Thanksgiving is one of the few times of the year when even people who don’t like to cook find themselves in the middle of the culinary madness for the entire day.

For those of us who start cooking on the Friday or Saturday before, it can envelop almost the better part of a week. For what? Twenty minutes of frenzied eating followed by several hours of napping and watching football? No. We do it for the quality time spent together in the kitchen, the wonderful conversation around the dinner table — and the leftovers.

There are few things better than the day-after-Thanksgiving turkey sandwich. The day after that, though, it’s time to move on. Still have leftovers to eat? Great. No one appreciates them more than those who have worked so hard to make those leftovers happen. But after a couple of days, a little vacation from the Thanksgiving flavors is often much appreciated.

Here are a few quick and easy yet creative ideas that will help use those turkey, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce leftovers in new and unexpected ways.

Turkey and Swiss Potato Cakes: Mix an egg into 3 cups mashed potatoes, 1 cup chopped turkey, ½ cup grated Swiss or Cheddar cheese and ¼ cup minced onion. Form into patties and sauté in a non-stick skillet with 1 tablespoon of olive oil until crispy and golden brown. Serve with a green salad.

Turkey Banh Mi: Mix light mayo with sriracha sauce, to taste, and spread on a crusty whole wheat baguette. Fill the sandwich with leftover turkey, fresh mint, cilantro, cucumber slices, shredded carrot and jalapeño slices.

Sweet Potato and Kale Salad: Toss torn baby kale leaves with your favorite light vinaigrette, top with diced roasted sweet potatoes, thinly sliced radishes and scatter lightly with roasted pumpkin seeds and feta cheese.

One easy and delicious way to please a house full of family and guests is to make quesadillas. The basic recipe includes leftover turkey, Monterey Jack cheese and cranberry salsa made simply by mixing whole berry cranberry sauce with your favorite jarred salsa. If you want to take it one or two steps further, feel free to sauté sliced onions and poblano chiles to add to the filling or mix a little chopped chipotle peppers with low-fat sour cream to serve on the side. Your guests will barely recognize those leftovers and you will appreciate how little time and effort it takes to keep the party going.


Meredith Deeds of Edina is the author of “Everyday to Entertaining” and “The Big Book of Appetizers.” Reach her at Follow her on Twitter @meredithdeeds.