Friday, November 20, 2015

Prepping for AFTER-Thanksgiving!

No, I don't mean Black Friday!  LOL  I mean the leftovers!  

We take such care in planning every dish that hits the Thanksgiving much food!  And yet, few think of the leftovers.  Let those leftovers become planned overs!  It just takes a little planning.

Let's just talk about the turkey itself for the moment.  Everyone loves that turkey sandwich on a dinner roll for lunch the next day, no doubt about it!  There's much more that you can do though.  First, obviously, slice as much of the turkey off of the carcass as you can.  After you slice up you can, it's time to pick the rest of the meat off.  You know those little bits that you can't really cut but get as much as you can.

Then I take the carcass and put it in a large stockpot.  If you don't have a big stockpot, break the carcass down to smaller pieces and use part of it in whatever pot you have that it fits in.  I put an onion and some carrots and celery and some peppercorns in the water.  I'll bring this to a boil and then reduce the heat to a slow simmer.  And I let it simmer for a good while, until the liquid reduces.  Once the stock has reduced and it tastes wonderful, turn off the burner and let it cool.

While you're waiting on the stock to cook, portion out the turkey into good Ziploc freezer bags.  Think of the meals that your family likes to eat and portion the meat to fit that meal.  Around here, turkey Manhattans are a must!  So, portion out what you need for each meal until you run out of the sliced turkey.  When you seal up the Ziplocs, try to get as much air out of the bags as you can.  Be sure to label the Ziploc with what it is, what meal it's portioned for and the date. 

With the shredded, or picked over, turkey, again, portion it out into Ziploc bags.  You can use this for turkey soup, turkey & dumplings, turkey salad, etc.  We interchange turkey with chicken but I know a lot of people who don't like to substitute it but use your imagination.  Then portion, label and date the bags of shredded turkey.

Once the stock is cooled, strain it well.  I put it in gallon Ziploc bags as well.  Again, label and date it.  If you have a bit left (or plan on it) I put a small amount, maybe 2-3 cups in a bag separately to use to make Turkey gravy for the Manhattans.  It makes it extra yummy!  I don't think I need to tell you to be sure it is sealed well!  You can use freezer safe containers if you'd like, I just prefer Ziplocs.  As I always say, if you're going to use freezer bags, get good quality ones.  I prefer Ziplocs, they cost a bit more than store brands (use a coupon to offset that!) but it's protecting your food in the freezer, so get good ones.

I always pack the bags in such a way that they lay flat in the freezer.  You'll get more in the freezer if they will lay flat on top of each other. Be sure things are cool before you put them in the freezer or they will stick together in terrible ways!

So, even if you think your family ate all the turkey, you can still get a meal or two or three from what's left on the carcass.

If you have extra rolls, you can freeze those too and reheat later.  If your family is anything like mine, it doesn't matter how many rolls you make, there will be none left brothers usually make sure of that.

Extra gravy can be frozen, I don't necessarily like the gravy thawed (that's why I put some stock up to make fresh gravy) but you can add the gravy you froze to stock for extra flavor.

Extra mashed potatoes can be used for potato pancakes or as a thickener for cream based soups.

Extra veggies that aren't creamed or sauced, can be put up in the freezer to add to vegetable soup later.  In fact, I will keep a Mason jar in the freezer and add that extra corn or green beans or whatever that is left after meals and when the jar is full, it's the perfect amount for a pot of veggie soup.  Side note...I'll also chop or shred and freeze left over beef or steak for veggies soup too.

So, use your imagination.  Plan now.  When you think of what dishes will be on your Thanksgiving table, think also of what you can do with any that you have left.  Make sure you have some Ziplocs on hand to put things up.  

In my mind, this is more than just saving money.  The amount of food that is wasted in this country on holidays is shameful.  I'm not by any means saying that one should not have a feast to celebrate our holidays with our loved ones, but try to plan so that you aren't wasting food.

On that same train of thought, please, PLEASE consider donating something, anything, to those who are helping the less fortunate.  There are families that wouldn't have a holiday meal without the help of a food bank, shelter, church, etc.  If you are unable to donate cash, even a can or two of veggies, a jar of gravy, or other canned goods will help.  Every little bit helps.  

If you are not able to donate cash or items, consider donating your time.  Even an hour can help to sort and organize the items in the food pantry to make things easier for distribution.  My son was 5 the first time he did this, they'll appreciate your help, trust me.  We're all in this world together, we need to remember this and to help out those who aren't as fortunate as we are.

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