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From the food editor: What you should be doing now to prepare for Thanksgiving

Order a turkey early if you're buying fresh.[Times files]

Order a turkey early if you're buying fresh.[Times files]

Let's face it: Most people don't wait until the week of to start thinking about Thanksgiving dinner. Many cooks, especially those who are hosting a lot of people, are planning/dreading/anticipating the year's largest meal weeks before. I know I am, as I prepare to host about a dozen people at my house on Nov. 24.

Here are some key things to start thinking about in the coming weeks if you also have turkey on the brain.

• Prepare your guest list — and let people know when they need to confirm their attendance. This will change the amount of food you need to buy, and what kind. Be sure to ask anyone if they have dietary needs — allergies, preferences, etc.

• If you have guests already on board, don't be afraid to assign them helpful tasks or let them know what they can bring.

• Decide on your final menu and collect the recipes you'll need. Select a variety of dishes, including some that can be served cold or at room temperature so you don't have to worry about keeping everything hot.

• Order a turkey if you're buying fresh. Or, about a week before Thanksgiving, buy your frozen turkey. These take at least 3-4 days to defrost. Go for about 1 pound per person.

• Shop for nonperishable food items that can be in short supply as the holiday gets closer — canned vegetables or pumpkin, packaged stuffing, cranberries and even heavy cream. This will also make your grocery trips more manageable between now and the big day. Vegetables like butternut squash, carrots, potatoes, parsnips and turnips will also last at least a week in your kitchen.

• Look for easy weeknight dinner recipes like the one-skillet wonder below, to minimize your cooking stress the week before and of Thanksgiving.

Information from the Associated Press was used in the report.

Contact Michelle Stark at mstark@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8829. Follow @mstark17.

>>EASY

Lemon-Rosemary Chicken and Orzo Skillet

This one-skillet dinner brims with Mediterranean goodness. It's a complete, nutritious meal that comes together in less than 30 minutes with minimal chopping, so it can take the stress out of the dinnertime crunch.

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 ¼ pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

8 ounces (1 ½ cups) dried whole-grain orzo pasta

1 ½ teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary

2 ½ cups no-salt-added chicken broth

1 medium zucchini (8 to 9 ounces), cut into ½-inch dice

1 heaping cup (6½ ounces) cherry tomatoes, halved

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

¾ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large, deep lidded skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of the chicken and cook, stirring once or twice, until browned, 2 minutes total. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken to a plate. Repeat with the remaining oil and chicken, transferring the chicken to the plate once it has browned.

Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the skillet, then add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the orzo and rosemary and cook, stirring, until the orzo is well coated with the oil and lightly toasted, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, covered, for 5 minutes, until the orzo is about halfway cooked.

Stir in the zucchini and cook, covered, until it is just tender, about 3 minutes, then return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the skillet along with the tomatoes, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Cook for about 2 minutes or until the tomatoes soften and the chicken is cooked through. Serve sprinkled with the parsley.

Serves 4.

Source: Ellie Krieger, Washington Post

From the food editor: What you should be doing now to prepare for Thanksgiving 11/07/16 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2016 8:45am]
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