Thanksgiving means plenty of leftovers; what will you do with them?

    The best part of Thanksgiving might just be the leftovers.
    Posted on Nov. 19, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.

    Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross

    Food & Nutrition

    Many things are special about the Thanksgiving holiday — family and friends getting together, the decorating and the incredible meals. But the bottom line for many of us is the traditional turkey sandwich. The sole purpose of Thanksgiving, yes, is that traditional meal, but for me, my taste buds are thoroughly into the planned-overs!

    A bonus to holiday foods, and why I’m writing this, is to get you to think about making the most of the food you buy and cook and also food you are given as gifts. The first idea that comes to mind is to have a plan. If you don’t have a plan, money and time are wasted, and I don’t know that any of us have either of these to waste. I love the idea of planned-overs. They are great for fast meals, but when there is too much, leftovers can be overwhelming and food is often wasted. Plan to have enough left over but not so much that you have too much.

    When it comes to meat, planned-over turkey can be a bonus if you consider that tasty sandwich, casserole, soup, quesadilla or any other delicious turkey dish your family enjoys. Holiday ham is very similar in that a lot can be done with it. You can package it in small amounts and freeze for later use such as for scalloped potatoes, breakfast meals, ham salad, ham and beans, and of course for a sandwich and many other ideas.

    Another food group that comes to mind is vegetables; they should never be wasted. Many vegetables can be added to casseroles and soups. If you do not have any of these dishes planned into your meals at the time you have the vegetables, I suggest you freeze them. For convenience, have a bag in your freezer where you place all of your planned-over or left-over vegetables and just keeping adding to it. When the bag is full it is time to make vegetable soup. Another meal possibility is to make stir-fry with left-over veggies and instead of chicken or pork, use turkey.

    I can’t help but write a line or two about mashed potatoes. I have been told that since they are not made very often at home, people often overeat just to finish them. But in case you have leftover potatoes, think about potato cakes or shepherd’s pie. My mother would make potato cakes and add corn to them; they were so good! Don’t hesitate to add those mashed potatoes to the freezer vegetable bag to use as a natural thickener in the soup.

    Sweet potatoes are another traditional Thanksgiving food. There is a great sweet potato fact sheet you can download from our office website. I’ve included some of my favorite sweet potato recipes and different ways to prepare them: www.ces.purdue.edu/elkhart. Here is a great sweet potato recipe for you to try:

    Maple Orange Sweet Potato Mash

    Makes 6 servings

    2-1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 4 medium), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

    1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans

    2 teaspoons maple syrup

    2 teaspoons grated fresh orange zest

    1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

    1/4 teaspoon salt

    1 tablespoon butter or margarine

    2 tablespoons fresh orange juice or frozen orange juice concentrate

    Place the sweet potatoes in a saucepot with enough cold water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and cook until tender, 10 to 13 minutes.

    Add the chopped nuts to a skillet over medium-high heat. Toss until the nuts are slightly toasted and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat. Drizzle 1 tsp. maple syrup over the nuts and toss to evenly coat. Remove the nuts from the skillet and set aside.

    Drain the sweet potatoes and place them back in the saucepot on the hot burner with no heat. Let the sweet potatoes sit for 1 minute to let the excess water evaporate. Add the orange zest, cinnamon, salt, butter or margarine, orange juice, and remaining 1 tsp. maple syrup. Using a potato masher or fork, mash the potatoes until smooth or until the desired consistency.

    Remove to a warm serving bowl and garnish with the reserved nuts.

    What I want to communicate to you in this column is to not waste food. Some types of left over foods such as fruit and baked goods can be set outside for the birds. Make your favorite hot beverage and find a cozy place to watch the birds enjoy the food you placed outside for them. Have some plans, be creative, think about freezing the food for later use, or share it with someone else but don’t waste it by letting it spoil or worse by just throwing it out! Enjoy the holidays and make the most of your food dollars in the new year!

    Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross is an Extension educator in consumer family science. Write to her at 17746 E. C.R. 34, Goshen, IN 46528; call 533-0554; fax 533-0254; or email lienhart@purdue.edu.

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