You’ve heard it time and again. For many people (and I may be one of them) the best part of Thanksgiving is the leftovers. Don’t get me wrong, I love the holiday and all the preparations. But after a couple of days of gearing up, it seems like the meal goes by in a flash. So, it’s nice to have a leisurely weekend to get creative with the leftovers.
While I don’t know exactly what’s in your fridge the day after the holiday, it’s safe to say that you’re likely to have turkey, some potatoes (white and or sweet), a bit of cranberry sauce, a little stuffing, a dab of gravy and probably a container of the ever-popular green bean casserole. Reheating is fine, but after a couple of meals, I’m usually looking for a change in taste.
Hands down, my favorite thing to make after the holiday is turkey soup. Once the turkey bones have been stripped of all their meat, I simmer them with onion, celery, carrots, salt and pepper for a few hours to produce a heavenly stock. From there, you can do a basic turkey noodle, or add your leftover mashed potatoes for a creamy soup base. A dab of leftover gravy will add a lot of flavor—but go easy, since it’s loaded with calories.
The turkey lends itself to a million uses, but if you have so much left over that you don’t think you’ll use it in a few days, shred it into meal-sized portions and freeze. It’s great to have it handy to add to dishes like soup, pasta or burritos. Here’s something you may not have thought of—turkey lettuce cups. Heat up some minced leftover turkey with some diced scallions and a little Chinese hoisin sauce, then spoon into iceberg lettuce leaves. It’s a light and refreshing change from the usual turkey sandwiches.
Cranberry sauce is amazing on top of plain yogurt or oatmeal, or spooned over mixed fresh fruit for a quick dessert. You can also blend it with nonfat cream cheese for a tasty spread for your whole grain toast. I also like to spike my cranberry sauce with some ginger, garlic and soy sauce and serve on grilled fish or tofu. It tastes like a really sophisticated barbecue sauce.
If your original sweet potato dish wasn’t too sweet, you can dice up the leftovers with the leftover turkey, then sauté with some onions and other veggies for a one-dish hash. Serve with a green salad and you’re all set. Sweet potatoes would also make the start of a pretty great curry with some leftover turkey added.
Stuffing and green bean casserole are some of the highest calorie leftovers, so you’ll want to use them sparingly and stretch them out with some healthier ingredients. Add some canned tomatoes and chopped turkey to your leftover stuffing to make a filling for stuffed peppers. And that leftover green bean casserole? Try heating it up with some white wine or broth, then add some garlic and hot pepper flakes and toss with some whole grain pasta.
Susan is the Sr. Director of Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training at Herbalife, where she is responsible for the development of nutrition education and training materials, and is one of the primary authors of the Herbalife-sponsored blog, www.discovergoodnutrition.com. She is a Registered Dietitian and holds two Board Certifications from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, and a Certified Specialist in Obesity and Weight Management. Susan is also a Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Susan graduated with distinction in biology from the University of Colorado, and received her master’s degree in Food Science and Nutrition from Colorado State University. She then completed her dietetic internship at the University of Kansas. Susan has taught extensively and developed educational programs targeted to individuals, groups and industry in her areas of expertise, including health promotion, weight management and sports nutrition.
Prior to her role at Herbalife, she was the assistant director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition, and has held appointments as adjunct professor in nutrition at Pepperdine University and as lecturer in nutrition in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
Susan was a consultant to the (then) Los Angeles Raiders for six seasons, and was a contributing columnist for the Los Angeles Times Health Section for two years. She is a co-author of 23 research papers, 14 book chapters, and was a co-author of two books for the public: “What Color is Your Diet?” and “The L.A. Shape Diet” by Dr. David Heber, published by Harper Collins in 2001 and 2004, respectively.