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6 Ways to Perk Up Holiday Leftovers 37692

Because it's almost Thanksgiving–and Thanksgivukah (that rare day that combines both Thanksgiving and Chanukah)—it's likely many of you have turkey, stuffing, cranberries, and maybe even potato latkes on the brain. I know I do! And if your family is anything like mine, you make way more food than you need to feed others over the holidays. Talk about leftovers!

When it comes to leftovers, does simply heating them and eating them come to mind? Why not get your kids in the kitchen to turn those ho-hum leftovers into something with a little more sizzle.

Here are 6 ways some of my favorite top chefs like to liven up leftovers:

Go Italian. Robyn Webb, cookbook author and culinary instructor, likes to give leftover turkey an Italian twist. Her idea:

Take leftover turkey and cube or slice into strips. Sauté 1 small onion in olive oil for 6 minutes. Add 2 minced garlic cloves and the cooked leftover turkey and sauté for 1 minute. Add 1-1/2 cups of your favorite marinara sauce, a splash of red wine or balsamic vinegar, 2 teaspoons drained capers, and 6-7 sliced black pitted olives. Simmer 10 minutes. Add in 1/2 cup chopped basil and freshly ground black pepper. Serve over whole wheat pasta.

Wrap 'em. Jackie Newgent, MS, RD, culinary dietitian and author of 1001 Low-Calorie Recipes, likes to use leftover turkey to make delicious wraps. Her idea:

Quickly heat leftover turkey (shredded into pieces) in a skillet with a generous amount of pico de gallo (chunky fresh salsa). Roll in a whole wheat tortilla with lettuce and guacamole and serve.

Make a cake. Webb takes leftover mashed potatoes and turns them into potato cakes. Her idea:

Sauté 1/2 cup onion in olive oil for 4 minutes. Add 1 tsp fresh minced rosemary, 1/4 tsp each salt and fresh ground black pepper. Add to a bowl and add leftover mashed potatoes. Mix well. Spread whole wheat panko breadcrumbs on a flat plate. Form the potato mixture into cakes, about 1/2 cup each. Coat both sides of the cakes with the crumbs. Coat a large skillet with cooking spray. Add 1-1/2 Tbsp olive oil to the skillet over medium heat. Add the cakes in one layer, so do in batches if necessary. Sauté the cakes for about 3-4 minutes per side or until golden brown.

Go sweet with soup. "I like to transform those leftover yams and sweet potatoes into soups," says Susan Irby, aka "The Bikini Chef." Her idea:

Make a sweet potato soup with nutmeg and ginger by pureeing the potatoes with vegetable stock. Add a pinch of nutmeg and sea salt, if needed, and a little orange zest and a 1/2 teaspoon of fresh ginger root. Heat and serve.                      

Have stuffing for breakfast. Newgent suggests combining leftover stuffing with eggs. Her ideas:

Cut leftover bread stuffing into rounds with a biscuit cutter. Cook rounds in a skillet until crisp on both sides and heated through. Top each with a fried or poached egg. Alternatively, bake desired amount of stuffing in individual ramekins or baking dishes until hot, then top each with an egg. Enjoy for breakfast.

Make a colorful chutney. For leftover cranberry sauce (preferably canned), Irby suggests making chutney. Her idea:

Add orange zest, a few diced fresh pears and a pinch of cinnamon to leftover cranberry sauce to make cranberry pear chutney. Use as a spread on toast or breakfast biscuits, or serve a small dollop with leftover potato pancakes.

If all else fails—and if you and your family want to share the love (and delicious food)—why not give the leftovers away at the office, or to neighbors or friends. Bonnie Taub Dix, author of Read It Before You Eat It, says, "Those who don't celebrate Chanukah or Thanksgiving will get the chance to enjoy your dishes, and those who do will get a chance to taste your unique recipes."

What's your favorite way to prepare your holiday leftovers?