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What to Do With All Those Thanksgiving Leftovers

Excess turkey? Overflow of mashed potatoes? Too much cranberry sauce? Here are plenty of ways to utilize them all. Share your own recipes in the comments.

What to Do With All Those Thanksgiving Leftovers

Thanksgiving came and went but the leftovers are still in the fridge. If another plate of microwaved turkey doesn't sound so good, try something a little more creative.

Below are some ideas and quick recipes to clean out that fridge while giving you a new taste of the Thanksgiving feast. Pick out your Thanksgiving leftover item and try out a recipe or two with it. Some recipes will crossover. Share your own Thanksgiving leftover recipes in the comments below.

Turkey

This usually forms the bulk of leftovers on Turkey Day. But don’t worry — there’s plenty to do with the bird!

  • Soup: Boil the carcass in water with carrots, celery and onion. Simmer for 45 minutes to create a broth. Remove the carcass, pick off all the leftover meat and dump into the broth with more veggies (any leftover veggies from last night’s dinner!) and you’ve got homemade turkey soup. Add some noodles, if you wish.
  • Sandwiches: This is classic. Slap some turkey, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce on your favorite bread and eat up.
  • Casserole: Combine leftover turkey that you’ve shredded with some left over gravy, stuffing and green beans and put in a greased 9x13 inch baking dish. Top with some shredded cheese and bake at 350 degrees for about half an hour. You could even top it off with some French’s Onion Rings if you have some of those leftover.
  • Turkey Salad Two Ways: You can shred some of the turkey meat and mix it up with celery, onion, mayonnaise and leftover cranberry sauce for turkey salad on crackers or sandwiches. Or, just shred the turkey and toss it into some greens with cut up veggies and a cranberry dressing (see below under “Cranberries”)
  • Turkey Croissants: Take Pillsbury Crescent Rolls and lay out on a baking sheet. Place some shredded turkey and a small dollop of cranberry sauce and roll up (think pigs in a blanket). Bake according to package directions and serve as a snack over the weekend.
  • Pie: Make your own version of shepherd’s pie with the turkey, leftover gravy and mixed vegetables. Heat up on the stove and pour into a buttered baking dish. Top with mashed potatoes and broil.
  • Sushi: This is for experienced sushi makers only. Of course, you have a long weekend, it might be a fun project. Roll up some turkey, stuffing, avocado, sprouts and cucumber in seaweed and rice and cut into bite-size pieces. Serve with gravy and cranberry sauce for dipping.

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

These recipes are all for homemade cranberry sauce — the kind cooked on the stove with sugar and orange peel and juice. See it transformed before your eyes into something so much more than a turkey sideshow. 

  • Dessert: Take homemade cranberry sauce and warm it back up on the stove and serve over vanilla bean or coffee ice ream.
  • Cranberry Dressing: Whisk together ½ cup of leftover cranberry sauce with 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar, 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard and ¾ cup olive oil. Season to taste and dress your turkey salad with it!
  • Cocktails: Muddle a tablespoon of the homemade stuff in the bottom of a class with some mint and pour rum, seltzer and a squeeze of lime juice over it. Stir and sip your cranberry mojito.
  • Cheesy appetizer: Take your leftover cold cranberry sauce and spread it on some crusty bread with brie cheese and a dab of honey.
  • More Dessert: Make your favorite New York style cheesecake and swirl it with leftover cranberry sauce right before putting it in the oven to bake. Top with more cranberry sauce.
  • Breakfast: Use the leftover red stuff to top off pancakes or Belgian waffles over the weekend.
  • Snacks: Use in the turkey croissant recipe (found under “Turkey”).

Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes tend to be left in heaping piles. Heating them up and eating “as is” is always recommended, but try out some different ways if you have too much mash.

  • Latkes: Mix 2 cups of leftover mashed potatoes with one egg, 4 Tbsp. minced onion, salt, pepper, and a splash or two of milk. (Add some flour if mixture is too thin.) Form into small pancakes and fry in oil over medium high heat until browned on both sides. Serve with cranberry sauce.
  • Shepherd’s Pie: (Also under “Turkey”) Take the leftover turkey, gravy and mixed veggies and combine on stove until warm. Put in a buttered baking dish and top with leftover mashed potatoes. Broil until browned (add cheese on top for extra goodness!)
  • Dumplings: Mix 1 cup of leftover mashed potatoes with one egg, ½ cup flour and salt and pepper. A dough will form and you can roll that out and cut into bite size pieces. Drop these in the last 10 minutes of cook time for your leftover turkey soup (found under “Turkey”).

Stuffing/Dressing

Whether you stuff the bird or leave the dressing on the side, there always seems to be too much. Don't worry: it's even better the next day.

  • Frittata: Layer 2-3 cups of leftover stuffing in an oven-proof skillet to form a crust. Sprinkle 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese on top. Whisk together 6 large eggs, 2 large egg whites, 3/4 cup milk, 1/2 tsp. ground mustard, 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg and salt and pepper and pour over the crust and cheese. Cook on medium heat for 7 minutes. Sprinkle on 2 Tbsp. grated parmesan and set it under the broiler until brown and bubbly.
  • Hash: It's already a type of "hash," so just fry up the leftover stuffing in a pan and serve with eggs cooked your favorite way.
  • Wontons: Buy some frozen wonton wrappers and fill up with warmed stuffing. Fry in a pan with oil until crispy. Dip in leftover gravy.
  • Casserole and Shepherd's Pie: (Under "Turkey").

Sweet Potatoes

We usually load them up with marshmallows and brown sugar (and then just eat the marshmallows and brown sugar...), but after Thanksgiving, you can use those leftover sweet and savory roots for plenty more.

  • Pancakes: (See "Mashed Potato Latke" recipe above) Make sweet potato latkes instead of savory! Add in some pumpkin spice for a special holiday touch.
  • Pierogis or Raviolis: Buy some pre-made frozen dough for ravioli or pierogis and stuff them with mashed-up leftover sweet potatoes. Fry them up in a hot pan of oil or bake for a healthier version.
  • Pie: Mix together 2 cups cooked sweet potatoes, 1 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 stick melted butter, 2 eggs, 1 tsp. vanilla, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp. each ground cinnamon and ginger, 1 cup milk and 3 egg whites. Pour into an unbaked 9-inch pie crust and serve over the weekend.

Green Beans

Green beans are savable! These recipes below are for green beans made without the heavy creams and soups.

  • Salad: Mix together leftover cooked green beans (that have been re-heated) with sliced almonds and pour a vinaigrette made from 2 tsp. EVOO, 1 tsp. each red wine vinegar and Dijon mustard. Season with salt and pepper.
  • More Salad: Mix together cold leftover green beans with kidney beans and garbanzo beans. Toss with the salad dressing above.
  • Casseroles and Shepherd's Pie: (Under "Turkey" above).
  • Frittata: Add to the frittata recipe found under "Stuffing."

What do you do with your Thanksgiving leftovers? Share your ideas and recipes in the comments below.

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