Oh yes – it’s that time of year again and it’s time to think of healthy ways to use leftover Thanksgiving turkey. After the blowout of the Thanksgiving dinner, you want your options to be healthy! You just know that the bird could sit in the fridge and haunt you but if you plan beforehand, you can steal a march on the leftover game. When you make your shopping list for the main meal, include ingredients for these handy and healthy ways to use leftover Thanksgiving turkey and you can stun your family and your tummy with your culinary skills. The beauty of these following healthy meals with leftover Thanksgiving turkey is that there are no exact recipes. It all depends on what you like to eat, how many people you are cooking for and how healthy you want them to be. They are extremely versatile so you can let your creative, as well as your digestive, juices flow.
1. Leftover Turkey Quesadilla
When you want something quick and loaded with flavor, one of the healthy ways to use leftover Thanksgiving turkey is in quesadillas. All you need to do is sandwich a pile of your favorite crispy bell peppers, some thin slivers of onion, low-fat cheddar cheese and cooked turkey between two tortillas and grill in a non-stick pan. Add some Jalapeños if you want a bit of a kick. It sure beats a boring turkey sandwich.
2. Leftover Turkey Quinoa Salad
This is a great way to enjoy the very nutritious and very good for you quinoa. Cube up some of the turkey. Cut your favorite raw vegetables into a dice and stir into some cooked quinoa. Good veggies to use are bell pepper, celery, green onions, radish, snow peas or thawed-out green peas, and sweet corn. Mix an herby vinaigrette from some oil, vinegar and your favorite herb, toss together and enjoy.
3. Leftover Turkey Salad
There are so many healthy meals with leftover Thanksgiving turkey that can be called a salad. It really is just a mix of some of your favorite yummy and nutritious ingredients and you’re good to go. One of my favorite combos is shredded cooked turkey, sliced button mushrooms, baby spinach, shredded carrot, slivers of red onions and some dried cranberries. When I’ve mixed it, I like to crumble some walnuts on the top. My sister stole my recipe but she adds arugula (which I don’t like).
4. Leftover Turkey Soup
As Thanksgiving is in cold and flu season, what better way to comfort than with a heartwarming soup? Soup is one of the easiest things to make and you can’t go wrong with most flavor combinations. One that I like to make is just a mix of chopped leftover turkey, chopped vegetables and low sodium broth. I prefer root vegetables such as turnip, parsnip, swede (rutabaga) and carrot, plus some celery and onion for flavor. Add whatever seasonings you like too. To make the soup into a meal you can add some rice or soup noodles during the cooking process. I actually prefer to use pearl barley because that really boosts the nutritional value.
5. Easy Leftover Turkey Pot Pie
Say the word pie and you think I can’t be talking about healthy ways to use leftover Thanksgiving turkey, but I am! Pies don’t have to be calorie laden. My version of a turkey pot pie means combining leftover turkey with a can of reduced calorie/low fat/reduced sodium cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup with some sliced mushrooms and French beans. For the topping I scrunch up filo (phyllo) pastry sheets. Because the pastry takes such a short time to cook, it is better to cook the filling first so it’s hot and then put the pastry on and bake immediately.
6. Leftover Turkey Pasta Bake
If you haven’t overdosed on the carbs at your Thanksgiving meal, you won’t feel guilty about indulging in some pasta. You could just mix turkey and a jar of sauce and add to pasta but there’s something more comforting about a pasta bake. Cook some pasta (wholewheat of course!) for a few minutes less than directed on the packet. Make sure it is still VERY al dente. Mix it with cooked turkey, some frozen peas, frozen sweetcorn, chopped onions, a can of chopped tomatoes and some extra liquid – broth, stock, or tomato juice. Add a quantity of reduced fat mozzarella or cheddar, mix through, put into an ovenproof dish and bake until the pasta is cooked and the cheese all melty. If your calorie allowance allows it, add some extra grated cheese to the top and grill until it is golden.
7. Neecey's Leftover Turkey
I don’t know about in the US, but it is a standing joke in the UK that the uneaten (Christmas, not Thanksgiving) turkey always gets made into one, sandwiches and two, curry. Although very tasty, turkey curries are not really healthy ways to use leftover Thanksgiving turkey. That is, unless you do it my way. Make a cold turkey curry – a là Coronation chicken masquerading as a Waldorf salad! Instead of fat-laden mayonnaise, add curry powder into a mix of low fat yogurt (Greek is best) and sour cream. Mix this with chopped cooked turkey, super-sweet raisins (or halved grapes), an apple cut into chunks, green onions, chopped celery and some chopped walnuts. Season to taste, pile onto some crunchy salad leaves such as romaine and radicchio and tuck in.
I hope you give these meals to make with leftover Thanksgiving turkey a try but more than that, I hope I have demonstrated that with just a bit of creative thinking, you can turn classics into healthy (and quick) meals. What's your favorite thing to do with leftover turkey?