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Extending Thanksgiving: How to Use Your Leftovers

Eight recipes to make Turkey Day leftovers into something special

I love Thanksgiving, the reminder to stop and give thanks, the gathering of friends and family, the changing seasons and fall foliage, but mainly, the food. I love Thanksgiving so much that occasionally, come March or April, I have to bust out some of my favorite Turkey Day recipes, just to get my fix halfway through the year.

While I don't intend to eat my Thanksgiving leftovers for days after, I do like to both find new ways to experience my favorite flavors, and use up all the leftovers I have from the big day. Here are some great recipes using Thanksgiving ingredients that will tantalize your taste buds, and make you a leftover genius!

"The Bobbie" — I never thought that the old fashioned sub shop that I worked at as a teen in Wilmington, DE would make national news, but there it was—Vice President Joe Biden confessing that among the junk food he snacked on during his vice-presidential debate prep, was the Capriotti's Bobbie. The store's most popular sub sandwich makes Thanksgiving flavors available 365—shredded turkey, mayo, stuffing, and cranberry sauce all mashed together on a sub roll! If your hankering for some more Turkey-Day delights a few days, or few hours after a big meal, making a homemade Bobbie with all the leftovers is sure to satisfy, and that's no malarky! 

In year's past, I've been intimidated by the idea of creating my own Turkey Stock from the turkey carcass. However, I've come to learn that there's not much to it, and as long as you refrigerate the carcass, this isn't a project you have to take on right away. Just pick the extra turkey meat off the carcass for those other fabulous recipes, and when you're ready, place the carcass in a pot, with carrots, celery, onion, and garlic. Fill the pot with water about one inch past the contents. Cover and simmer on low for three hours. Visit What's Cooking America, for all the yummy details. Now we're ready for homemade soups all winter long!

Panera's latest seasonal salad, Roasted Turkey Harvest Salad, captures some of our favorite holiday flavors. If you're in need of lighter fare to recoup from the carb-loaded feast, try making your own version—field greens, shredded turkey, dried cranberries or cherries, pecans, gorgonzola cheese crumbles, and top it with a fruity vinaigrette. My favorite is Ken's Steak House Lite Raspberry Walnut Vinaigrette. 

Paula Deen knows comfort food, so who better to seek out when it comes to making a Southern Turkey Pot Pie. Paula's recipe uses up leftover turkey, butternut squash, and cranberries, and is topped with a puff pastry lid. Best of all, because all the ingredients are precooked, it barely takes any time to put this tasty meal together!

Leave it to chef Bobby Flay to spice up a sweet potato! If you have some leftover mashed sweet potato, here's how you can kick it up a notch with his recipe for Sweet Potato Soup with Blue Tortillas:

Combine 3 cups of leftover mashed sweet potatoes, chicken broth, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, chipotle adobe puree, and top with creme fraiche, cilantro and blue tortilla chips!

"There's probably no better way to empty that overstuffed post-Thanksgiving refrigerator than a hearty soup," says Food Network's Wes Martin of his recipe for Turkey Vegetable Soup with Stuffing Dumplings. Use your homemade turkey stock, and leftover stuffing to make dumplings for this soup!

In our quest to find some inventive recipes using our favorite holiday ingredients, some friends got together for an alternative Thanksgiving. True to form, home cook extraordinaire, Tom Wheeler, brought us Turkey Tacos with Chipotle Pumpkin Sauce, and let me tell ya, the secret's in the sauce:

1/4 cup roasted pumpkin (You could save some from the pumpkin pie you made.)

1/4 cup sour cream

1 tsp. roasted garlic (If you don't keep this laying around, roast half a head of garlic in a ceramic bowl, slathered with olive oil, while you're roasting your turkey.  Check it at 20 minutes, and every 5 minutes after that.  It should be soft, but not burned.)

1/2 chipotle pepper, or more if you like more kick

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp black pepper

Combine in a blender. Taste and adjust salt.

Serve shredded turkey, arugula lettuce, sauce and queso fresco cheese in a flour tortilla.

If you are overdosing on Thanksgiving after days of leftovers, here's a recipe that your can easily freeze and heat up once the idea of turkey and stuffing becomes appealing again. I started making my Thanksgiving Mini Meatloaves in a muffin pan so that they were perfectly portioned and baked twice as fast and their loaf-sized big brother. While you can make these anytime using Stovetop Stuffing, I love them even more with my homemade cornbread stuffing because it has more texture and sage flavor.

1 lb. raw ground turkey

2 cups leftover stuffing

1 egg, beaten

up to 1 cup chicken broth

1/2 can whole cranberry sauce

Combine turkey, stuffing and egg in bowl. Add enough chicken broth so the mixture holds together, but isn't soupy. Spray muffin pans with cooking spray, and fill with mixture. With spoon, make a well in each muffin and fill with cranberry sauce. Bake at 350F degrees for 20-30 minutes until done (165F degrees).

Enjoy your Thanksgiving feast this week, and the day after, and the day after that, and after that, for as long as there's leftovers in your fridge!

Lee E. November 23, 2012 at 08:48 PM
Wrong link for "What's Cooking America" and the turkey stock recipe.

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