Let’s be real. Thanksgiving is all about the leftovers.
You see my sister makes these amazing turkey sandwiches. Her secret is, she puts an extra slice of gravy soaked bread in the middle. I call it the Moist Maker.
Raise your hand if you really wanted to soak a piece of bread in leftover gravy to put in the middle of your leftover turkey sandwich after hearing about Ross’s sandwich on Friends. It must have been good, because he freaked out when someone else ate it. That sandwich was the only good thing going on in his life. And, as I’m nearing 30 myself, I can kind of understand where he’s coming from. That must have been one helluva sandwich.
For the first Thanksgiving I ever hosted, all on my own, I bought my turkey just a few days before Thanksgiving. There wasn’t much of a selection left at the grocery. I ended up with a huge turkey. I think it was at least 20 pounds. (We had 7 people over for dinner.) We had to borrow a dining table from a friend. We didn’t even have a gravy boat — we served our guests gravy out of a cast iron teapot!
I had so much turkey left. (And so much of everything else.) But, I am forever grateful for that humongous turkey. Immediately after Thanksgiving, my now-husband had to travel to Canada for a three-day work trip that turned into eight days. I was in between paychecks and didn’t have any money for more groceries, so I ate leftovers until he came home. I had to get creative, but I was thankful that I still had enough.
If you’re still saddled with leftovers after you’ve risen from your food coma, I’ve got you covered with ways to have fun with what’s left.
For a fun snack, appetizer or even a lunch for little ones, make soup shooters! This is inspired by my fave food blogger Jessica at How Sweet Eats.
To make mini bread bowls, start with room temperature rolls. Slice off the tops. (Rolls that are firmer and a bit more dense work the best here, making the gluten-free garlic herbs dinner rolls from Flying Apron a perfect option. Softer, fluffier rolls may work, but will need a gentle touch. They might also be easier to work with if they’re cold.)
Use a spoon to hollow out the rolls, leaving at least ¼-inch on each sides and the bottom to hold the soup. Save the bits of bread that you’ve scooped out to make bread crumbs. Warm the rolls gently in a 300°F oven for at least 5 minutes. Watch closely so they don’t get too toasty or burn.
Ladle your favorite soup in the bread bowls. Serve warm, on a plate or in a small bowl in case of a spill.
While fun, I know this can be kind of impractical. For extra dinner rolls that might be too soft for bread bowls (or if you’re too tired to make another mess), make bread crumbs instead! Chop or tear the rolls into smaller pieces and pulse in a food processor until crumbled to your liking. Spread the crumbs on a baking sheet and toast in the oven at 300°F for about 10 minutes until lightly golden brown. Watch closely so they don’t burn. They’ll get crunchier as the cool. Once the crumbs are completely cooled, place in a Ziploc baggie and store in the freezer.
Turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, veggies
Heat your oven to 400°F.
Shred or dice the leftover turkey. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, omit the turkey and use your favorite faux meat or just load the filling up with veggies. Cooked lentils or sauteed mushrooms are a delicious substitute, too!
Heat the gravy in a stock pot or dutch oven over medium-low heat. If it has thickened a lot overnight, add some soup stock or broth until it’s thinned out a bit. If you have leftover vegetables, add those to the gravy. (Not casseroles; think steamed Brussels sprouts, roasted cauliflower or plain corn.) A 12-ounce bag of frozen mixed veggies also works perfectly (or whatever frozen/canned veggies you have on hand). Stir in the turkey.
Heat leftover mashed potatoes in the microwave so they’re easier to spread. (You can add extra milk or broth to soften them up a bit, if necessary.) Pour the warmed gravy and vegetable mixture into a large casserole dish (or individual ramekins) and top with the potatoes. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the potatoes start to brown and the mixture is hot and bubbling. Let cool for a few minutes before eating.
Use leftover stuffing to top French Onion soup. This soup is easy to make because it requires minimal ingredients: onions and stock or broth are the most important. Garlic, white wine and herbs are worth adding, too (and it’s a great way to use up some of that wine that’s leftover!).
There are plenty of great recipes to follow. I like this step-by-step guide from The Kitchn with lots of helpful tips. My stuffing mix from Flying Apron included walnuts and cranberries. I added sauteed celery, onions and Brussels sprouts (of course). I LOVED the bright tart bites of the cranberries and the flavor of the sprouts mixed with the soup. It totally enhanced the flavor.
Once you’ve caramelized your onions and brought your soup to a simmer, prep your stuffing. If it’s really cold or has hardened overnight, warm it gently in the microwave.
Ladle the soup into oven-safe bowls and top with the stuffing (about ¼-½ cup, depending on the size of your bowls). Then add shredded or thin slices of cheese. (Gruyere or Provolone are the most common, but use what you’ve got on hand!) Daiya mozzarella is highly recommended for being the best melty vegan cheese. If you’re not into cheese, omit it, and top the soup with warmed stuffing. It’s delicious either way!
What’s better than pie? Let me tell you.
You can totally doctor up those last few sad slices of pie and make new, fancy desserts with minimal work.
Layer scoops of pie with whipped cream for easy pie parfaits. (I like making mine from scratch, but there are so many great grocery options these days. There’s this incredible CocoWhip vegan whipped cream from So Delicious. It’s vegan cool whip, people. It’s amazing.) Add granola or toasted pumpkin seeds (or even pomegranate arils!) for a little crunch and texture. Sprinkle with cinnamon/pumpkin pie spice/apple pie spice.
If you have just one or two slices left of pie, make a milkshake! This works especially well for custard pies (like pumpkin or chocolate cream) where the crust may have gotten a bit soggy after sitting, but it works well with any kind of pie.
To make a milkshake: Place 1 piece of pie into a blender. Add 2 scoops of ice cream and a splash of milk. Blend on high until combined. Add more milk as necessary to achieve the milkshake consistency you prefer.
I combined pumpkin pie with Crème Fraîche gelato from Snoqualmie Ice Cream. Pecan pie would pair beautifully with vanilla, caramel, chocolate (or even banana!) ice cream and I think chocolate cream pies would be delicious with mint chocolate chip ice cream.
Top your milkshake with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon and enjoy!
I hope that you all enjoyed a delicious day with great gluten-free food and good company. For me, Thanksgiving is all about family and gathering together. I spent my day cooking and visiting with family, sharing stories and playing games. (Currently: Star Trek Settlers of Catan.)
I am so thankful for this space and for the ability to share my creative food ideas and stories with you. I am most thankful for those who read what I’ve written and enjoy my creations. Thank you.
Disclosure: This post was created in cooperation with Flying Apron Bakery in Redmond, WA. My ideas and opinions here, as always, are my own. I was provided some materials (dinner rolls, stuffing and pie) to create these recipes.