I know that most people haven’t even put their turkey into the oven yet. No one has sampled the perfectly cooked beastie, and yet here I am already talking about the leftovers. There is method to my madness.
Sometimes thinking ahead is the best preparation.
The economy, despite predictions that this year’s Black Friday is going to be a real door buster, hasn’t improved a lot. I suspect that all the predictions for a better year are based more upon hope that consumers can spend than reality. A lot of businesses (and therefore jobs) depend on this year’s retail season being far better than previous years. It might be too. Maybe a lot of people have come into vast inheritances that they just feel a need to spend on Tickle Me Elmos and Cabbage Patch dolls or this year’s equivalent. Maybe a lot of pink Cadillacs are going to have bows put on them this year. It might happen.
And the bank might discover an error that results in my account suddenly having a million dollars in it too. It might happen.
I wouldn’t bet on it though. The odds are definitely slim.
Food is a big chunk of any family’s budget, and one of the few places with “wiggle room” to make up for deficits in the income portion of the budget. Reducing waste is one way to ensure that there IS money left over to spend on Black Friday…or Cyber Monday…or even Christmas Eve. Face it, in terms of the month’s grocery budget, a lot of us are spending way more for that dinner on Thanksgiving Day than we spend on any other day of the month. And that turkey is 10-20 lbs of meat, far more meat than most of us would ever dream of serving for a single meal.
And there is no way that 4-8 people are going to consume it all in one sitting either. That means that when that feast is over, there are a lot of leftovers.
Granted, we can use some of the leftovers for “Thanksgiving Feast Revisited” but usually…the favorite dishes of the day fade away long before the last of the roasted bird is gone. Sometimes, we just aren’t that fond of dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberries, and green bean casserole either. So what else can we do with the bird besides feeding it to Fluffy and Fido?
When the feast is done is when the preparations actually begin. Remove all stuffing from the bird, and then proceed to remove the bones and skin from the meat. Slice the meat or leave it in large sections to cut up later, but package it in zipper closure bags and refrigerate immediately. Break the skeleton into smaller pieces, leaving whatever meat has clung to the bones intact. Package the skin in separate bags from the meat if you have pets, or save it to go in with the bones for your “skeleton soup.”
Put the bones into a large pot and add water to cover. Add 2 bouillion cubes, about 1/4 tsp. pepper, 1/4 tsp. poultry seasoning, and 1 tsp. dried basil. If you do NOT have pets, add the skin to the pot. Put the pot on low heat. It can simmer away overnight.
Package up the dressing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, and everything else, and place it in the refrigerator. Threaten and intimidate someone to get them to do the dishes…after all, you did do the cooking!
While someone else is doing the dishes, chop one medium onion and several stalks of the celery you had left from making the dressing. Add it to the bones simmering on the stove and cover the pot. Simmer the bones for 8-12 hours, remove from heat, and strain the broth through a colander to remove bones, skin & vegetables from the mixture. Taste the broth and adjust seasonings as necessary. This stock can be frozen for use later, or used to make soup now, depending on how many leftovers you really had. This stock will also store in your over-crowded refrigerator, tightly covered, for 3-4 days.
So now what to do with the rest of it…
How about diner style hot turkey sandwiches? Place a slice of white bread on a plate, top it with a slice of white bread cut diagonally with a space between the two diagonal halves. Cover the bread with sliced or diced turkey meat (dark meat goes well here) and put a scoop of dressing on one side, and a scoop of mashed potatoes on the other, then drizzle gravy over the entire platter. Serve hot.
Looking for something different? Try a Black Friday Stir Fry dinner for a fast meal after an insane day of shopping. Heat a large skillet or wok over medium high heat, and add 2 tbsp. vegetable oil. Add 1 can bean sprouts, drained, and one 16 oz. bag of frozen stir fry vegetables. Cook for 3-5 minutes or until thoroughly heated throughout, stirring occasionally. In a small bowl, mix 1 c. water (or use turkey or chicken stock or low sodium broth), 2 tbsp. cornstarch, and 3 tbsp. soy sauce. Pour mixture over vegetables and add 1 1/2 c. diced turkey meat. Bring cornstarch mixture to a boil, and serve with cooked white or whole grain rice.
Maybe you want something more comfort food style? Here’s a version of Easy Turkey ala King. Saute 1 c. sliced red bell peppers in 2 tbsp. butter or olive oil until tender. Add 2 tbsp. butter or olive oil to skillet with peppers, and add 1 c. sliced mushrooms and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes over medium high heat. Add 4 c. medium white sauce and stir gently to combine over medium heat. Add 1 1/2 c. diced turkey meat. Serve over biscuits, rice, noodles, or mashed potatoes.
Feeling more Italian? How about Turkey & Broccoli Alfredo with Fettuccine? Heat 1 jar of your favorite alfredo sauce while cooking 1 lb. of fettuccine. Add 2 c. diced turkey meat and 16 oz. of frozen chopped broccoli and bring back to a gentle boil, stirring continuously. Add 1 c. sauteed mushrooms, if desired. Serve over hot pasta with garlic bread.
Maybe you would like to go South of the Border and try Layered Turkey Enchiladas? In a 9×13″ pan, cover the entire bottom of the pan with corn tortillas. Sprinkle evenly with about 1 c. turkey meat, 1 c. shredded cheddar cheese, and 1 c. canned enchilada sauce. Top with another layer of corn tortillas, and repeat the turkey, cheese, and enchilada sauce. Top with another layer of corn tortillas and about 2 c. of enchilada sauce with another cup of shredded cheese. Heat in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until bubbly and hot. Remove from oven and let stand for 5-10 minutes before serving. Cut into squares (like lasagna) and serve.
Remember the turkey skin you saved for your dogs? You can score extra points with your pets with these easy and delicious (according to the dogs!) Completely Natural Turkey Dog Treats. Place about 3 c. turkey skin (you can also use some of the turkey meat if you want) in blender, with about 2 c. of water or turkey stock. Blend until smooth. It should be about the consistency of whipping cream, and if it is too thick…add more broth or water. Add 2 eggs, 3 tbsp. honey, 2 tsp. ground ginger and 1 tsp. ground cinnamon and puree again for 10-15 seconds to blend. (Egg and spice mixture CAN be omitted, if you prefer, but dogs love ginger and cinnamon usually.) Pour mixture into a large bowl and stir in enough oat flour to make a dough. (If you can’t find oat flour, you can also put quick oatmeal in the blender dry and “grind” it into a coarse meal-like flour that works too.) Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray and heat oven to 250 degrees F. For toy dogs, use about 1/4 tsp. dough, small dogs use about 1/2 tsp. dough, medium about 3/4 tsp. dough, and large dogs about 1 tsp. dough. Roll each dough lump into a small ball, set on cookie sheet with about equal distance between balls as the ball size. For “pretty” cookies, on top of each dough ball, place a Craisin cut into half or quarters. Press down to create a mock thumbprint cookie. Bake until golden brown and dry to the touch. Cool on racks, place in tightly sealed containers and freeze or use within 3 days. The dogs LOVE them! (These also make wonderful gifts for dog lover friends and family too when packaged in a cute tin or basket.)