Jazzing up Thanksgiving Leftovers

Who’s over their Thanksgiving leftovers? Tired of plates of Turkey, stuffing, greens and cranberry sauce? It’s cool, me too, and for the record there has never been a “part 6” of a series that wasn’t tired and at least a little disappointing. The following recipes are versions of Shepard’s Pie that are designed to use my Thanksgiving leftovers. I recommend not doing all of these, pick the leftovers you have the most of for this one and then do something completely different tomorrow night. Also? All of these can be frozen after assembled for about 3 to 4 months, so you can save these for February when you really like turkey again if you’d rather.

Option 1:

  1. Tear or dice cooked turkey (white or dark won’t matter) and place in bottom of medium-sized casserole dish.
  2. Add 1 can drained or 1 small bag frozen mixed veggies (soup mix or diced mix work best) to casserole dish.
  3. Top with enough turkey gravy to coat (about 1 to 2 cups, this is a preference thing) and stir.
  4. Create “top crust” with mashed potatoes. You want this layers to be between 1 1/2 and 3 inches deep, again depending on preference. Also, it’s a crust, do not stir.
  5. Sprinkle paprika and seasoned salt across the top.
  6. Bake in 350 degree oven until peaks of potatoes brown slightly, this will take about 20 minutes.
  7. Make sure dish is hot all the way through and serve!

Option 2:

  1. Repeat steps 1 through 3 from above.
  2. Top with “top crust” of stuffing (or dressing, whatever you call it). This layer should be about 2 to 3 inches thick. Do not stir.
  3. Sprinkle with paprika across the top.
  4. Bake in 350 degree oven until edges of stuffing become browned and crispy, about 20 minutes.
  5. Make sure dish is hot all the way through and serve!

Option 3:

  1. Repeat steps 1 through 3 from option 1.
  2. Crumble cornbread over top, creating a 2 inch minimum topping. (If you have no cornbread but want to try this: mix 1 box Jiffy Corn Muffin mix as directed on the box and pour over “filling”. Bake as directed on box)
  3. Add several (generous or about 2 Tbls) dollops of butter sporadically over the cornbread. Cover dish with lid.
  4. Bake in 350 degree oven until heated through and butter has melted, about 20 minutes.
  5. Serve and enjoy!

Option 4:

  1. Repeat step 1 from option 1.
  2. Add any leftover veggies (ex: corn off cob, green beans, broccoli, spinach); or few spoonfuls of green bean casserole (now mushy onions and all); or broccoli casserole. whatever you add, stir it all together.
  3. Add about 2 cups (again preference thing here) of shredded cheddar or colby cheese. (If you are using broccoli casserole you should probably go with just one cup).
  4. Top with mashed potatoes, twice-baked potato casserole, or cornbread. (Depending on what you are topping with follow the appropriate instructions above, or just coat top with potato casserole about 2 inches thick).
  5. Bake about 20 minutes in a (you guessed it) 350 degree oven.
  6. Make sure it is heated through and serve!

Option 5: (the veggie-less option for the picky ones in your group)

  1. This works best with leftover ham torn into bits, but turkey and chicken also work. Layer leftover meat in bottom of medium-sized casserole dish.
  2. Add one can (drained) in its own juice chuncked or tidbit pineapple. (if you have leftover crushed or that’s what’s in your pantry, that’s fine, just use about 1/2 of the can (also drained).
  3. Top with leftover sweet potato casserole or any leftover cooked sweet potatoes (including just plain mashed or sliced). Sprinkle crushed pecans on top (if you like).
  4. Heat in microwave until heated through, or oven if you prefer (but put the lid on in the oven).
  5. Serve and enjoy!

So five casseroles to choose from. These use up some leftovers pretty quick (especially if you make one to freeze for later). Obviously all of these are still going to have a fall comfort food feel, so I like to alternate a leftover casserole with something like spaghetti or tacos, just to break things up. I hope these ideas help you jazz up some of your leftovers!

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Pumpkin Soup

This is about the same color as I remember this soup being, I stole this picture because I have never taken a picture of this soup, sorry. I tried this for the first time about two Thanksgivings ago as a way to jazz up some leftover cooked sweet potatoes, but it works just as well with pumpkin. The point is it’s one of those dishes that appears way more fancy than it is. (And a great way to sneak in some veggies for your picky eater)

What You Will Need:

2 Tablespoons butter (or margarine)

1 cup chopped onion

2 celery stalks, chopped

4 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 large garlic clove, chopped

1 large can pumpkin (or what I usually use: 3 sweet potatoes cooked, peeled, cut into large chunks)

1 can (about 16 ounces) low sodium chicken broth (you can use veggie broth if you prefer)

1 can (about 10 ounces) evaporated milk

1 cinnamon stick

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 1/2 cups whipping cream (not heavy whipping cream)

2 Tablespoons maple syrup

Large saucepan (with lid)

Blender (unless you are truly gadget gifted and own a food processor, of course my blender lives on the countertop which makes its access easier too, so there’s that…)

What to Do:

In a saucepan cook onion, celery, carrots, garlic, broth, and butter until everything is mushy. (Celery will be clear and you will be able to literally mush the carrots with the spoon you are stirring with against the side of the pan)

Add canned pumpkin (or sweet potatoes) to blender along with cooked veggie mix and evaporated milk. Blend until very smooth, it will be just too thick for a straw. Add nutmeg and maple syrup to blender, blend again.

Dump contents of blender back into saucepan. Turn heat to medium. Drop in Cinnamon stick.

Add whipping cream and stir.

Bring back to boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cover for 20 minutes.

Remove cinnamon stick and serve!

*This is great as a side/meal starter, but it makes a really festive simple lunch served with plain toasted cinnamon raisin bread.*

Easy Make Ahead Hashbrown Casserole

This is from the collection of excellent back to school make ahead breakfasts I mentioned before. This is great for making and freezing, like the French Toast Casserole and can be a school day breakfast or a brunch dish that can travel frozen to an out-of-town thing or be ready when the holidays and all their visitors are invading your home. I have a picture of the one I made the first week of school, somewhere… If I can find it I will add it to this recipe. This casserole is best when served with a side of citrus fruit, you know, oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, pineapple, something like that.

What you will need:

1 bag (medium-sized) frozen hashbrowns

1 medium-sized casserole dish (think 8 x 10 or so)

Leftover sausage

1/3 cup Heart Healthy Bisquick

7 medium eggs

6 oz Cheddar or Colby Shredded ( you can use more, but this ratio is a nice balance)

1 Tablespoon Seasoned Salt

2 Tablespoons Onion Powder

Black Pepper (to taste)

Cooking Spray (I recommend Butter for this one)

To make:

In a bowl combine eggs, salt, onion, pepper, bisquick, sausage, and cheese.

Spray casserole dish.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place 1/2 of hashbrowns in bottom of dish.

Pour all of egg mixture on top.

Place remaining hashbrowns firmly over everything.

Cover with tin foil and bake for 20 minutes.

*If you are going to freeze this: Once it is cooled wrap with a layer of Saran Wrap and then another of tin foil, label and place in your freezer. When ready to cook unwrap and follow below directions straight out of the freezer. Keep in mind frozen solid to done will take about twice as long as 1/2 cooked to done, so some planning ahead will be required.*

Remove foil. Return to oven until hashbrowns are crisp looking on top and there is no runny egg mixture. (this will take about 20 minutes)

Serve in squares with fruit and glasses of milk for a hearty breakfast.

Crockpot Chicken n’ Dumplin’s

No those are not type-os, that’s exactly how you should say Chicken n’ dumplin’s. With everybody sick off their rears still and the weather starting to turn all Fall on us (go figure) it seemed like Chicken n’ Dumplin’s was the way to go. Again this recipe is easy and perfect for those of us who have to work all day especially when we are sick.

What you will need:

Crockpot that holds at least 6 quarts

3 Medium (or 2 large) Boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts ( you can use on the bone, but you will need 1 additional breast, and prior to putting in the dumplings you will need to fish out any bone/cartilage/skin/fat chunks)

1/4 cup dried minced onion (which is about 1/2 fresh onion)

4 Tablespoons Paprika

3 Tablespoons Seasoned Salt

4 Tablespoons Dried Rosemary

2 cans Cream of Chicken Soup

1 Can Cream of Celery Soup (If you have people for whom this will be a deal-breaker ingredient, use 3 cans Cream of Chicken instead)

Water

4 small cans biscuits (the kind that often come with soda can style plastic rings around sets of 4)

Black Pepper (to taste)

To Begin: (start Crockpot the night before or in the morning of the day you plan to eat this for supper, either is fine. Just add 3 additional cups of water if you start this the night before)

Place in Crockpot Chicken and seasonings.

*Make sure to crush Rosemary*

Add all Cream of Soups

Fill each empty Cream of can with water twice (use spatula to get everything out of cans) and add to Crockpot.

Place lid on Crockpot and set to cook on low setting.

To Finish: (This part will take about 30 minutes to cook after it is all in the crockpot)

Use a slotted cooking spoon, remove Chicken Breasts and place them on cutting Bord.

Chicken will be fall apart tender and completely cooked at this time. Use two forks or a fork and a knife to make pieces of chicken very small (bite sized or smaller). Return chicken to Crockpot.

On a clean (and cool/room temp, so as not to start “cooking” the canned biscuits) cutting board open all 4 cans of biscuits.

Cut each biscuit in half.

Remove lid from Crockpot and add each 1/2 biscuit to pot, making sure each 1/2 is dunked at least once in broth.

*This part needs to be done very quickly. The biscuits will immediately start to swell and if you stir them too much they will just turn to mush, instead of fluffy dumplings. Use the slotted spoon from before to quickly drop them in one at a time while holding other dumplings out-of-the-way*

Replace lid. Turn setting to high. DO NOT stir for at least 10 minutes!

Now is when you get out plates/bowls/silverware and some raw carrots or some other veggie to go with this comfort dish.

After about 10 minutes, remove lid and, still not actually stirring, use slotted serving spoon to push dumplings down into crockpot (and break up ones that have fused into giant scary mass dumplings) and alow chicken pieces and broth to cover them.

* Make sure to get any stuck to sides off, they will burn if you leave them there.*

Replace lid and allow to finish cooking/thickening. This should take about 20 minutes.

*Dumplings are done when if you poke into one it looks like a pale cooked biscuit inside.*

Once Dumplings are done cut setting to warm (or off if you do not have a warm) and serve. Once everybody has gotten a serving, cut Crockpot off and allow to cool before placing leftovers in fridge.

Who here is psychic and knows that we are gonna be jazzing up these leftovers later in the week? Mmm Chicken Stew…

Anyway, enjoy both the soup and the dumplin’s and read this , when your  eyes aren’t watering, about why both of these recipes are great (but especially the soup) for sick folks.

Hope y’all stay well & we demolish the September Crud soon!

Taco Salad

Here we get to eat taco salad (without the fried basket) and use leftovers! This is great for using up whatever taco-seasoned meat you have leftover from your last taco night. As you have discovered our Tex-Mex loving ways already, I’m sure you have guessed that having taco/burrito leftovers in our fridge is like having leftover Mac-n-Cheese or that 1 random leftover hot dog. This salad works with chicken, steak (not that I have ever put steak in a taco at home, but if I did it would be fine here), or ground beef. You can completely leave off the meat and substitute out about 1/8 cup refried beans per salad if you prefer. You can use the chicken burrito filler from before, if you want, just leave out the duplicate ingredients. You can also use the plain baked chicken, for people who are less loving of all things Tex-Mex.

Topping for Taco Salad:

Heat 1/8 cup per person of taco ground beef leftovers, or 1/4 cup if using chicken or steak in large pot on stove. Add to pot the following (simmering on low heat):

1 can (drained and rinsed) black beans

About 2 1/2 cups frozen white corn

1 can (do not drain) diced tomatoes (low sodium)

1 cup chunky salsa (your fav brand or your homemade kind, either would work)

2 handfuls (mine are small) of jack or queso cheese shreds

Allow this mixture to simmer until it resembles a chunky sauce, then remove immediately from heat. Let it cool to a warm, but not hot temperature (sauce will thicken considerably).

Portion out Base Salad into bowls.

With serving spoon or ladle pour about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of mix on top of each base salad.

Top with diced cucumbers and fresh tomatoes. (If anyone will eat it you can also add cilantro, avocado, or raw diced onions here)

Sprinkle with Colby and Jack cheese shreds.

You can add ranch or Sour Cream on top of this for those who feel they need dressing, but this is actually quite good as is.

“Garnish” with 3 or 4 wheat tortilla chips in side of bowl. Tostidos makes really great ones now.

Serve & enjoy!

Depending on how many you have eating, you will probably have leftovers. If you keep plain brown rice in your fridge, you can mix a little with this topping to thicken it enough to put in a tortilla for lunch if you like. Another idea is as a snack/party food/whatever you can add this topping to chips spread on a plate for some pretty awesome nachos!