So , you did it. Thanksgiving is in the books once again and you are exhausted of course. A mountain of leftovers and dirty dishes await. First, make everyone else do the dish. Second, view those leftovers as free food and a great opportunity to save even more money. Don’t despair, you will get to using those leftovers in short order and not waste money in the process. Top hacks for Thanksgiving leftovers are:
1. Don’t feel guilty but best to debone the entire turkey and simply freeze the meat in multiple serving size plastic freezer bags for now. Unless you really do make those post-holiday sandwiches every single year right away, simply freeze all your leftover turkey in meal-size portions. You will get around to using it in very soon, trust me. Meanwhile, be sure and freeze with some turkey liquid (put some aside when you were making holiday gravy) or chicken broth along with the turkey. It will help keep the meat moist.
2. Post meal, focus on the bones. Take all the bones and toss them in a big pot, add water to cover, a stray onion, hastily chopped leftover carrots and celery from your veggie tray, a few bay leaves, pepper, salt and let her rip. It’s also perfectly fine to add in glazed carrots and to rinse off creamed onions. By time everyone finally hits the road, you will have the makings of some very useful turkey stock. If the night is getting ahead of you, place everything on low heat in your slow cooker and let it simmer overnight.
3. Pull out your muffin tins and spray generously with cooking spray. Roll balls of leftover stuffing mixed with bits of cheese from your cheese tray (a dollop of savory dip is fine too). Press into muffin tins and use a shot glass to press down the middle to create little cup. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350F-deg until crispy. Fill with leftovers of your choice. We like to take a spare block of room temperature cream cheese and blend it with minced leftover veggies and serve as fun little crispy appetizers.
4. You can do the same thing with leftover mashed potatoes. Simply take mashed potatoes and place them in greased muffin tins using the bottom of a shot glass or narrow glass to create a well in the middle. Bake until crispy and fill with leftovers of your choice. These are a particular favorite of my partner who thinks potatoes are really the only vegetable worth consuming. I generally bake potato cups and fill with a dollop of leftover reheated broccoli-cauliflower cheese casserole. He likes them so much, he forgets that he is really eating a green vegetable. You can also mix in leftover savory onion or veggie dip and top with crushed leftover potato chips. Makes a great casserole. I like to use a couple of spoonfuls to thicken my turkey soup (recipe below). You can also shape into patties and fry/bake up for a quick repurposed side. Treat them like latkes and top with sour cream and applesauce.
5. Cranberry sauce is surprisingly versatile (see recipe below) leftover. I like to mix a few tablespoons with mayo for a tasty sandwich topping for turkey sandwiches. That’s just how we roll. I will also toss a cupful into gelatin mold deserts and it makes a great addition to post-holiday muffins (see my basic muffin recipe here). It also freezes well so be sure and freeze it in 1/2 cup measures if you are not going to use it up straight away. And don’t forget to mix in a tablespoon or so with your usual Italian salad dressing, it is delicious. Spoon over ice cream for a very adult treat and finally, if you are making mixed drinks (fancy you), add a spoonful to your alcoholic drinks. You can use it to jazz up everything from margaritas and vodka tonics to martinis. Very cosmopolitan (there too).
6. Leftover green bean casserole is an easy leftover to repurpose. Sauté up a bit of bacon and drain before folding into leftover green bean casserole in for a nice savory crunch. Mix with leftover rice for a quick casserole meal or toss in your pot pie recipe.
7. When you finally get around to that turkey, think your favorite meals and your go-to recipes before trying to reinvent the wheel. We love pasta so adding shredded turkey to our usual cream-based pasta is a no-brainer. I like to take a pile of shredded turkey and roll into tortillas along with cheese and some enchilada sauce. I generally freeze these as a complete meal for later. Turkey and rice stir-fry represents a quick meal you can pull together in mere minutes from your vegetable bin and freezer full of turkey. Sauté up an onion along with some diced or thinly sliced carrots along with two thinly sliced cloves of garlic. Toss in shredded turkey and some leftover rice along with some soy or teriyaki sauce and hot sauce to taste. Serve with a sprinkle of thinly sliced green onions. If I am feeling ambitious, I will take a roll of pre-made pie crust and whip up some turkey pot pies to freeze. This uses up gravy and leftover veggies as well. Just use your favorite pot pie recipe substituting the turkey for beef or chicken and gravy for the sauce. Again, there is always my turkey soup which uses up a ton of Thanksgiving leftovers.
8. Any leftover sweet potato casserole can be added as is to my basic muffin recipe, just throttle back on the sugar if the casserole is very sweet and add a splash of milk to be sure and keep the batter from getting too thick. I’ve also baked leftover sweet potato casserole into muffin cups and filled them with ice cream and other sweet treats. It also works great in my holiday coffee cake (recipe below). Spread on tortillas to make sweet quesadillas that you top with sour cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Also add to pancakes and waffles, very versatile.
9. Puff pastry or extra pie crust can be your new best friend when it comes to repurposing holiday leftovers. Make turkey and stuffing hand pies (add a bit of gravy inside but not too much or the pie will be wet or leak). You can also make leftover veggie hand pies or sweet hand pies with sweet potato casserole. If you are overwhelmed with leftovers, assemble and freeze for two hours and then place them in freezer plastic bags. Thaw for 30 minutes before baking 35-45 minutes at 350F-deg checking frequently so they don’t burn. Perfect for weekend lunches. I also like to take my cranberry and mayo sauce, mix with shredded turkey and use that as a filling for hand pies.
10. Eggs are another quick way to incorporate Thanksgiving leftovers. Whisk up eggs for that weekend omelet or frittata. Toss in shredded turkey and veggies (creamy casserole veggies are great here) and enjoy.
11. Fry baby, fake fry. I normally don’t advocate fried foods but now that I have an air fryer, fried stuffing balls (mixed stuffing and/or turkey with a bit of cheese and mashed potatoes along with some bits of cheese) are delicious. Just shape into balls and roll in bread crumbs and either fry in a shallow pan of hot oil (at least 350F-deg) or better, in your air fryer. Use cranberry-mayo as a dipping sauce.
12. Toss shredded turkey atop your usual weekday green salad along with a handful of grapes for a touch of sweetness and some nuts. Drizzle with a spoonful of cranberry sauce.
13. Lasagna. I tend to make this as meal gifts for busy family and friends. I simply make my usual lasagna and instead of cooked ground beef, I use finely shredded turkey.
Rouhgly 2 cups leftover shredded turkey
8 cups turkey or chicken stock or a combination of both
3 cups leftover veggies (carrots, celery, onions work best)
1 cup cooked white or navy beans (from your freezer stash), optional
Up to 1/2 cup leftover mashed potatoes
1/2 cup leftover gravy
1/2 cup heavy cream or half and half
Method: Heat the stock until simmering. Stir in the gravy. If the veggies are raw, sauté in a 1/4 up olive oil briefly before adding to the stock. Add in the shredded turkey and simmer at low heat for 20 minutes to meld the flavors. Add in the (optional) beans and thicken using some of the leftover potatoes if you prefer a thicker soup. Stir in the cream 5 minutes before serving and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper at the very end because your turkey and veggies and gravy will be seasoned. Freezes well.
Holiday Cranberry Sauce
2 -3 cups fresh cranberries
Zest of one orange and one lemon
one lime chopped into quarters
1/2 cup orange juice or water
1/2 cup whiskey or bourbon (liquor is optional so if you don’t use it, increase the water to 1 cup)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
Optional: couple of whole cloves, one star anise, stick of cinnamon
Method: Place all ingredients into a saucepan and allow to simmer on very low heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until the cranberries breakdown and thicken. Briefly bring up to full boil, stirring constantly for two minutes before turning the heat off. Allow to cool before fishing out the spices and lime wedges. Leftovers freeze very well but you won’t have them for long.
Holiday Coffee Cake
3 cups flour, 1 heaping tablespoon baking power and 1/2 teaspoon salt all sifted together, set aside
Mix with a hand mixer or in your mixing stand until fluffy and creamy:
1/2 cup shortening, 2 eggs (room temp), 1 cup sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla
Add in 1 cup leftover sweet potato casserole (well mashed) and 1/2 cup of milk or cream, mixing well.
Spoon into a well greased bunt pan mold and top with the crumble mixture below.
Melt one cup butter with 1 cup brown sugar (white will do in a pinch). Cool slightly and add in a heaping tablespoon of my homemade pumpkin spice LINK and a tablespoon or two of flour and 1/4 cup finely chopped nuts to make a crumbly texture.
Bake 45 minutes in a pre-heated 350F-deg oven or until a knife inserted into the cake comes out clean. Cool and then drizzle with a glaze made with 2 cups of powdered sugar, 4 tablespoons of milk/cream/half and half, and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract. Tastes better the second day when toasted slightly.