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Thanksgiving 2015: How to make the most of leftovers

It seems impossible to have a holiday celebration without food. Hours and days are spent preparing a menu and the holiday meal and then in less than an hour, the decorated table is appreciated and the food enjoyed.

The holidays provide somewhat of a structure for communities, friends and families. I know every holiday is special and you all have your favorites, but when it comes to food, I think one of my favorites is Thanksgiving. 

Our modern Thanksgiving meal is far from the first Thanksgiving meal and for many of you, the meal has changed a lot. There was a time in most homes that all of the food was prepared from basic ingredients and now many people choose to have someone else do much of the food preparation. The bonus to the big meal is the food following the big meal. I have learned from many of you through the years that you don’t like leftovers and some of you won’t even eat it. All I can say is you are missing some great food and more importantly, being wasteful.

I have to begin with the turkey sandwich. Wow, what a great experience for the taste buds. Just so you know, here is what I am visualizing and anticipating tasting: the bread is whole wheat or a multigrain and just lightly toasted. I take some mayonnaise and add some ground horseradish to it, some honey mustard and then spread that on the bread. To the bread I add some sliced sweet pickles and Romaine or leaf lettuce. Now to add the best part, the turkey. I want to really taste the turkey flavor and if the meat is refrigerator cold, the flavor will not be there. So I warm some nice slices of the breast meat, just a tiny bit on the stove or in the microwave. An added bonus to the sandwich is a small amount of cranberry salad or cranberry relish. Yes, this is messy but the flavors are worth it! 

There are also other great foods that you can create with the turkey such as casseroles and soups. When it comes to soup, plan to cook the turkey bones for stock. The soup is the place to add leftover mashed potatoes, vegetables and gravy, and you can also use leftover vegetables from the vegetable tray such as the carrots and celery.

Many Thanksgiving meals are served with both mashed potatoes and some form of sweet potatoes — both have multiple leftover possibilities. Let’s begin with the mashed potatoes. You can use them with some of the vegetables and turkey to create a casserole. Another favorite is mashed potato cakes. I really like to add some sweet corn to these, then lightly fry and serve with warm maple syrup.

I would not be doing my job if I did not remind you to practice the food safety rules of clean, cook, cool and separate and most of all, to remind everyone to help out with meal preparation and cleanup. Enjoy a safe and happy holiday season and here is to good eating with lots of turkey.

For more recipes and tips from Purdue Extension Educator Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross, subscribe to the Food & Nutrition email newsletter.

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