thanksgiving leftover recipes

What to Do With Thanksgiving Leftovers

Turkey-leftover recipes can be the best part of the Thanksgiving holiday.

By Jean Nick

turkey-carcassPhotograph By Thinkstock

In our house, I think we almost enjoy the reruns of the Thanksgiving feast more than we do the actual event. It's hard to beat sliced roast turkey on good, chewy whole wheat bread, slathered with real mayo, and trimmed with some fresh lettuce and a generous spread of cranberry sauce (family tastes diverge over whether it should be whole-berry or jellied, so we serve both).

Both my kids are mashed-potato-and-gravy fans, so those rarely make it to the next day, but in case you have more remnants than you have ideas for, here are some great Thanksgiving-leftovers recipes for getting everything but the gobble out of your turkey dinner.

• Toss bits of turkey in gravy, heat, and serve wrapped in heated whole wheat flour tortillas. If you have time, put the filled tortillas in a baking pan, pour enchilada sauce over them, add a sprinkling of shredded cheese, and bake till hot and bubbly.

• Dice and serve bits of turkey over mixed greens for a light main-dish salad, or toss them into your favorite pasta salad for a more substantial entrée.

• Use leftover gravy in casseroles instead of canned soup.

• Add it to soup for extra flavor and body.

Mashed potatoes
• If you're looking for a variation on the standard turkey potpie, fill a glass baking dish about an inch deep with layers of chopped turkey, cooked veggies, and gravy. Spread the leftover mashed potatoes over the top, dot with butter, and bake at 350 degrees F until hot, and—ta-da—you have shepherd's pie.

• For easy potato pancakes, beat one egg and combine it with 2 cups of leftover mashed potatoes. Heat a skillet on medium with a little butter in it, and drop tablespoonfuls of the mixture into it, cooking until brown and crisp on both sides. Serve with syrup for breakfast or with sour cream for a dinner side.

• Plain rice is perfect for rice pudding. Beat one egg in a medium-size saucepan and stir in 1 cup of milk, 3 tablespoons of sugar, 1 teaspoon of vanilla, and 1/8 teaspoon of salt. Stir in 1 cup cooked leftover rice (a little butter won't hurt) and ½ cup of raisins or other chopped dried fruit (I like golden raisins best).

Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, until thick and creamy, about 5 minutes. Serve warm or chilled.

•  Seasoned rice works well in turkey fried rice, which is a good way to get rid of a lot of Thanksgiving leftovers. Cook 1 cup of chopped celery and onion in oil in a large skillet until translucent; toss in about a cup of leftover cooked veggies, such as green beans, peas, or carrots, and ½ cup of chopped turkey; and stir and cook for a minute more. Then add 3 cups of leftover rice—white, brown, and wild rice all work well—and stir until heated through. Serve with soy sauce.

Make soup!
Soups are the best Thanksgiving leftover recipes; they use nearly everything from your Turkey Day table. Start with your homemade turkey stock, and just about any soup you concoct will be delicious!

My family's favorite is turkey-rice soup, made with a brown rice/wild rice blend. Bring about 8 cups of turkey stock to a boil, add a cup of raw rice, and cook for 45 minutes (if you have leftover rice, toss it in and skip the 45 minutes of cooking). Add a generous amount of diced or sliced fresh veggies (we like winter squash), and cook until the veggies are almost done.

Add any leftover veggies, cooked grains, gravy, and small bits of meat and cook for a few more minutes, season to taste, and serve.

Freeze some!
Don't think you have to eat turkey and fixings for eight days straight—and you really shouldn't anyway. The Food and Drug Administration recommends that leftovers be eaten within three to four days of cooking, and if you think you or your family may be turkey-ed out by then, freeze anything you haven't eaten, which is much better than letting all those leftovers go to waste.

After all, the average American family throws out 122 pounds of food per month, which doesn't seem like a good way to be thankful for all we have. I freeze everything in single-meal or single-portion bags or freezer jars so they will thaw and heat fast when I need them, and I can pull out as much or as little as I need based on who is around for dinner. Every time I'm in a rush and can open the freezer to find the makings of a great, heat-and-eat meal, I am eternally thankful.

• Freeze gravy and cranberry sauce in ice-cube trays and store the cubes in bags or jars.

• Freeze dressing, mashed potatoes, rice, and veggies in single-serving scoops (I use a ½-cup measure) on an oiled cookie sheet, and then store the frozen blobs in bags.

• Single servings of desserts are also great in the freezer. (I've been known to hide the ones I especially like.)

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Published on: November 24, 2009

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Re: 122 pounds

Hi Christine,
High as it may seem, that is in fact the amount of food that gets wasted per month in the U.S., based on a 1995 study by the USDA and the Census bureau. They compared all the food that was produced in the U.S. with all the food thrown out by consumers, restaurants, and grocery stores, and found that it was equal to about 1 pound of food per person per day, or 122 pounds for a family of four.
-Emily Main

122 pounds

Are you sure the AVERAGE family throws out 122 pounds a month? That makes 4 pounds every day. There are many families who don't throw away that much. I never throw out any leftover. So, in order to get to the 122 pounds per month, lots of families actually have to throw out much more than 4 pounds a day. It seems a little steep to me.
Christine Witschi

Cranberry sauce salad dressing

Here's an idea I invented today: Mix one part cranberry sauce (I like whole berry, but jellied would work too) with two parts of a good oil and vinegar type salad dressing and you have a really good fruity dressing...perfect for mixed greens. Add a sprinkling of pecans and some diced turkey and you have a really delicious meal!

You bet!

I've frozen cheesecake very successfully. I like to freeze it in individual slices -- or at least slice it, set each slice in a square of parchment paper or natural wax paper, folding the edges up and putting the slices back in order so that each piece is completely separate from its neighbors. Wrap the whole tightly to seal out air and keep it fresh and tasty and pop it in the deep freeze...yum!


This is a question. Can cheesecake be frozen successfully?
I would appreciate an answer ASAP as I have a great deal of it leftover from Thanksgiving. Thank you.

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