Over the Leftovers?

— Written By Sydney Johnson and last updated by

Happy Thanksgiving Sampson County! Did you take time to think of what you are thankful for? A hot meal, a job, a loving family, friendship, a warm bed, health and strength, beautiful sunsets, co-workers, companionship, and Carolina sunshine are all reasons to be thankful. This time of year is the perfect moment to reflect on the many blessings we have been given. It is almost my one-year anniversary of working for Extension and I feel beyond blessed from all the support, encouragement, and for the many faces I have met thus far.

I am sure many of you enjoyed Thanksgiving family style, sitting around the table eating from your favorite family dishes that span from one end of the table to the other. After sending home food to family and friends, you look in the fridge and it is still slammed full with turkey, stuffing, and pie. So what do you do with all of those leftovers?

Well you can always freeze any leftovers you won’t eat quickly. Turkey can be used for casseroles, soups, burgers, and sandwiches at a later date. If you do plan on enjoying your leftovers over the week, be sure to enjoy your foods within a few days. Refrigerated turkey and gravy should be used within 3 to 4 days; stuffing and prepared salads within 1 to 2 days. Frozen turkey should be used within 4 months, but frozen turkey broth can be used within 6 months.

When reheating leftovers, including stuffing, be sure to heat to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. This will help to keep you safe and avoid any bacteria that could be present and make you sick. Also, if there were any foods that have a time/temperature control for safety (cheesecake, turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, etc.) and sat out for longer than 2 hours, I suggest you toss it to avoid a food borne illness. After 2 hours it is very likely these foods have reached a temperature in the temperature danger zone (41 – 135 degrees) which is when bacteria is most likely to grow rapidly, multiply, and possibly cause food borne illness.

Here are some great leftover ideas to help clear out that fridge!
Turkey Salad – Who needs chicken when you have turkey? This is a great way to enjoy leftovers in a new way. Shred turkey, add chopped celery, chopped grapes, and either light mayo or plain Greek yogurt. Season with salt and pepper. You can also substitute the grapes for cranberries. Throw in some walnuts for a little variety, or add chopped hardboiled eggs, chopped onions, and grated carrots. Serve on toasted bread, a cracker, or on a bed of lettuce.
Turkey Chili – Spice up your weekend with some turkey chili. Sauté onions and garlic in a pan. Add it to chicken or beef broth, kidney beans, corn, diced tomatoes in juice, and tomato sauce. You can also add salsa and chili powder if you like a little spice. This is great with turkey but can be used with chicken, ground beef, or just extra beans!
Turkey Pot Pie – Substitute turkey in your favorite chicken pot pie recipe. Here is a great recipe from the USDA Mixing Bowl: Preheat oven to 400. Mix 1 2/3 cups frozen mixed vegetables (thawed), 1 cup turkey or chicken (cut-up), and 1 can cream of chicken soup (choose low-fat for a healthier option, 10 ¾ oz. condensed can) in ungreased, 9-inch pie plate. Stir 1 cup reduced fat baking mix (such as Bisquick), ½ cup non-fat milk, and 1 egg in a mixing bowl with a fork until blended. Pour over vegetables and chicken/turkey in a pie plate. Bake 30 minutes or until golden brown.
Mashed Potato Pancakes – This is a recipe from The Food Network that would be delicious for breakfast. Stir 1 egg in a large bowl to blend. Mix 2 cups of mashed potatoes and 1/3 cup all-purpose flour. Using a generous ½ cup of potato mixture for each, pour the potato mixture into 4 (1/2-inch) diameter pancakes. Fry over medium heat, flipping halfway through, until golden brown. Serve with an over-easy egg on top, marinara sauce, and sprinkled parmesan.
Stuffing-Stuffed Mushrooms – I absolutely love stuffing and I love mushrooms, so these are delectable to me. Use your leftover stuffing in some button mushroom caps. Top with a little olive oil and parmesan and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes at 375.