Lynn Little: What to do with turkey leftovers

December 23, 2009|By LYNN LITTLE / Special to The Herald-Mail

Are you roasting a turkey for Christmas dinner? Do you usually have leftover turkey? With a little creativity and safe food handling, you can enjoy leftover-turkey meals with little preparation and cooking.

Be certain you prepare, cook and store your turkey following safe food handling methods so your leftover turkey is safe to eat. During mealtime, do not let the turkey sit out for more than two hours after it has been cooked. For safe storage, remove the stuffing and de-bone the turkey. Store the turkey in shallow containers in the refrigerator because shallow containers allow the turkey to cool faster, preventing growth of harmful bacteria.

Unless you freeze the leftovers, be sure to use the turkey and stuffing within three to four days. Leftover gravy should be used within one to two days. Other cooked dishes can be stored up to four days.

Leftovers may be frozen and stored at zero degrees or colder and used within three to four months. Turkey that is in gravy or broth, or other cooked turkey dishes, can be frozen for four to six months. Stuffing and gravy can keep up to one month in the freezer.


Marking your leftovers with the date and name of the item will help you keep better track of them.

Lastly, when you reheat the turkey, stuffing or gravy, make sure you heat the turkey to at least 165 degrees to kill bacteria.

Here are several creative ideas for using your leftover turkey:

Turkey and potatoes au gratin

1 cup cooked turkey
1 pound frozen hash brown potatoes
10-ounce can cream of broccoli soup
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup grated cheddar cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl, combine all ingredients except half cup of cheddar cheese. Pour into an 8-inch-by-8-inch pan sprayed with oil. Sprinkle with the remaining half cup of cheese.

Cover and bake 40 minutes. Uncover and bake another 20 minutes until the cheese on top is browned and bubbly.

Turkey chili

2 teaspoons cooking oil
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup chopped celery
2 cups cubed, cooked turkey
15-ounce can white beans
11-ounce can white corn
4-ounce can chopped green chilies
12-ounce can fat-free chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and celery and cook until onions are clear. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well. Cover and simmer 15 to 20 minutes.

Turkey Chinese casserole

2 cups diced leftover turkey
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 can chow mein vegetables, drained
1 can Chinese noodles
1 cup diced celery
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoon minced onion, optional
1/2 cup cheese, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix all ingredients together and put in greased casserole.

Bake 1 hour until bubbly. Sprinkle cheese, if using, on the top near the end of the baking time.

Turkey wrap

2 flour tortillas (see cook's note)
Light mayonnaise
A few pieces of turkey
4 slices cooked bacon
2 to 4 slices of tomato
1 small onion, sliced

Spread each tortilla lightly with mayo. Divide turkey, and put half on each tortilla. Add two slices of bacon, some lettuce, tomato slices and onion to each tortilla. Wrap tightly and serve.

Cook's note: Whole-wheat tortillas will add fiber.

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