Words By: Erica Santo, Parents’ Association President
About the Author
Erica Santo is the Academy at the Lakes Parents’ Association President. She is a graduate of Lehigh University with degrees in Chemistry and Marketing. She and her husband Jim have 2 children enrolled at AATL and a little one at home chomping at the bit to start school soon. Currently she is a stay at home mom who enjoys cooking and photography which she loves to share with others. Visit her on Instagram, @din_din_delish , for tasty dinner ideas.
Many consider Thanksgiving the pinnacle of a “foodie holiday”. Sentimental family traditions combine with home-cooked recipes to create the perfect holiday atmosphere for family and friends to enjoy and give thanks.
So much planning and preparation goes into our Thanksgiving meals – when to eat, where to eat, and what to eat. The days and even moments leading up dinner often resemble a well-choreographed dance in the kitchen.
Planning, chopping, baking, sautéing, stirring, and arranging abound all centered on highly calculated oven schedules on Thanksgiving day – down to the minute – to make sure all of the delicious dishes get their fair-share of time in the oven before heading to the main table for dinner.
But no matter how big or cozy your dinner table is on Thanksgiving, one thing is always consistent – leftovers.
Having a game plan for your leftovers will allow you to, not only enjoy quick weeknight meals the next few nights, but also ensure that no food gets left behind or thrown out before it’s time.
I am a big believer in getting the most I can out of raw ingredients (root-to-leaf cooking) and making sure leftovers are enjoyed and not tossed in the garbage. While Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate the blessings in our lives and the bounty of the harvest, it also represents a unique opportunity to get a little creative with our leftovers.
Here is a game plan to help with your Thanksgiving post-meal clean-up.
Once the meal is over, the last thing you want to do is more work, so there is no shame in just covering your dishes and toss in fridge. Easy-peasy lemon-squeezy. This is the no-fuss-no-muss, I promise to deal with you tomorrow approach.
After all, enjoying a cold turkey sandwich the day after Thanksgiving with a little sprinkle of salt and a smear of mayo on white bread is one of the reasons why I will ALWAYS make turkey on thanksgiving.
Now folks, the key here is you have to promise to eat the leftovers.
You do not want any UFOs in your fridge, you know, unidentifiable food objects 2 weeks from now that vaguely resemble a school science project.
There are very specific guidelines on how long leftovers can be safely eaten.
One of my favorite things to do with Thanksgiving leftovers, or any leftovers for that matter, is to transform them into something completely different, yet equally delicious, to enjoy later in the week (or month if you freeze it).
I really don’t think Aristotle had leftovers in mind when he penned, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” but hey, if the shoe fits…
When I look at a typical Thanksgiving spread, I think about what we might have leftover and how I plan to use the items.
There will always be some items immediately destined for the freezer, packed in smaller containers to use in other recipes such as:
- diced turkey
- shredded cheese
- chicken stock
These items freeze well, can be pre-portioned and so versatile to use in many different recipes.
Here is what a traditional Thanksgiving meal might include:
- cheese and veggie plate
- spinach and artichoke dip
- shrimp cocktail
- oven roasted turkey
- glazed ham
- mashed potatoes
- sweet potatoes/baked yams
- sautéed greens
- cranberry sauce
- dinner rolls
Let’s look at recipes and ideas that will have your Thanksgiving leftovers doing double duty.
Cranberry Glazed Pork Tenderloin
If your family is like mine, cranberry sauce/relish is a “love it or hate it” kind of thing, and we always have a bit left over. With a few other pantry ingredients, you can turn this sweet side into a savory sauce for a pork tenderloin.
Spinach and Artichoke Dip Stuffed Chicken Breasts
Scoop up the leftover dip (provided there were no double dippers) and stuff this tasty appetizer into a small pocket in the side of the chicken cutlets. Here you can really use any cream-cheese based dip for this recipe for a different twist.
Shrimp Lettuce Wraps
Toss the shrimp cocktail (minus the sauce) in a skillet with some garlic, lime juice, and cumin, then add a little chopped cilantro. Wrap in romaine leaves for a quick & healthy lunch.
Ham and Cheese Sliders
Take slices of your sweet ham and toss in the food processor along with some of the Swiss from your cheese plate, a dollop or two of sour cream and Dijon mustard to create a sweet and savory filling. Stuff sliced dinner roles with the chopped ham mixture and bake in a casserole dish until warm and gooey.
Stuffing Crusted Turkey Casserole
Instead of using chicken in your favorite casserole recipe, replace it with some of your leftover turkey. And, for a twist on the crumb topping, crumble some of your stuffing to make a craggy crust with the taste of Thanksgiving baked right in.
Mashed Potato Puffs
Dollop mashed potatoes into buttered muffin tins along with some shredded cheese and scallions, then bake for a hearty breakfast or dinner side dish.
No matter how hard I try, I always buy too much canned pumpkin puree. Seriously, I should know you only need one can for a pumpkin pie! Pumpkin waffles are the perfect way to use up any leftover canned pumpkin. You can even add some nuts and seeds to the batter for a more rustic dish.
Sweet Potato Corn Cakes
Use left over roasted sweet potatoes (minus the gooey marshmallow topping) and combine with corn to form these savory cakes. A quick fry in the pan turns these leftovers into something almost unrecognizable.
Creamy Turkey Gnocchi Soup
Use up those left over carrots, celery and onions to form base for this flavorful soup. Evaporated milk gives the soup its creamy texture without being overly heavy and thick. Shred some of the leftover cheese to make a cheese frico to top the soup.
This is possibly one of my all time favorite recipes, because it really doesn’t follow a recipe. In my opinion, a quiche is one of the most versatile dishes a person should know how to make. You can basically add just about anything to the quiche/custard base and it will taste delicious. Once you have whipped up your egg and milk base, you can add almost any combination of Thanksgiving leftovers to the party and it will turn out yummy. Here are just a few variations that are fan-favorites in my house:
- sautéed greens and cheese
- ham and cheese
- sweet potatoes, greens, and tomatoes
- Broccoli cheese
Turkey Goat Cheese Paninis
There is just something about food pressed and grilled to a perfect level of crispness. You can really use just about anything you want in a panini which makes your options limitless. I particularly love a sweetened goat cheese paired with peppery greens and roast turkey on crisp buttery bread.
Hopefully, I have given you a little something to think about as you stand in line waiting for they doors to open (along with the sun to rise) in front of your favorite store on black Friday morning.