My favorite strategies for using up leftovers, from soups to sandwiches, casseroles and more!
Will you have leftovers from your holiday dinner?
I've actually known one or two people who refuse to eat leftovers at all.
That's a real head-scratcher for me, because I find that food usually tastes even better 1–2 days after I make it.
So, when it comes to holiday meals, I always make sure that I have plenty of extras.
First comes Thanksgiving/Christmas Dinner Part II, which is great.
But THREE days of eating the same meal is a bit much.
At this point, I like getting creative with using up leftovers (if there ARE any).
Feel free to jump around to the category that interests you most:
I'm sure you've seen photos of a "Thanksgiving Wreck Sandwich."
(Just in case you haven't, here you go.)
Yes, I've done that.
No, I'm not going to post a recipe for it, because...really?!
OK: here you go. Take your favorite Thanksgiving leftovers in the ratios you like, and mash them between two slices of bread. Done.
I find sandwiches a wee bit boring, so I don't usually use up leftovers that way.
My exception to this rule is Open-Faced Prime Rib Sandwiches, which I make with leftovers from Date Night Prime Rib, (obvo, your leftover Christmas prime rib would be fab in these!).
I'm far more likely to use one of the leftovers delivery strategies below...
Stock: an essential post-holiday meal step
I always save any bones from special occasion meals.
The next day, I put the bones into my Instant Pot with aromatics, herbs, and liquid on the slow-cooker setting.
A big slow-cooker is also perfect for this job.
I let the bones simmer on low for as much as 48 hours.
(I've only gone that long with turkey and chicken carcasses—duck and beef bones get a funky wang after 36.)
For a turkey carcass to fit into my cooker, I have to break it down a bit.
I also shove the leg and wing bones into the cavity of the bird to save on space.
I leave on any meat that still happens to be attached to the carcass. It only increases the richness of the stock.
The fact that the duck or turkey carcass has already been roasted also ensures a rich, delicious stock.
What is bone broth?
Bone broth is exactly what I've described above.
Thus, it's the same thing as stock.
Slowly simmering bones melts every last bit of collagen out of the bones and cartilage.
When you chill the stock/bone broth, you'll notice that it gets really thick—even gelatinous/"Jell-O-ey".
That's because of collagen.
It's really, really good. (You've probably heard that collagen is loaded with health benefits.)
After the stock is finished simmering, I use a skimmer to take out the solids.
I like to make sure that I get every last bit of deliciousness out of those bones, so I use a colander to rinse them.
A bowl catches the runnings, which I add back to the stock.
Then, I run the broth through a fine-mesh strainer and degrease, if necessary.
Now the stock is ready to either be used right away in soup, or be frozen for adding to soups, stews, or sauces later.
Many of my soup recipes also include the stock-making step.
Crockpot Turkey Stock, Slow-Cooker Rotisserie Chicken Pho Ga, Simple Pressure-Cooker Chicken Stock, Soul-Warming Barley Chicken & Vegetable Soup, and Turkey Wild Rice Soup are among my favorites.
Green Chile Chicken Pozole is another recent addition that already has its own fan following.
If you have a leftover ham bone and some meat, you can't go wrong with Crockpot Ham Split-Pea Soup or Slow-Cooker Ham and Navy Bean Soup.
I haven't posted any recipes for making beef stock yet, but I'll remedy that situation soon. Stay tuned!
Casseroles are another of my favorite strategies for using up leftovers.
Ideally, the sauce would include some of that rich stock we made in the steps above. Of course, you'll use some of your leftover meat, and maybe even some of the vegetables.
One-Pot Turkey or Chicken Tetrazzini and One-Pot Buffalo Chicken Macaroni and Cheese are lightning-quick to make, creamy and decadent, and cleanup is a breeze! Obviously, you can substitute turkey for any recipe where you'd normally use turkey.
Enchiladas merit their own category. They have the added bonus of being a fun activity if you have guests staying at your house.
I used to stay Thanksgiving weekend with friends.
The day after our Friendsgiving, we'd all form a boozy enchilada assembly line (margaritas in hand!)—one of my favorite memories. Red Enchiladas, Pork Enchiladas Suizas, and Creamy Green Chile Turkey Enchiladas are absolutely delicious!
I often "overbuy" in the produce section.
So, I almost always have a quarter-head of cabbage, a half onion, and other vegetable odds-and-ends hanging about.
This is a perfect opportunity for making a stir-fry, and if you have leftover meat as well, so much the better!
Leftover Vegetable Fried Rice is a frequent go-to in our house. My Kohlrabi Noodle Stir-Fry and Easy Vegetable Stir-Fry are also easily adaptable to whatever leftovers you have on-hand.
If I have leftover ham, vegetables, or even pasta, there's a good chance that one or all will appear in easy frittatas for breakfast.
This one was made with leftover ham, herbs and cheese.
Finally, I'll leave you with quesadillas: the perfect disguise for leftovers.
You can use up your leftover vegetables and meat to create delicious, melty goodness.
My Cubano Quesadillas, for example, use up leftover pork AND ham. Just like a Cuban sandwich, but in quesadilla form!
You'll also love Cheesy Picante Chicken Quesadillas, Fajita Quesadillas, and BBQ Chicken Quesadillas.
I have by no means exhausted all the possibilities for leftovers here.
But, hopefully, this has inspired you to put your creative hat on for using up leftovers from your holiday dinners.
As always, stay safe. Stay well.
I'm sharing my strategies for using up leftovers with these link parties:
- #CookBlogShare , a great food blogger recipe-share hosted this week at Easy Peasy Foodie.
- #CookOnceEatTwice, for recipes that are just as good left-over as they are when you made them, hosted by Searching for Spice.
- The What’s For Dinner Sunday Linkup (coming soon!) at The Lazy Gastronome.
- Delicious Dishes Recipe Party, a weekly link party where bloggers share their most delicious recipes and check out other bloggers’ amazing recipes, hosted by Walking on Sunshine.
Corina Blum says
I love the way you've been posting a special recipe and then a recipe to use up the leftovers and you've got loads of great ideas in this post. I've also known people who don't like to use leftovers. I can never cook anything with turkey leftovers when my husband's family are visiting us at Christmas because they don't want to eat it the next day. Instead I have to freeze things to use up after they've all gone home! When we've been at their house I've seen them just throw away the turkey carcass with loads of meat left on it and it always seems like such a waste. Thanks for sharing with #CookOnceEatTwice!
Aw, thanks Corina!! ACK! Throwing away a turkey carcass—with meat, no less?! A TRAVESTY. 😛 That would drive me bonkers!