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Rainbow Kitchen

Holiday Leftovers Makeovers

By Allison St. Claire
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The taste-loving you wanted another go-round with that fantastic dish Aunt Madge brought; the thrifty you couldn’t bear to throw out any perfectly good food; and the healthy you wants to let your imagination run free to consider how to repurpose even the lowliest tidbit into something edible, incredible and eligible for a healthy addition to your daily fare.

Dreading the dreary feeling when you open the refrigerator door day after day following a holiday feast only to be greeted with the Tupperware and tin foil jungle of drips and drabs of leftovers? The taste-loving you wanted another go-round with that fantastic dish Aunt Madge brought; the thrifty you couldn’t bear to throw out any perfectly good food; and the healthy you wants to let your imagination run free to consider how to repurpose even the lowliest tidbit into something edible, incredible and eligible for a healthy addition to your daily fare.

Let’s start with biggest item. Hopefully you got the turkey carcass – whether you cooked the bird originally or you managed to doggybag home at least all or part of it from the dinner host who didn’t know the goodies it would produce or didn’t want to bother with it for whatever reason.

Toss that baby into your slow cooker or a big stock pot along with small meat scraps and skin to make a delicious nutrient-dense all-purpose broth. Minimally add some diced carrots, onions and celery (including leaves). Did you have anything left over from an appetizer “veggie nibbles” plate? Throw anything from it into the pot – carrots, celery, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms and onions – but hold the pickles. All add rich flavor and multiple vitamins and minerals to the stock. Letting nothing go to waste, even toss in the radishes, unless you’ve already enjoyed them with a thick slash of butter and a sprinkle of sea salt while you were getting everything else ready.

Add some thyme and sage for an earthy herbal note. Or add some leftover dressing as a thickener to a portion of the broth at the end.

Simmer (do not let boil) the whole shebang for at least four hours, or all day. You may want to remove the vegetables after the first few hours to serve in a hearty bowl of turkey soup before they’ve turned to mush – which you can still put to good use by blending into a puree to use as a base for gravy or a “cream of something” soup.

Rice. Make a tasty turkey-rice soup loaded up with leftover meat scraps, cubed squash, or leafy greens.

The green salad. Freshen and brighten it up with some simple ingredients you probably already have around. Slices of apples or pears, a few nuts and your choice of healthy seeds – hemp, flax or chia. Cubes of non-processed cheese such as feta, cheddar, or Parmesan shavings. Crumbled or sliced hard-boiled or deviled eggs. If you didn’t add the remains of your veggie appetizer tray to make broth, slice or shred the remaining items into this enhanced salad.

The cooked greens (if not already highly flavored). Melt some butter, ghee or bacon fat in a skillet. Saute any combination of onions, mushrooms, garlic. Like an Asian flavor? Add some sliced or grated fresh ginger to the mix. Add the greens and heat to taste. Sprinkle with hot pepper flakes, or a dash of rice vinegar and/or toasted sesame oil to finish off.

Potatoes. Use as a base for fried, poached or soft-boiled eggs the next morning instead of toasted store-bought bread (usually rendered extremely unhealthy by using vitamin-stripped, bromated flour and a host of unpronounceable and unhealthy chemical additives). The lists are as daunting as they are frightening given that you only need four ingredients to make outstanding bread: flour (preferably whole grain), yeast, salt and water.

Sweet potatoes. If they were sweetened, add some healthy nuts, seeds, raisins and apple slices to create a whole new nutrient-packed dish. If originally served simply with butter, salt and pepper, for example, combine with leftover white potatoes for an interesting new flavor combo.

The pies. OK, time to go for sheer indulgence. Unless they were way over-sugared, you’ve already got healthy fillings – pumpkin/squash, fruit, nuts or custards – so simply enjoy their encore presentation on your plate.

Happy holidays.


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Allison St. Claire loves to dream about, study, grow, play with, prepare and ultimately enjoy eating great food.

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