Do you love the traditional turkey or ham dinner for the holidays but loathe the idea of eating it for days on end? Here are 20 creative ideas for using up those leftovers before you reach the point of tossing them out.
1. Make your own TV dinners. After everyone has had their fill, fill up a few microwavable containers with a helping of everything from the table. Pop in the freezer for future lunchboxes, dinner alone or the spouse that comes home late.
2. Salad. Once you’ve eaten all the sliced meat you want, grind the rest in your food processor and freeze in zip-shut bags for ham or turkey salad.
3. Broth. Cook down that turkey carcass or ham bone with as much meat attached as you’d like. Once you have a good, strong broth, strain into quart-sized containers and then add the meat scraps that are left in the bottom of the pot. Freeze or can for future gravy or soup base.
4. Make soup. Rather than put up broth, go ahead and add the leftover vegetables (and more if you like) and make soup. Freeze or can in quart-sized containers.
5. Soup thickener. Freeze ½-cup portions of mashed potatoes and save to add to soups as a thickening agent.
6. Potato soup. Leftover mashed potatoes mixed with some of your broth can make a tasty potato soup.
7. Potato pancakes. We always look forward to potato pancakes the morning after. I just mix my mashed potatoes with enough flour, eggs, minced onion and milk to form a thick batter and fry. They’re great served with bacon and topped with ketchup rather than syrup.
8. Treat the dog. Freeze some of that yummy broth in ice cube trays. Take out the cubes and store in a zip-shut bag. Each morning, melt one to cover the dog’s food.
9. Treat the dog again. Once you’ve removed the meat and cooked the bone for broth, give the ham bone to the dog. It will last him months. (Don’t give your dog turkey bones. They will splinter and cause problems if swallowed.)
10. Make chicken food. If you live on a farm, cook up your turkey carcass ‘til you can crush the bones in your hands.
Adding some vinegar to the water will help with this. Smash it all up and divide into sandwich-sized zip-shut bags. Freeze. Feed to your chickens about once a week. The calcium from the bones will make their egg shells harder.
11. Make baby food. Puree some of the leftovers and freeze in ice cube trays for individual servings of baby food.
12. Shepherd’s Pie. Go ahead and make up a casserole or two for the freezer. Layer in your dish the vegetables on the bottom, meat chopped fine on top of that and a layer of the mashed potatoes next. Top it off with some bread crumbs and cheese.
13. Other casseroles. Don’t have freezer space for full-sized casseroles? Just chop the meat up as you would use it and freeze in individual-sized portions. Then, when you’re putting a casserole together, take out one portion to add to it.
14. Sandwich meat. Slice off all the meat you can for sandwiches. Freeze in an appropriate-sized container with plastic wrap between every two to three slices. That way, you can take out just enough for a sandwich when the mood strikes, or when you find yourself short of lunchbox material.
15. Sloppy turkey. Butter two bread slices as though you are making grilled cheese. Place one butter side down in a skillet. Layer sliced turkey, dressing and cranberry sauce. Top with the other slice of bread and grill. Delicious served with gravy on top.
16. Hot turkey sandwiches. Dice up some of the turkey and add to your leftover gravy. Heat thoroughly and serve over toast.
17. Omelettes. If you love ham and cheese omelettes, just dice up some leftover ham and freeze in individual serving sizes to throw in when you want one.
18. Private dessert. If you truly have leftover pie, cut it into individual slices, wrap in plastic wrap and then foil. Hide in the back of the freezer to pull out on those nights when the kids actually go to bed when they’re told.
19. Share. Did you have family in for your holiday meal? Send them home with leftovers so they can enjoy a cold turkey or ham sandwich too.
20. Share again. Have an elderly neighbor that visited family for the holidays? Take them a plate of food. Leftover turkey and dressing is welcome, no matter what your age.
Freelance writer and mom to six children, Carol specializes in home schooling, homesteading and health-related topics.
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