The holiday season is celebrated in various ways and traditions by different cultures around the globe.
The one thing that is a constant at almost all the celebrations is food. After Thanksgiving, the Christmas holiday season is the second most notorious feasting time of the year, with millions of families indulging in the decadent dishes that come just a few times a year.
Often times the festivities begin before the holiday, with parties and gathering, then, there is the actual holiday feast, where long hours are spent preparing big meals to share with family and friends.
After everyone has had a chance to enjoy the holiday meals, one question remains - what do we do with the leftovers?
Here are a few ideas on how to use leftovers from your holiday feast and tips for safe and proper storage to keep your food fresh and your stomach happy.
1. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Health experts and those in the food world agree that the "2-2-4" formula is best when it comes to storage. This means:
Two hours. Store all leftovers in the refrigerator or freezer no more than two hours after cooking. If food has been out more than two hours, toss it.
Two inches. Store food in shallow containers, about two inches deep, to allow it to cool quickly and evenly, foiling pesky bacteria.
Four days. Eat leftovers within four days. Holiday dishes kept longer than that should be thrown away. Fruits and veggies are good for about a week, experts say.
2. Cool quickly. With high temperatures and lots of moisture, gravy and stuffing/dressing are prime foods for bacterial growth. Cool the stuffing and gravy down quickly by setting them in a bowl of ice or in the freezer. After a day or two in the refrigerator, both the sides should be thrown away.
3. Freeze anything that is not going to be used within four days. Freezing prevents the growth of bacteria, which can cause food to spoil. As long as your leftovers have been frozen at 0 degrees F, you can store them indefinitely, but they're best when used within 2 to 3 months, experts say. It's safe to store leftovers in the refrigerator for a few days before deciding to freeze them, but to preserve freshness, get them in the freezer as soon as possible.
4. Unstuff the turkey. Store dressing in a separate container after removing it from the turkey cavity. Carve the remaining meat from the bones and divide and store in small portions. Side dishes are best store in clean containers, not pots and pans.
5. Wrap it up. If you do decide to use wrap or foil, seal it in a plastic freezer bag. So that cakes and pies don't get crushed, use round plastic storage for easy stacking.
6. Heat and serve. When it comes to reheating, do it in small portions. Reheat only the amount you're going to eat at that time. Make sure you're heating dishes to recommended temperatures.
7. Get creative. Use leftovers to make a gourmet breakfa st. If ham was the centerpiece, use leftovers pieces in omelets or scrambled eggs, and even as the filling of a quiche.
8. Still too full to eat breakfast? Then use the leftovers for lunch. Try a turkey or chicken sandwich, but with a twist. Shred and heat the meat, add barbecue sauce (or a sauce of your choosing) and stuff it into a dinner roll for lunchtime pulled chicken/turkey sliders.
9. Label and date your leftovers. Everything will look the same once it's wrapped.
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