The Best Ways to Enjoy Thanksgiving Leftovers

By Larry Olmsted, Forbes Contributor

Talk about leftovers: some 45 million turkeys totaling over one billion pounds will end up on dinner plates around the country November 24. That is the number of turkeys eaten expressly for Thanksgiving Day, according the US Department of Agriculture - more than one sixth of the entire year's total of 242 million turkeys will be consumed in one night!

In Pictures: The Best Ways to Enjoy Thanksgiving Leftovers

The Same Old Same Old Thanksgiving Dinner

While retailers call the day after Thanksgiving "Black Friday" for kicking off the holiday gift buying season, for families who host Thanksgiving dinner, it might better be called "White Meat Friday." That is the morning when millions of households awake and face the same dilemma year after year: what to do with all that turkey? Not to mention the remains of the day's share of the 735 million pounds of cranberries, 2 billion pounds of sweet potatoes, and all the other products whose consumption peaks on Thanksgiving Day, from stuffing to green beans.

The good news is that cooked turkey is an incredibly versatile ingredient, and you do not have to relive the gluttonous Thanksgiving feast over and over. Your leftovers, including side dishes, can be used in myriad interesting ways.

Perhaps the simplest method for disposing of leftovers all at once is in the classic post-Thanksgiving sandwich, which compresses the traditional meal into a handheld serving, with sliced turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce between two slices of bread. But there are plenty of other tasty options.

Turkey Bolognese, a white meat take on an Italian classic
Few of us have the time to make stock from scratch anymore, but this is the one time of year when it is easy to throw together a hearty and almost homemade turkey soup. Several companies like Pacific Foods and Imagine sell high quality, low sodium chicken broth in quart boxes, including organic versions, widely available in supermarkets. Simply dump a couple of boxes in a pot, boil your leftover turkey bones it in for a while, remove them and add whatever vegetables you can lay your hands on, cut into hearty bite size chunks, especially carrots, onions and potatoes. Celery, bell peppers, peas, and sweet potatoes are all fair game. Add salt and pepper to taste, and if you want, aromatics like parsley, basil or oregano - there aren't many rules when it comes to using leftovers. You can even add egg noodles or other small pasta shapes for your own turkey noodle soup. Ramen noodles and soy sauce will give it an Asian flair. Diced turkey and even the leftover green beans can go in last minute, since they are already cooked, for just long enough to warm them up.

Turkey Enchiladas
More inventive, but still simple options include everything from turkey hash to chili, croquettes to enchiladas. Since many people don't want to leave home the day after Thanksgiving and shopping centers are usually packed, it might be a good idea to add the few extra items you'll need to throw together several more meals to your original Thanksgiving shopping list, so you will have everything on hand. Almost all these recipes can me made quickly using store-bought ingredients, or for the more ambitious, from scratch - they are as simple or complicated as you want to make them.

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