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Three Delicious Ways to Use Turkey Leftovers

Turkey isn’t the only staple on the Thanksgiving menu, and it’s important to plan and think ahead to avoid waste. A good rule of thumb whether you’re receiving a Thanksgiving goody bag of leftovers or storing away, foods stay safe for up to about four days in the fridge. Here are some other things to keep in mind:

The average Thanksgiving turkey weighs about 30 pounds, about twice as large as in 1929. Depending on your holiday headcount, that could be a lot of bird. Don’t get me wrong – leftovers are nice, but after a few meals of Thanksgiving turkey it might be time to spice it up. Keep reading for three delicious ways to rethink your Thanksgiving leftovers.

Plan ahead. Planning for leftovers before the cooking starts is the best way to make the most of your food. Consider these tips:

  • Arrange the fridge and freezer prior to cooking there’s room to quickly put leftovers away.
  • Make sure there are enough storage containers and plastic bags to stow away leftovers.
  • Plan ahead for containers to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold for food safety.
  • When freezing items, consider how they will be thawed and the ideal amount. Rather than freezing a solid turkey breast, shred or cut then freeze in the increments needed.
  • While serving, set a timer to remember to put the leftovers away in time for food safety.
  • Consider expected attendees and the size of turkey needed.

Save your scraps. Bones, cheese rinds, herb stems and vegetable peels make for a great stock. Keep a gallon-sized zip plastic bag in the freezer to add to when cleaning up scraps. Stock comes in handy for many soups and sauces, and our planet will thank you for reusing the scraps.

Rethink your leftovers. Turkey isn’t limited to gravy and stuffing as company. Consider spicing the bird up with these easy ideas the kids can help with:

Turkey Tacos – Makes 8 Tacos

Serve up these tacos with any pantry or fridge staples and favorites. Switch it up and get creative with the vegetables added or make your own salsa.

Ingredients

  • Turkey mixture
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • ½ onion, finely chopped
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • 8 oz shredded turkey
    • 2 tbsp low-sodium taco seasoning, or to taste
  • Toppings
    • 4 oz shredded cheese
    • 2 roma tomatoes, diced
    • 2 leaves romaine lettuce, shredded
    • 2 avocados, sliced
    • 8 street style tacos
    • 2 sprigs cilantro
    • Optional – sour cream, taco sauce or salsa

Instructions

  1. In a large skillet over medium-low heat, heat 1 tbsp olive oil. Add minced garlic and chopped onion and cook until golden and fragrant.
  2. Add shredded turkey and incorporate with oil, garlic and onions. Add taco seasoning until turkey is evenly covered and thoroughly heated.
  3. Assemble taco by adding a couple of slices of avocado to the street taco then smash with a fork, add lettuce and add turkey mixture then ½ oz cheese to melt on top. Follow up with Roma tomatoes, cilantro, and any sauce.

Turkey Stuffed Peppers – Makes 4 Peppers

Ingredients

  • 4 bell peppers, tops cut off and core removed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 8 oz shredded turkey
  • 2 tbsp low-sodium taco seasoning, or to taste
  • 4 oz shredded cheddar cheese or other cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. On a lined baking sheet, add bell peppers and roast, allowing them to slightly soften, while preparing turkey mixture.
  3. In a large skillet over medium-low heat, heat 1 tbsp olive oil. Add minced garlic and chopped onion and cook until golden and fragrant.
  4. Add shredded turkey and incorporate with oil, garlic and onions. Add taco seasoning until turkey is evenly covered and thoroughly heated.
  5. Remove bell peppers from oven. Then carefully fill with 2 oz of turkey mixture. Top with 1 oz shredded cheese. Bake for 15 minutes or until cheese is melted and golden.

Turkey and Veggie-Packed Chickpea Pasta – Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed then minced
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 6 oz shredded turkey
  • 1 cup cooked chickpea pasta
  • 2 oz shaved parmesan
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Basil leaves, chopped for garnish

Instructions

  1. If pasta is uncooked, start by heating the water, and add the pasta while the liquid is reducing down. Cook according to package instructions to achieve 1 cup of cooked pasta.
  2. In a large skillet over low medium-low heat, heat 1 tbsp olive oil. Add garlic and cook until fragrant and golden. Add cherry tomatoes and turkey, stirring and turning up the heat to medium. Once tomatoes are softened slightly, about 5 minutes, add white wine. Let simmer until it has reduced down, about 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in spinach until reduced in size. Add cooked chickpea pasta. Add salt and pepper to taste and stir. Serve in a bowl and top with parmesan cheese and basil. Enjoy!

Shanthi Appelö is a registered dietitian and health and wellness spokesperson for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan based in Detroit. Passionate about the science of nutrition and behavior, Shanthi has experience working in clinical nutrition, public health and teaching in the university setting. In her free time, she enjoys experimenting in the kitchen, exploring the outdoors, working on art and spending time with family.