1. Plan Ahead

Take a deep breath, Thanksgiving can be a daunting experience. But if you plan ahead it will all go a lot smoother. Get your recipes and shopping lists together at least two weeks in advance of the big day, and do as much of your shopping as you can the weekend before – wait until the day before and the lines never end. Vegetable prep can be done two days before, and refrigerated in storage bags. Side dishes, soups and many deserts can be prepared the day before, so on Thanksgiving you can give your full attention to the turkey.

2. Improvise to Save Space

Space is always at a premium in the refrigerator and on the stove. Get out the beach cooler, and save refrigerator space by using it to keep wine, soft drinks and juices cool. Mashed potatoes can be kept warm for up to four hours in a slow cooker set to low, freeing up a stove eye. A thermos is a great space saver for keeping gravy warm.

3. Be a Gravy Guru

The toughest part of Thanksgiving isn’t the Turkey, it’s the gravy. But you don’t have to take your lumps sitting down. Just add a bit of cornstarch dissolved in water, and that will go a long way to smoothing things out. Running your gravy through a food processor is another quick fix. And to kick up the flavor add a dash or two of low sodium soy sauce.

4. Potatoes Made Easy

If your feeding a large brood for Thanksgiving, all those potatoes can be cleaned by running them through the rinse cycle of a dishwasher – no detergent please. Boil potatoes for 15 minutes and the skin will come right off. And to make your mashed potatoes extra fluffy just add some baking powder.

5. Something in the Air

The aroma of a turkey roasting in the kitchen oven is a heady scent, that starts the mouth watering. But for the rest of the house boil some cloves, cinnamon sticks, lemon and orange peel, to create a unique and pleasing fragrance.

6. No Roasting Rack, No Problem

If you don’t have a roasting rack, sit your gobbler on top of a bed of onions, potatoes and carrots, or form some aluminum foil into a ring. Slightly elevating your turkey allows the heat to circulate more evenly, and you’re on the way to a better bird. And always allow your turkey to rest for 20 minutes before carving. For a nice most skin, try rubbing a pat of butter under and over the skin.

7. The Right Way to Use a Meat Thermometer to Check for Doneness

Turkey like all poultry should be cooked to 165°F. The National Turkey Federation recommends that a meat thermometer be inserted 2½ inches in the deepest portion of the turkey breast or into the inner thigh near the breast. Be sure that the thermometer does not touch a bone.

8. Chill the Wine, Chill the Soul

Above all, you want to enjoy your Thanksgiving as much as your guests. So chill. If you can’t find the fresh herbs your recipe calls for, remember, you can use about 1/3 as much of the same dried herb that you have on hand. If you’re really running behind, remember, nobody is going to turn down a store bought pumpkin pie with a scoop of store bought ice cream — even the pros cheat now and then. And if you really get in a jam cooking the bird, give me a call on my hotline (833) TALKTKY , (833) 825-5859.

9. Be the Best Guest

If you’re invited to a Thanksgiving, make it a point to be the best guest. Bring a gift in keeping with the season, and if you’re handy in the kitchen, ask your host if they could use some extra help – if you’re not, offer to throw out the trash. Keep the conversation light, and nod politely when Uncle Harry performs his annual ritual of repeating the names of all 45 presidents backwards. Most of all remember the time and effort of your host, and wish them thanks for the best Thanksgiving ever.

10. Always Remember Why We Are Here

Thanksgiving is about just that – giving thanks for what we have, and for the pleasure of gathering with family and friends. But it is also about remembering those that are less fortunate. Last year, my friends at Foster Farms helped provide over 500,000 holiday meals to those in need in California and the Pacific Northwest. If you’d like to join them in making a difference in your community please contact the California Association of Foodbanks, Oregon Foodbank, or Northwest Harvest in the state of Washington.