Leftovers can go from tiresome to terrific

November 25, 2022

When you ask people what they enjoy about Thanksgiving, you’ll hear a wide range of responses. From the Macy’s parade to football games to sharing a special meal with friends and family to the answer heard most often – leftovers! In a recent newspaper article featuring advice about Thanksgiving Day visits, readers were advised to bring along their own containers so they would have a convenient way to bring home leftovers.

Often, the first meal prepared from turkey day leftovers will be a re-creation of the entire meal, while others prefer to follow the feast with a turkey sandwich, sometimes layered with cranberry sauce and other side dish ingredients. It seems to me there’s only enough for one complete repeat meal, as the side dishes vanish long before the last slices of meat are carved from the bones.

However, there are only so many ways you can offer your family a meal derived from Thanksgiving leftovers before the sameness becomes tiresome. This is why clever cooks fashion turkey dishes such as casseroles, soups and potpies where turkey is a secondary ingredient to the pasta, rice or dumplings. Another interesting camouflage is to include ingredients from different culinary traditions, as with the tacos in the photo.

Here, cooked turkey is diced and sautéed with chopped green pepper. Then, instead of the expected Mexican or Tex-Mex seasonings, the mixture is simmered in a sweet soy-sesame glaze which imparts a rich Asian flavor. The tacos are assembled in soft tortilla shells with the meat at the bottom, followed by a topping of crisp slaw and a drizzle of sriracha mayo. The resulting combination of heat, sweet, crunchy and creamy is delicious.

Another different twist is to make a collection of savory treats in a muffin pan. Dressing (or stuffing), once softened with a little melted butter and broth, will bake up into a convenient bite-sized snack. You can do something similar with creamy mashed potatoes topped with cheese and chives as well as diced turkey, mayonnaise and shredded cheese. This last combination can also be packaged with the addition of refrigerated crescent rolls.

Don’t overlook the leftover sweet potatoes, which can become the star of a creamy soup, or cranberry relish as a topping for cheesecake. If the vegetables lose their crisp-tender texture, consider incorporating them into a quiche or frittata. Just keep in mind as you plan your Thanksgiving feast, be sure to make enough of each dish so you have sufficient quantities of leftovers – remember, your guests are coming with take-home containers. Here’s hoping all of you enjoyed a Happy Thanksgiving Day!

Soy-Sesame Turkey Tacos

1 C shredded slaw mix
1 T rice wine vinegar
1 T minced cilantro
salt, to taste
2 T mayonnaise
1/2 t sriracha (or more, to taste)
1 T toasted sesame oil
1/4 C soy sauce
pinch brown sugar
1 T rice wine vinegar
1 t olive oil
2 C leftover turkey
1/2 t black pepper
1 chopped green bell pepper
4 flour tortillas, heated

In a small bowl, toss together slaw mix, vinegar, cilantro and salt; set aside. In a small dish, whisk together mayonnaise and sriracha; set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together sesame oil, soy sauce, brown sugar and vinegar; set aside. Chop the turkey into a fine dice (alternatively, shred the cooked turkey). Heat olive oil in a skillet; add turkey, black pepper and bell pepper. Cook over medium until green pepper is softened and turkey is lightly browned. Stir in soy mixture and cook over low until thickened. To assemble, layer turkey mixture at the bottom of each taco, topped with slaw and drizzled with sriracha mayo. Yield: 4 tacos.

Turkey Muffins

1 pkg refrigerated crescent rolls (optional)
2 C leftover turkey
1/2 C mayonnaise
1 C shredded mozzarella cheese
1 t dill
1 t thyme
salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 375 F. Coat the inside of a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. If using crescent rolls, press large side of triangle into bottom of each muffin tin; set aside. Chop turkey into small pieces and place in a mixing bowl. Stir in mayonnaise, cheese and seasonings. Place spoonfuls of turkey mixture into the muffin tins. If using crescent rolls, fold small piece of triangle over the turkey mixture. Bake until lightly golden, about 10 to 13 minutes. Yield: 12 muffins.

Mashed Potato Muffins

3 C leftover mashed potatoes
1 egg
1 C shredded cheddar cheese
3 T snipped chives
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper

Preheat oven to 375 F. Coat the inside of a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together mashed potatoes and egg. Stir in 3/4 C cheddar cheese and 2 T chives. Season with salt and pepper. Scoop mixture with an ice cream scoop into prepared pan, packing gently to fill the cups. Bake until golden and crisp around the edges, about 30 to 35 minutes. Remove pan from oven and evenly sprinkle remaining 1/4 C cheese over muffin tops. Bake until cheese melts, an additional 3 to 5 minutes. Allow to cool in pan for 5 minutes. Remove muffins and serve topped with remaining chives. Yield: 12 muffins.

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