Through this hectic time with family and friends, I'm grateful for the remains of our holiday feast.

Rather than "leftovers," I consider the meal's odds and ends to be a blank canvas. This assembly of ingredients is prepped, awaiting inspiration (not replication).

Using aromatic spices, fresh herbs, citrus zest and what's left of the wine, it's easy to cook up soups, potpies, salads, grain bowls and sinful sweets. Not one of these boldly seasoned, flavorful dishes resembles the original dinner.

Here are a few ideas for dinner-party-worthy fare (even for the family!) as well as no-fuss homey meals that are quick and easy on the cook.


Mini Curried Veggie Tarts: Season 1 cup cooked, chopped vegetables (broccoli, green beans, etc.) with 1 tablespoon melted butter, 1 teaspoon curry powder, fresh lime juice and salt and pepper to taste. Fill packaged phyllo cups and serve garnished with a dab of whole-milk Greek yogurt.

Squash Hummus: Mash a little cooked squash or sweet potatoes into your favorite prepared hummus (about ¼ cup cooked vegetable to 1 cup hummus). Serve with toasted pita bread or packaged pita chips.

Cranberry Salsa: Stir together 1 cup cranberry sauce with ¼ cup of your favorite prepared tomato or pineapple salsa and serve with chips.

Cranberry-Horseradish Mayo: A terrific spread for sandwiches and dressing for turkey salads and a great dip for veggies. Season ½ cup good-quality mayonnaise with 2 tablespoons cranberry sauce, plus 1 to 2 teaspoons prepared horseradish sauce, to taste.


Spicy Potato Soup: In a saucepan or stockpot, combine equal parts mashed potatoes with turkey or chicken stock and set over medium-high heat. Stir in your favorite prepared salsa to taste. If the texture seems too thin, whisk in additional mashed potatoes. Season with salt and pepper, and serve garnished with crumbled corn chips and shredded Cheddar cheese.

Curried Sweet Potato and Apple Soup: In a saucepan or stockpot, combine equal parts mashed sweet potatoes with equal parts apple cider and a big glug of heavy cream (or a dairy substitute). Season with curry powder and lime juice to taste. Serve garnished with chopped fresh apples and chopped cilantro.

Winter salads

Toss any of these combos with the Cranberry Maple Vinaigrette (see recipe at top right).

• Fennel, apples, roasted squash and toasted pecans.

• Wild rice, turkey salad, dried cranberries, toasted walnuts.

• Cooked vegetables (Brussels sprouts, green beans, carrots) and cubed Cheddar cheese.


Butternut Risotto: Stir 1 cup chopped cooked butternut squash into 2 cups cooked risotto. Serve garnished with shredded Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley.

Turkey Croquettes: Combine equal parts chopped turkey with cooked stuffing and pat into 4-inch round croquettes. Dust with a little seasoned flour. Film a frying pan with vegetable oil and set over medium-high heat. Fry the croquettes until brown and crusty, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Hold in a warm oven until ready to serve, garnished with cranberry sauce.

Moroccan Spiced Turkey Grain Bowl: Film a skillet with olive oil and sauté a large onion until tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in 1 cup diced turkey, 1 to 2 tablespoons za'atar seasoning, and 2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice. Serve over cooked wild rice, brown rice or farro, garnished with chopped black olives and chopped parsley.

Simple sweets

Chocolate Cranberry Bites: Fill tiny paper candy cups with 1 fresh cranberry and fill with melted dark, milk or white chocolate. Cool to harden.

Vanilla-Cranberry Cream: Whip 1 cup heavy cream and fold in 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and ¼ cup whole cranberry sauce and a tablespoon of dark rum (optional). Serve over slices of gingerbread, pound cake or cheesecake or pumpkin or caramel ice cream.

Beth Dooley is the author of "In Winter's Kitchen." Find her at

Cranberry Maple Vinaigrette

Makes about 1 1/4 cups.

Note: Make this vinaigrette for tossed and composed salads. It stores well in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. From Beth Dooley.

• 1/2 c. fresh cranberries

• 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

• 1/4 c. maple syrup

• 1 tsp. whole grain mustard

• 1/2 c. vegetable oil

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.


Put the cranberries into a small saucepan with the vinegar and maple syrup and set over low heat. Cover and cook until the cranberries open and become soft, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove and turn into a blender and add the mustard. Purée, adding the oil in a slow, steady stream. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator.

Nutrition information per 2 tablespoons:

Calories120Fat11 gSodium7 mg

Carbohydrates6 gSaturated fat2 gTotal sugars5 g

Protein0 gCholesterol0 mgDietary fiber0 g

Exchanges per serving: ½ carb, 2 fat.

Mashed Potato Cakes

Makes 4.

Note: Serve these with your favorite prepared salsa or a drizzle of hot sauce. They come together in a jiffy and are delicious at brunch with poached or scrambled eggs or on their own as a light meal. From Beth Dooley.

• 2 c. mashed potatoes

• 2 tbsp. flour, plus a little more for dredging

• 2 tbsp. chopped parsley

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

• Generous pinch red pepper flakes, to taste

• 2 tbsp. vegetable oil, or more as needed


In a medium bowl, work together the potatoes, flour and parsley. Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.

Film a medium skillet with the oil and set over medium-high heat. Working in batches so as not to crowd the pan, sear the cakes until nicely browned on both sides, about 3 to 5 minutes per side, then hold in a preheated 300-degree oven until ready to serve with a side of salsa or a drizzle of hot sauce.

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories210Fat11 gSodium180 mg

Carbohydrates25 gSaturated fat2 gTotal sugars2 g

Protein3 gCholesterol1 mgDietary fiber2 g

Exchanges per serving: 1 ½ carb, 2 fat.

Squash-Pear Bisque

Serves 4.

Note: This elegant and easy soup is especially good with turkey sandwiches or salad dressed with the Cranberry-Horseradish Mayo (see story at left). From Beth Dooley.

• 3 tbsp. unsalted butter

• 1 large green onion, roughly chopped

• 1 lb. ripe pears, peeled, cored and chopped

• 1 lb. cooked, peeled winter squash, diced, divided

• 4 c. vegetable stock

• 1/2 c. white wine

• 1 c. heavy cream

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

• 1/2 tsp. grated fresh nutmeg, plus more for garnish

• 2 tsp. chopped fresh sage for garnish


In a large soup pot or saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and sauté the green onion and pears until they soften, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Stir in all but 1/2 cup squash, plus the stock and wine. Reduce the heat and cook until the squash is very soft, about 5 minutes.

Purée the soup in batches in a blender or in the pot with an immersion blender. Stir in the heavy cream and warm the soup over medium heat, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper and nutmeg. Stir in the remaining squash and serve, garnished with sage and a little more nutmeg.

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories375Fat28 gSodium680 mg

Carbohydrates31 gSaturated fat17 gTotal sugars18 g

Protein3 gCholesterol90 mgDietary fiber7 g

Exchanges per serving: 1 fruit, 1 starch, 5 ½ fat.

Savory Bread Pudding

Serves 4 to 6.

Note: Serve this as a side to the Squash-Pear Soup, or as a light entree with a salad tossed with the Cranberry Maple Vinaigrette. Assemble it in advance and bake it before serving. It's great with a side of cranberry sauce. From Beth Dooley.

• 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan

• 1 shallot, chopped

• 1/4 c. green onions, chopped, white and green parts only

• 2 eggs

• 2 c. half-and-half or whole milk, plus a little more if needed

• 3 c. leftover cooked stuffing


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease an 8-inch square or 2-quart baking dish.

In a medium skillet set over medium heat, melt the butter and sauté the shallot and green onions until soft, about 3 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and half-and-half. Whisk in the cooked shallots, onions and butter. Add the stuffing, breaking up any large pieces, and stir until blended. Transfer to the prepared baking dish and bake until the pudding is browned and set in the middle. Serve hot.

Variation: For a heartier bread pudding, stir in 1 cup shredded turkey and/or 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese.

Nutrition information per each of 6 servings:

Calories340Fat23 gSodium530 mg

Carbohydrates27 gSaturated fat14 gTotal sugars6 g

Protein8 gCholesterol120 mgDietary fiber1 g

Exchanges per serving: 2 starch, 4 ½ fat.