the leftovers party

More article.
After you've put away your Bing Crosby records and stashed the untouched fruitcakes in the back of your freezer, you find yourself faced with two daunting inevitabilities in the post-Christmas aftermath -- your next Visa bill… and holiday leftovers.

You might be familiar with this scenario: the festive spirit itches away at you, and like many others, you get the urge to throw your own swanky holiday party in your own fabulous space. You organize a holiday event that includes a dinner, where you end up spending more money than you had anticipated and end up with platters full of untouched food. You soon realize that you're not alone. You leave a friend's festive dinner with a Tupperware or two of leftover eats only to add to your own growing collection of festive fare accumulating in your fridge. What's a quick and creative way to get rid of holiday food and still keep the holiday spirit going? Throw a Leftovers Party.

post-holiday fever
Ok, 'leftovers' may not seem appealing at first but it's not as repulsive as it sounds! Here are two reasons why you want to throw this party: it'll give you a chance to find creative recipes for that mountain of holiday leftovers and provide the perfect excuse to organize a party that everyone can attend after the hectic schedule of pre-Christmas events.

If you happen to celebrate Christmas, there's a lull between that date and New Years where nothing happens. We stress prior to the holidays but when it's over, we suddenly begin to feel a little disappointed, as if we were cheated of a great reward after all the hard work we put into the preparations. So instead of putting away the lights, the tassels and the miniature Rudolph figurines on your mantel, organize a casual lunch or low-key soiree.

Try to organize this party a few days after Christmas. When it comes to leftovers, the basic rule to remember is to eat them within a few days. At the same time, giving your guests a chance to recuperate may be a good idea. This will allow them to think of unique ideas for recipes, as well to regain their strength and the stomach to tackle the leftovers for your party.

give your visa card a break
The main idea of this party is to avoid spending a lot of money, or hopefully, any at all. You may find you need a few items from the grocery store, a key ingredient or two to help you reinvent your remainders, perhaps. But remember, you're only creating one or two leftover dishes, and your guests are bringing their own. Think of it as a festive potluck dinner surprise, except you know what the main ingredients are. You also should designate the responsibility of assigning various courses among your guests, such as appetizers or sides. Most of us will have the same main ingredients -- the last thing you want is a mashed potatoes dish done ten different ways.

encourage creativity
For making a leftover dish for the party, use ingredients you have on hand and get inventive! Perhaps there's a plate of mashed potatoes sitting in your fridge right now but you aren't sure how to use them. Sure, you could simply rewhip them with cream or butter with a portable electric hand beater to get that soft consistency of creamy mashed potatoes. But it's a lot more fun to try something different, like Potato-Crab Cakes.

There are endless recipe possibilities beyond the traditional festive fare. If you happen to have a lot of turkey left, try incorporating it in ethnic dishes such as Turkey Pad Thai or Turkey Quesadillas. If you believe in the theory that any food dipped in chocolate tastes better, try using that fruitcake you aren't too keen on eating but are dying to clear from the fridge. For Fruitcake Squares with Chocolate Sauce, simply cut fruitcake into slices and then into bit size squares. Place a toothpick into each of them. Drizzle with store bought chocolate sauce and serve.

Make the effort to ensure your dish sounds as interesting and appetizing as it tastes. Disguise the fact that you're not only supplying your guests with your leftovers, and you'll forget that you're eating theirs too.

Your guests may even surprise you, as not everyone has a traditional holiday dinner. Ham, seafood dishes and even pizza have all managed to become a holiday dinner at one point or another. Make sure your non-Christmas- celebrating friends know that any dish goes, as long as it's made from something they already have -- that lasagna or casserole that's sitting in the freezer, for instance. Again, only leftover dishes are strongly encouraged for this party.

award the best
To stir up creative ideas among your guests' recipe planning, offer a prize for the most creative dish. Perhaps you bought an extra gift during your holiday shopping that you thought was cute but realized it just wasn't right for anyone you knew? Award the leftover gift for the most original and creative leftover dish entrepreneur!

The recipes provided are just a few examples of what you can make to recycle your leftovers but find your own unique food combinations. Just remember to keep passing around that holiday buzz to your guests with a Rum-Egg Nog drink, and prove that you don't truly believe the holidays are 'officially' over at your fabulous leftovers party!

Stephanie Cloutier lives and works as a freelance writer and financial analyst in Toronto, Canada. When she isn't pursuing her passions of bellydancing or getting involved in the local burlesque-vaudeville scene, she always finds an excuse to throw fabulous parties in her swanky 650-square foot bachelorette pad. Recipes:

Turkey quesadillas
Any leftover vegetables or cheeses can be incorporated in this popular dish.

  1. Heat non-stick skillet over medium heat. No need to add butter otherwise it will be too greasy. Add flour tortillas on bottom of pan.

  2. Add ready pieces of turkey, chopped onions, sliced mushrooms, chopped red or green peppers, grated cheese (Cheddar, Monterey Jack, or any other leftover cheeses you may have).

  3. Top with another flour tortilla. Use a dish plate to weigh down the tortillas so that the ingredients will be cook evenly.

  4. Cook until cheese melts and the tortilla is slightly brown on both sides, about 2-3 minutes. Cut into quarters to serve with sour cream or salsa.

cranberry sauce
Cranberry Sauce is so versatile that it can be used for appetizers, savory dipping sauces to sweet desserts toppings.

simple cranberry sauce:
  1. Reheat in small saucepan over medium-heat for about 5 minutes or heat microwave for 1-2 on High.

  2. Transfer to small dish and spread generously on sliced French bread or whole-wheat crackers.

For a sweet dessert topping, add any of the following ingredients together to reheated cranberry sauce:

¼ cup orange juice, 1 Tbsp honey, chopped pear or apple, orange, lemon or lime zest. Mix together and cook for a few minutes, about 5-10 minutes, over medium heat. Drizzle over very generous scoops of vanilla ice cream.

As a savory side, add any or all of these ingredients: ½ chopped red onions, 1 chopped garlic clove, 1 tsp oregano, and ¼ cup red wine. Mix together and cook for a few minutes, about 5-10 minutes, over medium heat. Serve as dipping sauce or side dish.

potato crab cakes
  • Using your hands, mix together all of the following in a large bowl: cold mashed potatoes, canned or packaged crab meat, ½ ounce melted butter, pinch of cayenne pepper, 1 egg, zest of lemon, salt and pepper to taste.
  • Form fat palm-sized patties and place them on a baking sheet with Clingfilm or Saran wrap. Place in fridge for about 20 minutes.
  • Beat 2 eggs in a small bowl, and sprinkle breadcrumbs (or even matzo meal if you have it lying around), on a flat plate.
  • Dip 1 fishcake in the beaten egg mix then into the breadcrumbs, covering them as much as possible. Put them aside on another plate.

  • Heat butter in large frying pan to medium heat and fry fishcakes on both sides until the crusts are golden, and the centers are warmed through.

all-in-one combo casserole

This dish can incorporate all of your leftovers in one plate. This is a great way to finish off any cooked vegetables and leftover gravy.
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Sauté a rough amount of chopped onions, celery, and carrots in butter or olive oil for 5-7 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add salt and pepper.

  2. Remove vegetables and transfer to ovenproof dish or aluminum tin.

  3. Add pieces of turkey and leftover vegetables (this can include cooked peas, carrots, Brussels sprouts, etc) to the dish. With a spoon, mix the veggies and meat together so all pieces are evenly distributed in the dish.

  4. Reheat leftover gravy in small saucepan or in microwave, or add a can of condensed cream of soup (either mushroom or chicken will do) mixed with 1 cup of milk. Pour into meat-veggie combination dish.

  5. Dollop mashed potatoes over food and spread evenly with spatula. Add grated Parmesan cheese on top.

  6. Bake for 20 minutes, until cheese has melted and potato has formed a crust and is golden brown. .