As the Thanksgiving weekend draws to a close, homes are often left with a bounty of leftovers—remnants of a joyous celebration filled with warmth, gratitude, and indulgence. The refrigerator shelves are now packed with containers brimming with turkey and all the various side dishes we made along with it. While the initial feast may be over, the culinary adventure is far from done. In this post-Thanksgiving landscape, you can embark on a gastronomic journey, reimagining these leftovers into a second act that need not be boring. Thanksgiving leftovers have the potential to be reinvented into dishes as exciting, flavorful, and satisfying as the main event itself.
The art of transforming Thanksgiving leftovers is not merely a practical necessity; it's a culinary challenge that beckons creativity and innovation in the kitchen. The challenge lies not just in reheating, but in reinventing—a pursuit that goes beyond the boundaries of traditional recipes and invites us to explore new flavors, textures, and culinary techniques. Whether you're a seasoned home chef or an adventurous novice, the canvas of Thanksgiving leftovers is an opportunity to showcase your culinary prowess and embark on a delicious voyage of reinvention.
For those committed to a real-food-based lifestyle, the challenge lies in transforming those Thanksgiving remnants into delicious and nourishing creations that entice the taste buds and serve your wellness goals. Fear not, as we embark on a culinary journey to give your Thanksgiving leftovers a makeover that will leave your taste buds dancing.
Why Using Leftovers Is Important
Using leftovers is important, not just a practical approach to managing food resources; it's a mindful and sustainable way to make the most of the meals you've prepared, contributing to a more environmentally friendly and economically conscious lifestyle. Reasons to repurpose leftovers include:
Minimizing Food Waste
Leftovers provide an opportunity to use and enjoy the remaining portions of meals, reducing the amount of food that ends up in the trash. This is not only environmentally responsible but also helps conserve resources used in food production. Read more on the impact of food waste in this post
Being Budget Friendly
Repurposing leftovers can lead to cost savings by extending the life of ingredients and reducing the need to purchase additional food. It's a practical way to make the most out of your grocery budget.
Leftovers can be repurposed into new meals with minimal effort, saving time on meal preparation. This is particularly valuable if you have a busy schedule, where cooking elaborate meals every day is not always an option.
Working with leftovers challenges culinary creativity. It encourages experimentation with flavors, textures, and cooking techniques, leading to the discovery of new and exciting dishes.
Promoting Healthy Eating
Leftovers can be transformed into nutritious meals with the addition of fresh ingredients or by incorporating them into healthier recipes. This can further support your real-food-based lifestyle.
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12 Thanksgiving Leftover Makeovers
With a bit of creativity and some pantry staples (read more on stocking your pantry here), you can give your Thanksgiving leftovers a makeover that not only aligns with your dietary preferences but also delights your taste buds.
Turkey and Vegetable Harvest Soup
Turkey soup is a classic and comforting way to repurpose Thanksgiving leftovers. A creative twist on the traditional turkey soup is to add shredded leftover turkey meat, to a seasoned turkey or chicken broth simmered with carrots, celery, onion, garlic, butternut squash, thyme and rosemary. The combination of tender turkey, vibrant vegetables, and aromatic herbs creates a soup that embodies the essence of fall and the spirit of Thanksgiving.
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Turkey Salad Stuffed Avocados
Start by shredding some leftover turkey into bite-sized pieces. Mix it with chopped celery, red onion, and perhaps your nut of choice for extra crunch. Toss the mixture with a mayonnaise made with some naturally occurring fats or a drizzle of olive oil. Halve avocados and scoop out a bit of the flesh to make room for the turkey salad. Stuff the avocados with the mixture, creating a refreshing and satisfying turkey salad stuffed avocado.
Sweet Potato Hash
Sweet potatoes are a staple in many real-food diets, and Thanksgiving usually yields an abundance of this nutrient-rich root vegetable. Chop up your leftover sweet potatoes and mix them with diced turkey, sautéed onions, and bell peppers. Season with your favorite herbs and spices, then cook it all in a skillet until crispy. Serve as it or top with a fried or poached egg. This sweet potato hash makes for a hearty and flavorful breakfast or brunch option.
If you have leftover cauliflower mash or some root vegetable mash, repurpose it into a family-friendly shepherd's pie. Top shredded turkey and any leftover vegetables with the mash. Sprinkle with a little nutritional yeast. Place the mixture in a baking dish and bake until the top is golden brown. This comforting and savory dish is always a hit with young and not-so-young alike.
Butternut Squash Soup with Turkey
Turn your butternut squash side dish into a creamy soup by blending it with broth and spices. Add in chunks of leftover turkey for a protein boost. Simmer the soup until it reaches the desired consistency. This velvety butternut squash soup with turkey is not only comforting but also a delicious and nutritious way to utilize Thanksgiving leftovers.
Brussels Sprouts and Turkey Stir-Fry
Brussels sprouts are a nutrient-rich, low-carb vegetable that can be transformed into a vibrant stir-fry. Slice leftover turkey into thin strips and stir-fry with shredded Brussels sprouts, garlic, and ginger. Add a splash of coconut aminos for flavor and drizzle with sesame oil for a finishing touch. This quick and easy stir-fry breathes new life into your Thanksgiving leftovers.
Cranberry Turkey Lettuce Wraps
Utilize leftover turkey and real-food-based cranberry sauce to create refreshing lettuce wraps. Fill large lettuce leaves with sliced turkey, a spoonful of cranberry sauce, and add some sliced avocado for creaminess. Sprinkle with chopped nuts for an added crunch. These wraps are not only grain-free, but also a light and satisfying way to enjoy Thanksgiving leftovers.
Need a real-food cranberry sauce recipe – here is Chef Pete’s delicious version
Pumpkin Pie Parfait
Repurpose your leftover pumpkin pie filling into a delightful parfait. In layers, alternate between the pumpkin pie filling and dairy-free whipped coconut cream. Top it off with crushed nuts or seeds for added crunch. This dessert transforms your traditional pumpkin pie into a guilt-free and delicious treat.
Turkey and Cauliflower Rice Casserole
Transform leftover turkey and cauliflower rice into a comforting casserole. Mix diced turkey with cauliflower rice, your favorite real-food, non-dairy sauce sauce, and any leftover roasted vegetables. Top with a sprinkle of nutritional yeast or almond meal for a crunchy crust. Bake until bubbly and golden for a hearty and wholesome meal
Turkey and Vegetable Frittata
Whip up a quick and easy frittata using leftover turkey and vegetables. In a skillet, sauté diced turkey, Brussels sprouts, and any other leftover veggies. Pour beaten eggs over the mixture and cook until the edges set. Transfer the skillet to the oven to broil until the top is golden. This frittata is a protein-packed meal to enjoy any time.
Pumpkin Pie Smoothie Bowl
Repurpose leftover pumpkin pie filling into a healthy and satisfying smoothie bowl. Blend the filling with coconut milk, a frozen banana, and a handful of ice. Pour the smoothie into a bowl and top it with grain-free granola, sliced almonds, and a drizzle of almond butter. This smoothie bowl is a delicious and nutritious way to enjoy the flavors of pumpkin pie.
Leftover Turkey and Kale Salad
Create a nutrient-packed salad by combining leftover turkey with kale, sliced apples, and pecans. Toss the ingredients with a homemade vinaigrette made from olive oil and apple cider vinegar. The combination of savory turkey, crisp kale, and sweet apples makes for a refreshing and satisfying salad.
If you’re thinking about how you’re going to get back on track after all the festivities of the holiday season. Stay tuned to this space and we have an exciting way for you to refocus on your wellness goals in the New Year
Remember, the key to giving your Thanksgiving leftovers a makeover is to think outside the traditional recipe box and experiment with flavors, textures, and cooking techniques. By doing so, you'll not only reduce food waste but also discover new and exciting ways to enjoy the bounty of Thanksgiving in a paleo-friendly manner. Happy cooking and savoring those delicious leftovers!