Welcoming Turkey Leftovers

If you’re sick of turkey sandwiches but still have leftovers in the freezer, there are other ways to use up that Thanksgiving bird.

Turkey can be mixed into a soup, tossed with pasta and vegetables, added to a salad, or used in a variety of one-dish entrées. As the December holidays approach, you’ll be glad to have some cooked turkey on hand when pressed for time or when entertaining unexpected guests.

Turkey’s mild flavor adapts to many cooking styles and cuisines. Most seasonings and sauces go well with turkey. Wrap it in a taco, toss some into spaghetti sauce, or use it in a stir-fry or curry.

Another tasty, healthful way to use leftover turkey is in a casserole. Combined with a whole grain such as barley, turkey can be the base of a substantial, healthful one-dish meal.

Barley has been popular since the Stone Age. It is a grain used in breads, soups, stews and other dishes. Usually sold as “pearl” barley, it has a mild earthy, almost nutty, flavor that complements many types of vegetables. A single cup of this easy-to-prepare grain contains eight grams of fiber – the same amount of fiber found in seven cups of white rice. Barley also is rich in protein, potassium, calcium, iron and B vitamins.

Butternut squash nicely complements both barley and turkey. It is a large, pear-shaped winter squash with sweet orange flesh that adds cheeriness to any casserole. Its mild flavor goes well with many other ingredients and accommodates different herbs and spices.

In this main dish, butternut squash is combined with onion, green pepper and sage to add extra flavor and texture to the barley and turkey combination. No one will think “leftovers” when tasting this casserole.

Barley, Turkey and Butternut Squash Casserole - Makes 6 servings.

* Cooking oil spray
* 2 small butternut squash, halved
* 2 tsp. olive oil
* 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
* 1/2 cup minced onion
* 1 tsp. dried sage
* Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
* 2 cups fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
* 3/4 cup barley
* 1/2 lb. cooked turkey breast, cubed or diced
* 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 4-quart baking dish with cooking spray. In a large pot of rapidly boiling water, boil squash halves 5 minutes or until almost tender. Drain squash and set on a large cutting board to cool until easy to handle. Scoop flesh from each half and dice. Set aside. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add green pepper, onion and diced squash. Sauté 3 minutes. Add sage and pepper and stir to coat. Add broth and bring to a boil. Add barley and return to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 10 minutes, until barley is tender and liquid is absorbed. Mix in diced turkey. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish and top with feta cheese. Bake, uncovered, 30 minutes, or until cheese is golden.

Per serving: 221 calories, 4 g. total fat (2 g. saturated fat), 30 g. carbohydrate, 17 g. protein, 6 g. dietary fiber, 345 mg. sodium.

The Author:

AICR’s Nutrition Hotline is a free service that allows you to ask a registered dietitian questions about diet, nutrition and cancer. Access it online at www.aicr.org/hotline or by phone (1-800-843-8114) 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET Monday-Friday. AICR is the only major cancer charity focused exclusively on the link between diet, nutrition and cancer. It provides education programs that help Americans learn to make changes for lower cancer risk. AICR also supports innovative research in cancer prevention and treatment at universities, hospitals and research centers. It has provided more than $78 million for research in diet, nutrition and cancer. AICR’s Web address is www.aicr.org.

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