2011-12-22 / Features

What To Do With All Those Holiday Leftovers


With a few creative ideas, anyone can turn leftover holiday foods into new meals. With a few creative ideas, anyone can turn leftover holiday foods into new meals. The food cooked during the holidays is often enough to feed an army. Too often, hosts and hostesses prepare and serve much too much food, only to find themselves left with a refrigerator full of leftovers when guests don't eat as much as hosts had suspected.

In order to avoid wasting food, many people attempt to create new meals from their excess holiday ingredients. Putting leftovers to good use can take a little ingenuity to disguise the reality that you're eating turkey or ham for the third consecutive night. All it may take is a little inspiration to create delicious meals with repurposed holiday foods.

The first thing to keep in mind when using leftovers is food safety. Any food remaining after the holiday meal should be packed into storage containers and refrigerated or frozen no more than 2 hours after the meal has ended. This ensures that bacteria are not able to proliferate in the food and cause foodborne illnesses. Choose shallow containers, which will enable the food to chill more uniformly and not create warmer spots that take longer to reach a safe storage temperature. Do not save any foods that have remained at room temperature for too long or seem questionable, especially dairy products. It is adviseable to discard leftovers (even if refrigerated) after 4 days. Use it or lose it!

Now that leftovers are properly stored, you can think up some creative menu ideas for using them in the next few days.

Turn stuffing into croquettes or burgers by mixing chopped turkey with stuffing or adding a new meat to the equation, like sausage.

Dice ham and potatoes and add to the morning helping of eggs for a country style omelette.

Promptly boil the turkey carcass to make homemade stock for soups and stews.

Turn leftover mashed potatoes into a creamy potato soup, with the addition of cream, bacon and scallions.

Use cranberry sauce in place of butter on bagels or toast.

Mash up leftover sweet potatoes and bake into a moist and delicious sweet potato loaf bread.

Create open-faced sandwiches for lunch by layering ham or turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and gravy on top of a thick slice of bread.

Diced meats, vegetables and onion can be added to a batter of pancake mix and turned into an easy quiche.

Host Mexican night and use leftover turkey meat to make spicy fajitas, complete with sour cream and salsa.

Use stale bread to make homemade croutons for salad or use in a bread pudding recipe.

Add cranberry sauce to boxed muffin mixes for a tart treat.

Turn leftover holiday meats into an Asian stir-fry with the addition of water chestnuts, bean sprouts, soy sauce, and mixed vegetables. Grind meats to make a hearty meat loaf.

Make leftover potatoes into hash browns.

Cube leftover cake and serve on skewers and fruit for dipping into chocolate fondue.

Use pie crust and small ramekins to turn turkey or ham into savory pot pies.

There are so many ideas for using leftover holiday foods this season. Experiment with flavors your family will enjoy.

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