Some say the best part of Thanksgiving is the abundance of leftovers that makes the celebration last for days! Planning healthy recipes that include those leftovers can be fun and easy. But when it comes to holiday food leftovers, you must keep food safety in mind!
Follow these tips for handling your holiday leftovers safely:
Debone your turkey and refrigerate or freeze it promptly in shallow containers within two hours of cooking. You may keep the containers uncovered in the refrigerator or freezer for the first thirty minutes or so to facilitate cooling. The faster a food cools, the shorter it stays in the temperature danger zone of 41°to 135°F, during which bacteria grows rapidly. The same applies to all other leftovers. Do not worry about putting hot foods in the refrigerator! Modern refrigerators can handle the hot stuff!
- Use refrigerated leftover turkey within three or four days. Use leftover stuffing and gravy within one to two days.
- If you freeze leftovers, use them within three to four months. Frozen gravy will tend to separate when it thaws. Stirring it with a whisk during reheating will help blend it nicely. In general, gravy made with flour may reheat better than gravy made with cornstarch.
- Reheat the turkey thoroughly to a temperature of 165°F to ensure the destruction of harmful bacteria.
- When using a microwave to reheat leftovers, remember to stir frequently to avoid hot spots and achieve an even temperature. Again, reheat to 165 °F.
Need some ideas to repurpose Thanksgiving leftovers? Check these out to give them a new life:
- Leftover turkey: Turkey noodle soup or stew, turkey pot pie, cranberry pecan turkey salad, open-faced turkey and cranberry sandwiches.
- Leftover mashed potatoes: Use mashed potatoes when making turkey pot pie in place of pie crust; cheddar and turkey mashed potato fritters.
- Cranberries: Cranberry pancakes, cranberry crisp.
- Leftover veggies: Veggie quiche or frittata.
- Leftover bread or rolls: Cranberry or pumpkin bread pudding.
Do you need help purchasing food?
Age Well can help you figure out what programs and benefits you may be eligible for! 3SquaresVT is a federal program referred to nationally as SNAP – Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, administered in Vermont by the Department of Children and Families (DCF).
3SquaresVT is an entitlement program, meaning anyone who is eligible can receive benefits.
Eligibility is based on household size, medical cost, housing cost, and income, and how much they are allotted depends on their income. The minimum a person can receive is $16.00 per month; the maximum per person is $194.00 monthly. For a household of two people, the maximum they can receive in total is $355.00.
Many Vermonters who are eligible do not apply because they think they would be taking away from those who are more deserving and in need, or that there is a stigma that comes along with receiving benefits; that is not the case. Anyone eligible will receive benefits, and Age Well staff can help you determine your eligibility.
If you are interested in learning more about 3SquaresVT and seeing if you are eligible, please call the Helpline at 1-800-642-5119.
Wishing you a safe and healthy holiday season!
Brigitte Harton is a consultant Registered Dietitian at Age Well and a Board-Certified Wellness Coach. Have more nutrition or wellness questions? Contact Age Well’s Helpline at 800-642-5119 or visit AgeWellVT.org.