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Thanksgiving Leftovers: Waste not, Want not

Every year after Thanksgiving dinner, friends and relatives clear out and peace can once again be restored in your home. That is, until you open the refrigerator door.

Sometimes, knowing what to do with your leftovers can be just as daunting as planning the holiday meal in the first place. Instead, view it as an opportunity to take some time off from laboring in the kitchen. Pre-cooked meats and vegetables make meal preparation much simpler, so take advantage and get creative with your leftovers.

Worried about packing on post-holiday calories? There are lighter ways to enjoy leftovers besides the notorious Thanksgiving Leftover sandwich. Prepare meals with this idea in mind: less salt, oil and heavy starch, but more fiber.

1. Create a mish-mash salad topper. No need to worry about chopping vegetables and cooking proteins to make a salad. Simply mix all of your ready-made foods together and top it on greens. It’s that easy.

Tip: Use little dressing to save on calories. The oils from the pre-cooked vegetables and meats should be enough to add flavor to the salad.

2. Make Turkey Tostadas, Tacos or Burritos. Replace the Leftover sandwich with a hearty Mexican meal. Use whole-wheat tortillas or taco shells instead of a heavy roll. I highly recommend making nachos (or pizza) with pulled turkey, sautéed red onion, corn, mushrooms, mozzarella cheese and some lime!

Tip: Try using your leftovers to create lively flavors that excite your palate.

3. Use your vegetables in pasta or a stir-fry. Simmer casserole remains in tomato sauce and serve over pasta or mix vegetables with brown rice and add a small amount of soy sauce. Both are tasty comfort dishes, perfect for a cold winter day.

4. When in doubt, cook soup. I tend to live by this rule. Whenever I have a ton of leftover vegetables and meats, I throw everything in the slow cooker with water and stock to make a hearty winter soup or stew. If you really want to clean up shop, make a lot of soup and freeze it for later use. You will be stocked for the entire season.

Tip: Use less (sodium-laden) stock and more water when making your soup. The longer you allow the ingredients to simmer the more the natural flavors and pre-cooked oils will enhance the dish.

5. Turkey… for breakfast? Yes, you read this correctly. I also became really excited when I found a recipe that mimicked the traditional corn beef hash breakfast, but without all the saturated fat and added salt! Try the recipe below or simply throw all of your leftovers in an omelet.

Recipe for Sweet Potato Turkey Hash

Makes: 6 servings, 1¼ cups each


Active Time: 45 minutes


Total Time: 45 minutes



  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 medium apple, cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cups diced, cooked, skinless turkey, or chicken
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste



  1. Place sweet potatoes in a medium saucepan, cover with lightly salted water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover and cook for 3 minutes. Add apple and cook until everything is just tender, but not mushy, 2 to 3 minutes longer. Drain.
  2. Transfer 1 cup of the mixture to a large bowl; mash. Stir in sour cream and lemon juice. Add the remaining un-mashed mixture and stir gently to mix. Set aside.
  3. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add turkey (or chicken), thyme, salt and pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 2 minutes.
  4.  Add the reserved sweet potato mixture to the pan; stir to mix. Press on the hash with a wide metal spatula; cook until the bottom is lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Cut the hash into several rough sections; flip and cook until the undersides are browned, about 3 minutes longer. Serve immediately.


Nutrition Facts Per Serving: 214 calories; 7 g fat (2 g sat, 3 g mono); 56 mg cholesterol; 14 g carbohydrates; 0 g added sugars; 23 g protein; 2 g fiber; 262 mg sodium; 475 mg potassium.

Recipe and Photo: Eatingwell.com



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