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5 Ways to Use Holiday Leftovers
Shaina Olmanson

Holiday entertaining often means loads of leftovers in the refrigerator. However, this doesn't always mean they get eaten. Often one or two meals of the same food is about all we can take before you start pushing them aside for something else. Eventually, they end up in the back of the fridge forgotten. Oftentimes you pull them out weeks later to find they've grown something fuzzy over the top of them, and they get tossed in the trash. 
Wasting food is never something to aspire to, but who can be blamed for not wanting a fourth turkey dinner or a fourth night of ham? Here are a few ideas to keep your leftovers fresh and exciting, and a few that will happily end up in your freezer for a quick and easy heat-and-eat meal.

1.    Make soup. This seems like an obvious way to get rid of holiday leftovers, but it's a good one. You can start by making stock from ham bones or turkey bones and then use that as your soup base. Leftover vegetables and rice/barley/pasta/potatoes become a simmering pot of comfort on cold winter nights. 

A foolproof soup starter: Sauté aromatics (garlic, onion, shallots, leeks) and vegetables (celery, carrots, potatoes, turnips, parsnips) in butter or oil. Add in a bit of thickener (flour, arrowroot, cornstarch) and cook it down for a few minutes. Slowly add in a bit of white wine or beer or broth while stirring. Then add additional broth and any leftover meat bits you want. Simmer for a good 30 minutes, seasoning as you like. Add in your additional ingredients (cooked pasta, rice, barley) and any fresh herbs you might like. Serve with a hunk of bread, sandwiches, or freeze for later use.

2.    Mash it up. In my last three holiday meals, each one sent me home with a helping of mashed potatoes. Rather than left them sit in a stiff pile in the refrigerator, give them new life. Top any casserole shepherd's pie style, piping mashed potatoes over the top and then letting them toast ever so slightly in the oven. Make potato pancakes. Use them in croquette recipes, frying them after coating them in bread crumbs for a crunchy treat. Turn them into cheddar and chive waffles. 

3.    Just add rice. Rice is one of my favorite ways to turn leftover meat and vegetables into a meal. You can go for a classic fried rice take with ginger and soy sauce, or if fried rice isn't your style, go for a paella recipe instead.

4.    Create a contemporary casserole. I'll be the first one to say that I don't often turn to my parents' generation of casseroles when coming up with dinner ideas. This is mostly because I try hard to cook from scratch, and casseroles often call for cream of something soup. It's a brick wall for me when cooking, but over the years, I've simply made my own cream of something soup substitute, letting me play in the casserole space and create a few nostalgic and some not-so-traditional meals in the same theme.

Creamed Soup Substitute: Start by sautéing a minced shallot in a bit of oil. Shallots impart a lot of flavor without a lot of fuss. Sauté 1/4 cup of sliced mushrooms at the same time if you're making cream of mushroom soup substitute. Add in a tablespoon of arrowroot powder and stir until it is thick and incorporated with the oil. Slowly pour in one cup of stock (chicken for cream of chicken soup, mushroom for mushroom soup, etc.). Cook until it starts to thicken about 7 minutes over medium heat. Once simmering and thick, add in 1/2 cup half-and-half. Bring back to a simmer. Turn off the heat and allow it to cool. Use as a substitute in casserole recipes. 

5.    Wrap it up and slap it between two slices of bread. Sandwiches and wraps are a great way to use up leftover protein options. If you've exhausted your basics and still have leftovers, add new interest by creating a homemade sauce to slather on there. Some ideas include sriracha mayonnaise, herbed butters, harissa, hummus, and avocado spread.

These are just a few ways to turn your ordinary leftovers into meals worth eating. Don't let them go bad in the back of the refrigerator, but pull them out and turn them into something new. 

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