Delicious Ways to Repurpose Thanksgiving Leftovers

8:06 AM

I suppose the relevance of this point will be slightly delayed for any American readers (and may never prove helpful for readers in some other countries) but I know I'm not the only Canadian looking, puzzled, at a fridge of Tupperwares today.

Calvin, Oliver and I have: dark and light turkey meat, homemade gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, corn, cranberry sauce, stuffing, whole wheat buns, apple cider, pumpkin pie, various chocolate/coconut/caramel squares, and pineapple cheesecake. We only passed on Caesar salad (tastes best served fresh) and Skor bars because we already had a bunch in our freezer. We also missed out on the cold shrimp ring, and the Make Your Own caramel apples that were served after we left: sad!

So I invite you to join my excited mind in this brainstorming adventure as we think of delicious ways to repurpose our traditional Thanksgiving dinner leftovers!

#1. Use almost all of your leftovers to make the ultimate, and most classic: Turkey Sandwich.
I was never in love with this day-two dish until, one year while working as a Starbucks barista during University, I happened upon a pile of "turkey sandwiches" that would expire that night and would be thrown in the garbage. I did the administrative task of marking them discarded in the computer system, offering them to customers, and then got the go-ahead from my supervisor to warm one up and share it amongst staff for sampling. Whoa! When you pair a chewy roll with moist turkey meat, fluffy stuffing, some token veggies like crisp lettuce and maybe tomato, and a cranberry mayo: this is a major win! The combination of leftover cranberry sauce with mayonnaise is a must - use vegan mayo if you're egg-free. You can eat it cold or hot, toasted or not. And spooning some gravy over the meat won't hurt either!

#2. Use turkey, potatoes, squash and other veggies in Turkey Soup
I wrote about this great idea in my last post, stating it as wise advice my mom gave me. If you didn't read it: as soon as our Thanksgiving lunch was over she started a soup pot and threw portions of almost all the leftovers (okay, no Caesar salad) in, and left it simmering as we made a bon fire/ went for a forest hike/ took family photos in the leaves, etc. You could use water as the liquid, or chicken stock, or see below for how to make your own stock. I couldn't join them for dinner, but I know my mom still had at least four families worth of out-of-towners around for a 2nd meal, so having this jumbo pot of delicious soup, served with whole wheat buns (and a gluten-free option) was a life saver. You could also do this over a roaring bon fire if your pot can handle it... and you trust the token independent two-year old.

#3. Use ham leftovers in Ham Soup
If your big meal featured, or included, this more Easter-y main dish, a leftover ham bone is your best friend for the next day's lunch. Our city's local ham specialist shop serves their soup by the bowl, but they also sell ham bones after they've shaved off the meat - and they're very inexpensive (but yield a ton of meat!). Whether you've purchased one just for soup, or you're using your Thanksgiving's leftover bone, soup is easy!

  • Put the ham bone and some chopped onions/celery/carrot in a large pot. Cover with water and boil for a few hours. Turn off the heat.
  • Pull the ham bone out and begin shaving off any meat and adding it back to the pot. Discard the bone at this point. If any fat has accumulated on top of the soup, skim it off now. (Taste the stock - if it needs more flavour you can add chicken stock powder/ bouillon cubes, or just salt and pepper.)
  • At this point you can add: corn, split peas, potatoes... Let boil until veggies/peas are cooked. Then leave chunky or choose to puree, or remove a few cups and puree those and re-add them (best option). You can pour milk or cream in at the end to make it more chowder-y.
#4. Use your bird's carcass for Turkey stock
How responsible of you! Making a choice that will benefit you in the future! Turning your turkey carcass into stock will make you happy for the whole winter. You could get a ton of mason jars full of this: then properly can them and store in a pantry, or be lazy like me and leave them in your freezer - but make sure you leave some room between the top of the stock and the flat lid because freezing makes the liquid expand and you don't want a broken mason jar in your freezer.
  • Chop the carcass into smaller pieces and add to a large pot with chopped onions, carrots, celery and garlic. Add a bay leaf or two, and some thyme, salt and pepper. Cover with water and simmer for a few hours.
  • Drain all the solids out and let cool in your fridge so you can see how much fat you need to skim off of the top. Pour into mason jars.
Now you can use this stock for future soups, or even as the liquid when making rice... delicious!

#5. Use your stock to make Alton Brown's Turkey Soup
If you've successfully made homemade turkey stock and you want a yummy recipe to try it out in, look no further. He says to:
  •  Combine 2 quarts of stock with 10oz of vegetables (recipe calls for frozen but I bet you have some leftovers - don't you?), 1/2 cup dry rice, 2 cups chopped up turkey meat, 1 tsp Old Bay or other crab boil seasoning, 2 tsp dried thyme, and salt and pepper. 
  • Simmer for 20 minutes.
Keep in mind, the above two soup recipes (... or should I say guidelines) and the stock recipe can be done easily in a crock pot. Low for 8 hours, or high for 3-4.
#6. Use stuffing to make Stuffed Mushrooms
Mix 1 cup leftover stuffing with 1/4 cup grated parmesan, 2 tablespoons each olive oil and chopped parsley and 1 minced garlic clove. Stuff into 24 button mushroom caps; top with more parmesan and olive oil. Bake 20 to 25 minutes at 375 degrees.
#7. Use white turkey meat, and apples, for Waldorf Salad
First throw together an easy creamy dressing of equal parts plain yogurt and mayonnaise. Add salt, pepper and honey to taste.
Toss this up with any leftover greens you might have, shredded white turkey meat, sliced green apple, sliced celery, halved grapes, and toasted pecans. If you still have cranberries from making sauce (this is probably not that common - you know you throw the whole lot of them in that pot of warm orange juice and cinnamon sticks), cranberries go great with this salad too.
#8. Use cranberry sauce in Cranberry-Carrot Muffins
Check out this awesome recipe that uses "cranberry relish", or sauce, for a healthy-ish breakfast treat.
#9. Use mashed sweet potato or squash in a yummy Dip
Puree a can of white beans in a food processor with 1 or 2 leftover peeled roasted sweet potatoes or 2 cups of butternut squash, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup grated parmesan, and salt and pepper. Garnish with toasted nuts and serve with crackers.

#10. Throw it all together for Shepherd's Pie
You can't forget the simple fact that everything you're trying to use up - meat, potatoes, veggies - are the main staples of a good shepherd's pie. 
  • Preheat your oven to 400F.
  • Place a layer of shredded turkey meat on the bottom of a casserole dish. Spoon gravy over.
  • Add a layer of mixed veggie leftovers like corn, carrot, peas.
  • Spread a layer of leftover mashed potatoes on top, covering all the way to every corner.
  • Top with cheese if desired.
  • Bake until the top is slightly golden, or if using cheese: until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
Other quick ideas:
Throw leftovers veggies into your morning eggs to make an omelete.
For every cup of mashed potatoes, add 1 egg, 1/3 cup milk and 1/3 cup flour, as well as salt and pepper, and fry as potato pancakes. (These are one of my top favourite foods ever.)
Stir cranberry sauce into an apple crisp recipe. Or blend into a smoothie.
Use any leftover pumpkin puree to make chocolate-chip cookies: here.

Do you have some smart ideas for Thanksgiving leftovers that you'd like to share?

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