Snowbird Special

Now is the time of the year when my Snowbird parents leave the frosty mid-west for sunny California.  They close up their house for the winter and spend it in a much warmer climate.  Part of their annual process is emptying the fridge, freezer and cupboards…and our household is the lucky beneficiary of the contents.   Now, what to make with it all?

Among the items I had to work with, chicken sausage.  It’s not one of my favorite ingredients but it’s lighter and healthier than beef or pork.  I immediately start thinking about a pasta dish.  My parents freezer is never short of frozen varieties, and I found some ravioli…perfect for a cream sauce.  Let’s do this!

I put a pot of salted water on to cook the ravioli and got started on the sauce.  I chopped up some garlic and sauteed it in some olive oil, then reached for one of my go-to’s in my own cupboard, a can of crushed tomatoes.  I let those hang out together for a bit and seasoned it with salt, pepper, dried basil and oregano. (a pinch of crushed red pepper might be nice here too)  Then after a few minutes on the heat, I added some of the frozen spinach that had also come from my folks’ defrosting freezer.

I figured the chicken sausage would work well as the protein for this dish, as the ravioli were only cheese-filled, and the chicken sausage itself had some spinach in it.  So I sliced and browned those up while the sauce developed.  And lastly, I added a couple tablespoons of heavy cream to make this tomato sauce a tomato cream sauce.  Go as heavy or as light with it as you’d like.  Half and half, or whole milk would work here too.  I’d avoid skim milk or 1%, it won’t really have the effect you’re going for here.  I let the cream sauce sit on the heat (medium) until it thickened up.  When the consistency was where I wanted it, I tossed the browned sausage slices in with the sauce and poured in the cooked ravioli.

This Snowbird Special made great use of a seemingly disconnected collection of groceries, and it was a quick fix for a weeknight dinner.  What’s lingering in your freezer that needs to get eaten??

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Five better things to do with Thanksgiving leftovers

Don’t default to tired turkey salad or slap together a boring turkey sandwich in the days after your Thanksgiving feast.  Try mixing it up with these Cheftovers  ideas for your holiday leftovers: Baked Brie with cranberry sauce, Turkey Tetrazzini, Pilgrim Pockets, Mini turkey pot pies, and Thanksgiving casserole.

This year I made home made cranberry sauce for Friendsgiving.  I’ll never buy it canned again.  It was easy, bright and beautiful…and too good to toss.  So I took a semi circle of Brie (inexplicably leftover from a cheese plate one of our guests brought…that stuff usually goes quick in a crowd!) and topped it with about half a cup of the leftover cranberry sauce.  I then wrapped the Brie/cranberry sauce in a sheet of puff pastry I defrosted and brushed it with melted butter and baked it at 375 until it was golden brown.  Spread that melty, sweet, tart, creamy goodness on a buttery cracker and you’ve got a spectacular holiday appetizer.

Brie with cranberry sauce

I like to try to find some way to incorporate pasta when I’m dreaming up leftovers ideas.  Turkey tetrazzini is a savory way to include the flavors and excess from Thanksgiving dinner, but not have a carbon copy dinner on Black Friday.

turkey tetrazzini

I looked up a couple of turkey tetrazzini recipes online and married a handful of them based on what I had and what I was trying to use up.  I used two cups of chopped leftover turkey, and added that to a sauce I made with sauteed onions and garlic, cream of mushroom soup (a Cheftovers pantry must-have) turkey stock (which I made with the turkey carcass…a mindless task you’ll be happy you did) some canned mushrooms, cheddar cheese, and season salt.  I tossed that combo with some al dente linguine, put it in a casserole dish, topped it with some more cheese and baked it (covered with foil) until bubbly.  Toward the end I topped it with chopped parsley (leftover from my herb rubbed turkey recipe) and some red peppers that were lingering from a veggie tray.

pilgrim pocket

The Pilgrim Pocket is simple…make a Thanksgiving leftovers calzone.  Just use leftover stuffing, turkey, and veggies (like green bean casserole, carrots or corn) and stuff that into a pie crust (cut in half, then folded over once filled) I used gravy and/or cream of chicken/cream of mushroom soup to bind the insides and keep it moist on day two.  Pinch the sides to seal in all the goodness and brush the outside with an egg wash, and cut slits before baking. (400* for about 25 min)

pilgrim pocket sliced

If you have some extra Pillsbury biscuits in the fridge you didn’t bake, try some mini turkey pot pies.  I placed the biscuits in a cupcake tin, and filled each with the same kind of filling from the Pilgrim pocket.

making mini thanksgiving pot pies

I suppose you could also incorporate a little mashed potatoes, although I think those freeze pretty well.  I topped them with a dollop of cream of chicken soup, and some french fried onions (in the cupboard from the green bean casserole recipe) and baked them at 350 for 23-25 min.

mini turkey pot pie

Now…if you don’t have biscuits, or pie crust…or you have already used them and STILL have leftovers, like I did…I also made a Thanksgiving casserole of sorts.  I cooked some egg noodles, and place those in the bottom of a baking dish.  Then I took roughly the same combo from above, or whatever you’ve got left, in my case…a few cups of turkey, the last of the green bean casserole, or whatever veggies you have…and I poured in the last of my gravy and mixed everything up.  I topped the noodles with that mixture and sprinkled the remainder of my french fried onions on to finish.  It’s a comforting, easy combo that should reheat pretty well too.

thanksgiving casserole

I’m always looking for inventive ways to use what’s around.  Please share your creative Thanksgiving leftover dishes.  

The Pilgrim Pocket: Post-Friendsgiving

Half the fun of Thanksgiving dinner is thinking about the leftovers.  There’s hardly another meal on the planet that reheats and tastes just as good in the days after as this original, American feast.  But this year, I wanted to think beyond turkey sandwiches, turkey salad and turkey soup.  And I had an idea…the Pilgrim Pocket.

Friendsgiving guests

This weekend I hosted a “Friendsgiving” to celebrate the bountiful blessings and the company of my family and of a couple others.  We watched football, snacked while enticing smells filled the house, then sat down and piled our plates high with turkey and all the traditional trimmings.  The Cabernet and the gravy flowed.  It was a warm, fun evening.

Friendsgiving dinner plate

I took a quick assessment after the table was cleared and the guests had left.   About four portions of the 13 lb turkey, one helping of stuffing, LOTS of mashed potatoes and gravy, half a casserole dish of green beans, a few cups each of corn and fresh cranberry sauce and a couple items in the fridge (a pie crust, and crescent rolls) that I never used.

Since we only get to eat this combination of delectable dishes once a year, I didn’t think it was wise to completely change the flavor profile…best to just repackage it into something a little more exciting than luke warm leftovers.  Enter the Pilgrim Pocket, a thanksgiving calzone of sorts.

pilgrim pocket crust

I pulled out the remaining pie crust I had in the fridge (from the two pack I bought for the pumpkin pie I made) and unrolled it, then sliced in half.  I took a cup full of turkey (chopped) a cup full of green bean casserole and the rest of the stuffing and mixed it all together.  I added some gravy to keep it moist on day two.  I put the Thanksgiving mixture on one half of each of the semi-circles then folded the other half over, and pinched the sides to seal it in.

pilgrim pocket egg wash

I brushed the outside with egg wash and cut a couple of slits in the top to vent.  Then I popped my Pilgrim Pockets in the oven at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes.  The result was a Thanksgiving redux that would have made the pilgrims proud!

pilgrim pocket sliced

Stay tuned…I have plans for that cranberry sauce.  What have you done with leftovers from Thanksgiving?