The Foodie Physician: Dining with the Doc: Tasty Ways to Use Your Thanksgiving Leftovers

Dining with the Doc: Tasty Ways to Use Your Thanksgiving Leftovers

Turkey Soup with Couscous and Spinach

There’s only one thing better than Thanksgiving dinner for me and that’s Thanksgiving leftovers!  If you’re like me, after prepping and cooking for days, you usually have a refrigerator packed with leftovers once dinner is done and your guests have gone home. But just because the big day is done, it doesn’t mean the fun has to be over.  Here are some tasty ways to use up your Turkey Day leftovers so that they’re even better the second time around. 

  • Panini- one of the most common ways to use up Thanksgiving leftovers is to pile them high in a classic sandwich.  Try a variation this year by making Panini, which are toasted Italian sandwiches.  You don’t need a Panini press- simply top slices of Ciabatta bread (or other bread of your choice) with turkey, Fontina or Meunster cheese, cranberry sauce, baby spinach and honey mustard.  Brush the bread with olive oil and toast the sandwich in a skillet weighted down with a second skillet and a few cans.  Flip and continue to cook until the bread is toasted and cheese is melted.  CLICK HERE to get my Turkey and Cranberry Panini recipe.  

  • Pasta- make a classic turkey tetrazzini using leftover turkey meat mixed with linguini in a creamy béchamel sauce.  Or for a lighter dish, make a Mediterranean pasta by tossing whole wheat spaghetti with diced turkey, artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes and spinach in a light sauce made with garlic, chicken stock and lemon juice.  CLICK HERE for my Mediterranean Pasta

  • Dip- try a variation on a hot Buffalo Chicken Dip using turkey.  Mix reduced fat cream cheese and Greek yogurt with hot sauce, garlic powder and onion powder.  Stir in shredded turkey and scallions, top with shredded cheddar cheese and bake until bubbly.  CLICK HERE for my Healthy Buffalo Chicken Dip

  • Burritos, Tacos, Tostadas or Enchiladas- leftover turkey makes the perfect filling when paired with TexMex ingredients.  For something different, sauté leftover turkey breast with sliced onions and chili powder and serve in soft tortillas with salsa made with mango, avocado, jalapeno and cilantro.  For a healthy breakfast, make a breakfast burrito with scrambled eggs, black beans, salsa, leftover turkey and sweet potatoes.

  • Risotto- use up your leftover sweet potatoes or other vegetables by adding them to homemade risotto.  If using sweet potatoes, puree some of them with chicken stock and stir them into the risotto for a lovely orange color. 

  • Shepherds Pie- classic Shepherd’s Pie consists of a filling of ground lamb or beef with vegetables, topped with a pillowy crust of mashed potatoes.  Make a lighter version using leftover turkey and vegetables like peas and carrots.  Top with regular mashed potatoes or mashed sweet potatoes and bake until hot.  CLICK HERE for my Southwest Shepherd's Pie

  • Soup- there are few things more comforting than a nice hot bowl of soup.  You can puree leftover sweet potatoes with chicken or vegetable stock to make a creamy soup.  Or make one of my favorites- a delicious turkey soup.  My Turkey Soup with Couscous and Spinach is a hearty soup that’s packed with flavor.  To maximize the flavor, make a quick homemade turkey stock by simmering the turkey carcass in a pot with chicken stock, vegetables and herbs.  If you don’t have time, you can use store-bought stock but trust me, it’s worth the extra effort.   
Turkey Soup with Couscous and Spinach

Turkey Soup with Couscous and Spinach
Makes 6 servings

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
Kosher salt and black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
2 quarts (8 cups) homemade turkey stock* (can substitute low sodium chicken stock)
¾ cup pearl (Israeli) couscous (can substitute pastina or orzo)
3 cups shredded leftover turkey meat
1 tablespoon lemon juice plus 2 teaspoons zest
2 ounces baby spinach (about 2 packed cups)
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium high heat.  Add the onion, carrot and celery.  Season the vegetables with salt and pepper and cook 5-6 minutes until partially softened.  Stir in the garlic, thyme and bay leaf and cook another minute until fragrant.  Add the stock along with 1 ½ teaspoons salt and ½ teaspoon pepper.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and partially cover the pot.  Simmer about 10 minutes and then add the couscous. Simmer another 10-12 minutes until cooked.  Stir in the turkey, lemon juice, zest and spinach.  Cook another 5 minutes until turkey is heated through and spinach is wilted.  Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as needed.  Remove thyme stems and bay leaf before serving.  Pour the soup into bowls and top each with 2 teaspoons Parmesan cheese.  Serve hot.

* To make homemade turkey stock, remove all the meat from the turkey and place the carcass in a large pot along with 1 onion (halved), 1 carrot (halved), 1 stalk celery (halved), 1 bay leaf and 2 quarts reduced sodium chicken stock.  Bring mixture to a boil then reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for 1 to 1 ½ hours then strain the solids and reserve the stock.

One Serving: Calories 297; Fat 7.9g; Sat 2.9g; Protein 21.9g; Carbs 37.3g; Fiber 8.4g


  1. The turkey soup with cous cous and spinach sounds so healthy and perfect for all of the cold nights coming up! I can't wait to try it. Thanks for sharing!





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