By April Hussar, SELF magazine
I have a culinary confession: My favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner is not the meal itself but, yep -- the leftovers. In fact, this year I'm excited to be hosting for the first time ever. Why? So I can have all the leftovers! Mwahahaha.
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However, as much as I love pumpkin pie for breakfast and turkey-cran-mash sandwiches for lunch, there is an art to making sure that leftover holiday goodness is, in fact, still good enough to eat.
We consulted SELF contributing editors and co-founders of C&J Nutrition, Stephanie Clarke and Willow Jarosh, for the scoop on making sure our leftovers are fit for consumption and not better suited for -- we can barely say it! -- the garbage.
First of all, it doesn't matter too much what kind of leftover we're talking about. From apple pie to Grandma's stuffing, the key with leftover food is how long it sits out and how it is stored. In general, leftovers should be left out for no longer than two hours!
"So many people leave food sitting on the table all day and into the night for people to graze on," say Clarke and Jarosh. (Guilty!) Alas, this can greatly decrease the life and safety of leftovers. The longer food is left out at the "danger zone" (40 to 140 degrees F), the more time it has to develop organisms that can cause spoilage or worse, illness. (Ew.)
So ... obey the two-hour rule. What next? Pack hot leftovers in shallow containers so that they cool quickly, thus dropping to a safe temperature fast enough that pathogens can't grow. In the refrigerator, if foods have been properly stored within two hours (TWO HOURS, PEOPLE!), they can be kept for three to four days. That's right: By the Monday after Thanksgiving, what leftovers you have left in the fridge are really on their last (turkey) legs.
Some like it cold, but it's better to like it hot: Foods should be reheated thoroughly to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F -- or until hot and steaming. If the microwave's your game, cover your food and rotate so it heats evenly.
Now, if you really have way too much grub left to eat by Monday, freezing is a great way to ensure that you have yummy (and safe!) leftovers for more than just a few days. Freeze foods like turkey (pulled off of the bone), mashed potatoes, stuffing and veggies in freezer bags or airtight freezer containers. (Tip: Liquids like soup or gravy can expand while freezing, so make sure to leave a bit of room in the container.) As long as food is stored at freezing (0 degrees F), it will be safe forever -- but after two to three months, the taste may be declining quickly, so it's best to enjoy your Thanksgiving memories before then.
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Finally, here are three delicious uses for leftovers to make sure not a scrap goes to waste:
Turkey soup: Soup is great because you can throw in just about any veggies and leftovers you have. Plus, soup provides volume in your stomach, which can help you feel more full on fewer calories. Add lots of fall veggies like kale, turnip greens, sweet potatoes, turnips and squash to your soup to give it a fiber/fullness boost. If you've got any leftover pumpkin lying around, try this yummy pumpkin soup recipe.
Turkey and cranberry quesadillas: Spread a layer of cranberry sauce on one side of a whole wheat tortilla, then top with leftover turkey meat and a sprinkling of shredded cheese, fold over other half and heat in a skillet until tortilla is slightly crispy and ingredients inside are hot.
Open faced turkey sandwich with cranberry dijon mayo: Spread a mixture of light mayo mixed with cranberry sauce and dijon mustard onto a hearty piece of toasted whole grain bread, top with hot turkey and about 1 tbsp of hot gravy.
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Photo Credit: Condé Nast Digital Studio
By April Hussar, SELF magazine