When Thanksgiving is over, the most prominent reminders of the holiday are the abundant number of leftovers in containers in my refrigerator. Don't waste those delicious leftovers -- remix them! With some creativity and safe food handling, you can enjoy turkey-based meals that make delicious use of your leftovers.
Anytime you prepare, cook and store food, you must practice safe food-handling methods to be sure your leftovers are safe to eat. During mealtime, don't let the turkey or side dishes sit out for more than two hours after cooking. Remove the meat from the turkey. Freeze the turkey bones to make homemade broth.
For safe storage, put away leftovers in shallow, air-tight containers in the refrigerator immediately. Shallow containers allow leftovers to cool faster, preventing growth of harmful bacteria.
Unless you freeze the leftovers, be sure to use the turkey and stuffing within 3-4 days. Leftover gravy should be used within 1-2 days. Other cooked dishes can be stored up to 4 days.
Frozen leftovers should be labeled, dated and stored at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or below and used within 3-4 months. Turkey in gravy or broth, or other cooked turkey dishes can be frozen for 4-6 months. Stuffing and gravy can keep up to 1 month in the freezer. When you reheat the turkey, stuffing or gravy, make sure it reaches a temperature of at least 165 F.
Here are two ways to enjoy your leftover turkey.
THANKSGIVING STUFFED POTATO BALLS
You can cut this recipe in half, if desired, but these savory snacks are seldom leftover.
4 cups stuffing, broken up if chunky
1 1/2 cups turkey, finely chopped
1 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup finely minced vegetables (leftover broccoli, carrots, mixed veggies, Brussels sprouts, etc.)
8 cups cold mash potatoes
2 cups flour
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 cups panko crumbs, for coating
2 tablespoons poultry- or Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes or ground cayenne pepper
3 cups of gravy, for dipping, or use bottled ranch dressing or ketchup, if preferred
1. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine stuffing, turkey, Parmesan cheese and minced vegetables. Mix until well-blended. Using your hands, form 1 1/2-inch balls and place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Continue forming remaining balls. Place balls on baking sheet, transfer to the freezer and let set for 30 minutes.
2. Set up an assembly line of four bowls lined in a row. Fill the first bowl with mashed potatoes, the second with flour, the third with the lightly beaten egg and the fourth with panko crumbs. Season the flour, beaten egg and panko breadcrumbs with a sprinkle of the poultry or Italian seasoning, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes or ground cayenne pepper.
3. Remove stuffing balls from freezer; wrap ball with about 4 tablespoons of mashed potatoes. Make sure you're working with cold mashed potatoes for easy handling. Gently roll ball in flour and then transfer it to egg bowl. Using your hands or a fork, roll the ball around to cover it in egg. Finally dip and cover the ball in panko crumbs. Place ball on parchment-lined baking sheet and continue forming the remaining balls.
4. Fill a pan with enough oil to submerge the Thanksgiving balls. Heat oil to 365 F. Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Working in batches, drop 2 to 3 balls into the oil and fry until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes.
5. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to paper towel-lined parchment baking sheet to drain. Wait 2-3 minutes between batches to allow the oil to return to 365 F. Continue deep frying remaining balls. Adjust heat as needed to keep oil at a consistent 365 F.
6. Serve immediately with gravy. Garnish balls with additional finely grated Parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes. Makes 12 to 16 three-inch balls.
4 flour tortillas (white or whole wheat)
4 tablespoons mayonnaise or mustard, or both, if preferred
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
4 teaspoons cranberry sauce, optional
4 slices (1-ounce each) of turkey
4 slices cooked bacon
4 leaves Romaine lettuce
2 to 4 slices of tomato
1/2 small purple onion, thinly sliced
1. Wrap tortillas in food-safe paper towels or parchment paper. Microwave on high for 10 seconds.
2. Spread each tortilla lightly with mayo, mustard or both, and sprinkle each tortilla evenly with poultry seasoning. Spread cranberry sauce evenly on each tortilla.
3. Divide turkey and put half on the bottom third of each tortilla. Add a slice of bacon, some lettuce, tomato slices and onion on each tortilla. Wrap tightly and serve. Serves 4.
Angela Shelf Medearis is an award-winning children's author, culinary historian and the author of seven cookbooks. Her latest cookbook is "The Kitchen Diva's Diabetic Cookbook." Her website is www.divapro.com. Recipes may not be reprinted without permission from Angela Shelf Medearis.