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How to have a safe Thanksgiving dinner

Avoid certain types of romaine, follow safe cooking tips

Use a thermometer to check if the turkey is cooked. Turkey should be cooked to 165° F.
Use a thermometer to check if the turkey is cooked. Turkey should be cooked to 165° F.

We stopped making turkey for Thanksgiving years ago.

My mother, who worked in retail, liked hosting a big Thanksgiving dinner on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, so we saw no reason to replicate it.

Thanksgiving Day, for my mother, was the day to put up her Christmas tree and holiday decorations.

For us, it became the day we made poor boys, kettle chips, and pumpkin pie and watched lots of movies, a tradition that remains.

We have nothing against turkey; we like it. I made a turkey breast just last week and have another in the freezer.

But for those who do make turkey and want to improve – or do a great job at roasting the first one, the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line is a good place to start.

According to its website at, Butterball experts are available to answer questions by phone, online chat and email. Call 1-800-BUTTERBALL (1-800-288-8372) or text 844-877-3456.

The website has tips for choosing a turkey, grilling, brining, checking for doneness and more.

E. coli outbreak possibly linked to romaine lettuce

If salad is part of you celebration this year, not buy or eat romaine lettuce from the Salinas growing region

That's the message from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is working with the Illinois Department of Public Health, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Department of Agriculture (USDA), as well as public health and regulatory officials in other states to investigate a multistate outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections possibly linked to lettuce, according to a news release from the IDPH

A total of 67 cases have been identified in 19 states, including one case in Illinois who was hospitalized, the release said,

When buying romaine lettuce, or for lettuce already purchased and in your refrigerator, check the labeling to see if it says Salinas.  If it does, or if it has no label, do not buy that romaine lettuce, the release said. 

Symptoms of infection vary for each person, but often include severe stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea, and vomiting. 

Anyone with symptoms, especially if they are severe, should seek medical care and alert medical providers that you have recently eaten romaine lettuce. 

More tips for preventing foodborne illnesses

It takes about 24 hours for every five pounds of turkey to thaw in the refrigerator. So if you're reading this now and your turkey is frozen, you can either thaw it in cold water or the microwave

To thaw a turkey in cold water, you'll need 30 minutes for every pound of turkey. Be sure to change the cold water every 30 minutes, an IDPH news release said.

To thaw the turkey in a mirowaves, check the times and power settings on the microwave. Depending on the size of the turkey, it could take an hour or more on the defrost setting to thaw, the release also said.

Do not thaw a turkey by leaving it on the counter – or you'll be inviting bacteria to contaminate the bird, the release also said.

IDPH's main steps for food safety:

Clean – Clean your hands, surfaces, and utensils with soap and water before cooking. After cleaning surfaces where raw poultry has touched, also use a sanitizer. 

Separate – Use separate cutting boards, plates, and utensils to avoid cross-contamination between raw meat and foods that are ready to eat.

Cook – Use a thermometer to check if the turkey is cooked. Turkey should be cooked to 165° F. Take the temperature in three places – the thickest part of the breast, the innermost part of the thigh, and the innermost part of the wing.

Chill – Do not leave foods at room temperature more than two hours. Divide the remaining food into small containers and either refrigerate or freeze. Leftovers are safe in the refrigerator for up to four days.

It's important to keep hot foods hot, and cold foods cold. After being cooked to a safe temperature, hot foods should not be allowed to get cooler than 140° F.

Cold foods should not be allowed to become warmer than 40° F. Bacteria grow most rapidly in the range of temperatures between 40° F and 140°F.

For more information, visit

Thanksgiving is the leading day for home fires involving cooking equipment

According to National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) data, cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries. U.S. fire departments respond to an average of 166,100 home fires per year involving cooking equipment.

Thanksgiving is the leading day for home fires involving cooking equipment, with four times the average number occurring.

Ranges and cook-tops account for almost three out of every five home fires reported involving cooking, with ovens accounting for 13% of those fires.

Help prevent fires with these tips from the NFPA:

• Never leave food that you are frying, boiling, grilling or broiling unattended! If you leave the kitchen, even for a short amount of time, turn off the stove.

• When frying a turkey be sure never to overfill oil in the fryer. To ensure a safe level of oil, first fill the pot with water and set the turkey inside. This will help determine the level of oil needed and prevent spillovers.

In addition, make sure the turkey is completely thawed before frying and remember to use the turkey fryer outside. And use long cooking gloves that protect hands and arms when you handle the pot!

• Create a “Kid Free Zone” of at least three feet around the stove or anywhere you are preparing hot food or drinks.

• Keep anything that can catch fire away from the stove top.

• If you are simmering, baking, or roasting food, check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you when food is ready.

• If there is a fire in the oven, keep the door shut and turn off the heat.

• Smother small flames in a pan by sliding a lid over the pan. Turn off the burner and leave the lid over the pan while it cools.

• If you have any doubt fighting a small fire, just get out. Call 9-1-1 or your emergency number from outside the home.

For more information, visit

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