Skip to main content

When she was a very young Navy wife, my Mom and her pal J. (whose husband was in the same squadron as my Dad) decided they would try a "gourmet" Thanksgiving recipe they had read about in a magazine.  The magazine promised the "moistest turkey ever" and required the cooks to enclose the entire bird in pastry.  Mom and J. rolled out their dough, enveloped their turkey and popped it in the oven.  Correction: Mom and J. rolled out their dough, and re-rolled it and rolled it again, and then enveloped their turkey and popped it in the oven.  Several hours later, following the utter failure of all kitchen implements, my Dad and his fellow pilot were forced to position the turkey-in-crust on a stump in the backyard and to hack off the "crust" with camping axes.

It was, however, moist.

The turkey we roasted last Thursday was a lot easier to delve into, but this one, like its famous crusty predecessor, is now the basis for many good meals to come.  

This is a diary about leftovers.

In the U.S., we waste around 40 percent of all edible food. A large portion of that waste is caused by consumers. The average American throws away between $28 and $43 in the form of about 20 pounds of food each month. If we wasted just 15 percent less food, it would be enough to feed 25 million Americans.

The cost of wasted food is staggering. In addition to the wasting of water, energy, chemicals, and global warming pollution that goes into producing, packaging, and transporting discarded food, nearly all of the food waste ends up in landfills where it decomposes and releases methane, a heat-trapping greenhouse gas that is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

National Resouces Defense Council

By using leftovers wisely – not just after Thanksgiving, but throughout the year -- we can help our wallets and our environment.  Let’s get started!

Store Your Leftovers Properly

All cooked foods should be reheated to 165° F, refrigerated, or frozen within 2 hours after cooking. In hot weather, that time limit is only 1 hour. . . . The "safe" period starts after the food is cooked. It includes the time that the food sits before being served and the time it sits on the table while the meal is being eaten. This period lasts until the food is actually in the refrigerator or freezer.

Wash your hands with soap and water before handling any cooked food, especially food you store to eat later. Use clean utensils to handle the food, and store it in clean containers. Do not put food back into the same container it was in before it was cooked, unless you have carefully cleaned the container with soap and water. Do not place food on a counter or cutting board before refrigerating or freezing, unless you have carefully cleaned the surface beforehand.

Store your leftovers in shallow containers – this will allow the food to cool completely through.  Freeze or eat them within four days.

Rutgers Cooperative Fact Sheet

Several basic techniques work with a variety of leftovers.

Add a leftover protein to PASTA.

Bow Ties, Broccoli and Turkey

Kosher salt
8 cups broccoli florets (4 heads)
1/2 pound farfalle (bow tie) pasta
2 C. cubed leftover turkey
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 lemon, zested
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup toasted pignoli (pine) nuts (walnuts are also good)
Freshly grated Parmesan, optional

Cook the broccoli for 3 minutes in a large pot of boiling salted water. Remove the broccoli from the water with a slotted spoon or sieve. Place in a large bowl and set aside.

In the same water, cook the bow-tie pasta according to the package directions, about 12 minutes. Drain well and add to the broccoli.

Meanwhile, in a small saute pan, heat the butter and oil and cook the garlic and lemon zest over medium-low heat for 1 minute. Off the heat, add 2 teaspoons salt, the pepper, and lemon juice and pour this over the broccoli pasta.

Add the turkey. Toss well.

Season to taste, sprinkle with the pignolis or walnuts and cheese, if using, and serve.
(To toast pignolis or walnuts, place them in a dry saute pan over medium-low heat and cook, tossing often, for about 5 minutes, until light brown.)

(Adapted from Ina Garten)

Add a leftover protein to a RICE DISH.

Turkey Jambalaya


4 slices bacon, halved, for garnish
        6 spicy sausage links, cut into 1-inch slices
        2 C. left over turkey, cubed
        3 teaspoons Cajun seasoning, divided
        1 cup cubed, cooked ham (1/2-inch cubes)
        1 medium onion, peeled and diced
        1 large green bell pepper, seeded and diced
        4 stalks celery, diced
        1/2 cup long-grain rice
        1 can (14.5 ounces) low-salt chicken broth
        1 can (14-1/2 ounces) low-salt diced tomatoes
        3 to 4 cups tomato juice
        6 to 8 drops hot sauce, to taste
        8 ounces small raw shrimp, shelled, deveined (if desired)
        salt and pepper, to taste
        fresh basil sprigs, for garnish

Place bacon into a large Dutch oven over medium heat, and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, turning, until browned and crisp. Drain on paper towels; crumble pieces and reserve. Remove and reserve all but 2 tablespoons of pan drippings. Add sausage slices; saute for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring, until lightly browned. Remove to plate lined with paper towels. Add ham cubes; saute until golden, for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove to plate with sausage slices. Add reserved bacon drippings to pan as needed. Stir onion, peppers, celery, and 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning into pan; cook until vegetables are soft, for 3 to 4 minutes. Add rice and remaining 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning; cook, stirring, until rice is translucent, for 3 to 4 minutes. Pour in broth, cover pan, and raise heat to medium-high. Cook until rice is soft, for 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in tomato sauce, 3 cups tomato juice, and hot sauce to taste; lower heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Add more tomato juice, if necessary; soup should be the consistency of heavy cream. Return cooked meats to pan and add shrimp (if using). Cook, uncovered, just until meats are hot and shrimp is pink, for 4 to 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Ladle into heated bowls. Serve garnished with reserved bacon crumbles and basil sprigs.

(Adapted from the Old Farmer’s Almanac)

Make a STOCK.

Nana’s Stock

(This is how my Vermont grandmother made her stock; it’s also how my Mom made ours today.) (Key ingredients are the carcass, some aromatic vegetables – onions, carrots, celery – water and herbs; use any of the other ingredients if desired.)

Turkey carcass
Leftover vegetables (onions, carrots, celery, whatever you have)
Leftover stuffing
Leftover gravy
Leftover mashed potatoes
Parsley (a handful; roughly chopped)
Rosemary (1 or 2 sprigs; about 1 Tbl.)
Thyme (3 or 4 sprigs; about 1 Tbl.)
Sage (1 or 2 sprigs; about 1 Tbl.)
Bay leaf
Salt, pepper (to taste) (peppercorns if you have them)
Water to cover (at least 1-2 quarts)
2 cans reduced-salt chicken broth

Bring the whole thing to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer.  Simmer, partially covered for 3 hours or so.

Cool; strain out all solids, being particularly careful to remove all bones. (You have now used these leftovers and can throw them out.)

Refrigerate overnight in a non-reactive bowl; covered.  

The next day: remove the fat that has collected on the top.

Can be refrigerated for 3-4 days; can be frozen for 2-3 months.

Use the stock to make a SOUP
1 package mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
1 bunch carrots, peeled and chopped
4 stalks celery, peeled and chopped
2 small yellow onions, peeled and chopped
parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme or Bell’s seasoning (to taste)

½  C. wild rice (leftover rice is fine; just reduce the cooking time)

1 Q. stock (or more, if desired)
2 C. cubed leftover turkey

White wine or sherry (if desired).

Melt butter in a Dutch oven.  Saute onions and celery until translucent; add carrots, sauté until soft; add mushrooms, sauté until soft.  Add rice.

Pour in stock, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Add turkey.

Simmer until rice is cooked.  Add some white wine or sherry (if desired).

Serve with crusty bread.

Use the stock and leftover turkey to make a POTPIE.

For filling:

        1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
        2 large carrots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
        2 celery ribs, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
        1 large parsnip (peeled), cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
        1 teaspoon chopped thyme
        3 tablespoons unsalted butter
        1/2 pound mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
        1/4 cup all-purpose flour
        4 cups roast turkey meat, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
        1 (10-ounce) package frozen baby peas, thawed

For biscuit crust:

        2 cups all-purpose flour
        2 teaspoons baking powder
        1 teaspoon baking soda
        1/2 teaspoon salt
        1/2 teaspoon black pepper
        1 cup coarsely grated extra-sharp Cheddar
        1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
        3/4 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
        1 1/4 cups well-shaken buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees (rack in middle position).

Make filling:
 Cook onion, carrots, celery, parsnip, and thyme in butter with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a 12-inch-wide shallow pot (3- to 4-quart), covered, over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are almost tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook, uncovered, stirring, until tender, 5 to 7 minutes.

Sprinkle with flour and cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes. Stir in stock (3 1/2 cups), scraping up any brown bits, and bring to a boil, stirring, then simmer until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Stir in turkey, peas, and salt and pepper to taste. Reheat over low heat just before topping with biscuit crust.

Make biscuit crust and bake pie:
 Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle.
Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pepper into a medium bowl. Add cheeses and toss to coat. Blend in butter with a pastry blender or your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk and stir just until a dough forms. Drop biscuit dough onto filling in 8 large mounds, leaving spaces between biscuits.
Bake until biscuits are puffed and golden brown and filling is bubbling, 35 to 40 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.


Use a protein plus leftover mashed potatoes (or stuffing or any other starchy vegetables) to make CROQUETTES

3 Tbl. unsalted butter
1 medium onion, minced
S/P (to taste)
1 ½ tsp. minced fresh sage
1 ½ tsp. minced fresh savory or thyme
2 C. finely chopped cooked turkey
¼ C. heavy cream
1 C. mashed potatoes
¼ C. all-purpose flour
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 ½ C. fresh breadcrumbs*
Vegetable oil
Leftover cranberry sauce

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, 1 teaspoons salt, and teaspoon pepper. Cook for 3 minutes. Stir in sage and savory or thyme, and cook for 1 minute. Stir in turkey and cream, and cook until liquid evaporates, about 1 minute. Transfer to a large bowl, and let cool for 15 minutes.

Add potatoes, flour, and egg to turkey, and season with salt and pepper.

Drop 2 tablespoons turkey mixture into a shallow bowl of breadcrumbs, turn to coat, and pat into 2-inch disks. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet, and refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Heat 1/4 inch oil in a skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, cook croquettes in a single layer until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Serve immediately with cranberry sauce.

Martha Stewart

* Make your own breadcrumbs.  Toss stale bread into a blender or food processor and grind.  Store the crumbs in containers in the freezer.

Add your leftover protein to a CHILI

2 C. chopped yellow onions (1-2 onions)
1/8 C. Canola oil
2 cloves garlic (minced)
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and large-diced
1 Tbl. chili powder (or to taste)
1 Tbl. ground cumin (or to taste)
1/4 tsp. dried red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1 Tbl. paprika (or to taste)
1 tsp. kosher salt (or to taste)
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled low-salt plum tomatoes in puree, undrained
2-3 C. shredded turkey
1-2 cans (14.5 oz.) pink beans
Freshly ground black pepper

Toppings (optional): avocado slices, fresh lime quarters, grated cheese, sour cream.

Cook the onions in the oil over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the bell peppers, chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, cayenne, paprika and salt. Cook for 1 minute.

Crush the tomatoes by hand or in batches in a food processor fitted with a steel blade (pulse 6 to 8 times). Add to the pot. Add pink beans. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add turkey to the chili and simmer, uncovered, for another 20 minutes.

Serve with any or all toppings, or refrigerate and reheat gently before serving.

(Adapted from Ina Garten)

Avoiding leftovers.

A true Thanksgiving story, not my own. For reasons known only to her, M decided not to preheat the oven, but instead to stick the turkey in and then turn it on.  After placing her turkey inside, though, instead of "bake," she hit the "oven self-clean" switch, whereupon the oven automatically locked itself and proceeded to self-clean, a process in which its internal temperature climbed to approximately 900 degrees.  Oh, and the "lock"  was automatically programmed to stay "locked" for five hours.  This turkey was not moist. The new oven door was also expensive.
What is your favorite way to use leftovers?
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site