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The Day After: Terrific Thanksgi...

Posted Sep 13 2008 3:51am

The Day After: Terrific Thanksgiving Leftovers
by Christine Leishman

Thanksgiv_leftover After the Grand Feast, you may find your refrigerator full of all those foods turkey stock you love to eat - one day a year. What can you do with all that turkey, cranberry sauce, and sweet potato? Well, here are some ideas that will keep you eating healthy while using up all those delicious leftovers.


The first thing to do the day after Thanksgiving is make and freeze it in small containers to add to pasta, polenta, couscous, or use it to make a quick soup over the holidays.
Add the leftover gravy to a small pot of stock for a delicious soup base. Add chopped turkey, the last of the green bean casserole, and some of those other cooked vegetables, and you've got soup for the whole family.

Sweet potatoes and winter squash make the ideal base for a velvety Gingered Sweet Potato Soup. Season with ginger or curry spices, add a little lowfat milk or yogurt, and garnish with chopped herbs. This soup really takes the autumn chill out of your bones in a wondrous way.


Toss chopped turkey with some rice (better yet wild rice!) and diced seasonal fruit: fuyu persimmon, Asian pear, crunchy apple, or add some dried fruit. Think color, texture, and flavor -- get creative. My Turkey and Wild Rice Salad incorporates a pomegranate vinaigrette but you could also replace some of the oil in your regular vinaigrette recipe with a little of that cranberry sauce you have on hand. (If you're leftover rice is really dried out, warm it in a saucepan with a splash of stock or water, drain and toss with the vinaigrette—the grains need to be "opened" so the dressing soaks in rather than just coating the rice.)

Starters and Snacks

Crostini make a special lunch or late afternoon pick-me-up. Finely chop those cooked green vegetables (small artichokes, spinach, chard, green beans), season with fresh herbs, salt, pepper, a drop of extra virgin olive oil, even a little lemon zest, and spoon onto a garlic crouton. If you need something a little more substantial spread a thin layer of goat cheese or hummus on a slice of toasted sourdough bread, top with the vegetable mixture, and supper is taken care of.


  • Spice up some turkey; wrap it in a whole-wheat tortilla along with some winter squash, cranberry sauce, and a handful of shredded lettuce or sprouts. Or try the recipe below for a burrito to make when you're not so "on the go." Or, try some Turkey Burritos.
  • Scoop cooked sweet potatoes (or acorn squash) out of its skin; toss it with rice or stuffing, and season to taste. Spoon the filling firmly into the skin, heat through, and drizzle with gravy for a quick and easy entrée.
  • Make Vegetable Griddlecakes. These are great with cranberry sauce, gravy, or both.
    Make an egg substitute omelette and fill it with what you've got -- and just a hint of Parmesan.
    For a surprisingly elegant meal turn your leftover stuffing into a Savory Bread Pudding. Add a simple tossed green salad and a glass of red wine and dinner is served
  • Make a hungry-"person" stew. Wilt some onions, and garlic in a heavy-bottomed pot, add some cooked potatoes, turkey, the leftover gravy, and enough stock to make a sauce. Cook over a medium-low heat until all the flavors come together and the aroma fills your kitchen. Chop some cooked vegetables and throw them in for color—carrots, sweet potato, green beans, greens, or even frozen peas. Heat through and serve as is, or spoon into ovenproof crocks and top with some mashed potatoes for a turkey shepherd's pie.


One of my favorite things to do with leftover cranberry sauce is flavor vinegar. (I let it "cure" until Christmas and give it as gifts.) Add about 1/2-cup pureed cranberry sauce to the bottom of a sterilized glass bottle. Warm a liter of good quality red wine vinegar, pour it in over the cranberries, and set aside to cool. Be sure the bottle can be tightly sealed. For a slightly sweeter taste and a more festive looking bottle add some dried cranberries as well.

Chutney is easy to make from, and great to serve with, Thanksgiving leftovers. My Cranberry Chutney is a quick and easy chutney that is perfect at this time of year.

Chris Leishman began her cooking career at Greens Restaurant, the renowned vegetarian restaurant in San Francisco. Her interest in health and nutrition eventually led her to UCSF Medical Center where she was the Recipe Development Coordinator for both the patient and retail foodservice. She led cooking classes for the Outpatient Weight Management group, the Heart Disease Reversal Program, and Millberry Student Program. Her work for Dr. Dean Ornish's Heart Disease Reversal Programled to the publication of her cookbook Recipes From the Heart.

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