Talking Turkey

Fast, fresh takes on Thanksgiving leftovers
By Lisa Turner

The fragrant smell of roasting turkey is a welcome scent on Thanksgiving Day. But what to do with the rest of the bird when next-day turkey-and-gravy sandwiches have lost their appeal?

First, keep it simple: The last thing you need is more time in the kitchen. Liven up leftovers with colorful fresh vegetables and assertive spices and herbs like chipotle, garlic, arugula, and rosemary. Skip stuffing and focus on the most nutrient-dense leftovers:

• Add high-protein, low-fat turkey breast to soups and stir-fries.

• Whisk cranberry sauce with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for a heart-healthy salad dressing.

• Use high-fiber sweet potatoes or root vegetables as the base for rich, creamy soups.

• Sauté cooked green beans in peanut oil with scallions and a sprinkle of Chinese five-spice for an antioxidant-rich side with Asian flair.

And play it safe with leftovers: Refrigerate within two hours (one hour in temperatures above 90 degrees) after the meal. To store, be sure leftovers have cooled to room temperature, then divide into smaller portions and refrigerate or freeze. Use within three to four days; if you’re freezing them, use within two to six months. For more information, visit the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) website at

And try the following fast and fabulous recipes. They’ll get you through Thanksgiving weekend—and the rest of the leftovers—with minimal kitchen and cleanup time.

Sweet Potato Soup with Adobo Creme

Serves 6

This spicy Southwestern soup is a great way to use nutrient- and fiber-rich leftover sweet potatoes. Adjust the spice according to flavor preferences. For a vegan alternative substitute vegetable stock for the chicken and use dairy-free sour cream.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed with the side of a knife

3 small or 2 medium roasted or baked sweet potatoes, peeled (if desired) and cut into chunks

1 small canned chipotle pepper

6 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1/3 cup creme fraiche, sour cream, or low-fat yogurt

1 to 2 teaspoons adobo sauce from canned chipotle peppers

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

In a large, heavy pot, heat olive oil over medium heat and sauté onions for four to six minutes, until softened and golden. Add garlic and cook for one minute longer. Add sweet potatoes, chipotle pepper, and five cups of the stock. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes, until flavors are blended and sweet potatoes are very soft.

While soup is cooking, combine sour cream and adobo sauce in a small bowl and mix to blend. Set aside. Toast pumpkin seeds in a small skillet over medium-low heat, tossing frequently, until fragrant and lightly golden, about four minutes. Set aside.

Purée soup in batches in a food processor until creamy and smooth, adding remaining one cup stock to thin to desired consistency. To serve, divide soup between four individual bowls. Top each with a tablespoon of adobo crème and swirl into soup. Shower with pumpkin seeds and serve hot.


Turkey, Cranberry, and Hazelnut Salad with Rosemary Aioli, in Bibb Lettuce Cups

Serves 4

This light, fresh salad uses a robust aioli made with yogurt, garlic, lots of rosemary, and just a little mayonnaise. Homemade mayo is best, but any high-quality or even low-fat version will do. If your Thanksgiving table included whole cooked cranberries, swap them for the dried cranberries for a bright, fresh look.

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 tablespoons yogurt

1 small garlic clove, pressed in a garlic press

2 teaspoons finely minced rosemary

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 small head Bibb lettuce

1 cup very loosely packed baby spinach leaves

2 cups cooked turkey, cut into half-inch cubes

1/4 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup toasted chopped hazelnuts

In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, garlic, rosemary, and lemon juice: Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside. Carefully remove eight to 12 Bibb lettuce leaves and set aside.

Stack spinach leaves on top of each other, then cut crosswise to make very thin strips that resemble blades of grass. Combine spinach, cooked turkey, and cranberries in a large bowl and stir to mix. Gently fold in aioli and stir to mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, arrange two or three lettuce leaves on top of each other on each plate. Divide turkey mixture between lettuce cups. Sprinkle with hazelnuts and serve.


Grilled Turkey and Manchego Cheese Sandwiches with Arugula, Apples, and Fig Jam

Serves 2

The assertive flavor of Manchego cheese means you’ll use less than you would of a milder cheese, or swap asiago, gruyere, or another sharp cheese. Apples and arugula add extra nutrition, and a thin smear of fig jam adds volume of flavor with no fat and few calories; Major Grey chutney or apricot preserves work well too.
4 slices rustic, whole-grain bread

2 tablespoons fig jam

1/4 cup grated Manchego cheese

4 thin slices cooked turkey breast

1/2 small pear, very thinly sliced

1 cup loosely packed baby arugula leaves (substitute spinach)

Olive oil or grapeseed oil for cooking sandwiches

Arrange bread slices on a working surface. Thinly spread one side of each slice with fig jam. Layer two slices of the bread with cheese, turkey, arugula, and pear. Cover with remaining two slices of bread.

Lightly coat the bottom of a large, heavy skillet with oil and heat over medium-high heat. Carefully place sandwiches in skillet and turn once to coat both sides with oil. Cook for two to three minutes, until golden. Carefully turn sandwiches over, pressing down lightly with a spatula. Reduce heat, cover, and cook remaining side for three to four minutes, until lightly browned.

To serve, halve each sandwich on the diagonal, arrange on individual plates, and serve hot.