Thanksgiving leftovers in containers

Leftovers: Lose them or love them

It happens every year. You cook for days to make the perfect holiday feast, and then you have leftovers galore. Books, magazines and the internet are filled with recipes that rework festive favorites into a totally different dish (turkey cranberry casserole, anyone?). Instead of revamping your holiday foods into new meals, consider some alternatives:

  1. Plan ahead. By knowing how many guests you will have and preparing only enough for that number, you can minimize leftovers. If a recipe makes far more than you will need, adjust the recipe for a smaller batch.
  2. Avoid the pitfall of traditional favorites. Turkey, Brussels sprouts, cranberries and fruit cake are all traditional holiday foods, but do you and your guests really like them? If not, you can count on leftovers. Consider substitutes that will be eaten. What about replacing turkey with chicken, Brussels sprouts with green beans, cranberries with cherries, or fruit cake with pound cake? 
  3. Pack to go. Have containers and plates that your guests can use to take food with them. During the busy holiday season, it is handy to have foods that may be quickly reheated and served.  
  4. Do not forget your elderly friends and neighbors. We often fail to remember those who do not get a home-cooked holiday meal. Many elderly people cannot get out to a holiday celebration, and they would probably welcome the gift of leftovers – and the visit.
  5. Freeze it. Divide leftovers into portions and freeze them for later use. When the holidays are well past, you may enjoy a sampling of your favorite dishes.

When dealing with holiday leftovers, food safety should always be a consideration. To end your holidays on a healthy note, keep the following in mind: 

  1. Be cool. Bacteria grow quickly at room temperature, so refrigerate foods as soon as the meal is over. (Note: Remove stuffing from the turkey before refrigerating.) If you are packing foods for transport, be sure to pack on ice. Leftovers stored in the refrigerator should be eaten within three to four days or placed in the freezer. Discard any foods kept at room temperature for more than two hours. 
  2. Contain it. Store leftovers in airtight containers or freezer bags or wrap tightly with heavy duty foil or freezer wrap.

By planning ahead, holiday leftovers can become a blessing instead of a burden.