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Clever Ways To Use Up Holiday Leftovers

Add a little pizazz to your holiday leftovers.

Now that we’re in the thick of the holiday season, many of us have overstuffed fridges (and stomachs) to contend with. With all of the leftovers, holiday dinners sometimes can go on for days, until it becomes a chore to find creative things to do with it all. It seems no matter how many Tupperware containers you send home with family members, there always seems to be a never-ending supply of mashed potatoes. To make matters worse, relatives always left behind the food they made. Though the food was offered under the guise of a gift, it was really more of a burden (sorry, Aunt Roxanne). Here are a few quick tips and recipes to help you make the most of your holiday leftovers.

Clever Ways To Use Up Holiday Leftovers

  1. Make sure to save your turkey carcass or ham bones, drippings, and gravy to turn into delicious soup stock that can be bagged up and frozen for use throughout the winter. Use it as a tonic when you’re feeling under the weather. There’s really nothing like soup to soothe a winter cold! Recipe below.
  2. At Thanksgiving, roll up some leftover turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, a little gravy, and potatoes together into a whole wheat tortilla to make a tasty Thanksgiving burrito.
  3. If your holiday meal includes roasted beets, you can turn the extras into a delicious Russian stew called borscht. Recipe below. Make a large batch, then freeze it in family-sized or individual-sized containers for quick dinners or fast lunches.
  4. Use leftover mashed potatoes to make delicious potato pancakes for breakfast or homemade Tater Tots.

Russian Borscht

2 cups shredded peeled beets
1 cup shredded carrot
1 cup shredded potatoes
1 cup chopped onion
3 (14 ounce) cans beef broth
2 cups coarsely chopped cabbage
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
sour cream


Cook beets, carrots and onion in the 3 cans of broth for 20 minutes. Add cabbage and butter, and cook uncovered for about 20 minutes. Stir in lemon juice. Let it sit for an hour or so. Reheat or leave at room temperature and serve with sour cream. If using leftovers, add pre-cooked potatoes, beets, and or carrots when you add the cabbage.

Homemade Turkey Broth


1 large turkey carcass, leftover gravy and/or drippings (with some meat left on if possible)
2 medium onions, quartered
1 large celery rib, coarsely chopped
2 large carrots, peeled
4 quarts cold water (or use enough water to cover)
1 large bulb of garlic (separated into whole cloves, can omit if desired)
6 peppercorns
1 large bay leaf
salt (optional and to taste)


Set oven to 400ºF. Break up the carcass into smaller pieces and place on a greased baking sheet along with the onions, celery, and carrots. Roast for about 40 minutes, turning once during cooking time. Place the bones and vegetables in a large stockpot, along with the garlic cloves, peppercorns, and a bay leaf. Pour in the water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, then cover and simmer for about 3-1/2 hours. Carefully strain through a sieve over a large bowl and discard the solids. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate overnight. The following day, skim any excess fat from the top of the broth. Refrigerate for up to three days or separate into plastic containers and freeze for up to six months.

Latkes (Potato Pancakes)

3 lbs potatoes (grated or mashed)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour or matzo meal
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 onion, minced
black pepper, to taste
paprika, to taste
vegetable oil (for frying)

Wash and peel the potatoes, then grate with a grater or food processor. Drain off all liquid, and squeeze the excess liquid out by hand. Beat the eggs and mix with the grated potatoes and other ingredients, except the oil. Heat about 1/2 inch of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until very hot. Drop potato mixture by heaping tablespoons into oil (about 4 at a time). Use a pancake turner to flatten them out. Fry to golden brown on both sides (about 3 minutes per side). Drain on paper towels. Serve topped with applesauce or sour cream.

Instead of frying, you can also bake the latkes at 400ºF for about 30 minutes. Give them a quick broil at the end for a crunchy outside.

Want to start the holidays off right? Read up on Healthier Holiday Cooking.

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Denise Dill

Denise Dill is a co-op livin', garden diggin', homegrown cookin' fool who creates soups of song out of local ingredients. She's currently working as a baker and soup maker while she completes culinary school. In the past, she worked as an urban gardener and community cooking educator. She has also toured the country as a folk musician, opening for such acts as Pamela Means and Hamell on Trial.

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