Variations On A Leftover Turkey Theme

IN THE KITCHEN

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While turkey sandwiches are the leftover of choice at this time of year, there are quite a few different ways to use what remains of the holiday bird.

To that end, with the help of information from the American Institute for Cancer Research, you are offered variations on the theme of leftover turkey.

First, a pause to point out the virtues of our favorite fowl. Turkey is low in fat, especially the white meat, and high in protein. It is also an inexpensive source of iron, zinc, phosphorus, potassium and B vitamins.

In addition to the always popular turkey sandwich, the leftover poultry can be used in stir frys, added to a vegetable casserole, made into a salad, turned into soup, ground into burgers, stuffed into pita pockets with onions and tomatoes or ground or shredded and stuffed into bell peppers.

To reheat leftover turkey, make sure it is taken off the bone first. Legs and wings may be left whole, but breast meat should be sliced. It can be refrigerated in shallow containers for up to four days or the slices can be frozen up to four months.

No perishable foods should be left unrefrigerated for more than two hours.

Now, about those turkey sandwiches. The AICR recommends using toasted, whole grain bread, a spread made from a 50-50 mix of low-fat mayonnaise and mustard, thick tomato slices and, in place of lettuce, a handful of raw spinach leaves.

Here are a couple of different recipes using leftover turkey: Sweet Potato Apple Stew with Turkey and Turkey Salad with Cranberries and Pecans.

Sweet Potato Apple Stew with Turkey

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 large carrot, cut in 3/4-inch slices

1 rib celery, cut in 3/4-inch slices

1 small rutabaga, peeled and cut in 1-inch pieces

1 1/2 cups fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth

1 bay leaf

2 Crispin or Red Delicious apples, peeled and cut in 1-inch pieces

2 medium sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and cut in 3/4-inch half-moon slices

2 cups diced, cooked turkey breast

1/2 cup fresh, frozen or dried cranberries

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

Salt and pepper to taste

1/3 cup chopped, toasted almonds (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until tender, about 4 minutes. Add carrot, celery and rutabaga. Cover tightly and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes. Add broth and bay leaf, cover and transfer stew to oven. Bake 10 minutes. Add apples, sweet potatoes, turkey, cranberries and thyme. Cover and bake until vegetables are tender and turkey is heated through, between 15 and 20 minutes.

Remove bay leaf, season with salt and pepper to taste. If desired, sprinkle with toasted almonds and serve over brown rice or noodles.

Makes 6 servings, 232 calories each.

Turkey Salad with Cranberries and Pecans

2 cups diced, cooked turkey breast

1 small Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and diced

3 tablespoons dried cranberries, coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons chopped pecans

1 (11-ounce) can mandarin orange sections, drained and cut into smaller sections

1/4 cup fat-free plain yogurt

1 tablespoon reduced-fat mayonnaise dressing

1 1/2 teaspoons brown mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt

Black pepper to taste

8 Boston lettuce leaves

In mixing bowl, combine turkey, apple, cranberries and pecans, add orange sections and set aside.

In small bowl, whisk together yogurt, mayonnaise and mustard, season to taste with salt and pepper. Drizzle dressing over turkey mixture while using a fork to gently mix.

Arrange two lettuce leaves on each of four salad plates, mound a quarter of the salad mix on each plate and serve immediately with whole-grain crackers as an accompaniment.

Makes 4 servings, 203 calories each.

As for the rest of the leftovers -- mix cooked brown rice or a can of white beans into the green bean casserole; take the marshmallow topping off the yams and add a can of black beans, corn and chipolte salsa. Put the creamed onions in a pan on top of the stove, toss in some diced, dark-meat turkey, a can of chicken broth, corn and cut, frozen green beans. Heat it up for a chunky soup.

The following recipes, Turkey Fajitas and Turkey and Rice Stuffed Red Peppers, call for raw turkey, but with some minor adjustments, such as less cooking time, cooked turkey could probably be used as well.

Turkey Fajitas

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 clove garlic, finely minced

1 teaspoon finely chopped jalapeno pepper

4 turkey breast cutlets (about 4 ounces each), diced

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup low-fat or non-fat plain yogurt

3/4 cup (packed) fresh cilantro leaves

4 large (10-inch) flour or whole-wheat tortillas

1 teaspoon canola oil

2 cups Romaine lettuce, cut crosswise into strips

1 cup red, green or yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combing lime juice, garlic and jalapeno in a bowl. Add turkey, turn to coat and set aside.

Puree yogurt and cilantro in food processor or blender until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

Wrap tortillas in foil and place in oven until warm, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat a large, nonstick skillet over high heat until very hot. Add oil and tilt pan to coat. Add turkey and stir-fry, stirring constantly until cooked through and lightly browned. Transfer to a medium bowl and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

On each tortilla, place a layer of shredded Romaine, followed by a quarter of the turkey mix and peppers. Add a spoonful of cilantro-yogurt sauce. Fold tortillas around filling and place on serving platter. Serve with remaining sauce.

Makes 4 servings, 384 calories each.

Turkey and Rice Stuffed Red Peppers

4 medium red bell peppers, tops, ribs and seeds removed

1/2 pound of ground turkey breast

1 cup cooked brown rice

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 peeled garlic clove, minced

1/2 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup corn -- fresh, canned or frozen defrosted

1/4 cup finely minced flat-leaf parsley

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons bread crumbs, whole-grain is best

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. To help peppers stand straight and firm, carefully, without cutting any holes, cut a very thin slice off the bottom of each bell pepper. Set aside.

In a large bowl combine turkey, rice, onion, garlic, corn parsley, oregano, salt and pepper. Add beans, mixing lightly with a fork so the beans aren't mashed. Set aside.

Divide filling into four portions, packing each pepper with the mixture and mounding any extra at the top. Place stuffed peppers in a baking dish just large enough to hold them. Pour in 1 cup of water to surround peppers, but not on filling. Cover dish with foil and bake for 40 minutes.

While peppers and filling bake, combine cheese and breadcrumbs in small bowl.

After 40 minutes baking, uncover peppers and sprinkle with cheese mixture. Return to oven, uncovered, and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes until the peppers are soft when pierced with a knife, but not collapsing. Cool just long enough to be able to eat, about 10 to 20 minutes.

Makes 4 servings, 249 calories each.

Other vegetables can be used like the peppers, such as tomatoes, zucchini and onions.

To stuff tomatoes, simply scoop them out and pack in the filling.

For zucchini, cut the squash lengthwise and use a teaspoon with a pointed tip to scrape out the soft, seedy center, creating a wide, deep channel. Add enough filling to cover the entire surface of the squash.

Stuffed onions take a little more time and effort. Boil a whole, peeled, medium-sized onion for 2 minutes. Use a melon baller to scoop out the inside, leaving a shell two layers thick. Stuff onions with filling and bake. As they cook, the natural sugar in the onions caramelizes and makes them soft and sweet.

Most stuffed foods can be made ahead and freeze well.

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