24 Ways to Use Thanksgiving Leftovers–Not Just Turkey!

My partner Daniel’s cousin Mike has just concluded a 25-year tradition of inviting all the extended family to Thanksgiving dinner at his home in upstate New York.  We’re planning to get together next November, too, but it’ll have to be somewhere else because Mike is selling his house and moving to Florida.  As one of only a few family units living close enough to New York to travel there by car instead of airplane, we’ve enjoyed a generous portion of leftovers each year–this time, we brought home a big cooler and two small ones and a couple of grocery bags of surplus food!  Here are our tips for using up the kinds of goodies that tend to be left over after a big celebration like this.  (Thanks for all the great food and happy memories, Mike!!)

  • Freeze stuffing, mashed potatoes, and cooked vegetables in quart buckets.  On a boring weekend toward the end of winter, defrost them, bake some fish, open a can of cranberry sauce, and have a Fishgiving Feast!
  • Chop up leftover turkey and use it in Tetrazzini.  This recipe also absorbs mushrooms, peas, bell pepper, olives, cheese, and butter, if you have any of those left over.
  • Use leftover baked or roasted sweet potatoes or squash to make New England Yam Bake or Butternut Squash Burritos.  (Both recipes work with either vegetable.  Squash that has been baked with the skin on, rather than diced and roasted, usually needs to be drained so that it isn’t too wet.)
  • Add leftover corn to your burritos or other Mexican meals, such as Mexican Pizza, or to Cheesy Zucchini Casserole (using that zucchini you probably froze in the summer when there was too much of it around!).
  • Here are 4 ways to use extra bread, even if it’s stale!  Cheesy Vegetable Bread Pudding also accommodates assorted bits of vegetables and cheese.
  • Crackers from the appetizer tray can be crunched up along with bread to make breadcrumbs for use in recipes like Cheesy Walnut Burgers.
  • Most types of vegetables work in High-Protein Vegan Pasta Salad, Pasta Prima Becca, and/or Flexican Cornbread Pizza.  If you have at least 1 cup of a raw vegetable, shred and freeze for later use.
  • Shred excess carrots and onions and make Apricot Lentil Soup or Masoor Dal or Grildebeen Burgers.
  • Serve extra desserts at church coffee hour or a similar event.  Thanks to Mike’s generosity with desserts–he always buys some cheesecakes and ice cream, in addition to the pumpkin and apple pies that come with the catering package and a couple of homemade desserts–we brought home two complete apple pies and one pumpkin pie and a big chunk of cheesecake!  Because nobody had signed up to host Sunday’s coffee hour, and we were due home Saturday night, I’d sent email to the parish announcing a “share your Thanksgiving bounty” coffee hour, and thus we disposed of one of our apple pies.
  • Stuffing is a delicious side dish to sauteed mushrooms–which have been our Thanksgiving protein the years we didn’t go to Mike’s house.
  • Leftover nuts from making pecan pie, or from appetizers?  Make Nutshroom Burgers!
  • Make leftover fruit–even if it’s bruised or past its prime–into a pie filling or a versatile fruit sauce.
  • Puree leftover cranberry sauce, apples, sweet potatoes, squash, and/or other fruit and use in place of the applesauce in Raisin Bran Bread.  You don’t have to cook the fruit mixture before adding it to the dough.  I did this shortly before Thanksgiving with some excess baked buttercup squash and the good parts of a few old apples, and the bread is really good!
  • If you have 2 or 3 extra raw sweet potatoes and a bunch of greens, make this amazing soup!

We’re mostly vegetarian, but we do eat turkey at Thanksgiving when it’s the main course…but we’re nervous about taking leftover meat on a 10-hour road trip, and anyway Mike usually has estimated the group’s turkey appetite more accurately than most of the other dishes so that there isn’t a whole lot of turkey left.  That’s why only one of our tips involves turkey.  Oddly enough, most of the “using Thanksgiving leftovers” articles I’ve seen focus on the turkey–which is why I’m hoping to write a helpful resource for people who have other foods left over!

Do you have more ideas for Thanksgiving leftovers?  Please share in the comments!

Visit the Hearth & Soul Blog Hop and Works-for-Me Wednesday and Real Food Friday for more great tips!

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About 'Becca
author of The Earthling's Handbook, about the environment, parenting, cooking, and more!

7 Responses to 24 Ways to Use Thanksgiving Leftovers–Not Just Turkey!

  1. If a ten hour road trip is not in your picture, Turkey Frame Soup makes excellent use of the skeleton along with remaining bits of meat and gravy. Break up the skeleton if necessary to fit it into your soup kettle; add the onions herbs etc from the cavity, plus a bay leaf or two — and a couple splashes of VINEGAR to extract calcium and collagen; add meat bits, gravy etc; and enough water to cover. Simmer on a back burner for an hour or two. Dredge out the bones and solids including the bay leaves; while these are cooling for dissection, keep the broth simmering with sliced carrots, pearl barley or rice. Pick over the cooled bones to remove meat bits, chop, add them back to the soup. Add salt as needed. Optional: pepper, cayenne.
    This soup was my dad’s favorite part of Thanksgiving!

    • 'Becca says:

      Thanks! That sounds really good. I have often enjoyed eating stuffing and squash together but never tried formally baking them together. You made the squash look prettier by cutting them horizontally. I’ll have to mention that to Daniel (who does all the squash-hacking around here, because I have this annoying tendency to almost cut my fingers off) who has always cut them vertically.

  2. Marla says:

    Hi Becca,
    Love your ideas on what to do with Thanksgiving leftovers. I like the freezing idea and the 4 ways to use the extra bread the best I think. Thanks for sharing on Real Food Fridays. Pinned & tweeted.

  3. swathi says:

    Very useful article, thanks for sharing with Hearth and soul blog hop.

  4. It’s always a big change when someone who has hosted family dinners moves on – I’m sure you will find somewhere that you all enjoy. Love these ideas for using up leftovers. They would work for Christmas too. Thank you so much for sharing this healthy, sustainable post with us at the Hearth and Soul Hop.

  5. Pingback: Cutting Food Waste at Home and Worldwide (70+ recipes and tips!) | The Earthling's Handbook

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