gobble gobble: what to do with your thanksgiving leftovers

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Happy Thanksgiving! This is my favorite holiday of the year (ok, I love Christmas too) because it's a time when I get together with my friends and prepare a delicious feast (always a good thing in my book), and look back over the past year and think about how lucky and grateful I am for everything I have in my life. So, without getting too mushy because I'm a big sap, I want to wish everyone out there a cozy, warm, and festive holiday.

If you're anything like me, you made way too much (or you are in the process of making way too much) for Thanksgiving. And in the days that follow, you will be looking for ways to not waste that delicious food you spent hours preparing.

When it comes to Thanksgiving leftovers, I'm always looking for something new and different. Something more than just reheating the turkey and stuffing and eating it again and again with cranberry sauce. I find that making it into a whole other dish, something that doesn't even resemble Thanksgiving, and adding spices that give it a new lease on life, gets me excited all over again.

Cheesy Turkey Quesadillas with Spinach and Mushrooms

Quesadillas are one of the yummiest ways, besides a frittata, to use up your leftovers. You can add all kinds of vegetables, like peppers, spinach, zucchini, or mushrooms and/or cooked meats like pork tenderloin, sliced steak, shredded chicken, or even bacon. Sandwiched together with gooey melted cheese, quesadillas are simple, quick, and deeeeeelicious. This recipe makes about 4 small quesadillas,


Small pat of butter
About 5 cremini mushrooms, sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
About 1/2 cup cooked chopped spinach, squeezed dry (I just dry saute fresh spinach in a pan)
Light olive oil or vegetable oil
8 small (about 4-5") corn tortillas
About 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack, pepper jack, cheddar or other mild cheese
About 1/2 cup shredded turkey
Guacamole, for serving
Salsa, for serving
Crema, sour cream, or yogurt, for serving

In a large frying pan, melt the butter, add the mushrooms, and season with salt and pepper. Saute until tender. Remove from the pan and add to the spinach; stir to combine. Lightly brush one side of 4 of the tortillas with oil and place oil-side-down into the frying pan (or use two pans if you can't comfortably fit all four tortillas in the pan without overlapping). Sprinkle the tortillas with half of the cheese, dividing it evenly between the four tortillas. Divide the spinach-mushroom mixture evenly between the tortillas, adding it in an even layer over the cheese. Divide the turkey evenly between the tortillas, adding it in an even layer over the spinach-mushroom mixture. Sprinkle the tortillas with the remaining half of the cheese, dividing it evenly between the four tortillas. Place the remaining four tortillas on top, and brush the tops lightly with oil.

Fry the tortillas over medium heat, turning once, until crisp and brown, and the cheese is melted. Serve, cut into quarters, with guacamole, salsa, and crema.

Turkey Pie

Who doesn't love a good pot pie? I mean, come on...have you ever had a homemade one? Well, maybe it's time. This is a really delicious way to use the rest of your turkey, or a roast chicken, or a bit of beef or lamb stew. Really, you could put any kind of stew in a pot pie, top it with pastry or biscuits or mashed potatoes and you'd be in heaven. Plus, this is the ultimate comfort food. This makes four or five individual pies.

4 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 small carrots, peeled and diced
1 medium leek, halved, cleaned, and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
1 cup shredded turkey
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
About 2 cups chicken stock
2/3 cup milk
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup frozen baby peas
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups mashed potatoes (good way to use up leftovers!)

Preheat the oven to 400F. In a deep saute pan, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the carrot, leek, and thyme and saute just until tender, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and transfer to a bowl. Add the shredded turkey to the vegetables and set aside.

In the same pan, melt the remaining 3 Tablespoons butter. Add the flour and cook, stirring, until the mixture starts to brown. Slowly add the broth, whisking constantly, then the milk. Whisk until smooth and let simmer until the sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the wine, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Pour the sauce into the bowl with the turkey and vegetables. Add the peas, and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide the mixture between four or five 1-cup ramekins. Top with dollops of mashed potatoes and bake until the potatoes are golden on top and mixture is bubbling, about 25 minutes.

Spicy Yammy Bacon Soup

The amount of soup you make will depend upon what you have leftover from your feast. You can use yams, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, pumpkin, or any other winter squash, assuming you have one of those traditional side dishes on your Thanksgiving table. Granted, each of these will impart a slightly different flavor to the finished soup, but that's part of the fun. A word to the wise, if you are going to use these in a soup, and sweet Aunt Bea brought her yam surprise to the potluck, be sure to scrape those melted marshmallows off the top. This soup works best with simple roasted or pureed yams or winter squash that haven't been doused with loads of sugar.

The recipe that follows is based on one from Nigel Slater, one of my favorite British food writers. It is good for maybe 4 people, so double, triple, or quadruple it depending upon how many yams you have leftover. My own personal soup philosophy is that you can never make enough soup because it freezes really well and then you have yummy warm homemade soup one cold, rainy night when you are too tired to move.

2 slices bacon, chopped into small pieces
1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
About 2 cups yam puree or other pureed winter squash (if it's not pureed, just stick it in your food processor and let 'er whirl)
About 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 cup whipping cream
Whipping cream, creme fraiche, or plain yogurt for drizzling
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


In a large saucepan, saute the bacon until crisp. Remove to a paper towel with a slotted spoon and discard all but 1 teaspoon of the fat. Add the onion and saute until translucent. Add the cumin, coriander, and red pepper flakes. Stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the yam puree, stock, and cream. Depending on how you prepared your yams to begin with, you might need more or less stock to thin the yams to soup consistency. Add the soup to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Pour back into the saucepan and heat gently over medium heat. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve in shallow bowls, drizzled with cream and sprinkled with bacon.