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Make the most of your Thanksgiving leftovers

November is the "gratitude" month. With Thanksgiving coming up November 24th I start to take stock of what I am grateful for. Number one on my list is that I have a great job working with local agriculture producers, artisanal food creators and arts & crafts vendors. It really is a special treat to be able to work for and with all the farmers' market vendors as well as all the wonderful people who shop at the farmers' markets on a weekly basis.

I also appreciate the cool Fall mornings and evenings that are replacing the warm days of summer. It's a pleasure to use the oven again with chill in the air. We don't tend to use it if we don't have to during Summer months. I am sure most of you can relate. Lately, I have been in love with making casseroles, from enchiladas to shepherd's pie. You can make extra and freeze them or have leftovers the next evening.

The origin of the word Casserole likely dates back to the Greek word kuthion which means little cup. It eventually morphed to the Medieval Latin word cattia and settled on cassole or casserole from the French word casse which essentially means pan. The English speaking world in the eighteenth century used the word casserole to refer to a dish cooked with rice and meaty filling which has been baked in the oven. In our modern times it's anything that's been baked that includes something starchy, maybe some sauce, perhaps it has some cheese or meat or both.

Casseroles are a great way to stretch your food dollars. I like to substitute cauliflower for potatoes, since it offers more nutrients and less carbs. You can find cauliflower in the cooler months at the farmers' market. Cauliflower is one of the many cabbage related crops that revel in the cool weather. Mark Twain called it "a cabbage with a college education". Cauliflower has a distinctive nutty flavor that makes a great addition to mac & cheese or you can opt out the noodles all together. I purchased English peas in the Spring at the farmers' market and froze them. They taste so much better than the frozen ones from the grocery store. They are great for adding some color into your casseroles and are an essential ingredient to shepherd's pie. I also canned tomatoes from the farmers' market to add to lasagna or any other casserole that needs a tomato based sauce. There are so many options when making a casserole. They are very versatile.

The recipe I chose for this month is a really fun one. At my house we mostly stick to a traditional Thanksgiving meal. And of course there are always leftovers. So why not make a casserole with them! The ideas are endless.

Kelly Smith is Executive Director of Agricultural Community Events Farmers Markets, a local nonprofit that operates 8 Sonoma County Farmers Markets. www.ilovefarmersmarkets.org

Thanksgiving Leftovers Casserole

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups turkey shredded

3/4 cup cranberry sauce

2 cups mashed potatoes (or mashed cauliflower If you are like me)

1 cup cooked green beans

1 cup turkey gravy

2 tablespoons milk

2 cups stuffing

chicken broth or melted butter to taste

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 400-degrees. Combine turkey and cranberry sauce and spread evenly on the bottom of an 8×8 or similar size glass baking dish.

Evenly press on leftover mashed potatoes (or mashed cauliflower) and sprinkle green beans over the top.

Mix together milk and leftover gravy and spread evenly over potatoes and corn. Sprinkle on leftover stuffing and lightly drizzle chicken broth over the top (this will keep the stuffing from drying out).

Cover with tin foil and bake at 400-degrees for 25-30 minutes or until heated through.

Let cool and serve.

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