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Start Thanksgiving planning now!

FILE - This Oct. 19 2008 phoshows grill-roasted brined turkey with Anaheim chile salsverde Concord N.H. The safest way thaw

FILE - This Oct. 19, 2008 photo shows a grill-roasted brined turkey with Anaheim chile salsa verde in Concord, N.H. The safest way to thaw a frozen turkey is in the refrigerator. You'll need about 24 hours per 4 to 5 pounds of turkey. For speedier thawing, put the turkey in a sink of cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes, and plan for about 30 minutes per pound. (AP Photo/Larry Crowe) ORG XMIT: NHLC101

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If you are hosting the Thanksgiving meal this year, when you noticed today is Nov. 1, did a bit of anxiety wash over you?

You know why, don’t you? You started thinking about last year’s turkey day. When you pulled an all-nighter to get the meal together. And by the time everything was ready, you were the sweaty and worn-out host at the head of the table. Still wearing a splattered apron.

That’s not going to happen this year. Join us and do it a different way: start planning now. Because to pull off a big feast, you’ve gotta have a plan. And the more you figure out beforehand, the less stress later.

We’re going to start small and do a little bit day by day. Let’s begin:

Make your guest list today and invite them. As soon as possible, determine how many will be in attendance. Once you have that number you can figure out what you need in chairs, supplies, food and liquor. Without it you’re guess-timating, which usually results in spending more than is needed.

Give the dining room — or whatever room the meal will be in — an inspection. Start clearing the table and room now so you and your guests can enjoy a meal in a clutter-free room.

In the movie “Pieces of April,” it’s funny when she discovers the oven’s not working and the Thanksgiving turkey is inside it. Trust me, you will not be laughing on Thanksgiving Day if your oven peters out and you’ve got a dining room full of relatives waiting to eat. The time for inspecting it is now. If it’s been acting up, get someone in to repair it ASAP. And if it’s grimy, clean it. No one wants to see their holiday meal coming out of a crusty oven. Same for the appliance you’ll be using that day: hand mixer, blender, electric knife — whatever you know you will use, make sure they’re working properly and clean.

While you are looking at that oven, figure out if everything will fit in it. If not, come up with Plan B. One year I decided beforehand that I would do a vegetable stir-fry instead of an assortment of roasted veggies because there wasn’t enough room in that tiny oven of ours. Another holiday we grilled the turkey outside to free up oven space. Both were alternative plans that worked out just fine, and one reason they did was because we’d figured out beforehand what we’d be doing. We weren’t regrouping at the last minute.

Today we have a story where the experts tell us to get over our fear of creating a perfect crust. (See accompanying story.) Turns out that one of the reasons our crust is less than grand might be because we’ve rushed it. Hoosier Mama’s Paula Haney told writer Lisa Shames that it’s important to give that pie crust some time. And here’s a dandy tidbit to remember: crust will work better if you make it the night before. Gives it time to settle.

Also with this story is a list of places that are taking orders for pies if you’d rather not make one. Some of them will stop taking orders as soon as they reached their limit. So, you know what I’m going to say, don’t you? Decide now if you will be ordering one and do it ASAP.

I can’t say this enough: you’ve gotta have a plan when it comes to Thanksgiving.



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