Thanksgiving is almost—gasp!—upon us, and I AM NOT PREPARED. (I’ve been up to my elbows planning a little race called the Turk-EA Trot—heard of it?) Thankfully, I’m not hosting, but I still always want to make ‘my own’ Thanksgiving FOR THE LEFTOVERS. I didn’t appreciate how much I would miss my favorite childhood dishes now that we spend Thanksgiving at my in-laws’ house. Apparently, as a kid I naively thought everyone served the exact same food on Thanksgiving. Not so.
Despite the fact that we have not yet eaten the actual meal, let’s talk LEFTOVERS. Growing up, my favorite Thanksgiving leftovers were simply another plate of all the Thanksgiving dishes, reheated in the microwave, turkey optional. I’m here for the sides—always have been, always will be.
However, I’m also a sucker for trying new things, and I hate wasting food. Those leftover green beans? Gotta turn ‘em into something!
One of my favorite things to do with leftover apple and pumpkin pie (other than just eat another slice!) is to turn them into smoothies! Yes, you read that right—the dietitian is telling you to eat pie for breakfast. Simply add plain yogurt and some milk and blend—the pie is sweet enough that you don’t need any additional sugar. Bonus points if you throw in some spinach, but I won’t ask you to do that. Cranberries and sweet potato casserole also make a great smoothie, too.
While the turkey is the focal point of the Thanksgiving table, it’s not what I crave the following day. My husband’s entire family goes nuts over grilled turkey sandwiches and turkey noodle soup, while I’m digging out every dish from the fridge to re-make my Thanksgiving meal. If you’re looking for something creative to do with your leftover turkey, consider turning it into something entirely different. My favorite is a ‘Thai Curry Stew with Turkey and Zucchini,’ a recipe I found ten years ago and have made quite a few times. It looks pretty involved upon first glance, but it can be simplified in many ways. If you’re game, check it out at CookingLight.com.
Next up? The stuffing. I had to Google this one, as I’ve only gotten as ‘creative’ as including it—along with all the other sides and turkey—in a giant Thanksgiving sandwich. (It was delicious, but heavy.) I found some great ideas, from using stuffing to make meatballs, waffles and even a breakfast bread pudding, topped with fried eggs. The most unique option, however, was the ‘Friendsgiving Nachos’ from Good Housekeeping, made with potato chips and topped with stuffing, shredded turkey and cheese, and cranberries. I feel like it could work?
Mashed potatoes are a tough one, as they’re already as ‘cooked’ as they can really get, and they definitely are not going in a smoothie. They are, however, the topping for shepherd’s pie, so now is a perfect time to whip one of those up. Plus, after all that turkey, a little beef is a great chance of pace!
Growing up, all our sides on Thanksgiving were ‘casseroles:’ the green bean casserole with cream of mushroom soup, the corn custard made with eggs and sugar, the sweet potato casserole topped with marshmallows. If you—like my husband—grew up with plain green beans and corn on the table—you now have the perfect building blocks for any number of recipes! Green beans can be added to just about any soup—turkey or otherwise—and so can corn. You could, however, get creative and mix the leftover corn with a bit of chili powder and a box of Jiffy cornbread (I know you have one of those collecting dust in the back of your pantry!) and make corn fritters in a skillet. Serve with turkey and cranberries!
I’ve already mentioned cranberries multiple times—what a versatile dish—but there is one more: meatballs! Pioneer Woman likes to mix cranberry sauce with a jar of chili sauce, some cumin and a bag of frozen meatballs. They would make a great appetizer while family visits on Black Friday, or as part of a main meal with buttered noodles and salad a few days later.
I hope you try something—anything!—new this holiday season when it comes to food. I know I want to try some of these ideas. One of them could just become your new favorite recipe!