Holiday Cooking Tips

Holiday Leftover Makeover

Photodisc Too much turkey? Use your creativity to make the most of leftovers.
Photodisc Too much turkey? Use your creativity to make the most of leftovers.

In the days following a big holiday dinner, there are probably few things worse than being confronted with several refrigerator shelves full of leftovers. Food that once might have been exciting and delicious can easily become unappealing after eating it in its original form for several days in a row. But it doesn't have to be that way.

With a little bit of creativity and some help from additional staple ingredients, it's easy to turn your leftovers into something beyond turkey sandwiches and split pea soup with ham.

Before you start cooking, however, be sure to properly package, label, and freeze any leftovers that can't be eaten within several days. With turkey, don't forget to store the stuffing separately from the meat. Separate all large pieces of meat from their bones, which can be used later in stocks and soups. Most meat can be refrigerated and eaten within 4 days, or frozen up to 4 months. Ham is best refrigerated -- it loses moisture and can become gummy when frozen.

For a great post-holiday brunch, try serving up the following possibilities:

  • Make French toast out of left over bread, and sprinkle with powdered sugar and toasted almonds. Instead of drizzling with maple syrup, serve with cranberry compote made of warmed leftover whole cranberry sauce combined with orange marmalade.
  • Dice up some leftover ham and add it to your favorite omelet or frittata recipe. Or, sautè it with some diced onions and the remainder of your roasted sweet potatoes for a sweet-and-salty breakfast hash.
  • Instead of having sausage patties, try making turkey patties by combining shredded turkey meat with leftover stuffing, a lightly beaten egg, and seasonings such as garlic powder, fennel, salt, and pepper. Form the mixture into small patties and pan-fry on both sides until lightly browned.
  • Make a quick bagel spread by stirring cranberry sauce into some cream cheese.

For lunch and dinner, consider these ideas:

  • Create a simple sandwich wrap by heating up some shredded pot roast and combining with grilled or sautèed bell peppers and onions. Place the mixture inside a tortilla, top with shredded cheese, and roll up.
  • For a pot pie/empanada hybrid, combine cubed or shredded turkey with leftover vegetables such as corn, green beans, potatoes, peas, and carrots. Stir in just enough canned condensed cream of mushroom soup for the mixture to hold together, and use this to fill triangles of frozen puff pastry dough. Crimp the edges of the triangles shut with the tines of a fork and bake at 375° F until golden brown and hot, about 6 to 10 minutes.
  • To use up excess corn on the cob, try making a delicious corn soup. Remove the kernels using a chef's knife and set aside. In a stockpot filled with just enough water to cover the cobs, simmer 30 minutes to extract the juices. Meanwhile, caramelize some diced onions, shallots, or leeks in butter; add the corn kernels and sautè until hot. Remove the cobs from the corn stock and add in the onions and corn kernels. Simmer another 20 minutes. Process half of the soup in a blender or food processor and add it back into the stockpot. Simmer 10 more minutes and season with salt and pepper.

Craving something other than leftover pie for dessert?

  • Use leftover bread (challah and cinnamon raisin bread work especially well) and substitute leftover eggnog for the milk in your favorite bread pudding recipe.
  • For easy ice cream sandwiches, fuse leftover holiday cookies together with a good portion of vanilla ice cream (softened enough to spread easily) and roll the exposed edges in crushed candy cane pieces. Freeze until ice cream hardens.
  • Use leftover candy canes as swizzle sticks in after-dinner coffee drinks or hot chocolate for a cool, peppermint kick.

For other turkey-related recipes and info, see: