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A 3-Point Checklist For Your Thanksgiving Cook-a-Thon

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Photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/notahipster/">Stacy Spensley</a>/Flickr/<a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">Creative Commons License</a>
Photo by Stacy Spensley/Flickr/Creative Commons License

We're a week out from Thanksgiving ... are you ready for the cook-a-thon? No, like are you really ready? We've covered all the ways you can stay sane if you're hosting a big dinner at your house, and maybe you're all set with the menu planning, the grocery shopping, and the delegating of duties on Thanksgiving Day. We salute you! But here are three simple things that are easy to miss in the mad dash of it all, especially if it's your first time (even if it's your fiftieth time!).

#1 Start eating down your fridge and freezer. Now is not the week to binge on groceries for meals at home. It's actually the perfect week for making what I call "kitchen pantry recipes," using up every vegetable, herb, fruit, and half-opened can or carton of anything that's been lingering in your fridge for far too long. That random jar of salsa? Pour the rest onto your eggs for breakfast. Those last ends of green onions? Throw them into a stir-fry -- which, in fact, is the ideal kitchen pantry dish because you can stir-fry practically anything (and everything) together and still have it taste good. Same goes for soup.

Make it a stir-fry and soup week, and come next Wednesday, you'll have cleared out your entire fridge just in time for things to go back in it.

#2 Give adequate time to thaw out the turkey. I know, it sounds like a silly thing to remind someone. But given how important the turkey is on Turkey Day, and how much time it takes to cook, you don't want the star of the show to hold up your entire meal. Depending on the size of the bird, you'll need at least a couple days to fully defrost it (which makes it all the more important to follow Step #1, eating down your fridge to make room for the turkey!).

A good rule of thumb is to allow one full day for every 4 pounds of turkey. So, a 10-pound bird will need two to three days to thaw in the fridge.

If you procrastinate and forget to thaw it in time, you can use the cold water thawing method. Soak your bird in a sink or bucket full of cold water, allowing thirty minutes for every pound of frozen turkey. Remember to change the water once every hour to ensure it stays cold for safe thawing. In this case, a 10-pound bird will need five hours.

#3 Make time in your Thanksgiving Day schedule for getting ready. Raise your hand if you've been guilty of this: You're running around your kitchen all day, prepping the most fabulous meal of your life, when it's ten minutes till go time and you realize ... you still need to take a shower! So you hop in and out, just squeaking (not streaking, but almost!) out of the bathroom in time to greet the first guests with your hair still wet. Yep, it happens to the best of us.

Many people like to wake up and get started right away with the cleaning and cooking. If you're one of those, give yourself at least an hour before your guests arrive to shower and dress (and have a moment of calm before the storm). If you're the type that likes to shower first thing in the morning, it's still a good idea to schedule in thirty minutes for yourself after the last dish has gone in the oven. You might want to put an apron in the wash, swap out a sweater that now smells like bacon and onion, or change into a new outfit completely if you were cooking in your PJs all day.

And while this isn't an essential item on the checklist, remembering to treat yourself to a glass of wine while you work — even before noon — helps keep the day relaxed. Check out a few of our wine picks for Thanksgiving!

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