow older. You might be starting a family tradition that could last for generations.

New homemaker members

The Carroll County Extension Homemakers invite interested residents to join their organization. Membership is $7, which includes membership in Northern Kentucky Extension Homemakers and Kentucky Extension Homemakers Association. 

Membership deadline is Dec. 1 with dues sent or brought to the Carroll County Extension Service, 500 Floyd Drive, Carrollton, Ky. 41008 with checks made payable to Carroll County Extension Homemakers.

Grace Angotti is Carroll Co. Extension agent for family and consumer sciences. Call her at (502) 732-7030 or send e-mail to gangotti@uky.edu.