How Do I Pick Out My Thanksgiving Turkey?

Whether this is your first time hosting Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving, the turkey situation can be scary and daunting. As soon as you enter the grocery store, you are hit with multiple options like fresh, frozen, organic, heritage, free-range…and Butterball. I mean, what does it all mean? How big of a turkey do I need?

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A Beautiful Turkey Cooked by Williams & Sonoma

Today, I will try to help with the decision of picking out the turkey. I have researched several types of turkeys so that you are armed when you enter the store. This does not have to be hard.

How BIG of a Turkey Do I Buy?
To make sure you feed all your guest well, your biggest decision should be the size of turkey. An easy rule is 1 pound for every person at your table. If you want leftovers, 2 pounds per person will be perfect. IF you want lots of leftovers, well, you get the idea.

Where is this Bird Going to Cook?
Now, you need to consider where you are cooking this turkey! In your oven, in a roaster oven, and the neighbor’s. You need to size-up the area you have to work with. You can see the problem on Thanksgiving day when your turkey is TOO BIG and you have nowhere to cook it. Big Fail!

Do you have a Pan to Cook your Turkey in?
This is like a dress rehearsal. I like to (days before) establish what pans and dishes I will be using for Thanksgiving. Go ahead and pull out the pan you will be cooking your turkey in. You might need to purchase one or borrow from a friend. If you are using a roaster oven, make sure your bird fits before the big day.

Heritage, Free-Range, Organic, Oh My!
When you arrive to the grocery store, you will be hit with several choices. I consulted my friends over at Food & Wine to break it down for us.
Heritage: One of the most popular birds in the past few years because of their superior flavor, heritage turkeys are purebred and generally older than other turkeys you may find at the store. They tend to be smaller, have more bone and darker leg meat. Life outdoors gives these turkeys a gamier taste than the regular store-bought varieties.

Organic: Certified organic by the USDA, these turkeys are now more easily found in grocery stores, and are Weening’s top choice. They are fed an all-organic vegetarian diet, never given antibiotics and are raised on organic pastures. They tend to be a little more expensive because the feed the birds eat is more expensive.

Free Range: No antibiotics or hormones are given to these turkeys and they have access to the outdoors (at least part of the time, according to the USDA).

Pastured Turkey: This type of turkey is raised outdoors and is pretty much free to do and eat what it wants, although they are also given feed to ensure they get the proper levels of nutrients.

Kosher: Kosher turkeys are raised and processed according to strict rabbinical guidelines. Before they are packaged they are rubbed with Kosher salt, which also acts as a brine.

Brine: Some turkeys are one step ahead of you and have been brined already. Various juices, oils, seasonings, sugar and/or salt are injected into the turkey. Brining is beneficial because it can provide extra moisture and flavor to the turkey in addition to saving you some prep time, but it can dictate the flavor of your turkey and take the seasoning out of your hands. Butterball turkeys are usually brined.

Fresh vs. Frozen: Basically fresh turkeys are kept at a temperature of 27 degrees. When the temperature drops below that, the meat begins to freeze. If you’re buying a fresh turkey, buy it NO more than two days before you plan to cook it; you can usually reserve one at markets and farmers’ markets way in advance.

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Check Out Local Restaurants and Grocery Stores For Cooked

Many local restaurants offer Thanksgiving Turkeys for your convenience. This is a great option and one I have used before. You usually need to order a week before. Your turkey is prepped and cooked by a professional. Then when you pick up, you are given specific directions of how to cook your turkey. This is a great option to take some pressure off the big day.

It Will All Be Fine….
In the end it comes down to what you want to pay. Turkeys can get pricey, so know how many you are buying for and be sure to take into account the leftovers you want to eat for days to come. Otherwise you got this. Feel confident in the purchase of your turkey. Your guest will LOVE it.
Looking Forward,
Amanda

Oh, The Places You’ll Go- Graduation Book

I was a classroom teacher for many years.  Actually, I was one of the lucky one that taught Kindergarten when children were able to play in centers, learn to get along, and get a solid academic start to school.  I know education has changed so much.  But that’s not even what I’m going to talk about today……

As a teacher, I was blessed with so many amazing parents.  Before I was ever a momma, I was learning how to be a great momma by watching moms in action.  I would see an idea and file it away in my “when I’m a momma one day” file.

My fifth year of teaching, in May, I had a mom send me a message about signing a book for her child.  This book was a secret to the child so we had to be clever with the pass off of the book.  I was honored and excited to be a part of this tradition. Basically, this mom had bought a copy of Oh, The Places You’ll Go and has asked all teachers to write a little message in the book.  She started this book back in preschool.  As the kindergarten teacher, I was able to read what preschool teachers said and then I added to the love for this little girl.

I wrote about her sweet personality and how much I enjoyed teaching her.  The mom’s goal was to have all teachers that were a part of this little girl’s life sign the book.  Then at her high school graduation, she would be presented with this book and all the wonderful memories of her education.  How cool is that!?!

Well, I tucked that idea away and now I have it going for both boys.  The preschool and elementary years were very easy to accomplish with Will.  BUT I am learning to navigate the book signing in middle school.  I sent all his teachers an email and they were happy to be part.  They even gave me the idea of giving the book to the grade level counselor and she would help make sure it got to all the teachers.  (HOW NICE IS THAT!)

Each year I pull out the books and I love to read the letters from all their teachers.  It allows me to walk down memory lane and remember each teacher that has impacted their lives and sweet memories of their personalities.

So, help me keep this a secret for a few years but I wanted to share!

Looking Forward,
Amanda

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The Garden, The Curtain, and The Cross

Here in Atlanta, trees are beginning to bud, daffodils are blooming, and every one is beginning to complain about their allergies.  Yes, Spring is on its way.  I love watching all of God’s creativity show this time of year.  The incredible colors and breathtaking views of a new season get me excited.

With Spring on the way, We know EASTER is almost here.  We will put bunnies, eggs, and baskets in our decorations.  We will make plans for a perfect Easter dinner with family and friends.  We determine the best Easter Egg Hunt to take our children to.  We coordinate our family’s wardrobe to make sure we look our best on Easter Sunday. And we shop for the perfect items for our children’s Easter baskets.  We will talk about the Easter story and why we have a Good Friday and Easter Sunday.  But for many years, I felt that my children needed to know the Easter story but maybe I would leave out parts because they were not ready.  I felt maybe saying “Jesus died on Good Friday” was a little too much for my preschooler.  I would do the “Good Christian Mom Thing” and make sure there was a Bible story in their baskets along with chocolates and prizes.  We went to Easter Sunday Service and at Easter Dinner our prayers thanked God for sending Jesus to save us.  I felt good about what I was doing and then….

It was so clear the day I realized I had been watering down Jesus to my children.  I had not been talking about how we were sinners and God sent his only Son to Earth to ultimately die for us.  My words never said because of Jesus we have hope.  Easter was about Jesus to us but not letting them know how it is only about Jesus was my conviction. I would teach them that Jesus taught us how to live, love, and obey God.  I guess I didn’t want to scare my preschooler.  I didn’t want them to worry about death and how Jesus was beaten and hung on a cross for them.  But why?  It is the story they need to know more than any other story out there.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love to decorate with all the beautiful eggs, sweet bunnies, and monogrammed baskets. I will create yummy Easter treats and attend a fun Easter Egg hunt.  However, I am clear the whole purpose of Easter is to celebrate Jesus.  It all points to Jesus and what He did for us.

Recently I found the best book for children.  The Garden, The Curtain and The Cross is beautifully illustrated,  Biblically accurate, and captures your child’s attention. The book begins with God’s creation of The Garden of Eden.  Quickly we learn about how our sins keep us from living in a perfect garden with God.  We had a true separation from God. But God had a wonderful plan.  He sent His son, Jesus, to come live on Earth and die for us.  After Jesus had died on the cross, He was placed a in tomb guarded by soldiers.  But spoiler alert:  On the third day, the tomb was empty!  Jesus arose!  He conquered the grave.

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As a mom, I want to make sure that I am representing the truth of Jesus to my children. We read from the Bible on many nights.  When we read other Bible stories that are not out of our Bible, I want to make sure they are telling the true, Biblical story.

The Good Book Company has published this wonderful book and so many more.  The talented Carl Laferton and Catalina Echeverri made this book come to life.  I encourage you to check out their other books.  I hope to feature more soon.

And now……

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I am so excited to announce my FIRST giveaway!  The great people over at Good Book Company have given me FIVE copies to giveaway to those who follow Sing and Dance in the Kitchen blog, Instagram & Facebook.

Here’s how to enter:

  1. Follow this blog.  Follow Sing and Dance in the Kitchen on Instagram and Facebook.
  2. Comment on this blog and tell me what you love about Sing and Dance in the Kitchen and what you would like to see more posts about.
  3. Tag at least 3 friends in the comments of Instagram and Facebook.  Make sure they begin to follow and you will get extra entries.
  4. Winners will be selected at random and will be announced on Friday, 3/9.  Good Luck!

Seeking Goodness- 2018 Goals

I love beginning the new year with goals.  I know there is nothing magical about January 1.  In my mind it is a great time to start my goals.  When I was in education, my goals and year began in August.  You can start goals on March 23rd and it is just as good as any other day.

I am visual and reflective.  So, I write out my goals.  My hubby and oldest wrote out their goals too.  We shared them as a family.  This gives us accountability and knowing someone is looking out for us.

Each year I decide on a word that helps focus me.  Last year my word was INTENTIONAL.  I wanted to be intentional with my mind, heart, words, and time.  As I reflect for this year, I continually landed on two words, SEEKING GOODNESS.   Looking for the kindness, generosity, quality, and best parts of everything.  By Seeking Goodness in my spiritual life, in my health, family, and self, it will naturally point to Jesus who is true goodness.

I know that working towards my goals is a process.  I’m not looking for perfection, it will take time to accomplish several of these goals.  I can rest in the fact that I am making progress towards my goals.  I am excited and a little nervous but know that I will be Seeking Goodness during the process.

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What are your goals?  Do we share any of the same?
Here to progress!

Looking Forward,
Amanda