Seattle's Child

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Thanksgiving Leftover Ideas


Someone has been cooking a long time – you, your friends, your relatives, someone. And no matter who it was, I bet after the main meal is over, there is quite a bit of turkey and even more leftover, and no one feels like doing much cooking.

That means it is time for leftovers; easy, tasty leftovers. My three favorite are The Sandwich, Veggie Pasta and Turkey Crescent Roll-Ups.

The Sandwich

Frankly, this is my favorite. It is easy to customize and quick to make. The key to the sandwich is this combination: turkey slices, a little stuffing, cranberry sauce, softened butter and your favorite bread (I'm a fan of the way whole grain breads stand up to the cranberry).

Butter? Yes. This is essential to keep the bread from going all soggy and falling apart. A thin layer of softened butter gives a wonderful rich taste, and deals with any leftover turkey dryness. The stuffing adds moistness and tons of flavor; the cranberry makes things nice and tangy. And the turkey – it balances all of those strong flavors.

You can make them big or small, add and subtract as needed. And they are the perfect something to feed those hungry kids at the end of the day if you eat "dinner" at 2 p.m. that day, like my house usually does.

Veggie Pasta

The glazed carrots, the roasted Brussels sprouts, the sautéed broccoli, the (gulp!) green bean casserole; at least one of these will likely show up at your holiday meal. And while many kids will take a dutiful bite off the Thanksgiving plate, you may find yourself with half of a casserole dish left. And that dish takes up a whole bunch of fridge real-estate.

Here's a quick way to dispatch those leftover veggies in a way that the kids will eat their share.

You'll need:

  • Leftover veggies
  • Your favorite pasta
  • Oil
  • Garlic
  • Bread crumbs – optional
  • Balsamic vinegar or Worcestershire sauce
  • Cheese – optional

Get a pan of water boiling to cook your noodles; the ones everyone in your house likes, so you have them in the panty. Take your leftover veggies,and chop them up small.


For Brussels sprouts, I did 1/8 pieces, for carrots and beans, think the size of the last joint of your pinky.


Heat up a little oil in a sauté pan and toss in the crushed garlic. As soon as it begins to sizzle, add the optional breadcrumbs. Stir-stir-stir so that everything gets a nice tan, but nothing gets burned. Add in the veggies and cook until heated through. (They were already cooked, so they don't need to be cooked again). Take the veggies off the heat and taste them. Do they need… something? If a little sweet and sour seems to be the way to go (carrots are a sure winner!), carefully add a little balsamic vinegar. Add a little taste, repeat until it is just right. If a little more salty-savory would help (green bean casserole would love some), add Worcestershire sauce. Again add, taste, add, taste… until you find the sweet spot.

Drain the noodles and stir in the newly tasty veggies. Shred your optional cheese over the top of each serving. I suggest cheddar over broccoli, Swiss over green beans and Parmesan over carrots or Brussels sprouts. But let your taste and your fridge contents be your guide.


I got a little bonus. My Brussels sprouts were roasted with dried cranberries and hazelnuts. They were great, too!

Turkey Crescent Roll-Ups

Last of all – exploding dough! No, wait … When cooking with my mom, there were few things more thrilling than those pop-open tubes of dough. There was the anticipation of the pop, pulling out all those mysteriously perforated triangles, and I loved nibbling on the tangy lost corners of dough. And since this is a long weekend spent with food and kids, I see no reason not to roll a useful variation of the classic.

You'll need:

  • A tube of crescent rolls*
  • Slices of turkey
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Cheese – optional
  • Leftover gravy for dipping – optional

* The same thing works with tortillas – flour or even corn (gluten free BONUS!). Just, please, warm everything up in the oven or the toaster; it brings out the best of the flavors.

Share the joy of popping the dough.


Spread a little cranberry sauce on one side, and line up some pretty, thinly sliced turkey (or chop up thicker slices). You can slip in a slice of Swiss or provolone cheese if that seems like a good idea, too.


Roll them up, and cook according to the package directions. And warm any optional gravy for dipping. It's like seasonal (and slightly healthier) pigs in a blanket. Serve with your Veggie Pasta, or any other leftover sides hanging out in the fridge, or with a nice fresh salad.


Have a great Thanksgiving, and enjoy the time after it, too.


Helping parents, kids and new cooks navigate and enjoy fresh, local and sometimes unusual produce prodded Greta Hardin into writing Cooking Your Local Produce. She's a science teacher, enthusiastic cook and mother of a 10-year-old son. She couldn't find a cookbook to help people get started in the emerging landscape of local food, so she wrote this one. More information and recipes are available at