Be Safe With Holiday Leftovers

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Many people look forward to the leftovers as much as they do to the big holiday meal. Whether you’re planning to use them for a casserole, sandwich, or soup, leftovers should be stored correctly to prevent a foodborne illness.

Begin by observing the two hour rule:  discard any perishable food left at room temperature longer than 2 hours. Bacteria grows rapidly at room temperature. Even if the food looks and smells good, after two hours the amount of bacteria present could make you sick. Don’t risk it!

Store leftovers in the refrigerator as soon as possible after the meal. Divide leftovers into shallow containers for quicker cooling and place in the refrigerator or freezer. Label them so you’ll know how long they have been stored.

To keep turkey leftovers at their best, remove the meat from the bone and put the turkey into the refrigerator to lower the temperature. To make it easier to serve later, separate the turkey into portions of the appropriate size to serve to your family, package it, and freeze it. For best results, wrap the turkey in small, airtight packages or store in plastic containers. If you don’t plan to use the leftovers soon, it is best to freeze it immediately. Turkey leftovers can be used for casseroles, soups, burgers, and sandwiches.

Refrigerated turkey and gravy should be used within 3 to 4 days;  stuffing and prepared salads within 1 to 2 days. Frozen turkey should be used within 4 months. Turkey frozen in broth can be used within 6 months.

Reheat leftovers, including stuffing, to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Gravy should be reheated to a rolling boil before serving.

Here are two recipes that are great for using your leftover turkey. Hope you enjoy them!

QUICK TURKEY CASSEROLE
Source:  Virginia Cooperative Extension

2 cups sliced onions
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons butter
2 teaspoons canola oil
3 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese
1 can reduced fat, cream of mushroom soup
2 cups cooked long grain rice
1 1/2 cup cubed turkey, cooked
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup fine cornflake crumbs
1/8 teaspoon paprika

In a nonstick skillet, cook onions and sugar in butter and oil over low heat for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Place cream cheese in a shallow microwaveable dish and microwave on high for 20 to 30 seconds until soft. Add soup. Stir until blended. Add rice, turkey, parsley, salt, and pepper. Cover and microwave on high 3 to 4 minutes or until heated through. Toss onions with cornflake crumbs and arrange over turkey mixture. Sprinkle with paprika. Microwave uncovered on high for 1 to 2 minutes or until topping is heated through.

CREAMY TURKEY AND WILD RICE SOUP
Source:  Eat Smart, Move More, Weigh Less

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups sliced mushrooms
3/4 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrots
1/4 cup chopped sweet (Vidalia-type onion)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 cup instant wild rice
1-2 cups shredded cooked turkey (or chicken)
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon Herbs de Provence

In a large Dutch oven or saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add mushrooms, celery, carrots, and onion. Cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add flour, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring for 2 additional minutes. Add broth slowly, a little at a time, scraping bottom and sides to dissolve flour. When all broth has been added, bring to a boil. Add rice, reduce heat and cover. Simmer until rice is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in turkey and sour cream. Cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Serves 4.