Thanksgiving angst

While Thanksgiving is a time for celebrating, there can be disasters that strike and put a damper on the good cheer found with family and friends.

Ric McKitrick, 31, of Marietta, said Thanksgiving dinner has caused some trouble in years past.

“About three years ago we tried the infrared turkey cooker,” McKitrick said. “We cooked it and carved it and the turkey was still raw on the inside. We had to put it in the oven for about five hours to finish cooking it.”

Thanksgiving disasters can happen to anyone, so don’t panic. There are ways to quickly divert any calamity that may arise during the Thanksgiving feast.

If you don’t have enough food

Have frozen veggies or edamame? Add them to some instant rice, couscous, or quinoa and season with soy sauce, fish sauce, teriyaki sauce, olive oil or balsamic vinegar, says Got some extra bread? Cut into logs or use cookie cutters to cut out shapes, butter each or drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, and then pop in the oven for 10 minutes. Got half a dozen eggs? Whisk them with 1 1/2 cups of milk, pour into a pie pan, sprinkle with some cheese and bake for 30 minutes in a 425 oven for a fast quiche.

If you’re missing ingredients

Today is a holiday but if you’re missing eggs or milk to finish a recipe, there are a few stores open.

Walmart in Marietta is open all day.

In the Barlow-Vincent area, Family Dollar at 10340 State Route 550 in Barlow is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Dollar General at 10297 State Route 550 in Vincent is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

In Beverly the Beverly Food Mart, 415 5th St., is open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.

In the Newport area Rite Aid at 1380 N Pleasants Hwy., St. Marys is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Dollar General at 1395 N Pleasants Hwy., St. Marys, is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Family Dollar at 702 2nd St., St. Marys, is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

If the afternoon drags on

For those who eat early, the rest of Thanksgiving Day can induce a major case of cabin fever. Encourage guests to go to a movie or take a walk, if they desire. Give children the freedom to play outside; allow teenagers to go out by themselves. Bundle up and go look at store windows together. Have board games and other entertainment available. There are options other than sitting in front of the TV.

If the food doesn’t turn out like you planned

Kathryn Dodrill, extension educator, Family and Consumer Sciences with The Ohio State University Extension office in Washington County, said preparing Thanksgiving dinner can lead to some challenges.

Maybe the gravy is lumpy or bland. Or the turkey is so dry gravy won’t bring it back. There are some things cooks can do to make sure dinner is a hit.

“Use a food thermometer when cooking the turkey,” Dodrill said. “It’s so you don’t overcook it. Check the temperature to maintain quality and moisture. Some people use cooking bags, others use foil to keep moisture.”

Other things to consider:

Bland gravy or lumpy gravy can be solved by adding salt and pepper or a splash of sherry or port, or by whisking gravy or using a shaker to get the lumps out the flour before adding liquid to it.

Dry or gummy stuffing can be solved by adding chicken broth and baking it longer, or sticking the stuffing on a baking sheet and popping it into the oven.

Lumpy or gummy mashed potatoes can be fixed by re-mashing the potatoes or by spooning potatoes into a casserole dish and serving topped with butter and cheese.

Dry or still-frozen turkey can be made better by bathing slices of turkey in gravy if precautions haven’t been taken to keep the bird from drying out during cooking, or by immersing the still plastic-wrapped turkey in cool water in the sink to help it thaw.

Cracked, burning or soggy pie can be fixed by spreading a topping on the pie, wrapping the burning edges with aluminum foil to prevent more burn, or possibly making a crumble with the soggy pie filling.

If there’s family tension

The holidays can be a time of togetherness but sometimes a house full of people, and so much cooking, cleaning and activities can lead to stress, exhaustion and tension. If you’re the host, don’t feel as if you need to be perfect, advises the Aspen Education Group.

It’s OK to include ready-made foods along with homemade ones, close off messy rooms and accept help in the kitchen. Your relaxed mood will set the tone of the gathering.

It can also help to recognize when a fight may be brewing.

Psychology Today says to watch out for the following signs: attacks become personal, people call each other names, and more and more family members get involved in the fray. Try changing the subject before an argument escalates. Use humor to diffuse a situation or try remaining silent if you are attacked. If necessary, get up and leave the table.

If there are family members who historically don’t get along, try to be creative with seating arrangements so they don’t have to interact. Seat them far apart or set up separate tables.

Keeping everyone occupied during the holiday meal preparation and after can be one way of reducing potential problems, according to the Caregiver Initiative. If everyone has set tasks such as setting the table, making the gravy, folding napkins…they may too busy to nit-pick anyone else. The same goes for after dinner, too. Give everyone a task such as emptying the trash or bringing dishes in from the table.

If someone says something you don’t agree with across the Thanksgiving holiday, try to take a holiday from judgment and simply let it go.

You might not agree with someone’s choice of a car, food preferences, spouse, house payments, or vacation destination but it isn’t your life. Holidays should be a time to enjoy, but we all know that jealousy and insecurity tend to raise their ugly heads during family gatherings. According to the Caregiver Initiative, if you are the one who is challenged during the holidays, remember that people who challenge do so because they may somehow be threatened by your choice. If you understand that, it becomes easier not to explode emotionally, and simply address the question with kindness. Some topics might not be easily explained or discussed, and a simple, “That’s an interesting point” is a tactful way to avoid potential conflict.

If you’re not sure about food safety

While rushing around trying to make Thanksgiving dinner, lots of cooks can forget food safety measures, of which avoiding cross-contamination is one of the biggest.

Cindy Styer, SNAP-Ed program assistant with The Ohio State University Extension office in Washington County, said food safety is the biggest part of having a successful Thanksgiving dinner.

Styer said to make sure the food prep area is clean before starting dinner. Limiting the spread of juices from the turkey is key because bacteria can be spread all over the kitchen. Cleanup is even more important.

“As soon as (the turkey’s) in the oven, sanitize everything with bleach water,” Styer said. “Clean utensils and cutting boards. Limit the spread of bacteria.”

Styer emphasized the importance of cleaning utensils, especially if they are going to be used of food items that won’t be cooked.

“Cook everything to the proper temperature and avoid cross-contamination,” Styer said.

Styer also mentioned those beloved Thanksgiving leftovers.

“I know everyone likes to leave the leftovers out but we shouldn’t do that,” Styer said.

She added that two hours was the maximum amount of time food should be left out. She also said that leftovers should be eaten relatively quickly.

“If you’re not going to eat them in three days, freeze them,” Styer said, adding that they could always be thawed and enjoyed at a later time.

Just remember: Any Thanksgiving debacle can be quickly put to rest with some quick thinking, but the family probably will ignore any shortcomings in the meal.

“People need to not be so concerned about making a mistake,” Dodrill said. “It probably won’t be noticed by anyone anyway. They will just be happy to be spending time with the family.”