Food waste is the largest component of our country and state’s municipal solid waste going to landfills and incinerators. Even with careful planning and the best intentions, we often have unexpected surplus food. Landfills should be the last resort for extra food. Once in landfills, food breaks down to produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas which contributes to climate change.
The typical Thanksgiving plate, filled-to-the-brim with beautiful mounds of every kind of homemade goodness, probably doesn't do a lot of good for our national food waste trend. In fact, Americans purchase over 46 million turkeys at Thanksgiving. Given that we also throw away more than one-third of all edible turkey meat every year, we thought we’d share a few easy recipes to help you use those turkey leftovers. If you’re tired of the day-after-Thanksgiving turkey sandwich, try one of these options instead.
Turkey Stuffed Roasted Squash
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Halve an acorn squash lengthwise, scoop out the seeds. Chop cooked turkey, sauté with onions and leftover stuffing in a little olive oil. Add cranberries and a touch of white wine. Put the mixture inside of the acorn squash and place in a baking dish. Add stock to the baking dish, cover tightly and roast until tender (40-60 minutes).
Cube leftover turkey, add to a large saucepan with 1 cup chicken broth, 1 cup cooked rice, 2 chopped plum tomatoes, 1 chopped onion, ½ cup canned chopped green chilies, ½ cup sour cream, ¼ cup sliced pimento-stuffed green olives, and a sprinkle of cumin. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. When cool, place ½ cup of the turkey mixture in the center of 8-10 tortillas. Top each with a dollop of enchilada sauce. Sprinkle with Monterey Jack cheese. Roll up, pour remaining enchilada sauce on top, and bake in a greased baking dish for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.
Saute chopped onion, bell pepper and 1 tablespoon of minced garlic in a little olive oil in a large, heavy pot. Add 2 cups diced turkey and 2 tablespoons of chili powder, ½ teaspoon of cumin and ½ teaspoon of oregano. Cook briefly. Add 1 cup pinto beans (dry bulk beans are more eco-friendly than canned; simmer in water for about 1-2 hours to soften first), 2 cups of diced tomatoes with juice, and 2 cups of broth. Throw in an ounce of bittersweet chocolate to make it interesting. Bring it to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until thickened. Season with salt and pepper.
Many options exist for donating edible food. Donating food can help support your community and fight hunger, while reducing impacts on climate change and water quality. While you can’t donate food that has been cooked or prepared at home to local food banks, you can drop off extra grains, dairy, meat, eggs, canned goods, and even fresh produce such as vegetables and fruits.
We put together a food donation fact sheet with information and options—including local resources—for donating food.
Other tips on reducing food waste
For additional ideas on how to reduce food waste this holiday season, please visit our Food Waste Prevention and Compost & Healthy Soil web pages.Happy cooking and have a happy Thanksgiving!