Johnston: A quick guide for storing, using leftovers

Published 12:22 pm Wednesday, December 26, 2018

One of the best things about the holidays is all the food, but all those leftovers can be a bit overwhelming.

Having a plan for how you are going to use them and stocking up on grocery items like noodles and broth can help you reuse your leftovers in new ways.

After the yummy meal, make sure to refrigerate any leftovers within two hours after preparation.

Although it is safe to store hot food in a refrigerator, you can help the food cool quicker by dividing it into small containers.

For turkey and other meat leftovers, it is best to remove all the meat from the bone and place it in shallow containers or small zipper bags. You can leave the legs and wings whole.

Make sure to store leftover stuffing and gravy separately from the meat.

Refrigerate or freeze meat depending on when you will use it.

Eat refrigerated leftovers within three or four days, and consume frozen leftovers within four months.

When you are ready to eat the leftovers, use a food thermometer to make sure you reheat the food to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

When reheating sauces, soups and gravies, make sure they come to a full rolling boil.

If you are reheating your leftovers with a microwave, check to make sure there are no cold spots in the food where bacteria could have survived.

Cover, stir and rotate the food for even heating.

Here are a few recipes to gobble up all that leftover turkey:

White Turkey Chili


— 1 tablespoon oil

— 1/4 cup onion, chopped

— 4 cups cooked turkey, chopped

— 2 cans (15.5 oz.) Great Northern  beans, drained

— 2 cans (11 oz.) corn, undrained

— 1 can (4 oz.) chopped green chilies

— 4 cups turkey or chicken broth 

— 1 teaspoon ground cumin


Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion and celery, cook and stir 2-3 minutes. Place all ingredients in a large saucepan (at least 4 quarts). Stir well. Cover and cook about 15 minutes over medium heat stirring occasionally until thoroughly heated. Sprinkle shredded cheese on top if desired.

Turkey Tetrazzini


8oz pasta of your choice (i.e. spaghetti, elbow)

4 tablespoons butter

2 cups Mushrooms, sliced (fresh or canned)

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups chicken broth

1 1/2 cups skim milk

4 cups chopped cooked turkey

1 cup peas (frozen)

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese


Preheat oven to 400 degres F. Lightly grease a 9-by-9-inch baking dish. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling water until tender. While pasta is cooking, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and thyme. Stir and cook until mushrooms are soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour until well blended. (Note: Start with 1/3 cup flour and add more, if needed.) While whisking, slowly add chicken broth and milk. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until sauce is thickened and smooth, about 5 minutes. Add turkey, peas, and cooked pasta. Gently mix together. Pour into the baking dish and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is golden brown, 25-35 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes before serving.

Turkey Potato Salad


6 ounces turkey, cooked and diced

1/4 cup celery, chopped

1 cup potato (cooked, peeled, and diced)

1 tablespoon onion, chopped

1/8 cup green pepper, chopped

2 tablespoons salad dressing, mayonnaise-type

1/4 teaspoon prepared mustard

1/8 teaspoon salt


Mix turkey, celery, potato, onion, and green pepper. Mix salad dressing, mustard and salt. Stir lightly into turkey mixture. Chill. Enjoy.

Shonda Johnston is the Clark County Extension agent for family and consumer sciences. She can be reached at 859-744-4682 or by email at