Everything, but the Leftovers
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Many holiday gatherings are looking different this year. People are staying home and cooking themselves and celebrating with fewer loved ones around the table. All of this may result in more leftovers than usual at the end of the meal. Take care of those leftovers safely. The last thing anyone wants now (or ever) is a trip to the doctor or emergency room with foodborne illness (people getting sick from food or water).
Remember the TWO HOUR RULE! Just because it’s a holiday and your refrigerator is full does not mean that the “two-hour rule” isn’t in effect. Food should not be allowed to sit at room temperature for more than two hours. Two hours is enough time for bacteria to multiply to the quantity that could cause foodborne illnesses. This is cumulative, too. If you leave the leftovers on the dining room table for one hour, then later leave them out on the counter for 30 minutes to make sandwiches, you will only have a half-hour window left. Leftovers should be eaten within 3 to 4 days. Keep them in the coldest part of your refrigerator (not the garage or the back porch).
If you have a large amount of hot food leftover, it’s best to divide it into smaller portions and put them in the refrigerator as soon as possible. Or, better yet, cool the food by putting it in an ice bath or cold water bath before putting it into the refrigerator. On the same note, don’t store the stuffing inside the turkey.
Another thing to remember is to reheat leftovers thoroughly. Merely warming leftover gravy, sauces, and soups will not get them hot enough to kill bacteria. These foods should be simmered or boiled until they’re steamy hot throughout. If you’re using a microwave, cover your food while cooking and then allow standing time for a few minutes so that the temperatures inside can even out. Leftovers should reach at least 165°F.
After you’ve had all the turkey sandwiches you can stand or if you have more leftovers than can be eaten within the recommended leftover time (Monday), leftover turkey can be easily frozen. For best results use shallow storage containers. Frozen turkey, plain, be best if used within 4 months at 0°F or below. Turkey covered with broth or gravy is best if used in 6 months at the same temperature. Stuffing and gravy will be good for about a month. These foods will be safe for a longer time in the freezer, but may become dry, lose flavor, or drop in quality. This goes for that turkey carcass too! If you don’t have time to make soup out of it right away, wrap it carefully and freeze it. Then it will be there to make soup when you have more time.
Looking for something really different for using up some of that cooked turkey? This recipe for Turkey Tacos was developed by Chef Judy Doherty, Founder and President of Food and Health Communications, Inc.
Turkey Cranberry Tacos
- 8 corn tortillas
- 1 cup turkey meat, chopped
- 1 cup sliced cabbage
- 1/2 cup cranberry relish
- 1/2 cup diced apple
- Wash hands and countertops before beginning cooking.
- Place the turkey in a small bowl with a little broth or water and reheat thoroughly in a microwave oven. Stir to make sure the heat is completely transferred throughout the meat. The temperature should reach 165°F.
- Combine cranberry relish and diced apple in a bowl. Cover corn tortillas with a slightly damp paper towel and heat in the microwave on High. Start with 30 seconds on High power. Watch carefully, it won’t take long to slightly warm them.
- Serve warm tortillas, heated turkey, sliced cabbage, and apple-cranberry relish family style. Allow everyone to make their own tacos.
Here are a couple of tips for Chef Judy:
- Turkey is a good source of low-fat protein.
- You can also use cooked chicken meat.
- Chicken or turkey should be chopped into small pieces with skin removed.
- Substitute flour tortillas for corn if you prefer.
- This recipe makes four tacos. Each contains 120 calories, 1.2 grams of fat, and 21 grams of carbohydrates.
- The cranberries provide vitamin C.
Recipe source: Food and Health Communications
This column was written by Cheryle Syracuse and featured in the FCS Column of the Brunswick Beacon. Syracuse is a Family and Consumer Science staff member and can be reached at N.C. Cooperative Extension, Brunswick County Center at (910) 253-2610 or by email at Cheryle_Syracuse@ncsu.edu.