Elevate Holiday Leftovers

By Lydia Zerby

As the holidays approach, hearty meats, savory side dishes and delectable desserts will soon grace family dinner tables. When serving large meals for a crowd, leftovers are almost inevitable. To avoid “leftover fatigue,” we’ve put together a buffet of satisfying recipes that will bring new life to holiday meal ingredients.

We share how after a perfectly cooked turkey shines as the star of a meal, it can be transformed into Asian-inspired dishes, including orange turkey and Thanksgiving ramen. A savory and tender ham turns into a weeknight Cuban braid or edamame, cheese and ham frittata. Cooking steak or prime rib this year? Try a new salad recipe that perfectly pairs beef with crunchy vegetables, sweet fruits and a tangy dressing.

Food is the center of holiday meals and get-togethers. Special family recipes and innovative creations bring everyone to the dinner table to share time and laughter. With Iowa being a top-producing state in many staple holiday ingredients, we can give thanks to Iowa farmers as they likely had a hand in creating your holiday meal.

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Orange Turkey | Iowa Turkey Federation

Turkey is the star of numerous holiday meals, and many families choose to cook a large bird to benefit from leftover meat. Switch up turkey’s flavor profile with this Asian-inspired dish. Turkey breast is transformed with the addition of sweet orange marmalade, smokey barbecue sauce and fresh vegetables. Add this recipe to your after-holiday meal plan, and your family won’t tire of the leftover turkey! Find the recipe here.

Thankful Trivia: A common myth says eating turkey makes you tired because of the tryptophan content. However, the tryptophan content of turkey is comparable to that of poultry, beef and other meats.

Four Seasons Beef and Brussels Sprout Chopped Salad | Iowa Beef Council

Looking for a fresh new way to serve leftover steak or roast? Add Brussels sprouts, pear, celery, cheese and cranberries for a delicious salad. When choosing the best Brussels sprouts, look for tightly wrapped leaves, a bright green color and firm stems. This recipe offers variations that represent seasonal flavors, so you can enjoy this dish year-round! Find the recipe here.

Thankful Trivia: A 3-ounce serving of lean beef provides 10 essential nutrients in around 150 calories, less than 10 grams of total fat and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol.

Thanksgiving Ramen | Iowa Egg Council

In Japanese cooking, ramen is defined as quick-cooking noodles, typically served in a broth with meat and vegetables. The flavor pairings are endless and can be varied to suit taste preferences and what ingredients are on hand. In this recipe, Thanksgiving leftovers, including gravy, turkey, roasted vegetables and cranberry sauce, are paired with ramen noodles and soft-boiled eggs to create an innovative take on the holiday meal. Find the recipe here.

Thankful Trivia: Egg farmers know how much eggs are loved — they’re in almost every Iowa refrigerator — and egg farmers are proud to produce the incredibly nutritious, high-quality eggs Iowans count on.



Cuban Braid | Iowa Pork Producers Association

Whether you cook a holiday ham in a roaster pan or use the brown bag method, add a sweet and sticky glaze or savory spices, ham is a staple for many families around the holidays. This Cuban braid recipe combines sliced ham with classic ingredients like Swiss cheese, shredded pork, mustard and relish to put a spin on the beloved Cuban sandwich. Wrapping the ingredients in refrigerated pizza dough makes prepping and serving this dish a breeze! Find the recipe here.

Thankful Trivia: The next time you enjoy bacon, sausage, a pork chop or ham, thank an Iowa pig farmer. Iowa is the No. 1 pork-producing state responsible for raising nearly one-third of the nation’s hogs.




Cranberry Turkey Wrap | Midwest Dairy

After indulging in heavy holiday dishes, enjoy turkey leftovers in the days to come by wrapping them in a tortilla with wholesome cheese and dried cranberries for a light and tasty meal. Melty cheese warms the turkey, and cranberries provide a bit of sweetness. Kids will enjoy prepping and serving this meal with quick and easy instructions. Find the recipe here.

Thankful Trivia: Iowa is home to more than 800 dairy farms, and the cows on these farms produce 390 million pounds of cheese — ranking Iowa No. 7 in cheese production in the U.S.

Edamame Ham Frittata | The Soyfoods Council

A frittata is simply an open-faced omelet that’s easier to make. It’s also a natural use for leftovers from the fridge. This recipe uses edamame, olives and two kinds of cheese. Any combination of cheese will work, preferably a sharp one and one that melts well. Ham adds a boost of protein and flavor to round out this versatile dish. Find the recipe here.

Thankful Trivia: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration concluded that consuming 25 grams of soy protein daily can help to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Soy is the only plant protein that carries this claim and is also a source of folate, potassium and fiber.