Posts Tagged ‘What to do with Thanksgiving leftovers
So, I actually made all the traditional Thanksgiving foods earlier in this week because my boyfriend Justin is driving home to Arkansas today to enjoy the holiday with his family tomorrow. Justin can be a picky eater, which means I always need to be creative with leftovers as he doesn’t like having the same thing twice in a row…but I can repurpose ingredients in different ways to make new meals he’ll like. I also try to keep things interesting for him, since he ends up having two holidays (one here in Chicago with me…and one with his family a few days later) and I like doing something different from what his mother’s going to cook.
I found a smart way to avoid even having leftovers to begin with by approaching each meal strategically and deciding what I’m going to do with all the food well in advance; this way, nothing’s ever wasted and I don’t have to scramble to think of things to do with all the stuff in the refrigerator before it goes bad. I also can save a lot of money on groceries by shopping according to a multi-day plan (my budget is $10/day for the two of us and I achieve this with no problems even during holidays by treating things like Thanksgiving foods as a 3-day cooking event instead of just one giant, expensive meal).
On Monday, I made all the traditional Thanksgiving foods the classic way: turkey and sweet potatoes (cooked in a crock pot I bought a few weeks ago and have been experimenting with), cranberry sauce (nothing fancy…just right out of a can), green beans, and stuffing (Stove Top, out of the box…just like mom used to make back in Cleveland). When all the food was ready, I divided it up for the next few days according to my plan: the first day we’d eat it normally, the second day we’d have Thanksgiving Sandwiches, and the last day (today) we’d enjoy a Thanksgiving Pizza.
This might be basic for a lot of you, but it was a revelation to me when I started doing it a few years ago: taking the time as soon as the food is ready to portion it out for the next few days is a great time and energy saver. Literally, while I am plating up our food for today’s meal I am also carving it all up and putting it into bowls for the next few days too. I don’t like Tupperware so I just use large serving bowls and aluminum foil to set things aside…and I never have any problems because I’m going to use all this stuff in the coming days. I keep any sauces or things that shouldn’t be mixed together in separate containers, covered and sealed for when I’m going to use them. But taking the time as soon as the food is all ready to reserve things for future meals feels like much less work than putting everything away after we’ve eaten. It just feels like part of the cooking process when I do it BEFORE we sit down to eat…as opposed to it being part of the laborious cleanup process after dinner.
Another tip I picked up years ago when working for a chef here in Chicago is something you might already do in your house (but if not, you should start today): clean as you go, in terms of the pots and utensils you use…so that when you’re done cooking there’s no giant mess or stack of pans in the sink. Justin still doesn’t know why I do this, as he’s used to having to wash a bunch of pots and things at his house after his mother’s done making dinner…but there’s no mess when I cook because as soon as something’s out of a pan then the pan is scrubbed, dried, and put away where it belongs. No mess means less work for me later in the day.
Thanksgiving Sandwiches have been around for about a decade or so, with chains like Cosi or Potbelly here in Chicago featuring them every holiday season. Literally, they are “Thanksgiving in a Sandwich”…with leftovers from the Thanksgiving meal assembled into a sandwich using whatever bread you happen to like. I like shopping at a store called Dominick’s that features a very good bakery…and they always have interesting breads to choose from that are baked right there in the store. For our Thanksgiving Sandwiches yesterday I used an asiago cheese bread…but in the past I’ve used French bread, cheddar bread, or any of the other kinds they have. It’s whatever you like, really. And then you just layer the Thanksgiving ingredients you have onto the bread in the way that you like. I start with the cranberry sauce, then I add the turkey, and I put some potatoes and green beans or whatever’s there on top of that. And it’s a simple and easy sandwich that has all the Thanksgiving flavors for the day after we had the big, classic meal.
The idea of a Thanksgiving Pizza is something that I first encountered here in Boystown at a little restaurant called Pie Hole, which was originally located at Roscoe and Halsted in the heart of the city’s strip of gay bars. Pie Hole has since relocated and seems more mainstream these days…but once upon a time it was a very eclectic and lively place that featured a different holiday-themed pizza every month. November’s was always “Thanksgiving Pizza”, which fascinated me and gave me all sorts of ideas to try at home. In the years since I’ve seen different Food Network shows present Thanksgiving Pizzas…and everyone does it a little differently.
Pie Hole used gravy for the pizza sauce…which is something I don’t do, mainly because I don’t like gravy and that was never part of Thanksgiving at my house growing up (as my mother didn’t like gravy either). Instead of gravy, we’d always have cranberry sauce with the turkey…so that’s the sauce I use as the base for my version of the Thanksgiving Pizza.
I invite you to alter the recipe you’ll find below to incorporate the things you make for Thanksgiving and how your own family likes to celebrate the holiday. What’s great about a pizza is that there’s very little chance of it being bad, no matter what you add or subtract. One solid rule in life is that if it’s a pizza, chances are it will be delicious…or at least edible (though you should always strive for delicious). I think your family will love having something new and fun to do with your Thanksgiving leftovers…even if like me you decide ahead of time that you’re going to make a Thanksgiving pizza and reserve the ingredients to do this…so it’s less “leftover” than it is “reserved for this purpose ahead of time”.
Thanksgiving Pizza Recipe:
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