Food and Nutrition: How to maximize the potential of your Christmas leftovers this holiday


By: Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross

Photo Supplied by Metro Newspaper Service

Last week I shared ideas on how to make the most of your holiday fruit baskets. I received many positive comments, and some of you asked for suggestions for other foods, so I say thank you to those readers for the suggestion.

RELATED: Spicing up your holiday party with appetizers and hors d’oeuvres, Dec. 11, 2015

There are many foods that you prepare only for the holidays, and often times there are memories associated with the food. These foods may be meats, candies, cheeseballs, baked goodies or beverages. I know that many of you get to the point where you have had enough of all this tasty food, and there is still food left. Now you have the opportunity/challenge of being creative and preparing tasty food with the extras.

First, you need to know that the food is safe, that the food has been stored at the correct temperature, and that money is involved! I hope the word money caught your attention, as food prices have been on the rise. A fun way to make the most of the extras is to plan a party with family and friends, or all the people you did not get to see on the holidays. A party always means food, and you can use your extra food and even ask those attending to bring their extra food. If there is still food left, you can make to-go plates for everyone to take home.

Some options with your holiday food include casseroles, soups and creative appetizers. Many times you have just a little of this and a little of that, and you end up creating recipes that you will never make again because of the small amounts and variety of ingredients that you had.

RELATED: How to make the most of leftovers, Nov. 24, 2015

With all food, safety is paramount. Everyone needs to be responsible to keep food safe whether you are going to eat the food now or later. If you are going to share it with others, you might want to repackage it and label it. If you want to keep the food for later, you may need to freeze it. Freezing works for most foods and, if done properly, will remain tasty.

Plan to freeze foods when they are at their best quality. If foods are off-color, have an odor, or have lost their eye appeal, don’t freeze them. Freezing keeps food, it doesn’t improve the quality. Try to get all of the air out of the package and freeze foods quickly at zero degrees or below. Try placing new packages against freezer walls or shelves to help speed up the process.

When adding packages to the freezer try to add only what can be frozen in 24 hours. Many foods will keep best if you double wrap them or use freezer bags. You want to seal all the items in moisture-proof and vapor-proof freezer wraps. Exposure to air can give food an off color and flavor and a tough, dry surface known as freezer burn. When it comes to taping the paper or plastic, use freezer tape or masking tape.

When freezing liquids, don’t fill the containers to the top, leave at least one-half inch to allow for expansion. If you have leftover broth, stock or gravy, try freezing it in ice cube trays. Once frozen, remove the cubes from the trays and place them in freezer bags for easy use later.

With the food you have frozen, you have the start of a Super Bowl party. Keep in mind that soups and chili are great foods to create with your frozen leftovers.


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