Loving those leftovers

Kate Lawson
The Detroit News

The idea of leftovers is not exactly enticing, unless the word “Thanksgiving” comes before. Of course, we all have a leftover turkey day favorite; my mother’s included piling slices of turkey topped with dressing and a dollop of mashed potato and cranberry sauce between slices of white bread. Hardly an original concept but, honestly, I think she enjoyed that sandwich so much more than the stress-induced meal she spent hours preparing the day before. For her, leftovers were the whole point of Thanksgiving. Turkey noodle soup usually followed a day later, and by that time we grew bored with the bird.

These days, the second act of our national holiday meal has possibilities far beyond a sandwich or simple soup. In fact, the possibilities of a leftover Thanksgiving meal can go beyond zapping a plate in the microwave.

For instance, take turkey for a trot around the globe and use it to create international versions of favorite dishes. Lasagna, nachos and even stuffed peppers incorporate not only the turkey, but some of the sides taking up valuable space in the fridge. Those leftover mashed potatoes not only take the place of lasagna noodles, but become become beautiful, cheesy pancakes, and that cranberry sauce is a colorful stand-in for the lasagna tomato sauce. But don’t stop there; cranberry sauce atop waffles or folded into muffin batter is a stroke of genius.

Here are some second-day strategies that will have you, your family, and those out-of-town guests feeling thankful. And as for that pumpkin or pecan dessert? Why, pie for breakfast, of course.

Kate Lawson is the retired Detroit News food writer. You can reach her at

Leftover Turkey Lasagna

Here is the ultimate leftover dish incorporating not only the turkey but the green beans, mashed potatoes and even cranberry sauce. Adapted from

Butter, for greasing pan

2 tablespoons bread crumbs

3 cups prepared mashed potatoes

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup shredded Gruyère cheese

1 cup chopped cooked green beans (or other leftover green vegetables)

1 cup leftover shredded turkey

1/2 cup cranberry sauce

1/2 cup gravy

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch-by-8-inch baking pan with butter, then coat with breadcrumbs.

Mix together mashed potatoes and eggs until smooth. Spread about one third of the mashed potato mixture into the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with cheese then drizzle with gravy. Top with green beans, turkey, more gravy and cranberry sauce. Spread more mashed potatoes on top and sprinkle with more cheese. Top with stuffing then drizzle with gravy. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the lasagna is warmed through.

Let sit for at least 15 minutes before serving. Serve with more gravy, if desired. Serves 10.

Turkey Hash


1 lb. orange sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into small pieces

1 lb. Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into small pieces

Olive oil

Kosher salt

1 yellow onion, finely chopped

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 cup fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels

2 cups chopped cooked turkey meat

4 oz jar diced pimiento peppers or chopped roasted red bell pepper

1/4 cup chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish

Preheat oven to 400°F. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the sweet potatoes and Yukon gold potatoes with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast until tender and brown, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large frying pan over medium heat, warm 1 tbsp oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 10 minutes. Stir in the cumin, corn, turkey, and pepper and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. Add the roasted potatoes and cilantro and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve the hash with a dollop of yogurt, a sprinkle of cilantro, and the lime wedges. Or top each portion with a fried egg.

Thanksgiving Nachos

This should keep your guests happy after a day of shopping. Serve with cold beer as an appetizer. Adapted from

1 bag wavy-cut potato chips

1 cup shredded Gouda or Monterey Jack cheese

1 cup cooked, shredded turkey

1 1/2 cup leftover stuffing

1 can cranberry sauce

1/2 cup turkey gravy

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

As it heats, spread potato chips on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Top with half of the cheese, turkey, and stuffing. Top with more chips and remaining cheese, turkey and stuffing. Bake until the cheese has melted, 8 to 10 minutes.

Top with dollops of cranberry sauce and garnish with a drizzle of turkey gravy. Serves 6.

Turkey Stuffed Peppers

Adapted from

1 large egg, beaten

2 cups leftover turkey, shredded

2 cusp leftover stuffing

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

4 red and yellow bell peppers, hollowed out

1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella

Fresh parsley, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In large bowl, combine beaten egg, turkey, and stuffing. Season with salt and pepper and mix together.

Spoon mixture into bell peppers and top with mozzarella.

Transfer peppers to baking dish and bake until peppers are tender and cheese is melted, 25 to 30 minutes. Garnish with parsley.

Serves 4.

Leftover Cheesy Mashed Potato Pancakes

Adapted from

3 cups chilled leftover mashed potatoes

2/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese

2 tablespoons chopped green onions (both green and white parts)

1/2 cup bacon, cooked and crumbled

1 egg, lightly beaten

3 tablespoons flour

1/2 cup panko

Vegetable oil, for pan-frying

Sour cream, for serving

Additional chopped green onions and bacon for serving

In a large bowl, stir together the mashed potatoes, cheese, green onions, bacon, egg and 3 tablespoons flour until combined. Using your hands, divide the mixture into 12 portions. Roll each portion into a compact ball, then flatten it into a pancake about a 1/2-inch-thick.

Place 1/2 cup panko in a shallow dish and carefully dredge each pancake.

Heat 3 to 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. (Add enough oil to thoroughly coat the bottom of the pan.)

Fry the pancakes, in batches, until they’re golden brown and crispy on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes. Add more oil to the pan as needed between batches. Transfer the pancakes to a paper towel-lined plate and immediately sprinkle them with salt.

Serve the potato pancakes topped with sour cream and garnished with additional chopped green onions and bacon if desired. Makes 12 pancakes.

Thanksgiving Q&A

How long can you leave Thanksgiving dinner out on the table?

Take your time around the dinner table, but start packing up and refrigerating the leftovers within two hours.

What’s the best way to store leftovers?

Leftovers should be cooled down as quickly as possible. Pack them into several shallow containers rather than one large one, and make sure you don’t stack the containers in the refrigerator (this can trap the heat). The more surface area that’s exposed to the cold air, the faster your food will cool.

Remove any stuffing from the turkey cavity and store it in a separate container. Carve the meat from the bones or separate the turkey into smaller pieces and divide it among shallow containers or plastic bags.

How long can leftovers be kept in the fridge?

Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for up to four days. Use a thermometer to make sure your leftovers are reheated to 165 degrees F. Sauces, soups and gravies should come to a full boil. If you’re using the microwave, cover the food and rotate it frequently to make sure it heats evenly.

What’s the best way to freeze leftovers?

As long as your leftovers have been frozen at 0 degrees F, you can store them indefinitely. But they’ll taste best used within two to three months.

Pack side dishes like stuffing and mashed potatoes into airtight freezer containers or plastic freezer bags. Slice the meat from the turkey and wrap it in freezer paper or foil, then seal in plastic freezer bags (make sure to press out all the air before sealing). Liquids, like soup or gravy, will expand slightly as they freeze, so leave a little space at the top of the container. It’s fine to keep leftovers in the refrigerator for a few days before deciding to freeze them, but to preserve their freshness, the sooner they go in the freezer the better. If the food isn’t cool already, refrigerate it for a few hours before moving it to the freezer, and avoid stacking the containers until they’re frozen solid.

Don’t forget to label and date your leftovers. Everything will look the same once it’s wrapped.

Source: Food Network