Your guide to Thanksgiving recipes, safety tips and how to avoid fights

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Thanksgiving turkey
It's time to give thanks.
Larry Crowe | AP 2009

Get your stretchy pants and your "what's new with you" responses ready — Thanksgiving is almost here.

We've rounded up advice on everything from how to pick a turkey to how to keep the peace during dinner.

Meanwhile, travel throughout Minnesota is looking like it will be relatively OK through Thanksgiving Day, though there is a shot of light snow late Thanksgiving night into Black Friday morning.

Check MPR News' Updraft blog for the latest weather news.

Safety first

Remember to practice safe cooking this Thanksgiving (and really, anytime) — Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires.

Fire officials are also discouraging cooks from using turkey fryers. Because this can happen:

However, if you're still planning to deep-fry your turkey, use your fryer outdoors. Never use them on a wooden deck or in the garage.

Be mindful about food safety, too.

Health officials in the Rochester area have issued a holiday health alert after receiving hundreds of reports consistent with norovirus, a highly contagious and fast-spreading virus that causes diarrhea, vomiting, aches and other symptoms. Olmsted County Public Health official Kari Etrheim said it's wise to wash one's hands regularly and thoroughly.

Food and drink

Thanksgiving turkey and gravy
Turkey Confidential is back this year. On Thursday, call in during the show with your pressing Thanksgiving Day questions: 800-242-2828. You can also post your questions using #turkeyconfidential on Facebook or Twitter.
Matthew Mead | AP 2015

Time to talk turkey.

On Thanksgiving Day, join Lynne Rossetto Kasper and The Splendid Table's Turkey Confidential, broadcast live to the nation from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. This year, Kasper will field listeners' questions with the help of America's Test Kitchen co-host Bridget Lancaster, Mario Batali, Francis Lam, Melissa Clark and A Prairie Home Companion's Chris Thile.

Call in during the show with your pressing Thanksgiving Day questions: 800-242-2828. You can also post your questions using #turkeyconfidential on Facebook or Twitter.

In the meantime, here are a few tips and recipes to hold you over:

What to know before buying a Thanksgiving turkey

How to brine a turkey

3 ways to spice up Thanksgiving without the bird

Are you making gravy the wrong way?

What to drink with your Thanksgiving meal

Hold the side of snide

Millions of Americans will be sitting down together over the coming weeks to break bread, catch up, reminisce and do their best to avoid talking about embarrassing or hot-button issues.

Many will fail.

Here are four tips from William Doherty, a University of Minnesota family social science professor, for avoiding family drama. (If you must talk politics, keep this post-election etiquette guide handy.)

Heading off to a holiday party where you might have to mingle and make small talk? We've got tips for that, too.

Walk off that turkey dinner

Headwaters trail in Itasca State park
Feeling full? How about some post-Thanksgiving exercise? Entrance fees to all 75 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas will be waived on Friday.
William Lager | MPR News file

If you're looking for a deal on Black Friday, be sure to check out the great outdoors. Entrance fees to all 75 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas will be waived.

On most days, the state charges $5 for a daily vehicle permit, including motorcycles.

Like last year, officials are waiving the fee in an effort to get Minnesotans to spend time with family outdoors, presumably walking off those turkey dinners instead of shopping or sleeping off food comas. (On Thanksgiving Day, the average American eats around 4,500 calories.)

The Department of Natural Resources says there's a state park within 30 miles of most Minnesotans.