Posts Tagged ‘Leftovers’

One last post on this year’s Thanksgiving…

Since there were only four of us for dinner, and since of course we still need to have all the usual dishes, we had a LOT of leftover.  Also, I was not thinking clearly the day I picked up my turkey at Trader Joe’s and for some reason did not think the 13lb turkey would give us enough leftovers, and since there was nothing else in between, brought home the 18lb turkey.  Michael weighed the leftover picked meat on the scale – 6 lbs.  Ooops!

I spent the Sunday after Thanksgiving repurposing our leftovers into a freezer of food for nighs I don’t want to cook.  It was so much fun to think of creative ways to use up all the food!  Briefly, here are the things that we now have stored up for the winter.

Open-face Turkey Melt

Ok, this one isn’t in the freezer – this was our lunch while I was cooking up the other dishes.  Michael loves his turkey sandwiches really basic – turkey, mayo, white bread.  I need more flavor that.  So I used a slice of sourdough bread as the base to an open face sandwich.  For the mayo, I added flavor with some diced roasted red peppers (from a jar in the fridge), fine-diced red onion, and a splash of lemon juice.  I spread this on the bread.  Then I added shredded turkey and topped it with cheddar cheese.  I popped the sandwich in the toaster oven and heated it until the cheese just started to brown.  YUM!

Turkey Empanadas

This is a recipe that I found in Bon Appetit’s Thanksgiving edition and thought it sounded like a great way to use up leftover stuffing and potatoes as well as the turkey.  You use frozen puff pastry as the base and then spoon on layers of potatoes, stuffing, turkey, gravy – whatever!  Then fold over the top, crimp the edges, and voila!  I made two batches of these – one with turkey, sweet potatoes and stuffing (for Michael) and one with turkey, buttermilk mashed potatoes and greens (for me).  I put the sealed empanadas on a rimmed sheet in the freezer until they were just frozen, then wrapped each individually in foil and put them into labeled ziplock baggies.  So we now have individual meals ready to bake off in the toaster oven at a moment’s notice!  I haven’t tried them yet so can’t swear that they are good, but given that most people love all the Thanksgiving flavor together (especially sine we had our New Orleas theme and all the flavors should blend well), I figure it should at least as good with buttery puff pastry!

Turkey and Vegetable Soup

Soup is SO much easier to make than most people think.  In general, it’s simply a saute of onions and other vegetables, some stock or broth, and as assortment of beans, vegetables or meats.   To make a little turkey soup, I started with a base of onions, carrots and celery (a starter combination known as ‘mirepoix’.  I added in chicken stock and then the shredded turkey, leftover corn maquechoux, a little of the greens, and salt, pepper, thyme and sage for flavoring.  Easy peasy!

Turkey and Collard Green Gumbo

I made this for our dinner after a day of leftover baking.  Gumbo is a dark velvety soup of sorts, started from a roux, which is flour and oil cooked until it is dark brown.  To this I added what in New Orleans they call ‘the Trinity’ – onion, celery and green pepper.  You then pour in some chicken stock, a bottle of beer and a bunch of spices.  The recipe calls for smoked turkey, but I just added the leftover shredded roasted turkey, and instead of cooking the greens in the gumbo, I just dumped in our leftover cooked greens.  Once all cooked, you serve the gumbo over rice with a dusting of parsley on top.  This dish is not spicy, like you might assume about a gumbo – it’s a smooth, dark, rich flavor.  We ate our fill that night, and then I put the rest in the freezer for another time.

It’s nice to know all the effort put into the Thanksgiving meal lives on…in my freezer…for another day!


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This is my ultimate back-up quick dinner, and it’s all thanks to Trader Joe’s.  If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s near you, 1) I’m so sorry, and 2) You can also find some of these good saute sauces at your grocery store, usually in the “international” section.  I try to keep a few of these Thai/Indian/Chinese saute sauces in my pantry, along with, of course, rice.  We also usually have chicken or shrimp in the freezer and some sort of leftover vegetable in the fridge.  If you have those basics, you can throw this meal together super fast and it is DELICIOUS!

The sauce I used the other night is a Thai curry sauce.  We had mini-carrots and green onions in the fridge which needed to get used up, so I chopped them up small and gave them a quick saute at a high heat in sunflower oil (commonly used in Asian cooking).  Once they started to soften, I added a package of chicken tenderloins which I had cut into cubes.  When the chicken was nearly cooked, I dumped in the whole bottle of Thai curry sauce and let it all simmer together until the sauce was warmed through and the chicken was done.

In the meantime, I made some good Basmati rice, chopped some roasted peanuts which have been in the cabinet for a looooooong time, and toasted some leftover coconut.  Our hearty, steaming plate of rice, chicken curry, crushed peanuts and toasted coconut was absolutely delectable and so, so easy!  So if you often find yourself asking the ‘what should we eat tonight’ question around dinnertime, I’d suggest stocking up on those types of sauces, along with rice, and keeping chicken or shrimp in the freezer.  It’s a great quick meal!  And it’s also a great chance to be creative with some of those leftovers…


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Leftover Pizza

I think one of my new favorite things to write about is the random things we eat for dinner when I haven’t been to the grocery store! 🙂  I try to keep a few basics around that help with putting some substance behind leftover meals – pasta, rice, frozen shrimp, stir fry sauces, etc.  But definitely one of the best leftover resources is frozen pizza dough – only 99 cents for a bag of dough from Trader Joe’s!   My cupboards were QUITE bare today but nonetheless we had a great dinner of  Blue Cheese, Apple and Walnut Pizza with a Honey Drizzle.  Does that sound Bon Appetit-ish enough for ya?!!

There’s not really a recipe for this meal – it’s really just an order of operations.  I made thin slices of granny smith apple (from the fruit bowl), toasted walnuts (from the pantry, should be used up soon anyway), and chopped the rest of a blue cheese block from the fridge.  This was all thrown onto an herb crust, covered with mozzarella, and baked – and then drizzled with honey when it came out of the oven.  Mmmm!  Just the perfect thing to eat while watching my favorite guilty pleasure – Lipstick Jungle.  Pizza and junk TV (as my dad used calls it) – a perfect Wednesday night in!


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Do-good Bananas

I’m one of those weird people who like green bananas.  Not completely green, but with streaks of green so that they are still quite firm and not too sweet.  Once they’ve got the first trace of a brown spot, I can’t eat them.  If a bunch of bananas ever gets to that point too quickly without being eaten, I get excited about making banana bread.

My dad taught us that the brown bananas are perfect for banana splits, although I remember thinking that was a suspicious argument (nearly as suspicious as the attestation that unlabeled can goods retrieved from the grocery store dump were exciting to open and good for us.  Yes, that happened.)  But it turns out he was quite right, as everyone always recommends the brown bananas for baking or other banana desserts.

Even if we have no need for a whole loaf of banana bread at the time they are on their way out, these bananas can still be very useful.  The bread is easy to mix up and the loaf can then be frozen and thawed when needed.  [Wrap the completely cooled loaf in foil and then place in a large plastic freezer bag with as much air as possible removed.]  But it also makes a great give-away treat.  Recently, I needed to use up some bananas and we certainly didn’t need more carbs/sweets than we’ve already got around here with the holidays.  We do, however, have some friends who have been spending much too much time at the hospital for a very sad reason, and those browning bananas were the perfect excuse to send a little package of home-cooked comfort their way.

I think most people already have a good banana bread recipe they like, and I’m not going to say this one is the BEST necessarily, but it’s very tasty and my new favorite.  I had another recipe I made for years and years that was also very good, and I have a great recipe for Chocolate Banana Bread from my friend Melissa.  This one is from a small paper-bound booklet of recipes from the fabulous Hominy Grill restaurant in Charleston, SC, where we once ate two days in a row we liked it so much!  I find it’s a little sweeter and the addition of the oats is also quite delicious.  I’ve added cinnamon as well for a bit more flavor.  It’s extremely easy to double this recipe, if you have enough bananas.  I particularly recommend this be eaten toasted and then spread with either butter or cream cheese.  YUM!  Spread the love. 🙂

Banana Bread (adapted from Hominy Grill Recipes)


1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, sifted

2 tsp double-acting baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

½ tsp cinnamon

4 Tbs unsalted butter, softened

½ cup brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 egg

¾ cup whole oats

1 ½ cups mashed, very ripe bananas (3-4 medium)

2 Tbs water

Plain breadcrumbs or flour to dust the pan


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 10-inch bread pan, dust with breadcrumbs (or flour, if breadcrumbs are not readily available) and set aside.


In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.


In a large bowl, beat the butter until creamy, about 30 seconds.  Add the sugar and the vanilla and beat until well mixed.  Add the egg and continue beating until fluffy and pale in color.  Add oats, mashed banana, water and beat until smooth.  Add the dry ingredients and beat until just combined.


Scrape the batter into the pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 55 minutes.


Cool pan on rack 5-10 minutes before removing loaf.  Let loaf cool completely on rack.



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Leftover Soup

This is a recent and very useful find, from the Barefoot Contessa at Home cookbook.  Her recipe is called Ribolita, which is an Italian vegetable soup.  I don’t follow her recipe exactly because it calls for some extra steps like puree-ing part of the beans to thicken the soup, etc.  I use the parts I like as a base recipe and then toss in whatever other veggies or meat are in the fridge that I want to get rid of (hence the glamorous name of the dish).

Post-Thanksgiving, this was a great way to use up extra tomatoes, squash and zucchini.  I would have thrown the leftover shredded turkey in as well but Michael insisted upon using every last piece for Turkey Sandwiches.  If your family is less adament about the sandwich consumption, that would be delicious in here.

There’s really no limit to what you can add to this little beauty – I’ve thrown in prepared pesto before, I think it would be wonderful with some sliced smoked sausage, and nearly any vegetable or bean would work.  Next time you find yourself wondering what in the world you could do with that ___ left in the fridge, take a look at this recipe and see if it just might be the perfect solution. 🙂

Leftover Soup (adapted from Barefoot Contessa At Home)


2 cans of white beans (such as Great Northern or Cannellini), rinsed

¼ cup olive oil

8 oz bacon, chopped

2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)

1 cup chopped carrots (3 carrots)

3 Tbs minced garlic (6 cloves)

1 tsp black pepper

¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1 28-oz can crushed or diced tomatoes

4 cups coarsely chopped kale or other dark green

½ cup chopped basil leaves or 1 tsp dried basil

6 cups chicken broth (or more if more ingredients are added)

2 cups sourdough bread cubes, crust removed (this is the thickener – add and stir til they dissolve)


Heat the oil in a large stockpot.  Add the bacon and cook over medium heat til crispy.  Remove from oil; set aside.  Add onions, carrots, celery, garlic, 1 tablespoon of salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes to the pan with the oil.  Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until vegetables are tender.  [Additional vegetables would be added at this stage.]


Add the tomatoes with their puree, kale and basil and cook for another 7-10 minutes.


Add the cooked bacon, beans and chicken stock and bring to a boil.  [Additional meats or beans would be added at this stage.]  Reduce the heat and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.  Add the bread to the soup and simmer for 10 more minutes.


Leftover mixing ideas:

Cabbage, zucchini, squash, chopped fresh tomatoes, small-chopped potatoes, artichoke hearts, prepared pesto, tomato paste, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, sliced smoked sausage, cooked hot Italian sausage, chopped fresh herbs such as rosemary, etc.


For serving, I like a quick drizzle of Truffle Oil (see Food Products in my Amazon Store for reference) and grated parmesan cheese and slices of the rest of the sourdough bread on the side.

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I’ve recently found a great way to use up leftover bread that was a big hit in our house.  Not sandwich bread, but the nice, more expensive kind you get to eat with soup.  I’ve been taking the leftover couple pieces and cutting them into large cubes which I then sautee at a medium-high heat with butter and olive oil.  Season them with whatever you like (I’ve been putting herbes de provence, salt and pepper on mine) and as soon as they start getting a golden crust on the sides, pull them out and let them cool.  They add a really flavorful crunch to salads, and look kinda fancy too, which is great if you have company. 🙂  If you’re not ready to use them right away (and they are definitely better fresh!), I’ve also cubed leftover bread and put it in a plastic baggie in the freezer, to thaw and make into croutons the next time we’re eating salad.  Bon appetit!!!

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