Anyone hosting a Thanksgiving dinner has to have a game plan to make sure all of the food needed for a successful meal is purchased, prepared and properly served. But what about the days after Thanksgiving when your refrigerator is stuffed with assorted leftovers? Do you have a plan for that food so it doesn’t go to waste or end up around your waist?
No need to worry, help is on the way! Just use these tips to turn those leftovers into completely new menu options that will let you enjoy the tastes of the day, but with a healthy new twist.
Use leftover undressed garden salad, fruit salad, crudité vegetables and cooked leafy greens to make a smoothie to fuel you through your Black Friday shopping. Add any slightly bruised apples that didn’t make it into the pie and the remains in that jug of apple cider to sweeten.
Leftover yeast breads and rolls can be cubed, placed in a baking pan and baked until toasted on all sides for use as croutons. (Be sure to store them in an airtight container to keep them crisp.) Unused stuffing mix, cornbread, crackers, chips and nuts can be turned into crumbs and frozen for future use. Just store each of them in separate labeled bags for easy identification.
Mashed white or sweet potatoes (without marshmallows) and roasted root vegetables are all you need to make a hearty soup. Add them to a pot with leftover turkey stock (or a little gravy and water) then use an immersion blender to puree. Punch up the flavor with curry seasoning or sriracha sauce, bring it to a low boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add croutons made from your leftover bread for a lunch that will satisfy with far fewer calories than a reheated plate of leftovers.
Put marinated vegetables from an antipasti tray, such as mushrooms, artichoke hearts or asparagus, in the blender with drained canned white beans to make a tasty vegetable hummus — or mix the pureed vegetables with any leftover hummus. Enjoy with cut up celery stalks not used in the stuffing. Combine roasted red peppers and caramelized onions in the blender with assorted olives for a flavorful tapenade to spread on a turkey wrap. Give leftover peas and pearl onions a whirl in the blender with the remains of the guacamole for a lighter version of this classic dip.
Shred and combine leftover pieces of different hard cheeses to add to egg dishes along with diced baked potatoes, broccoli, green beans and other vegetables. A simple veggie omelet is an ideal high-protein low-carb dinner for the day after the feast.
Treats that are out of sight are out of mind, so cut leftover pies and cakes into individual portions, wrap each in plastic wrap, then label, date and freeze them to enjoy at a time when you can afford those extra calories.
Don’t forget to donate any extra nonperishable foods, such as canned pumpkin, boxed pasta, bagged stuffing and bottled juices to your local food pantry to help feed those with no leftovers. It’s a great way to celebrate the true meaning of Thanks-giving!
Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN is a registered dietitian, cultural anthropologist and scientific advisor to the Calorie Control Council, whose 30+ year career includes maintaining a busy nutrition counseling practice, teaching food and nutrition courses at the university level, and authoring 2 popular diet books and numerous articles and blogs on health and fitness. Her ability to make sense out of confusing and sometimes controversial nutrition news has made her a frequent guest on major media outlets, including CNBC, FOX News and USA Today. Her passion is communicating practical nutrition information that empowers people to make the best food decisions they can in their everyday diets. Reach her on Twitter @EverydayRD and check out her blog The Everyday RD.