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Thanksgiving Leftovers with an Imaginative Twist

Updated on August 2, 2017

Thanksgiving leftovers.

Does that phrase make you shiver with delight, or shudder with dread?

Mr. Carb Diva was disappointed that the largest turkey I could find to roast was "only" 15 pounds. However, with only 5 people at the dinner table (and two of them are vegetarian), exactly how much turkey could we consume at one sitting?

Yes, there are leftovers.

5 stars from 2 ratings of Imaginative Thanksgiving Leftovers

So, have you grown weary of turkey sandwiches with gravy? Do you have nightmares about leftover mashed potatoes? Have you sworn that if you eat one more turkey enchilada or or pot of turkey chili you will start to gobble?

Here are a few more ideas of how to use it up and make it work.

Turkey and Cheese Panini with Cranberry Relish

On Thanksgiving Day, our younger daughter brought the appetizers--an amazing assortment of olives, crackers, and gourmet cheeses. My favorite was the goat cheese with herbs, and it inspired me to create this sandwich the next day.


For each sandwich:

  • 2 slices good-quality crusty artisanal bread
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise (homemade is best)
  • 2 tablespoons cranberry relish
  • 2 tablespoons goat cheese
  • leftover sliced turkey
  • 1 ounce brie cheese


Spread the mayonnaise on one slice of bread. Place the cranberry relish on that same slice and use a knife to spread evenly to the edges of the bread. Top with the turkey and then place thin slices of the brie atop the turkey. Spread the goat cheese on the other slice of bread and place on the turkey and brie. Prepare in your panini press following manufacturer's instructions, or you can grill in a shallow pan as you would a grilled cheese sandwich. Enjoy.

Equipment and Supplies You Will Need

  • knife
  • measuring spoon
  • panini pan, grill, or large saut√© pan for heating sandwich

Homemade Lemon Mayonnaise

  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon zest
  1. Place the egg yolks, salt, and lemon juice in the bowl of a blender.
  2. Process until the egg yolk and juice are well-combined and the yolks begin to turn to a lighter shade of yellow.
  3. Remove the fill cap (central portion of the lid).
  4. Place the olive oil in a glass measuring cup with a lip suitable for pouring.
  5. With the blender running, begin adding the oil to the yolk/lemon juice mixture. Start with just one drop at a time and increase to a steady but very slow stream as the oil is absorbed to create an emulsion.
  6. Stir in lemon zest

What is an emulsion?

In cooking, an emulsion is a mixture of two liquids that would ordinarily not mix together, like oil and vinegar. The droplets of one of the liquids become evenly dispersed within the other liquid. The resulting liquid is thicker than the two original liquids were. In the case of mayonnaise or aioli, oil droplets are suspended within the egg yolks.

Creamy Turkey Soup

How do you prepare a thick, creamy soup without cream? Stir in some leftover mashed potatoes, that's how:


  • 1 cup uncooked pasta of your choice (I used orecchiette, but any noodle or small-size pasta will do)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth (or homemade turkey stock)
  • 2 cups mashed potatoes
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 tsp. dried thyme)
  • 2 cups cooked turkey, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed (or 1 cup leftover cooked peas)
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and swirl to coat bottom of pan.
  3. Add the onion, carrots, and celery. Cook and stir over medium heat until onion is softened and vegetables begin to color slightly (about 4-5 minutes).
  4. Add the broth to the pan in which you have cooked the vegetables. Bring to a simmer and continue to cook until carrots are tender, about 4-5 minutes.
  5. Add the broth and mashed potatoes. Stir until potatoes are dissolved and broth is smooth.
  6. Add the turkey and peas and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

But, wait, there's more!

My daughter suggested that next time we substitute prepackaged potato gnocchi for the pasta. With that, and a bit of spinach, you might just have an "Olive Garden Gnocchi Soup" clone on your hands.

Equipment and Supplies You Will Need

  • Large pot for cooking pasta
  • colander
  • sharp knife for mincing vegetables and chopping turkey
  • cutting board
  • large saucepan for simmering soup
  • measuring cups and spoons
  • large spoon or spatula for stirring

Thanksgiving-Style Meatloaf

Years ago I learned a secret from an Italian grandmother. A simple mixture of ground meat, eggs, and dry breadcrumbs will insure that your meatloaf or meatballs will be as heavy as a hockey puck.

Replace the dry bread crumbs with a mixture of bread soaked in liquid (a panade), gently mix this into your ground meat, and you will have delicate, fork-tender meatballs or meatloaf. There is a panade in the following recipe. You know it as "leftover bread stuffing".


  • 1 pound lean ground turkey (I prefer the 85/15 ratio)
  • 1 cup leftover bread stuffing, firmly packed
  • 1 stalk of celery, finely minced
  • 1 small onion, finely minced
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup cranberry sauce
  • 2 tsp. fresh sage, finely minced


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Place a sheet of parchment paper on rimmed baking sheet.
  3. Combine all ingredients in large mixing bowl
  4. Form into an oval and place on prepared baking sheet.
  5. Bake in preheated oven about 45 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.

Equipment and Supplies You Will Need

  • parchment paper
  • rimmed baking sheet
  • measuring cups and spoons
  • sharp knife of mincing vegetables
  • cutting board
  • large mixing bowl
  • instant read meat thermometer

What is your favorite Thanksgiving leftover?

See results

© 2014 Linda Lum


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    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 8 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Jackie, I'm going to try one more thing today and, if it works out I'll add it to this. I'm not going to reveal what it it (just yet). Stay tuned.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 2 months ago from The Beautiful South

      Sounds like some interesting leftover meals. All I did was turkey hash for so many years I could scream! lol Now I just eat everything as is or toss it so I wouldn't mind trying some of these. Thank you!

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 3 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Thank you monia saad. I actually enjoy the food more the next day. Please let me know if you try any of these recipes.

    • monia saad profile image

      monia ben saad 3 years ago from In my Dream

      i like this idea i never think about Thanksgiving leftovers

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 3 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Thanks Bill. I think my husband (also named Bill) could probably eat turkey and cranberries every single day. I prefer a bit more variety. Our meatloaf is in the oven at this very moment. Will serve with some leftover gravy.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I like the idea of turkey meatloaf....what a great idea. Thank you for that. For the record, I never really get tired of Thanksgiving leftovers....maybe after two weeks I might, but the food never lasts that long. :)