Dear Readers: Are you COOKING A TURKEY for a Christmas or holiday dinner? Here are some Heloise Hints to help you:

* How big a turkey do you need? Plan on approximately 11 / 2 pounds per person if you want leftovers; if not, 1 pound per person is enough.

* Frozen turkey? It will TAKE TIME to safely thaw in the refrigerator (about a day for every 4 pounds). Cold-water thawing is an option, but keep the turkey in the unopened package, covered in water completely, and change the water to keep it cool. Allow about 30 minutes per pound to safely thaw.

* After cooked, let the turkey rest for about 20 minutes so the juices settle into the meat before carving.

* For turkey questions, you can call the United States Department of Agriculture’s Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854, or you can send an e-mail to MPHotline.fsis@usda.gov. The hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET.

-- Heloise

SEND A GREAT HINT TO:

Heloise

P.O. Box 795000

San Antonio, TX 78279-5000

Fax: 210-HELOISE

E-mail: Heloise@Heloise.com

RECYCLE HINT

Dear Heloise: I use the small, “deli meat” plastic containers with the removable lids for the following:

* Store four to five hard-boiled eggs.

* Organize spice containers for easy access. For example: Group all Italian spices (basil, oregano, parsley, etc.) in one.

* Make dips for a party and use the container for serving.

* Store healthy snacks of carrots and celery with a small container of dressing for when on the go.

-- Janice D., Fort Wayne, Ind.

EATING-OUT RESTRICTIONS

Dear Heloise: Meeting friends at a restaurant and sometimes picking up the tab is fun — sometimes expensive, but it is worth its weight in gold due to the dietary restrictions of several colleagues. Everyone can select his or her favorite dish.

Unfortunately, this method of dining out instead of home cooking is not without hidden dangers. An acquaintance ordered shrimp; since there had not been an allergic attack in 10 years, he assumed it was a safe selection. We rushed him to the emergency room — he was having a very severe allergic reaction and needed medical attention. Food allergies can range from mild to violent.

I am grateful for warnings about items that may have been in contact with foods that could cause allergic reactions. -- Margarette M., via e-mail

Margarette, glad your friend was okay, but it was his responsibility, since he knew he had an allergy to shrimp. You are right, however, that it’s very considerate when ingredients are listed or posted. -- Heloise

PEELING POTATOES

Dear Heloise: The past few years, I have developed arthritis in my fingers and have found it difficult to peel potatoes. I now boil potatoes with the skins on. When cooked, I peel them under water, put them back in the pan, mash them and season them. It is so fast, and I don’t waste any of the potatoes, since I don’t peel them before cooking. -- Elaine D., Mission Viejo, Calif.

Send a hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, Tex. 78279-5000, fax it to 210-HELOISE or e-mail it to Heloise@Heloise.com. Please include your city and state.

2011, King Features Syndicate