Turkey Recipes for Any Time of Year


"Just buy one of those nifty frozen turkey breasts and you're all set."

Most of my relatives and friends serve either turkey or ham at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. And depending on the size of the family or how many invited guests show up, there are usually lots of leftovers to store in the freezer. I have some ideas on how you can use turkey leftovers to make tasty main dishes. Or if it is months since you've made that big turkey dinner, you can still use regular turkey for sale at the grocery store. Just buy one of those nifty frozen turkey breasts and you're all set.

I hope you make a habit of freezing leftover turkey right away so you won't have worry about nasty things like bacteria and other microorganisms. You have to be really careful with poultry. I speak from experience. One year, I got sick after eating extra turkey and dressing that my mom froze after Thanksgiving. So, make sure you follow the rules!

When you defrost that leftover turkey, the safest way to do it is to defrost it in the refrigerator overnight. Turkey will keep in the freezer for up to four months if you freeze it without any dressing or gravy.

The following recipe is a variation of a traditional Mexican dish. Pig's feet are a traditional posole ingredient. I'll assume, however, that you don't have any leftover pig's feet and proceed with this version that uses that leftover turkey.

Turkey Posole

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 4 jalapeño chiles, seeded and minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 30-ounce can hominy, rinsed and drained
  • 1 14-1/2-ounce can chicken broth
  • 2 cups chopped cooked turkey
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  1. In a 5-quart Dutch oven or saucepan, heat oil over medium heat until hot. Add onion and red bell pepper. Cook until vegetables are tender, stirring often, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add jalapeños and garlic, and cook 1 minute longer. Add chili powder, cumin, coriander, salt and cayenne, stirring constantly, and cook about 30 seconds.
  3. Add the hominy, chicken broth and turkey to the mixture, and heat to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 5 minutes to blend flavors and heat through. Remove Dutch oven from heat. Stir in cilantro and lime juice.

If you like cheesy dishes, you'll love this next one. It'll really warm you up (and fill you up) on a cold winter's day. And, if any of you happen to be vacationing on a warm, sunny beach right now (lucky!), plan on whipping this up when you get back home.

Cheesy Turkey Casserole

  • 3 cups 1/2-inch cubes toasted bread
  • 3 cups (about 2 pounds) diced, cooked turkey breast
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-1/2 cups half and half
  • 1-1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1-1/4 cups (about 4 ounces) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1-1/4 cups (about 4 ounces) freshly shredded mild or sharp white cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped cooked bacon (but not crispy)
  • 1/2 cup diced tomato
  • 1/2 cup (about 1.5 ounces) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter a 9x12-inch baking dish. Place the bread cubes in the bottom of the baking casserole. Arrange the diced turkey on top. Set aside while you make the sauce.
  2. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Increase the heat to medium, then add the flour and stir to make a smooth roux. Season the roux with salt and pepper. Continue to cook, stirring, until the flour barely begins to brown, about 5 minutes.
  3. Remove the saucepan from the heat, then slowly whisk in the half and half. Next, slowly whisk in the heavy cream. Finally, whisk in the milk. Return to the heat and continue to cook, stirring, until the mixture bubbles, about 8 minutes. Add the cheeses, remove from the heat, and stir until melted and the mixture is smooth.
  4. Pour the cheese sauce over the bread and turkey in the casserole. Sprinkle the bacon and tomato on top of the sauce. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top of the bacon and tomato and bake until bubbly, about 35 minutes.

Most recipes for Shepherd's Pie call for ground beef. My mom used to make it that way, and it was one of my favorites. However, turkey makes a low-fat and delicious version. Make the Mashed Potatoes with Horseradish Cream a day ahead, refrigerate the leftovers, and you're ready to make this dish.

Mashed Potatoes with Horseradish Cream

This is a great side dish, whether you have leftovers or not.

  • 4 pounds Yukon gold potatoes (about 12 medium), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 8-ounce container reduced-fat sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons snipped fresh chives
  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat (2%) milk, warmed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup light mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons prepared white horseradish
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • Chives for garnish (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. In a 6-quart saucepan, place potatoes and enough water to cover. Heat to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender. Drain. Reserve 1/4 cup sour cream and 1 tablespoon chives to use later for the topping.
  3. Return potatoes to saucepan. With potato masher, mash potatoes with milk, salt, remaining sour cream, and chives. Spoon potato mixture into a shallow 2-1/2-quart casserole dish.
  4. In a small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, horseradish, pepper, reserved sour cream and reserved chives. Spread the horseradish mixture over the mashed potatoes. Bake for 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly and top is lightly browned. Garnish with chives, if desired. Be sure to reserve 2 cups of potatoes for the Shepherd's Pie. Refrigerate the leftovers.

Turkey Shepherd Pies

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 medium onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 medium celery stalk, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 3/4 cup milk, divided
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 cups bite-size pieces leftover cooked turkey meat (about 8 ounces)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • Pinch dried thyme
  • 2 cups leftover Mashed Potatoes with Horseradish Cream
  • Thyme sprigs for garnish (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. In a 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat until hot. Add the carrots, onion, and celery, and cook until vegetables are tender and lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the leftover mashed potatoes with 1/4 cup milk until combined.
  3. In a 2-cup glass measuring cup, mix the flour with the chicken broth and remaining 1/2 cup milk until blended. Pour broth mixture into Dutch oven with vegetables. Heat over high heat until mixture boils and thickens slightly, stirring often. Boil 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium and add turkey, frozen peas, salt, pepper, and thyme. Heat through.
  4. Place four 1-1/2-cup ramekins or soufflé dishes on a 15x10-inch jelly roll pan for easier handling. Spoon warm turkey mixture into ramekins and top with potato mixture. Bake 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly and potatoes are lightly browned. Garnish with thyme sprigs, if desired.