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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Holiday Food Stretching

Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming and that usually means heading to someone's home (maybe yours) and stuffing your face with loved ones. For the food insecure this often is an upsetting contrast and also a welcome reprieve from their everyday struggles. Putting food on the table every day can be a stretch, particularly this time of year when the garden can't help (if you are lucky enough to have room and time for one); getting to the cheapest store is sometimes too cold of a walk so you settle for the higher priced, but closer one; you are expected to provide some type of Christmas gifts, often extravagant ones if your Jones' are significantly better off than you are; plus you need to do it all full of spirit and cheer. I know that sometimes it is hard to ask for help, but please know that there are many people who want to help, without judgement or pity, you just have to ask.

I have put together some ideas specific to holiday meals to hopefully make this time of year a bit less stressful.

The absolute first thing is ASK FOR LEFTOVERS! I know yelling isn't nice, but seriously! You would not believe how much food gets thrown away because either the host isn't one to use leftovers, they won't fit in the refrigerator, or they don't get used up before they go bad.

Now, what to do with those leftovers? Here are my favorite ideas, in no particular order:


  • dice and freeze in sandwich size ziptop bags (about 1 pound per bag makes a nice family size meal with rice or pasta)
  • use it in place of any recipe that calls for chicken
  • the carcass makes fantastic stock (this post has pictures of last year's bounty: December Meal Plan and this one gives a recipe: Chicken Stock)
  • shred the meat and use it to make salad with mayo, celery, carrots, hard boiled eggs, walnuts, craisins, dill pickle, and whatever else suits your fancy
  • add barbecue, soy, sweet and sour, curry, or whatever other sauce or seasoning you have, turkey accepts lots of flavors really well


  • dice and put in snack size ziptop bags, it only takes a little bit of ham to add a lot of flavor
  • add to scrambled eggs, omelets, or frittata
  • ham and beans, of course! 
  • dice very small, fry until crispy and add to mashed potatoes or use to top salads


  • I haven't tried these, but they look amazing: Bacon Stuffing Bites 
  • make savory pancakes by adding a little flour, an egg, and some milk to make a chunky pancake-consistency batter, fry in oiled skillet, top with gravy or sour cream
  • cut chicken breasts in half, pound them out flat (I like to put them in a gallon freezer bag so I don't pound gross chicken splatters around the kitchen), put about a half cup of stuffing on the breast and roll it up, secure with a toothpick, bake covered at 350* about 30-45 minutes (until the chicken isn't pink and/or is 165* throughout)
  • use to make breakfast muffins - here is my basic recipe (Muffins), just omit the sugar, substitute the stuffing for half the flour, add some savory filler like ham, bacon, scrambled eggs, onions, etc. and use seasoned salt or poultry seasoning for the seasoning

Mashed potatoes

  • latkes! (true latke aficionados will not like this at all, but that's what we call them), add about a cup of flour and 2 eggs to every 3 cups of mashed potatoes, mix, smash into patties and fry in about 1/2 inch of oil, you can add some diced onions, ham, or bacon to the patties to make them really special, serve topped with sour cream, applesauce, or a fried egg (over medium for me, please)
  • breaded potato balls - (Super Food has some pictures) basically, you need very thick potatoes, if yours aren't, you can add some stuffing, flour, or shredded potatoes to thicken them, then you just form them into balls, roll in beaten egg and then bread crumbs and bake until lightly browned
  • use to thicken and add creaminess to any soup


  • we are big pot pie fans here and adding leftover vegetables (green beans, corn, carrots as long as they aren't sweet) will work great, as a matter of fact, adding green bean casserole to your pot pie recipe would be magnificent!
  • vegetable soup - saute some diced onions in some olive oil, add some tomato paste, garlic, chicken, beef or vegetable bouillon and Italian seasonings and saute another 3-4 minutes, add all the leftover vegetables (even the whole casserole if that's what you have) and cover with at least a couple inches of water, bring to a simmer and adjust to taste


  • sweet potato muffins are great, use the muffin recipe above
  • yams will freeze, when they thaw they might release some liquid, but will still be good
  • use to make sweet potato pie


  • cut into about 1 inch cubes, very quickly deep fry for the best croutons you will ever have, as soon as they come out, sprinkle with either seasoned salt or cinnamon sugar
  • cut into cubes, let sit uncovered overnight, then crumble by hand or in the food processor to make bread crumbs, put them in a bag in the freezer and they will keep indefinitely (can be used for making meatballs or meatloaf or lentil loaf, breading fried or baked goods, etc.)
  • tear into chunks for bread pudding
  • french toast


  • most desserts freeze beautifully, just make sure you wrap them well 
  • pumpkin pie and be cut into cubes, rolled in sweetened breadcrumbs or coconut flakes and baked or fried, then dusted with pumpkin pie spiced sugar for little bite-sized pieces of heaven
  • almost boil milk, almond milk, or soymilk in the microwave or stove, add a square of fudge or a truffle and stir well or blend in blender for super hot chocolate

I would love to hear your clever ideas for leftovers!

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