Creative suppers from holiday leftovers

To many people, Thanksgiving is more than a holiday or a meal…it is an event. The week leading up to the actual holiday seems hectic as careful plans are finally executed. The supermarket becomes a battlefield where perfect turkeys or hams are sought out; homes are scoured to a sparkling finish and decorations strategically placed; and, most importantly, a timing scheme is created for cooking each dish in such a limited amount of space. As the heavenly aroma hangs in the air, though, with each family member sated and sluggish, one inevitable question will be asked: “What to do with the rest of the food?” There is no harm or shame in eating simple leftovers and there are several ways to use the food to create new meals.

Sandwiches and wraps

The beautiful thing about sandwiches and wraps is that the ingredients are limited only by the creator’s taste and imagination. Both can be eaten cold, or grilled slightly with a little cheese to make the center melted and smooth. For example, turkey and Swiss cheese on bread with a bit of cranberry sauce and some grilled bacon is divine straight from the refrigerator, but when grilled becomes a comforting supper that can be eaten with soup, potato chips, or other leftover sides. If a wrap is desired, a quick snack can be made by spreading cream cheese on a tortilla, then layering thin sliced ham and sprinkling with black olives that may have been used as appetizers. Other ingredients can be added, of course, such as jalapenos for a spicy addition. After all ingredients are placed on the tortilla, it can be rolled up and cut into pinwheel. It can also be warmed whole into a tasty twist on a burrito or tostada inspired meal.

Soups and stews

Soups and stews are a wonderful way of incorporating many different ingredients into one meal, especially when there may not be much of any particular type of food. Using chicken broth as a base and leftover cooked meat, remaining vegetables from a previous meal can be used, and new ones can be added. Some ideas are onions, green beans, garlic and any type of potato. To create a stew, simply add a tablespoon or two of flour until the broth reaches desired thickness. If there is a surplus of leftover mashed potatoes (either russet or sweet), a shepherd’s pie can be considered. This consists of creating a base of meat, vegetables, and broth and then piping the mashed potatoes on top of the mixture. The dish is then baked in the oven until the potatoes get a slightly crispy crust.


While a favorite staple of leftover turkey is turkey tetrazzini, which consists of meat and noodles with a creamy sauce. There are many other pasta dishes which can be created from Thanksgiving remains. The meat, cut into small bits, can be added to a tomato base with onions and garlic, or a cheese base that resembles roux. It is up to the chef which vegetables seem most appealing, but spinach, olives, and mushrooms seem to be the most common. There are a variety of pastas that can be used, again to the preference of those who will be eating it.

Deciding what to do with food that is leftover does not need to be a daunting task, but can be an exciting way of experience new recipes. There are several ways to be resourceful, and many people enjoy flavor combinations that do not seem appealing to others. It is important to remember that recipes are simply a road map; after a destination is decided upon, it is up to the creator to decide which is the best route to take. The end result may differ from that of others, but this is what makes a recipe truly personal.