A great Thanksgiving gathering leaves you with a full belly, fun memories, and usually a lot of leftovers. Granted, there’s something special about that first post-Thanksgiving turkey sandwich—but why stop there? If you have plenty to spare, try something new this season! Here, the editorial staff at American Girl magazine shares a few of their own tried-and-true favorite ideas for reimagining Thanksgiving leftovers.


Make it now: Stock

If you’ve never made stock, you’ll be delighted by how easy, flavorful, and versatile it can be. Simply place turkey bones and any meat you’re not planning to eat in a large stock pot with 1-2 lbs. of quartered vegetables: onions, carrots, and celery. Add a few whole peppercorns, a bay leaf, and enough water so that everything solid is 3-4 inches below the surface. Simmer for several hours until your stock is rich and flavorful. Let it cool, then pour it through a fine sieve and refrigerate. Once the stock is chilled, any undesirable fats will solidify, making it easy to remove.

Freeze it for later:

Remove any meat from the bone before freezing turkey meat, and store in single-serving packs or bags. Freeze your stock in easily usable portions, 1- to 2-cups each.

Make it safe:

Use or freeze refrigerated turkey or stock within 4 days. At the optimal freezer temperature (0° F, -18° C) or below, cooked turkey holds up well for one year. For quality and safety, it’s best to use frozen stock within 4 months of freezing.


Make it now: Baked Rice

Mix cooked rice and leftover gravy together in roughly equal parts, adjusting the proportions to suit your taste. Scoop the mixture into a greased casserole dish, and bake at 350° until it reaches 165° F. For variety (or to use up leftover veggies), mix in mushrooms, spinach, asparagus, or cheese before baking. Serve immediately.

Freeze it for later:

Spoon extra gravy into the cups of a lined (or silicone) cupcake pan, then transfer to a resealable freezer bag once solid. Thaw as little or as much as you need, and use it in place of canned, condensed soup in recipes.

Make it safe:

Freeze unused gravy within 3-4 days. If frozen at 0°F or below, it will keep for up to 6 months.

Mashed Potatoes

Make it now: Potato Dumplings

Mix 2 cups of mashed potatoes, 1 egg, a dash of nutmeg, and enough flour to make a dough that can be rolled into a ball—roughly about ½ to 1 cup. Form dough into balls, using about a tablespoon of dough per ball. Working in batches, drop dough balls into salted boiling water or stock until they float. Top with grated butter.

Freeze it for later:

Mashed potatoes freeze well but can lose some of their body and texture. Instead of freezing them to use as a side dish, freeze them to use as a kitchen staple: fill an ice cube tray with your leftover potatoes, freeze, then pop the potato cubes into a resealable freezer bag. Use them as needed to thicken creamed soups and stews.

Make it safe:

Use or freeze refrigerated mashed potatoes within 5 days. Once frozen, it’s best to use them within 1 year.

Cranberry Sauce

Make it now: Breakfast Blend

Blend leftover cranberry sauce with cream cheese and spread over French toast for a decadent weekend breakfast, or keep it in an airtight container in the fridge to spread on toast, English muffins, or bagels for a quick but satisfying breakfast.

Freeze it for later:

Frozen cranberry sauce, whether fresh-from-scratch or from a can, can be frozen for 2-3 months.

Make it safe:

Cranberry sauce can stay in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Let frozen cranberry sauce thaw in the refrigerator—not on the counter.

For more information about safe home food storage, please consult The National Center for Home Food Preservation, foodsafety.org, or your local university extension programs.

Have a favorite idea for using Thanksgiving leftovers you’d like to share?
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