Thankful for Leftovers: What to do with your Turkey & Trimmings


October 30, 2017 | Food Lion
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Preparing for the Thanksgiving meal is no small feat! You have to roast the bird, mash the potatoes, mix the stuffing and prepare the gravy. Of course, who could forget about the cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes and of course, pumpkin pie. After the festive meal, you're left with a whole lot of dishes to clean and leftovers galore.

The dishes may not do themselves (unless you have super helpful guests, of course), but the leftovers can provide meals for days if you plan and store properly. With a little bit of foresight, you'll be whipping up flavor-packed meals that go way beyond leftover turkey sandwiched between two slices of bread or reheated mashed potatoes.

How to Store Your Leftovers

You'll want to have multiple sized containers and baggies to store your food in. It's better to portion out your leftovers in smaller storage containers instead of just throwing a piece of foil or cling wrap over your sweet potato casserole. It also helps you save room in the fridge, and make it easier to find things. If you know what you plan to make with the leftovers, you may want to figure out how much turkey or cranberry sauce you'll need for a dish and portion it out in a container ahead of time. If you have stuffing in the bird, you'll want to remove that too. It may make sense to separate the bones from the turkey if you haven't already. Don't throw away the bones though—they make great stock!

As a general rule, don't keep any of the leftovers in your fridge for more than three to four days. If you plan to freeze your food, which is a great option to reduce risk of bacteria, a general rule is 30 to 60 days. If you have a vacuum sealer, you can keep your leftovers super fresh in the freezer (goodbye freezer burn!) and a general rule of thumb is around a month for prime taste. The vacuum sealer is especially good for leftover turkey, turducken, etc., but not great for things like pie that will crumble during the sealing process.

So now that you've put away all of your leftovers - it's time to get creative.

Dinners That Will Delight

Dinner is a great time to experiment with different dishes. Johanna M. Cook of Momma Cuisine puts an Asian twist on her leftovers with sweet potato and cheese rangoon and turkey ramen. They'd be delicious served together or on their own.

Sweet Potato Rangoon

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups mashed sweet potatoes
  • 4 ounces vegetable cream cheese
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced, scallions
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Fresh cracked pepper
  • Small square wonton wrappers
  • Beaten egg

Instructions:

Heat a skillet with about 1 cup of vegetable oil.

In a mixing bowl, fold in all the ingredients together until fully incorporated.

Take your wonton wrapper and fill with about 1 tablespoon of the sweet potato filling in the center of the wonton wrapper.

With your other hand, dip your finger in the beaten egg mixture and brush the corners of the wonton wrapper with your finger. Fold the wrapper over and close, to make a triangle. Repeat and set aside.

Start to fry your sweet potato and cheese rangoon on high heat until the wrappers turn crispy and golden brown.

Drain excess oil on paper towels; serve with a sweet and sour dipping sauce.

Turkey Ramen

Ingredients:

  • Turkey bones
  • 1 inch, Ginger
  • 3 cloves Garlic
  • 1/2 cup diced Onions
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 4-5 cups water
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • Ramen noodles
  • Salt to taste
  • Fresh cracked black pepper

Toppings:

  • Your choice of a soft or hard boiled egg
  • Sliced Red onions
  • Scallions
  • Bean sprouts
  • Sriracha sauce

Instructions: In a large pot, add the turkey bones, garlic, onions, ginger and bouillon cube. Add water until it's covering the bones. More or less than the recipe calls. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes to an hour. Taste for seasoning. Boil your ramen noodles and pour your broth over them. Add your choice of toppings. Great with shredded leftover roast turkey meat.

Breakfast Delights

Breakfast isn't usually the first meal that comes to mind when it comes to Thanksgiving leftovers, but it's one of the best. There are so many easy things you can do for a delicious breakfast.

Think eggs! Any leftover greens or turkey can make a nice filling for an omelette. Health coach, Natasha Pennant likes to throw together a collard greens omelette. Collard greens are incredibly high in vitamins C and K, as well as fiber. You can sauté the greens like you would spinach, add your choice of cheese, and voila.

Breakfast sandwiches are another great way to utilize some leftover turkey. Fry up an egg and put it on an English muffin with cheese. Instead of adding bacon, add turkey! You can even spread a bit of cranberry sauce on for a tangy twist.

Make a breakfast hash, Thanksgiving style. A more traditional hash has potatoes as the base and if you serve roasted potatoes you can use them or dice up and roast fresh potatoes with onions and green peppers, add some shredded turkey and throw an egg on top. Or you can sauté stuffing instead of potatoes in a skillet to warm it up and add your fried egg afterwards.

If you prefer sweeter breakfast fare, leftover sweet potatoes or squash are a great addition to pancake batter. Just puree a cup and mix into your batter and proceed like you normally would. Cranberry sauce makes a great topping for pancakes or drizzled over yogurt and granola.

Quick and Easy Lunches

Most people don't have a ton of time to spare at lunch (or they want something that's easy to take on the go), that's why we love quesadillas. They are generally super easy to make and very versatile. This recipe from Allrecipes.com uses turkey and cranberry sauce, but feel free to play around. Leftover squash and greens would make nice additions.

Thanksgiving Quesadillas

Ingredients:

  • 2 flour tortillas
  • 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 pound shredded cooked turkey meat
  • 2 tablespoons cranberry sauce
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1 green onion, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, or to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Place 1 tortilla in the skillet and top with 1/2 of the Cheddar cheese, turkey, cranberry sauce, jalapeno pepper, green onion, and remaining Cheddar cheese, respectively. Place remaining tortilla over the top.
  2. Cook until tortilla is golden brown and cheese is melted, 2 to 4 minutes per side.

Other simple lunch options include making turkey salad, similar to chicken salad using the leftover turkey. Add in some dried cranberries for a touch of sweetness. You could also throw together a harvest salad using your leftover dinner salad topped with leftover turkey, squash, and whatever vegetables and fruits you have at your table. Add in goat cheese, dried cranberries and walnuts to round out the main dish salad. This could also make a great dinner.

With all of the exciting dishes you can make, you'll be hoping for extra leftovers this year!