Tag Archives: slow cooker

Use those Thanksgiving leftovers-and a great soup recipe

The day after Thanksgiving brings the same conundrum every year: what to do with all the leftovers.

My family goes overboard and we have enough food to last five or six days. In the past, I have embraced this tradition, but this year I am trying to shy away from the onslaught of calories and carbs that continues after Turkey Day. I’ve shed nearly 15 pounds since July and my goal is not to gain any weight through the holidays. So this soup recipe is a lower carb option- although I have plenty of suggestions on how to use leftovers for people who are not watching their weight.

First, let’s get to the suggestions.

Last year, my good friend and I had a “leftover” party the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  Three friends brought leftovers and dishes we had repurposed using leftovers (like casseroles and soup).  We drank wine, talked and then split up the dishes which was great because we all had new food.  Even though I went home with more dressing, it wasn’t my traditional dressing recipe so it broke up the monotony of the meal. I highly recommend it.

One dish my family always makes too much of is mashed potatoes. If you can’t use all the potatoes now, freeze them. When you warm the potatoes up, you will need to revive them with a little milk and butter. The best way to defrost mashed potatoes is in the refrigerator overnight.

Mashed potatoes are also an excellent thickening agent in soups. You can take a classic soup that calls for sliced potatoes- like potato leek soup, or sausage kale potato soup—and use mashed potatoes instead. The texture is different but the flavor is great.

I’ve used leftover mashed potatoes in dishes that usually use rice. For example, instead of serving gumbo or chili on rice, we’ve served it on mashed potatoes which mellows out any heat.

You can use mashed potatoes to make potato bread or as a binding agent in recipes.

Shepherd’s pie is one of the classic ways to use a lot of mashed potatoes.  I make an incredibly easy version: First, I sauté 1 pound of ground beef and mix it with a can of Manwich Sloppy Joe sauce. Then I layer the meat in a 9- inch by 9-inch baking dish, top it with green beans, peas, mashed potatoes, about 1 cup of shredded cheese and bake it at 400 degrees until the cheese melts (about 20 minutes). This dish is comforting, delicious and a good way to use up leftover green beans and peas, too.

If you have leftover dressing use it to make a crust on a casserole; sprinkle it on top of stuffed mushrooms before you bake those; or if the dressing is dry enough, you can put it in the food processor and transform it into breadcrumbs to use in meatloaf or meatballs. You can also use dressing in an overnight sausage breakfast casserole supplementing some of the bread in the recipe. For example, if your recipe calls for 6 cups of sliced bread, use 2 cups of dressing and 4 cups of bread and proceed as usual.

Leftover cranberry sauce makes a great glaze for pork chops. I mix 1 ½ cups of cranberry sauce with ½ cup of orange juice and 2 garlic cloves and then use that as a simmering sauce for pork chops (after first browning the chops).

Other ways to use cranberry sauce is to stir it into plain yogurt or smoothies. Mix cranberry sauce and cream cheese and stuff that into refrigerated crescent rolls before you roll them up and bake them. When the rolls are done, sprinkle them with a little powdered sugar. You can serve a smear of cranberry sauce on a turkey sandwich or a ham sandwich with extra sharp cheddar cheese.

The turkey is the easiest thing to use because you can substitute turkey for chicken in many recipes and then you can always make a variety of turkey soups.  Soups and casseroles are particularly good uses of turkey is the bird has dried out.

Now for my lower carb recipes: I made an incredibly easy Sausage, Artichoke and Turkey Soup in the slow cooker that has tomatoes, artichokes and oregano. It’s delicious .Give it a try.

sausage artichoke turkey soup

Sausage Artichoke and Turkey Soup

Serves 5-6

1 pound hot Italian sausage (or sage if you don’t like spicy things)

1 extra large white onion

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1 (15-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained

1 (6-ounce) jar of artichoke hearts in oil, drained

4 cups chicken stock

2 cups water

2 (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes in its liquid

2 garlic cloves, chopped

2 cups chopped leftover turkey

In a skillet, sauté onion and sausage together at the same time. Add the oregano and Italian seasoning when the mixture has cooked about halfway.

When the sausage is done, transfer the meat mixture (and the rendered fat) to a slow cooker and add all the other ingredients except the turkey. Set the slow cooker on the 4 hour setting and after 3 hours, add turkey. Cook one more hour, stir and serve.


sausage artichoke chicken soup


Slow Cooker Stock

I’ve experimented a lot with slow cooker stock. My first batch, tasted like watered down stock. Not good. The next was a little better, but still not good enough.

I make a ton of traditional stock, but the problem with a slow cooker is it doesn’t maintain that simmer all day, like the stove does, to extract the flavor needed for a stock. So I realized I needed to add  a punch of flavor in the ingredients.  After many attempts, I have finally come up with this recipe which  uses two chicken carcasses, parsley, dried mushrooms (which are key), and a hint of soy sauce.  The result is a beautiful, dark, rich stock. It’s darker than traditional chicken stock and almost looks like beef stock.

This stock is particularly good in my vegetable, barley soup; chicken noodle soups; Asian soups; mushroom soup; potpie; rice dishes; sauces, etc.

This will yield 7-8 cups of stock, so you probably want to freeze extra.

If you are single and don’t buy two chickens at a time, just freeze a carcass when you’re done with one and the next time you buy one, make this stock.

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When making this stock, it’s important that you use the chicken skin, too. I never eat the skin because it’s so unhealthy, but it’s loaded with fat and seasoned, which adds flavor to your stock.

I also love how easy this is. I don’t have to monitor it like I do a stovetop stock. I toss it in and forget about it.

If you have to go buy all these ingredients, then this will be more expensive than store-bought stock, and not really worth it. But I always have all these ingredients on hand, so I make homemade stock all the time. I prefer the flavor and it has less sodium than commercial brands. If you are watching your sodium level, skip the soy sauce in this recipe. Plus, I freeze it so I can grab stock whenever I need.

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Slow Cooker Stock

8 cups water

2 rotisserie chicken carcasses

1 teaspoon peppercorns

3 bay leaves

2 carrots

1 large onion

4 stalks of celery with the leaves

1 clove chopped garlic or 1 teaspoon dehydrated garlic

3 tablespoons dried porcini mushrooms or another dried mushroom, like shiitake

½ teaspoon soy sauce

¼ cup fresh parsley with stems (optional)


Place all ingredients in large slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 6-8 hours. Note, if you have a slow cooker that cook in hours instead of heat, 4 hours, 6 hours, 10 hours—then if possible, cook it on 4 hours and then when it’s done, hit 4 hours again. This will be the highest possible temperature, which will yield the best results.