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Thanksgiving facts to chew on

• The leading turkey-producing states are Minnesota and North Carolina. Each is expected to raise 45 million birds this year.

• The leading cranberry-producing state is Wisconsin (305 million pounds), followed by Massachusetts (170 million).

• Countries that supply the most Thanksgiving-related foods to American tables are Canada (turkeys and cranberries), Sweden (cranberries), and the Dominican Republic (sweet potatoes).

Recommended: Menu ideas for Thanksgiving dinner

• Each American consumes an average of 13.8 pounds of turkey a year.

• There are three places in the US named Turkey; eight named Cranberry; and 20 called Plymouth.

SOURCE: CENSUS BUREAU and USDA

Cereal snack mix now 50 and still going strong

Practically everyone has sampled one of America's most unusual snack concoction: the famous Original Chex Party Mix. Now the holiday favorite, which is made with plenty of cereal squares and other crunchy munchies, is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

The recipe first appeared on cereal boxes in 1953, but didn't receive much notice until the wife of a Ralston Purina executive made it for a 1955 social gathering. It was a hit, and word of its popularity spread rapidly.

Since then, the recipe has been a fixture on cereal boxes, either on the side panel, or, during the holidays, on the back of the box.

Betty Crocker Kitchens keep 33 recipe variations on file, but here's the original:

6 tablespoons butter or margarine (not tub products)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1-1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
3 cups Corn Chex cereal
3 cups Rice Chex cereal
3 cups Wheat Chex cereal
1 cup mixed nuts
1 cup pretzels

1 cup garlic-flavor bite-size bagel chips or regular-size bagel chips, broken into 1-inch pieces.

Heat oven to 250 degrees F. Melt margarine in large roasting pan in oven. Stir in seasonings. Gradually stir in remaining ingredients until well coated. Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Makes 12 cups.

Microwave to the rescue for holiday cooks

Art Ginsburg, a syndicated TV chef known as Mr. Food, says there are other ways to use a microwave this Thanksgiving than for nuking frozen veggies or thawing turkeys.

He recommends softening winter squash in the oven before cutting it. To do so, pierce the shell with a fork, then microwave at full power for 1 to 1-1/2 minutes.

Mr. Ginsburg also likes to transform canned whole-cranberry sauce into a warm, compote-like dish by heating it at full power for about two minutes.

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