Thanksgiving Leftover Ideas…Because It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Ok, so if you are just joining us, here are some helpful past posts regarding my favorite holiday, specifically my Thanksgiving Planner (which is still my proverbial holiday bible of organization and recipes), the What I Wish I Knew post, and if you want to see a diatribe about the disappearing Thanksgiving, click here. Thanksgiving is my personal Superbowl, and I’ve cooked for crowds both large and small. I love it, but since I cook sooooo freaking much food, I really do need leftover ideas, because the Heathens will balk at eating the same meal for three days afterwards. My leftover approach is two-fold: have a selection of dishes that I make and freeze, then a selection of meal ideas to take us through the long weekend. After spending a small fortune on Thanksgiving, you can bet your behind I’m going to stretch those leftovers like crazy.

So, here’s some options:

Make and Freeze

  • Turkey Tetrazzini–I now use Pioneer Woman’s recipe which I love. I make several batches and freeze them for easy, weeknight meals. The bacon and peas add a great dimension to the turkey and it definitely is a taste profile that is approachable to all of us. I put it in foil pans, and wrap in both foil and plastic wrap to prevent freezer burn. Just be sure to remove the plastic before baking.
  • Turkey and/or Ham Pot Pies–I confess that this is the one post-Thanksgiving dish where I take ALL the shortcuts. I use refrigerated pie crusts, canned soups, canned veggies, and fresh herbs to feel better about myself. I assemble and freeze, then defrost and bake until golden and bubbly. If you are burnt out from cooking, these are a way to get something in the freezer in 10 minutes or less.
  • The ham bone (usually with a few scraps on it)–I freeze this by itself and make 15-bean soup later (crockpot or Instant Pot).
  • Stock–I simmer the turkey carcass with aromatics and freeze for later use.
  • Soups, chili, casseroles etc–These are viable options and pretty much any chicken soup or casserole you can freeze, just swap in the turkey.

Meals

  • The Thanksgiving Panini of Awesomeness–We use the gravy like mayo, then basically pile everything on it, including turkey, ham, cranberry sauce, stuffing, mac and cheese, sweet potatoes, and more. If it’s lying around, it can go in. Grab some French bread and panini all the leftovers into delicious submission.
  • Along those lines, we slap some ham and American cheese between two glazed donuts and panini those in the waffle maker…because it’s sinful and delicious, and waffling makes everything better.
  • These Monte Cristos, but instead of tomato chutney for garnish, I sauté a little chopped (fresh) jalapeno in butter, then add leftover cranberry sauce, heating until it’s thinned down and sauce-like (think sweet and spicy). These sandwiches are much easier than a mess of the traditional frying.
  • “Funeral Sandwiches”–Google it, but ham has never been happier…except in that donut panini thing. Bear can put down a whole tray of these.
  • Similarly, mix up some turkey, dressing and cranberry sauce, fold into won-ton wrappers, and fry until golden. Wonton and egg roll wrappers offer plenty of options to mad-scientist your way through creative leftover mash-ups, just wrap the mess up and fry it!
  • Here’s some of my Food Network ideas: Stuffed Pork Chops (made these and love them),  I haven’t tried these Crispy Turkey Bites, but they are on the list, and this stuffing/mac and cheese mash-up looks so crazy, it may be good.

Overall, my best advice for leftover management is to be creative, but don’t wait until this week *cough, cough* to come up with a plan next for next year. I jot down ideas all year long as I see them, so that, come Friday, I have 10 different plans waiting in the wings so I stretch the most expensive meal of the year into endless adventures in decadence. I’ll see you at the gym come Monday.

 

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