The Best Way to Repurpose Holiday Leftovers, According to Damaris Phillips
It’s the day after Christmas—your family might be sleeping on the couch, air mattress, in the guest bedroom and even on the floor, after a long night of eating your home-cooked meal and drinking wine. Or, if they’ve returned to their homes for the night, they’ll likely be back in the morning for another round. Meanwhile, you’ve probably got a fridge packed with Tupperware containers full of more mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, ham, turkey and cranberry sauce than you know what to do with. You might be able to get away with microwaving your favorite dish once, but soon your guests are going to want more than just heated up scraps of ham, and you definitely don't want your perfectly crafted, handmade (and probably expensive) food to go to waste. Damaris Phillips, co-host of the Bobby and Damaris Show with Bobby Flay, on the Food Network, sympathizes with this holiday season-struggle. And she wants to help you solve it, too.
Stock your pantry
“Finding exciting ways to use leftovers is what we all struggle with,” Phillips says. “There’s one simple thing that you can do to transform them: Stock your pantry. Make sure that when you’re going to the grocery store and getting everything for your holiday meal, you’re also getting things that will turn that holiday meal into something different.”
Buy ingredients that "stretch a protein"—including lots of crackers
Here’s what Phillips suggests you add to your grocery list: cheese, eggs, milk, a can of beans, and frozen vegetables, which “can all stretch a protein.” Most important on her grocery list, though, is crackers. Phillips, who recently partnered with Keebler and Carrs says that crackers can be used “as a binder, as a vessel to eat, and [they] just make [food] more flavorful than normal bread."
“I grab a lot of different types of crackers,” she adds. “They’re super versatile. They’re easy for entertaining, but you can also transform them into a dessert or breakfast.”
The first recipe Phillips suggests trying to out—if you have a leftover protein on hand—is a simple dip that you can easily whip up when your guests start to demand snacks.
“I always have a leftover protein—a little bit of ham, a little bit of brisket, and a little bit of turkey, but not enough to make a meal,” she says. “You can add mayonnaise, mustard, and celery, and a little bit of onion, and turn it into a dip that you can make ahead of time. That way, if people show up at your house, or if you have house guests, they have something to munch on.”
Casseroles are super easy, too
Casseroles are another simple dish that can transform holiday leftovers—Phillips suggests a turkey taco casserole. She adds beans, salsa, and cream of corn soup to her version, and she replaces the tortillas with butter crackers, which she uses to line the bottom of a casserole dish. After adding the filling, she tops the mixture with more crackers and sprinkles on cheese.
Phillips really wasn’t kidding about those crackers—they can also be used to top a mini quiche (made with leftover ham of course, and baked in a muffin tin for extra convenience), or even as a replacement for a pie crust.
Wheat crackers, Phillips says, can be crushed up to create a nutty, delicious alternative to a sugary graham cracker crust. Combine sweetened condensed milk, eggs, citrus and leftover cranberry sauce, bake, and you’ve got a “super bright, super fresh” dessert and no cranberry sauce to throw away.
Do stuff with beans
A can of beans comes in handy, too: white or garbanzo beans combined with sweet potatoes can be transformed into hummus, or beans can be combined with turkey to make a chili.
Phillips promises that these recipes don’t take more than 30 minutes to prepare, especially if you can try to do a little prep work the night before, meaning that you'll have plenty of time to entertain and spend time with your family. And with a probable fortune spent on the original ingredients for Christmas meal, repurposing your leftovers with what Phillip calls “pantry staples” won’t cost you much, and may even save you money if you can stretch those dishes over the course of a few days.
Store your leftovers in small containers
In order to keep leftovers fresh until you have the chance to cook new meals using them, Phillips says she tries to keep the food in smaller portions, “so that you’re not constantly pulling it in and out of the refrigerator.” The best thing you can do to stretch the life of your leftovers—and this might sound like an exhausting prospect after you just wrapped up a month of stressing out about one meal—is to prepare that dip or casserole the very next day (or within a couple days at least).
Phillips stresses that no matter how you use your holiday leftovers, you should plan ahead. “Anything you can do to make sure you’re not waking up on Christmas morning wondering, ‘What am I going to feed all these people,’" will make your life easier.