Recipes that perk up turkey leftovers

Thanksgiving Day is a time of celebration, a special day set aside each year to reconnect with family and friends, to share in traditional foods and to give thanks. People travel hundreds, sometimes thousands, of miles to gather around the table and share a turkey leg with good ol' Uncle Tom, savor Aunt Jane's homemade stuffing or take delight in a slice of grandma's pumpkin pie.

At the end of the day, when the kitchen has finally been cleaned and perhaps some of the company is still at your house, the age-old question comes into play: what do you do with the leftovers from a five- or six-course meal? Beyond reheating the food, what appetizing meals can be created from the traditional leftover turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing and assorted vegetables?

For a turkey meal makeover, chef Luis Velez, caterer, offers simple, yet delicious recipes using leftover turkey and French bread to create turkey salad, turkey and dumpling soup and an easy bread pudding.

Velez suggests chopping up the leftover turkey, adding sour cream with diced onions and celery and a little chopped red bell pepper to create the best turkey salad ever.

Once all the meat has been removed completely from the bones, Velez said to place the bones in a pot of water and salt to make a delicious Turkey and Dumpling Soup.

"let it simmer for a good hour and create the best broth in the world. now you can drain the broth into another pot and add the onions, celery, carrots, and that corn. Add the pieces of turkey that you didn't use for the turkey salad and you are on your way to mak[ing] that turkey and dumpling soup," Velez wrote in an e-mail. Leftover pie dough can be used to create dumplings in the soup. "With just a little shake of cayenne pepper sauce you will spice it up to wake the dead," he added.

Velez said one of his favorite meals to make with the leftovers is his easy bread pudding, which uses all those extra loaves of French bread that may have hardened after a day or two and only requires everyday ingredients such as eggs and milk.

Samantha Gotlib, co-founder of Wholesome Tummies lunch delivery service, said while she enjoys recreating her family's Thanksgiving dinner Friday night, she often has enough leftovers to produce several amazing meals. In fact, she even plans on it.

"I know with our family, we just bought a 15-pound organic turkey from a farm in Ocala and we don't really have anyone coming so we plan on having leftovers," Gotlib said.

Turkey is a wholesome food to have left over, Gotlib said.

"It's not like the leftover Halloween candy you feel guilty about. Turkey is a very healthy, very low-in-fat protein that kids love with a mild taste like chicken that is so versatile," she said.

One of Gotlib's favorite creations is her turkey and vegetable strata recipe, which she said is somewhat similar to breakfast pie, a meal her all-natural and organic boxed lunch program creates for local schools.

"The nice thing about the turkey and vegetable strata is that it uses so many things you have leftover like the cut-up bread from the table, cut-up turkey, the cheeses from the appetizers, and all you need to add are the eggs and milk and a little seasoning," Gotlib said. "You can add any vegetables you may have, from sweet potatoes to squash or green beans or even a mix. this is a great way to use everything," she added.

Another meal the Gotlib family looks forward to each holiday is Turkey Lasagna.

"I make Turkey Lasagna all the time at home anyway using ground turkey instead of ground beef. I shred up the leftover turkey and make lasagna like you normally do, but layer in the turkey. it also freezes really well, so if you have a ton of turkey leftover, you can make it and have it in a few weeks," she said.

Another easy favorite, Gotlib said, is her famous turkey pita pockets sandwiches which include cranberry and avocado.

Gotlib, an advocate for healthy, all-natural foods during the holidays, said Thanksgiving can be kept healthy as long as the freshest, purest foods are used.

"if you're not buying canned foods and eating a lot of processed foods and are buying real food, go ahead and eat. Stick to fresh, organic veggies or like what we are buying, an antibiotic/hormone-free organic turkey so you feel a little less guilty," she said.

That's what Thanksgiving is all about, Gotlib added, food, family and the memories you make.

Easy Bread Pudding by Chef Luis

1 1/2 lbs. French bread (crust trimmed)

2 quarts (8 cups) milk

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Cut off the crust of the bread and cut into squares. put it in mixer and add sugar, vanilla, whole eggs, milk and a dash of salt as well as 1/4 lb. of softened butter.

Beat the mixture slightly so as not to liquefy it. You don't want the bread to lose its integrity completely. some lumps are good.

Now pour the mixture into a baking dish and bake at 350 for approximately an hour. Baking time is a guideline as it depends on the density of your mixture. To verify that it is done, see that you bake to a golden brown. as with a cake, to tell when it is done just pierce the middle with a toothpick and it should come out clean.

Turkey Lasagna by Samantha Gotlib

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 onion)

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 pounds pulled leftover turkey

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes in tomato puree

1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

2 teaspoons kosher salt

3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 pound lasagna noodles

15 ounces ricotta cheese

1 cup grated Parmesan, plus 1/4 cup for sprinkling

1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten

1 pound fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Heat the olive oil in a large (10- to 12-inch) skillet. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes over medium-low heat, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 2 tablespoons of the parsley, the basil, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Simmer uncovered over medium-low heat for 15 to 20 minutes until thickened.

Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with the hottest tap water. Add the noodles and allow them to sit in the water for 20 minutes. Drain.

In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, 1 cup of Parmesan, the egg, the remaining 2 tablespoons of parsley, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Set aside.

Ladle 1/3 of the sauce into a 9-by-12-by-2-inch rectangular baking dish, spreading the sauce over the bottom of the dish. then add the layers as follows: half of the pasta, half of the turkey, half of the mozzarella, half of the ricotta, and 1/3 of the sauce. Add the rest of the pasta, turkey, mozzarella, ricotta, and finally, sauce. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of Parmesan. Bake for 30 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling.

Turkey and Vegetable Strata by Samantha Gotlib

2 cups turkey, cut into cubes

4 cups vegetables (green bean casserole, corn, broccoli, whatever you have)

3 cups leftover bread, cut into cubes (biscuits, crescents, rolls, whatever you have – if you have none, you can use a loaf of Italian bread)

Leftover cheese (or you can use 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and grease a 2-quart round or oval baking dish (can use PAM Cooking Spray).

In a large bowl, add the turkey, vegetables and bread and toss gently; place mixture into baking dish. In the same bowl, whisk the eggs, milk and salt. Pour the egg mixture over the turkey and vegetable mixture. Lay your cheese evenly on top of the mixture. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.

Turkey Avocado Pita Sandwich by Samantha Gotlib

Boneless turkey meats either boiled or baked and thinly sliced

Cranberry sauce homemade or canned

Romaine or green leaf lettuce

Fresh Avocados, pitted and sliced

Sandwich spread or Mayo is optional but not required.

Simply open the pita bread in half and place a leaf or two of lettuce inside. next, spread on the cranberry sauce and then liberally add sliced or chopped turkey meat (white or dark meat) on top. Finally, garnish the turkey cranberry pita with slices of fresh avocado and chopped tomatoes, and lightly season with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Recipes that perk up turkey leftovers

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