Leftover Turkey Wraps

After the Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey dinner is over and family or friends have gone home, Jerri and I attack the turkey carcass. We slice off as much meat as we can , dismember the skeleton and put the bones in a soup kettle. We add enough water to cover the bones and simmer them for two hours or so.

We package the white and dark meat in meal-sized portions sealed in freezer bags. At least one bag consists of small pieces of mixed dark and light meat that we will use in Turkey Wild Rice Soup or Turkey Tetrazzini. The larger pieces usually end up in more elegant dishes like Jerri’s Turkey A la King or Turkey Curry.

Here is a simple way to use up some of those smaller mixed pieces of leftover turkey. Don’t let the two jalapeño peppers frighten you. Mixed with the other ingredients, they add a bright flavor without torturing your tastebuds.


2 T vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups leftover turkey
2 medium jalapeños
1/2 cup chopped green or red bell pepper
3 green onions
1 small yellow squash (about 1 cup chopped)
1/2 Roma tomato (1/4 to 1/3 cup chopped)
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. Mexican seasoning
1/4 tsp. chili powder?1/3 tsp. salt
2 T salsa
3/4 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
4 burrito-size flour tortillas
Sour cream and salsa for serving


Start by preparing the meat and vegetables. Cut the turkey into small bite-sized pieces and put them into a medium-size bowl. Wash the peppers, onions, squash and tomato. Cut the stems off the jalapeños and slice them lengthwise into quarters. Remove the seeds and white membranes, slice each quarter lengthwise in half and chop the jalapeños into an eighth inch dice. Put them into the bowl with the turkey.

Remove the seeds and white membrane from the bell pepper and chop about a half cup of pepper into a quarter-inch dice. Remove the root ends from the onions and chop them into eighth-inch rounds. Remove the stem and blossom ends from the squash, slice it lengthwise into quarters, then chop it crosswise into eighth to quarter-inch pieces. Put these vegetables into the bowl with the turkey and jalapeños.

Remove the stem scar from the tomato and chop a half of a Roma tomato into a quarter to half-inch dice. Set the chopped tomato aside in a small bowl.

Grate the cheese and have it ready to add to the meat and vegetables just before serving.

To make the filling for your wraps, warm the oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Add the turkey and all the vegetables except the tomato. Stir to mix everything together. If it seems dry, you can add a tiny bit more oil. Stir in the cumin, Mexican seasoning, chili powder, salt and salsa and cook over medium heat for three or four minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and cook for a minute to release their juice. Stir in the cheese and cook briefly until it has melted.

Warm four tortillas while the filling is cooking. To make the wraps, spread a thin layer of sour cream to within a half-inch of the edge on each tortilla. Spoon about a a half cup of filling starting about a third of the way up from the bottom edge across the center and ending about an inch from the top edge. Top with a tablespoon or two of salsa, fold the bottom edge up and each of the sides over to make a convenient pocket with the top open to tempt the diner.

Serve with a green salad and beer for a good light dinner or lunch.

NOTES: One simple way to adjust the spiciness of these wraps is by your choice of salsa. We prefer medium salsas, but mild or hot will work just fine if that is your preference.

If you like quesadillas, tacos or burritos, you might want to make your own batch of Mexican seasoning. It is a blend of spices that saves a lot of time. Instead of measuring a quarter teaspoon each of oregano, garlic powder, red pepper , cumin, etc, you simply stir a teaspoon or two of Mexican seasoning into your tacomeat, perhaps with an extra teaspoon of chili powder, some salt and tomato paste.

You can find Mexican seasoning in most supermarkets, of course, but you can make enough to spice up a lot of dishes in a few minutes. Here’s how to make it.


1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1?2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1?2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. paprika
1 1?2 tsp. ground cumin
1?2 tsp. sea salt
1?2 tsp. black pepper
1 pinch ground cinnamon
1 pinch ground cloves


Grind the pepper flakes and oregano in a mortar. Add the salt and black pepper and grind more to mix well. Add the other ingredients and grind briefly to mix everything together. Store in a tight container in a cool place out of direct sunlight.

Linda’s Cranberry Salsa

Fruit salsas are examples of fusion cuisine, which combine recipes or ingredients from two different cultures. Rick Bayless, the Oklahoma kid who abandoned barbecue and took up with tacos, says that fruit salsas apparently originated in the United States but have been infiltrating Mexican cuisine. He should know, since he and his wife Deann spent over six years researching Mexican cooking before publishing Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico in 1987.

Linda’s Cranberry Salsa is a good example. It combines traditional ingredients of Mexican salsas—jalapeño peppers, cilantro, and onions—with fresh Wisconsin cranberries. I got the recipe from my sister Patsy in an email which began with a question: “Did I ever give you a recipe for cranberry salsa?”

She had not, but I am always interested in new family recipes. Patsy explained that she got the recipe from Linda, a friend who worked with her at the hospital in Hayward. Linda turned out to be a classmate of mine who shared some of my interests and was on the staff of the school newspaper and competed in forensics.

When I asked Linda how she learned to make this salsa, she told me that she wasn’t sure, but that she thought a friend of hers who lives in Green Bay gave it to her many years ago. Linda liked the salsa and told Patsy about how good it was, prompting my sister to ask for the recipe. Linda obliged, proving once again that we all benefit from an ancient tradition that is still a friendly custom.

To be painfully honest, I had my doubts about this recipe when Patsy sent it to me. Cranberries and jalapeños with cilantro and cumin? No way! But when she told me that she makes a batch every fall when fresh cranberries become available, I decided to try it. She’s a good cook. I now have to agree with her conclusion: “The salsa is sweet, but oddly enough the bite from the jalapenos and the salt from the chips (I use mulitgrain Scoops) made it taste good.”

When I offered a sample to our neighbor Jill, she hesitated before saying she would try some. Later she confessed to the same doubts I harbored, but she now wants to make more herself and has asked for the recipe.

Cranberries are plentiful now, and you can find jalapeño peppers and cilantro at your local supermarket. Now’s the time to treat your football fans to a batch of Linda’s cranberry salsa.


1 cup water
1 cup sugar
4 cups cranberries
2-3 jalapeño peppers
1 T cilantro
2-3 green onions
1/2 tsp. cumin
Dash of salt
1 T fresh lime juice (half an average lime)


Wash the cranberries and jalapeño peppers. Coarsely chop the cranberries.

Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring until all the sugar has dissolved. Raise the heat and bring the mixture to a boil Reduce the heat and boil slowly for ten minutes without stirring to make a thin syrup.

Prepare the vegetables while the syrup is cooking. Cut the stems from the peppers, slice them into quarters and remove the seeds and white membranes. Then slice each quarter in half and chop the peppers into a quarter-inch dice. Clean and cut the onions into eighth-inch slices, discarding the root ends. Wash and chop the cilantro medium fine.

After the syrup has cooked for ten minutes, pour it into a mixing bowl and allow it to cool slightly, four or five minutes. Wash a lime and juice half of it.

Add the cranberries, peppers, cilantro, onions, cumin, salt and lime juice to the syrup and mix lightly. Taste and adjust the flavors as you wish. You may want to add a little more cilantro, cumin or lime juice.

Refrigerate the salsa for at least an hour. Serve at room temperature with tortilla chips or dippers.

NOTES: The flavor improves if you allow the salsa to rest for several hours or overnight so the flavors can blend. When you adjust the seasoning, be careful not to add too much salt. Keep in mind that tortilla chips usually are quite salty.

My brother-in-law Patrick grew up around a lot of Scandinavians and acquired their preference for less spicy foods. He likes a mild version of this salsa with only one jalapeño. As Pat says, “You can make it exactly the way you like it.”

If you don’t have a food processor (like us) or a food chopper, you can just cut the cranberries into fourths.