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Feature Articles: Holidays


Try something new with your turkey leftovers

Adapted by Jessica Kovarik, RD, LD, former Extension Associate; Based on materials by Susan Mills-Gray and Tammy Roberts, Nutrition and Health Education Specialists, University of Missouri Extension


When cooking a turkey, you typically have leftovers. With some creativity and safe food handling, you can enjoy turkey-based meals with little preparation and cooking.


Anytime you prepare, cook and store food, you must practice safe food handling methods to be sure your leftover turkey is safe to eat. During mealtime, do not let the turkey sit out for more than two hours after it has been cooked. For safe storage, remove the stuffing and de-bone the turkey. Store the turkey in shallow containers in the refrigerator because shallow containers allow the turkey to cool faster, preventing growth of harmful bacteria.


Unless you freeze the leftovers, be sure to use the turkey and stuffing within 3-4 days. Leftover gravy should be used within 1-2 days. Other cooked dishes can be stored up to 4 days.


Frozen leftovers should be stored at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or below and used within 3-4 months. Turkey that is in gravy or broth, or other cooked turkey dishes can be frozen for 4-6 months. Stuffing and gravy can keep up to 1 month in the freezer.


Marking your leftovers with the date and name of the item will help you keep better track of them.


Lastly, when you reheat the turkey, stuffing or gravy, make sure it reaches a temperature of at least 165 degrees.


Here are a few ideas for using your leftover turkey:


Turkey Wrap


  • A few pieces of turkey
  • 4 slices cooked bacon
  • 2 flour tortillas (whole wheat tortillas will add fiber!)
  • Lettuce
  • 2 to 4 slices of tomato
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • Light mayonnaise


Spread each tortilla lightly with mayo. Divide turkey and put half on each tortilla. Add two slices of bacon, some lettuce, tomato slices and onion to each tortilla. Wrap tightly and serve.

Turkey Chinese Casserole



  • 2 cups leftover turkey, diced
  • 2 cans cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can chow mein vegetables, drained
  • 1 can chinese noodles
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons onion (optional)


Mix all ingredients together and put in greased casserole dish; bake 1 hour at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until bubbly. If you like cheese, it's great to sprinkle on the top near the end of the baking time.


Turkey and Potatoes Au Gratin



  • 1 cup cooked turkey
  • 1 pound frozen hash brown potatoes
  • 1 (10 ounce) can cream of broccoli soup
  • 1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese, divided



Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a bowl, combine all ingredients leaving out ½ cup of cheddar cheese. Pour into an 8x8 pan sprayed with oil. Sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup of cheese. Cover and bake 40 minutes. Uncover and bake another 20 minutes until the cheese on top is browned and bubbly.
(Recipe from Purdue Farms Incorporated)


Turkey Chili



  • 2 teaspoons cooking oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup chopped celery
  • 2 cups cubed cooked turkey
  • 1 (15 ounce) can white beans
  • 1 (11 ounce) can white corn
  • 1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chilies
  • 12 ounces fat-free chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin



Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and celery and cook until onions are clear. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well. Cover and simmer 15-20 minutes.


Quesadilla with Turkey


Ingredients (amounts vary due to personal preferences):

  • Sliced onions
  • Sliced green peppers
  • Olive oil
  • Flour tortilla (try whole wheat tortilla for added fiber!)
  • Turkey
  • Shredded cheese
  • Sour cream, salsa, guacamole


Sauté sliced onions and green peppers in a small amount of olive oil. Set aside. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Place one tortilla in the pan. Place a thin layer of Monterey Jack cheese on the tortilla. Place thin slices of cooked turkey on top of the cheese. Sprinkle the sautéed vegetables on top of the turkey. Layer with more cheese. Place another tortilla on top and press down slightly. Cook for a minute or two. Use a large spatula to turn over the quesadilla. Cook until the cheese melts. Remove to a plate, cut into wedges and serve with your favorite condiments like salsa, sour cream, guacamole, black olives and jalapeno peppers. Use your imagination and taste for different veggies to add!


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Last update: Monday, November 21, 2016