The holidays, though they may be blanketed in terms like "Thanksgiving," "Christmas," "Hanukkah," and "New Years," are really just all about eating — and about holiday leftovers. They're a food fest. See how much you can eat! See how many dishes you and your 15 cousins can devour in a three-hour time span! Is 18 pounds of Prime Rib enough? Should I get more? It's two potatoes per person, right?
We may come together to celebrate family, friends, good health, and our respective religious traditions, but we stay for the food. We stay for that warm and cozy feeling we get when we're seated at the table and every dish we love and dream of is eyeing us back. We come for family, but we stay for the fresh mozzarella.
It's like this: On Thanksgiving, we get so excited for the meal in the days leading up to the event, but immediately after, we can't stop thinking about leftover turkey sandwiches piled high with white meat and a little salt and pepper. We save little to no room for pie after dinner, but it's the first thing we sneak a few slices of the next morning for breakfast. Dinner may be the celebration that makes us show up, but it's the leftovers we're really gathered 'round the table for.
And it doesn't matter if you hosted, helped, or just showed up when you were told, you're walking away from dinner with a stack of reheatables (when it comes to food, that's a word, okay?) to carry you through a few meals.
So how do you make those dishes that you were so eager to eat feel brand new and exciting again? Easy. Here are four ways to revamp your favorite foods before throwing in the towel on your leftover fiesta.
1. Throw a Leftovers Party
If you've got plenty of leftovers after all the eating is done, chances are you've got friends who are bogged down with day-after dishes too. A good way to get rid of all your extras is to, literally, have a Leftovers Party. The rules are simple: Invite your friends and tell them to bring whatever dishes they've got lying around after their holiday parties have all been said and done. (If you don't have the oven space, make sure everyone brings dishes that are warmed through.)
Once everyone arrives, you feast! Pro tip: Make sure to stock up on fresh drinks. Sometimes all it takes is a fresh perspective (and a crisp beer!) to make an old dish feel new again.
2. Get creative
Leftover sugar cookies can be used as crunchies on ice cream sundaes; leftover mashed potatoes can be freshened up with a little cream cheese, butter, and salt and pepper; leftover meat sauces can be frozen and served with zoodles (zucchini noodles) or tossed with fresh spaghetti squash for a lightened up version of your favorite comfort foods; leftover Prime Rib makes for some seriously tasty homemade French Dip sandwiches — all you need is a crusty baguette and a little au jus.
Don't limit yourself to eating, reheating, and then reheating all your favorite dishes again and again. Think outside of the box when it comes to leftovers and meal times. It's easy to disguise the dishes you've been eating all week with a few extra flavors and a totally different presentation.
3. Pair the "old" with the "new"
One of the best things to do after a holiday spent gorging yourself on all your favorite dishes is to plan a no-holds-bar dinner menu. Serve Christmas's handmade pasta next to mozzarella sticks; plate that stunning roast next to boneless chicken wings and Bleu cheese.
Sometimes, all you need is a little variety in order to get the dishes you're dying to get rid of moving. You might not reach for the Filet Mignon on the first go-round, but you'll definitely come back for it — even if it's just a taste.
4. Stick to to the seven-day rule
If you're still bursting at the seams with leftovers after seven days, do yourself a favor and toss them. (And also, maybe rethink how much you take home or how much you give away after the festivities are said and done! A week's worth of food is a little too much; at most, you want to walk away with enough to last you maybe two to three days.)
Leftovers are really no good after a week of storage — meats are starting to go bad, flavors begin to spoil, dairy products start to curdle — so don't torture yourself trying to make it work.