Leftover Makeover: Thanksgiving Leftovers

I have heard people say time and again how much they dislike leftovers.  Don't count me in!  I like leftovers for the possibilities they offer for future dishes.  I believe in transforming them so they become a different dish/meal.  I have the convenience of starting with a cooked item that cuts down on my preparation and cooking time.  My family seldom realizes they are leftovers.  I never heard many complaints about leftovers in my house.

I don't have photos to go with these recipes and ideas but I thought some of you might appreciate having an idea of how to use up Thanksgiving meal leftovers.  Especially if you did like I did and cooked a whole turkey and a full Thanksgiving dinner for two.  Some of these are tried and true and I'll be sure to let you know which of these are, and some are just inspirations I've had today while I was putting away my own leftovers.

Turkey Fried Rice (TNT):  It's best to start with leftover cooked rice.  I have rice in the freezer which I will thaw and use and by the way rice is one item that freezes beautifully.  When we used to get Chinese take out for the family, we'd always have more rice than we needed.  I'd just pop the cardboard container into a zippered bag and freeze it.  All that aside, start with leftover rice.

I use whatever vegetables I have in the refrigerator.  Here's a great way to use up a crudite platter of vegetables by the way.  Broccoli, carrots, cabbage, onion, snow peas, any color of bell peppers, green peas, celery, broccoli stems (especially nice by the way, if sliced), etc.   Dice about 1 cup of leftover turkey and about 2 cups of vegetables.  You'll want about 2 cups of rice as well by the way.  And 1 egg.  For seasonings: minced garlic, grated fresh ginger root and soy sauce.

I start by heating a bit of oil in a large deep frying pan over medium heat.  Then I beat and scramble the egg and set it aside.  Next I add vegetables, garlic and ginger to the pan and saute until the vegetables crisp tender.  Then I add in the rice and meat and cook until the rice is heated through.  Add soy sauce and the scrambled egg and mix well.  Sometimes I clamp the lid on the frying pan and let it all just heat over low heat for a minute or two.

Typically I serve this with egg rolls (frozen or homemade) and fresh citrus fruits.

Turkey Sandwiches (TNT):  I make turkey sandwiches one of two ways most consistently but the base is always the same: A good bread with plenty of mayonnaise, perhaps a bit of Dijon mustard and sliced turkey.  I change it up in one of two ways, a nice spread of homemade cranberry relish (sliced jellied cranberry can be used too but I really like the tart bite of relish).  The other way is to top the base with sliced sweet pickles like bread 'n' butter type and serve.

I have also made sliders (TNT) of turkey and topped with Swiss cheese and the mustard/butter/onion/Worcestershire/ poppy seed mixture (cook over low heat until well mixed).  Then wrap and bake in medium oven until they are melty.

*Inspiration:  Make a turkey sandwich with the cranberry relish, Swiss cheese and dip in a egg/milk (think French toast) mixture and cook over medium heat in melted butter.

Turkey Tettrazini(TNT):  This requires about 1 cup of leftover turkey meat, sliced mushrooms, a bit of onion, cooked pasta and an Alfredo sauce.  I prefer to make my own Alfredo and I try to keep it light, no heavy cream but whole milk.  Cook the mushrooms and onion in a bit of butter.  Add a bit of sherry to the mushrooms.  Mix the pasta, sauce, turkey and vegetables and pour into a baking dish.  Top with dried bread crumbs and grated Parmesan cheese.  Bake at 350F until hot and bubbly.

Another recipe I like very well which is also TNT, Spaghetti Di able using turkey instead of chicken. Again it's mushrooms and onions and a can of drained tomatoes.  The recipe calls for an 8 ounce box of spaghetti cooked, 1 cup of mushrooms, 1 small diced onion, 1 tsp minced garlic and 1/2 cup of turkey, diced.  Cook the mushrooms and onions, add in the tomatoes and garlic, salt and pepper, and a tiny pinch of cayenne pepper (red pepper flakes might do well if you haven't the cayenne.  Add turkey to the vegetable mixture.  Pour over spaghetti (in a casserole dish) and top with grated cheddar cheese.  Bake at 350F until heated through.

Now we all have our favorite turkey soup recipes.  Turkey noodle, turkey and rice, turkey corn chowder.  I recently made a really nice chicken and wild rice soup that I think turkey would do as well in.  I cooked mushrooms (I know, it does seem that mushrooms suit turkey somehow), a grated carrot, a diced onion in butter.  Add broth (chicken or turkey, either one) and about 2 cups turkey meat. Add enough wild rice and cook until rice is tender (mine takes about 45 minutes).  I made a slurry of flour and milk and added to the soup and let it cook until just thickened.  This makes a lovely velvety soup with a bit of texture courtesy the rice.

Cranberry sauce leftovers:  You can melt it a little and pour over ice cream.  This idea comes from one of my vintage magazines.  

Cranberry sauce over chicken (with onion soup mix added) in the crock pot makes a very tasty entree (TNT).  You can find this recipe all over the web.

INSPIRATIONS: Cranberry sauce and a bottle of chili sauce or cocktail sauce makes an excellent barbecue sauce for any meat.  You've likely seen it used over meatballs or cocktail franks.  I think it would do as well over pork roast or beef brisket, or even over sliced turkey and served on sandwich buns.

You can mix melted cranberry sauce with any melted jelly (raspberry, black berry, orange marmalade) for a fresh and tasty combination to use.

You might try mixing it with apple slices, piling into a pie crust and covering with another pie crust,  then bake.

And why not try a dollop in the midst of plain muffin batter?  You could top with a little grated fresh orange rind and sugar added just before baking.

I personally have always felt the best Thanksgiving side dishes were served plain first and then the leftovers could be 'dressed up' as the fancy dishes we've come to enjoy.  I could never quite convince my family of that fact even though they got to eat fancy sides for most of the month.

However, here's my ideas for using up the sides:

Sweet Potatoes:  John likes his sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows.  I used marshmallow cream this year and I think it would be easily mixed into the potatoes.  My favorite sweet potato dish is Sunday Sweet Potatoes which could easily be made from the leftover potatoes.

I've seen a recipe for a Fried Sweet Potato ball.  The mashed sweet potatoes are formed around a marshmallow, the whole is rolled in a crushed cereal and fried.  I would think this would be good even with out the melted marshmallow center.

If you happen to have plain sweet potatoes you might like to try: TNT Sweet potato biscuits are a very nice change from regular biscuits.

Sweet potato pie crust is especially good on a turkey (or chicken) pot pie.  Mashed sweet potatoes are added to a shortening based pie crust recipe.

Sweet Potato Pie or Sweet Potato Cake are quite good, too.  I've had all of these recipes in one form or another and I'm pretty sure a search online will net you as many recipes as you'd care to try.

Mashed Potatoes:  We especially enjoy eating Potato Cakes with beef steak or slices of roast beef.  I add in garlic, grated cheeses, a bit of flour and an egg and then fry until crisp and brown.  You can also make Duchess Potatoes.  This is a 'fancy' dish that incorporates eggs and mashed potatoes which are then piped onto a baking sheet and baked until golden brown and slightly puffy.  This same mixture does well as Volcano Potatoes, where it's poured into a greased casserole and grated cheese is sprinkled over the top (it supposedly looks like molten lava but it's good regardless).

Grandmama Crowley always used leftover mashed potatoes to stretch her ground beef for burgers or meatballs.  You can also spread them over a baked meatloaf and broil. Sprinkle with paprika for a pretty presentation.

Shepherd's Thanksgiving Pie:  Leftover dressing or stuffing is spread about the bottom and up the sides of a casserole.  Turkey, gravy, any vegetables leftover (green beans, Garden peas, diced carrots) are added in and the whole thing topped with dollops of mashed potatoes or mashed sweet potatoes.  Serve up with a side of cranberry sauce.(TNT)

And just as a note, you can freeze mashed potatoes quite well.  If reheated in a microwave they really do taste pretty close to freshly made.  The freezer sort of dries them out a little in my experience so this works best with a slightly wet potato.

And don't forget that mashed potatoes reheated in chicken broth and milk with a little chopped green onion makes a decent creamy potato soup.(TNT)

Stuffing:  I don't really have ideas for a complete transformation of this leftover.  I have always made dressing aka stuffing the same way. I just spread dressing in the pan and stuff the bird with the same mixture and call it stuffing.  I never have a care with the leftovers of this.  I pack into pie tins (or foil pans) and freeze.  They reheat nicely in the oven and go very well with roast chicken (and pork roast or chops).  You can pack into muffin tins for individual serving portions.

You can add any extra ingredients you'd like to change it up.  A few ideas: diced apples or pears, chopped nuts, browned sausage, oysters, roasted chestnuts, etc.

Inspiration:  why not use as a filler for ground meat to help stretch it?  I should think it would be quite good with ground chicken/turkey/pork or even hamburger

Green Bean Casserole:  I'm stretching myself here.  I've never made this dish until this year and we really enjoyed it.  Of course, I used homemade onion rings in mine and if I feel better next year.  I think I'd like to take the leftovers, mix with some sliced mushrooms I have, add in diced turkey and top with bread crumbs and grated Swiss cheese.  I think it would taste good.  I'm so tempted to hide this particular leftover and serve up steamed green peas tomorrow...

Well it's by no means a comprehensive list, but I hope it gives you a bit of inspiration to use up your leftovers or to tag them in the freezer for a future dish.


Sew Blessed Maw [Judy] said...

Thanks for the list.. I have lots of leftovers too, and am thankful for them..
Have a blessed week.

Louise said...

Today on the Rachael Ray show ( it was a repeat from 2014) her guest made stuffing waffles topped with an egg for breakfast.. not sure what else he did with it.. I know he mixed cranberry sauce with sour cream for a sauce to put on the waffle.. then topped it with an egg.. looked pretty good except I don't like jiggly eggs.. Like mine well cooked. LOL

Lana said...

Lots of good ideas!

I have my broth stock pots going this morning. I gave hubby a large Tupperware bowl for all the skin and bones as he carved the turkey and turkey breast and they are now doing their magic. It smells like the big feast all over again! I have not decided yet if I will can the broth or freeze it. I do have 16 pint jars in the dish washer on sanitize right now and I will be so glad later that I have ready to go broth if I do the extra work today.

I have divided up and frozen all of the leftovers that we will not eat by end of day tomorrow. I listed it all on my freezer inventory so that I remember to use it up soon. I made a bowl of turkey salad which will be wonderful on the leftover dinner rolls.

I have found that microwaving leftover mashed potatoes with a bit of milk really freshens them up. Stir well after heating.

I am always glad to see the end of Thanksgiving leftovers. I think Christmas leftovers of ham and mac n cheese are so much easier to deal with and taste better far longer.

Tammy said...

Our leftovers are finally gone. Greg likes to have them as another Thanksgiving meal, and he ate it all week long. All that is left is a bit of mashed potatoes. I make stock and used that last of the turkey for some noodle soup early in the week, and the last of that was consumed today for lunch. We're ready for "new" food this week. LOL.

Kathy said...

Thanks for the list! You have given me some new ideas to use up the leftovers. We had our Thanksgiving meal yesterday since my girl was sick on Thanksgiving.

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