Now that the holiday dinners and festivities are over, it is time to get back to the normal routine. After all the rich food, it is time to eat more simply and more healthfully. After the hectic pace of the holiday season, it is time to move at a slower pace.
Now what about all those leftovers from the holidays in your refrigerator or freezer? What can you do with them that won’t be tons of work and, at the same time, healthy?
Instead of tossing those holiday leftovers to avoid more over-indulging, use them to your advantage. Here are some practical tips and recipes to help you reduce food waste and space out the calories.
Most foods will stay fresh for up to seven days, but if it looks or smells even a little funky, throw it out!
Serve small portions of leftover turkey, roast beef or ham along with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables for sandwiches, salads, wraps or a light main course.
Mix leftover veggies and seafood with small portions of pasta or brown rice.
Reduce portions of high calorie favorites by adding fresh or frozen vegetables to creamy soups, rich pastas or leftover mashed potatoes.
Combine herbs and roasted root vegetables along with a pinch of low fat cheese to make quesadillas, minis pizzas or omelets.
Toss leftover cookies in the work bowl of a food processor and pulse those gingerbread folks and sugary stars into tiny crumbs. Put them in ziplock bags and freeze for up to two months. Use the sugary mixtures to make a pie crusts, a base for bar cookies or toppings for cobblers.
You can pulverize candy canes and use the bits and peppermint dust to flavor ice cream treats for months to come. Sprinkle the candy mixture on top of vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt.
Cut the holiday ham or pork roast into small pieces or cubes and use to make quick frittatas or stir-fries. If a turkey or a beef roast was the centerpiece at your Christmas table, shred the leftover meat and add to your favorite chili mixture. Freeze in containers that hold from 4 to 6 cups, and you’ll have a quickie dinner to thaw and serve in January.
Recipes for Leftover Ham
Ham and Bean Soup
Serve with good rye bread and a salad for a quick weeknight meal.
- 3/4 pound fully cooked ham; cubed
- 1 medium onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 16-oz cans Great Northern Beans; rinsed and; drained
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup potatoes; peeled, diced
- 3/4 cup carrots; diced
- 3/4 cup celery
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 cup frozen peas
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley; minced
In a 3 quart saucepan, saute ham, onion and garlic in oil until onion is tender.
Add the next seven ingredients; cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
Add peas and cook for 5 minutes. Add parsley and serve.
Ham-Stuffed Jumbo Shells
1 Serving equals 3 stuffed shells (274 calories)
- 24 jumbo pasta shells
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour or Wondra instant flour
- 2 cups 1% milk
- 1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, halved and sliced
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1/2 cup chopped green pepper
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 3 cups cubed fully cooked lean ham
- 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded reduced-fat Swiss cheese, divided
- 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine flour and milk until smooth. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat; set aside.
In a large nonstick skillet, saute the mushrooms, onion and green pepper in oil until tender. Reduce heat; add the ham, 1/2 cup Swiss cheese and Parmesan cheese. Cook and stir until cheese is melted.
Remove from the heat. Stir in 1/2 cup of the reserved sauce. Drain pasta; stuff each shell with about 3 tablespoons of filing.
Place in a 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top with remaining sauce. Cover and bake at 350° F. for 30 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with parsley, paprika and remaining Swiss cheese.
Vegetable and Ham Casserole
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 4-1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour or Wondra instant flour
- 1-1/4 cups 1% milk
- 3/4 cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 5 cups frozen broccoli florets, thawed
- 2-1/4 cups frozen cauliflowerets, thawed
- 1 cup cubed fully cooked lean ham
- 1 cup soft bread crumbs
- Butter-flavored cooking spray
In a large saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour until smooth; gradually add milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1-2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat. Add cheeses; stir until melted.
Place vegetables in a 2-qt. baking dish coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with ham. Pour sauce over ham. Place bread crumbs in a small bowl; spray with butter-flavored spray. Sprinkle around the edge of casserole.
Bake, uncovered, at 350° F for 25-30 minutes or until heated through and bubbly.
Yield: 5 servings. 1 serving equals 227 calories
Recipes for Leftover Beef
- 1 pound leftover beef roast, tenderloin or steak
- 1 cup beef broth
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 small onion, diced
- 2 cups sliced mushrooms
- Freshly grated black pepper
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour or Wondra instant flour, divided
- ½ cup reduced sour cream
- White pepper
- Cooked egg noodles or rice, for serving
Cut the meat in slices about 1/3 inch thick, then the slices into strips 2 1/4 inches long. You should have about 4 cups. Set aside.
Heat the broth in a small saucepan until hot.
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened but not brown, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms become tender and start to release their juices, stirring frequently, 5 minutes. Add 6 to 8 grinds of black pepper and stir. Sprinkle in 1 tablespoon of the flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Do not brown. Add the hot broth and stir until smooth.
Add the beef to the pan, stir well, and warm just to a simmer, about 3 minutes. Stir the remaining 1 teaspoon of flour into the sour cream, add to the pan and season with salt to taste. Warm gently over low heat until hot, about 7 minutes. The sauce will thin a little; do not boil or the sour cream will break up. Spoon over the noodles. Serve with a green vegetable.
Leftover Roast Beef Italian Stew
Yield: 4-6 servings
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped
- 1/2 green pepper, chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Leftover roast beef, diced or shredded
- 2 cups beef broth
- 1 -24 oz. can diced tomatoes
- 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1/2 tablespoon dried basil
- 1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
- 1/2 tablespoon celery salt
- 1 cup bottled whole mushrooms
- 4 small Yukon gold potatoes, quartered
- 6 ounces pre-prepared sliced carrots (about 2 medium)
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Remove leftover roast and trimmings from refrigerator. Skim off all the visible saturated fat (hard white fat that rises to the top when chilled). Place roast beef on cutting board. Using a sieve, strain the liquids into a bowl, removing any solids and additional fat solids.
Chop onion and green pepper into 3/4-inch pieces. Dice beef into 1 1/2-inch pieces or shred the roast beef . Quarter the potatoes and slice carrots. In a dutch oven or pot over medium-high heat, saute onions in olive oil for 3 minutes, then add green pepper and saute for 3 minutes more.
Add beef, strained beef stock, diced tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, oregano, basil, celery salt, and thyme. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste for seasoning, and add salt and pepper if desired. Add whole mushrooms just long enough to heat through. Serve hot.
Note: If you have leftover potatoes, green beans, peas, or carrots, feel free to use those. Since they are already cooked, add those with the mushrooms just long enough to reheat.
Potato Beef Pie
- 3 cups finely diced leftover roast beef
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup finely chopped onion
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 3 tablespoons all purpose flour or Wondra instant flour
- 1 1/2 cups beef broth
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 cup frozen peas and carrots
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 3 to 4 cups leftover mashed potatoes
Lightly grease a 2-quart baking dish. Heat oven to 350°F.
In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté the onion in the olive oil until softened and lightly browned. Add beef and sauté for about 1 minute longer. Stir in the flour until blended. Add beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, and peas and carrots. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spoon into the prepared baking dish. If using leftover mashed potatoes, warm them in a saucepan with a little milk until softened. Spoon potatoes evenly over the beef layer and sprinkle lightly with paprika.
Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until hot and bubbly. If desired, turn on the broiler to brown the top for just a minute or two, but watch carefully to prevent burning.
Recipes for Leftover Turkey
Turkey and Mushroom Risotto
- 8 cups turkey or chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 2 cups assorted fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 2 cups arborio or carnaroli rice
- 1 cup shredded leftover turkey meat
- 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Bring broth to a simmer in a medium pot over medium heat. Reduce heat to low. Cover and keep warm.
Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large pot over medium heat until it begins to foam. Add onion. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and translucent and just beginning to turn golden, about 5 minutes.
Add mushrooms; cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, and any liquid released has evaporated, 5-7 minutes.
Add rice; stir to coat. Add 1/2 cup warm broth and stir constantly until liquid is absorbed. Continue adding stock by 1/2-cupfuls, stirring constantly, until rice is tender but still firm to the bite, about 20 minutes. Add leftover turkey meat, stir to combine and to warm through, adding a little stock or water if necessary to keep mixture creamy, about 3 minutes.
Stir Parmesan into risotto. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide among warm bowls. Garnish with chopped parsley.
Turkey Pasta Salad
- 1-1/2 cups uncooked penne pasta
- 1/2 cup cubed cooked turkey
- 1 can (3.8 ounces) sliced ripe olives, drained
- 1/4 cup chopped green pepper
- 1/4 cup chopped sweet red pepper
- 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1/3 cup reduced fat salad dressing
Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. In a serving bowl, combine the pasta, turkey, olives, peppers and feta cheese. Drizzle with dressing and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate until serving
Pesto Turkey Club
- 2 teaspoons prepared pesto
- 2 slices pumpernickel bread
- 1 ounce sliced turkey
- 1 slice turkey bacon, cooked
- 2 romaine lettuce leaves
- 4 slices tomato
Spread pesto on bread. Top 1 bread slice with turkey, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and remaining bread slice.
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