29 Ways to Use Up Holiday Leftovers

When you host holiday dinners, you have more than leftover turkey to deal with, and if you’re like me, you hate to waste cranberry sauce, vegetables, pie, and other festive food. Here are 29 ways to use up nearly everything you have in your fridge after entertaining.


Cranberry Sauce/Cranberries


• Stir into warm oatmeal that’s been microwaved with milk (milk for extra protein, calcium, and other minerals, and vitamins). Top with chopped walnuts or pecans.

• Add a tablespoon or two to fruit smoothies and eliminate sugar or other sweeteners.

• Combine with plain Greek yogurt and make a parfait with whole grain ready-to-eat cereal.

• Warm 2 tablespoons in the microwave for 10 seconds and put it on top of vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt.

• Use in place of jelly in a peanut butter sandwich, and add to turkey sandwiches as a spread.

• Use instead of syrup on French toast, waffles, and pancakes.

Fresh Cranberries

• Top vanilla Greek yogurt with fresh cranberries.



• Prepare stuffing “pancakes” and top with a fried egg.

• Stir stuffing or dressing into turkey soup.

• Use as a topping on turkey pot pie.



• Make a vegetable strata from leftover bread, chopped vegetables, eggs, and cheese, or make quiche.

• Puree cooked broccoli, cauliflower, or carrots and add milk or cream to make soup. Mix butternut squash and sweet potato together for soup, and add coconut milk for a change.


• Add cooked sweet potato or beets to smoothies.

• Stir plain pumpkin or mashed or sweet potatoes into turkey soup for a thicker, more flavorful soup.

• Stuff a cooked baked sweet or white potato with 1/4 cup cooked diced turkey or 1/4 cup black beans, and top with cranberry sauce or salsa.

• Top turkey pot pie with mashed sweet or white potatoes instead of pastry crust.

• Smash (gently!) whole cooked small potatoes, roast in 400˚F oven for 10 minutes, and top with a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt and fresh chives.

• Chop cooked veggies and add to omelettes along with leftover cheese or make into a calzone.

• Puree cooked cauliflower and mix with milk or cream and grated Parmesan cheese to the desired consistency for a side dish.

• Prepare potato pancakes with white or sweet potatoes.

Bread and Rolls:

• Make French toast, pancakes or scones with leftover cream or eggnog.


• Make croutons from cornbread, rolls, or other leftover bread. Cut into large pieces and roast in oven.



• Prepare turkey pot pie with sweet potato, white potato, or stuffing for the topping.

• Make a white bean and turkey chili and include leftover vegetables.

• Prepare quick quesadillas using whole wheat tortillas, leftover cheese, and sliced turkey. Serve with cranberry sauce for dipping.

• Add chopped turkey to your favorite macaroni and cheese recipe.



• Eggnog: Use eggnog in place of milk when you prepare French toast, vanilla cake mixes, pancakes, waffles, and bread pudding.


• Scoop pumpkin pie out of the crust and combine with plain fat-free Greek yogurt for a creamy pudding, or add some milk and make a smoothie.



• Freeze red wine in ice cube trays to use later in stews.

What’s your favorite way to use leftovers?



No-Bake Peanut Butter Cereal Bars

Recipes for energy bars with costly ingredients are a pet peeve of mine, and I thought I could do better making my own. These delicious 5-ingredient bars are a less-expensive alternative, and they are higher in protein than many bars made with whole foods only. Each portion provides 10 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, and a serving of whole grains. Have a peanut butter cereal bar for a snack or as part of a balanced meal. See the serving suggestion at the end of this post. Enjoy!


dsc_0393A Word About the Ingredients

To keep this recipe cost-effective, I used store-brands, with the exception of the maple syrup. Use whatever maple syrup you have on hand. Honey is a suitable substitution.

Any nut butter will do, but store-brand peanut butter is probably the least expensive by far.  The chunky kind provides extra crunch.  Add 1/3 cup chopped peanuts if you only have smooth peanut butter in the house and you want a crunchier bar.

You can use sweetened cranberries or raisins or a combination of the two, or any other dried fruit. However, store-brand raisins are likely to be cheaper, and they don’t contain added sugar.

If you substitute a higher-fiber whole grain ready-to-eat cereal for what I use, the cost may go up, and it could increase the calorie count.

Need a chocolate fix? Toss 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips into the bar mixture. Using mini chips better distributes the chocolate flavor, so you use less and it costs less!

Peanut Butter Cereal Bars

Makes 12 servings.

1 1/2 cups crunchy peanut butter

1/2 cup raisins

1/3 cup pure maple syrup

2 cups old fashioned oatmeal, uncooked

2 cups store-brand equivalent of plain Cheerios

Coat a 8″ x 8″ baking pan with cooking spray or line with parchment paper.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients.

Press the bar mixture evenly into the pan.

Refrigerate for 2 hours. Cut into 12 squares. Keep refrigerated.

Per serving:
302 calories; 17 grams fat (3 grams saturated fat); 0 cholesterol; 191 milligrams sodium; 31 grams carbohydrate; 5 grams fiber; 10 grams protein.

Serving suggestion: Pair with eight ounces of milk and a banana to include a serving of fruit, dairy, and whole grains, as well as 20 grams of protein, the minimum amount of protein you should have at every meal.






9 Easy to Make Better Than Store-bought Foods

There are a few everyday foods I don’t buy anymore because I’ve found easy recipes for tastier versions.  On the flip side, there are several so-called convenience foods I can’t do without. I asked a few of my foodie friends about the foods they absolutely must make from scratch (and for the recipes!), as well as their “processed food” picks that get healthy meals on the table fast. Here are my choices, and theirs.

Cranberry sauce is a must-have homemade food for me because it tastes so much better than canned. You can alter this simple recipe to your liking: Combine a 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries, 1/2 cup granulated sugar (less if you desire), 1 cup water, 1 cup orange juice, and 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes, stirring every so often.  The mixture will thicken up as it cools.  Cool completely before serving.

Homemade cranberry sauce pairs well with poultry, but it also tastes great stirred into plain Greek yogurt or warm oatmeal, and in smoothies.


Easy Cranberry-Orange Sauce

My favorite convenience food right now is Amy’s Lentil Soup (not a client, by the way). I eat it for a quick meatless lunch along with a piece of whole grain toast topped with cottage cheese. I know, I know. It’s easy to make a big batch of lentil soup from scratch, but I just never get around to doing it, and Amy’s does it so well!

Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN, Nutritioulicious

Must-have homemade food: Peanut sauce

Why: “Most packaged peanut sauces are really high in sodium and sugar, so I’d rather make my own using natural, unsweetened peanut butter and adding my own amount of sweetener. I also add other flavor boosters like freshly grated ginger and sriracha, which packaged peanut sauces don’t have. Give it a whirl in the blender or food processor and it’s easy as can be!”


Favorite convenience food: Canned beans

Why: “I love adding beans to salads, pasta dishes, sauces, and grain side dishes, but I would not use them as frequently as I do if I had to soak and cook them on my own. Time is of the essence when I’m trying to get dinner on the table in my house! A lot of people are hesitant to buy canned beans because of the sodium content, so I recommend buying the no-salt-added canned beans if you can find them and always drain and rinse the beans before adding to a dish.”

Janice Newell Bissex, MS, RDN, Meal Makeover Moms’ Kitchen

Must-have homemade food: Sweet and Hearty Beef Stew

Why: “It tastes better than the canned kind, and it’s better for you. My beef stew has half the sodium, twice the protein, and four times the fiber and vitamin A as the canned variety. It takes just minutes to toss the ingredients into the slow cooker and a hearty, tasty dinner is ready to serve a few hours later.”


Favorite convenience food: Canned pumpkin.

Why: “I tried cooking and mashing fresh pumpkin once and decided that it would be the last time. Canned pure pumpkin is so convenient and nutritious that I stock up every fall to be sure I can use it year round. I use it in muffins, pancakes, smoothies, even chili  and enchiladas! ”

Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, Nutrition Starring You

Must-have homemade food: Vegan ice cream

Why: “I don’t like the taste of store-bought vegan ice cream. It’s always high in added sugar and not nearly as high in protein as my version.”


Favorite convenience food: Bagged salad.

Why: “I couldn’t live without pre-washed greens, especially the cabbage blends because they are super filling and don’t get soggy so you can enjoy them for several meals. (Close second: rotisserie chicken for fast, easy lunches and dinners.)”

Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, Real Mom Nutrition

Must-have homemade food: Salad dressing

Why: “Once I started making my own salad dressing, it was impossible to go back to the gloppy bottled kind–especially the ones with preservatives and artificial dyes.”


(Need more salad dressing ideas? Here’s 50 of them.)

Favorite convenience food: Jarred pasta sauce

Why: “You can’t beat the convenience of it, and jarred sauce plus frozen ravioli is a last resort meal that saves us from ordering pizza or getting other take-out food. Pair that combination with prewashed greens and dinner is ready in 15 minutes!”

Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, Amy Gorin Nutrition

Must-have homemade food: Almond Pistachio Cocoa Bites

Why: “Unlike a lot of store-bought versions of energy bites, balls, and bars, my recipe contains no added sugar. Plus, they’re delicious!”


Favorite convenience food: Frozen fruit

Why: “Unsweetened frozen fruit is great for when I don’t have fresh in the house. It’s also sometimes preferable. When I use it in smoothies, I don’t need to add ice. And when I heat it up and use it as a topping for a bowl of oatmeal or French toast, it creates a nice liquid that can replace other toppings like syrup or brown sugar.”

Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RD, Shaw’s Simple Swaps

Must-have homemade food: Jam

Why: “I love to make homemade jam not only because I can control the added sugar content, but also because I load it with wholesome, nutrient-rich ingredients, like omega-3 chia seeds, fiber-filled figs and other seasonal fresh fruit. The possibilities are endless!”


Favorite convenience food: Whole grain bread

Why: “I can’t live without whole grain bread! Sure, I can make my own, but there’s nothing like a nice, fresh loaf of 100% whole grain bread with seeds from the store that you can simply take out of the bag and place in the toaster for a quick avocado toast lunch!”

Katie Sullivan Morford, MS, RD, Mom’s Kitchen Handbook

Must-have homemade food: Chocolate syrup

Why: “This beautifully glossy chocolate syrup is a tasty alternative to what you’ll find in the supermarket, products that often have artificial flavors, high fructose corn syrup, and mystery ingredients.”


Favorite convenience food: Frozen fruits and vegetables (among so many others!).

Why: “A bag of frozen spinach within reach is a quick way to up the health benefits of everything from stews to smoothies, and frozen spinach is great in smoothies along with frozen fruit. The nutrient values of frozen fruits and vegetables stay largely intact when produce is put under the deep freeze.”

Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RDN 

Must-have homemade food: Granola

Why: “Most store-bought granola is loaded with added sugar and fat. My version has sugar and fat, too, but the fat is the heart-healthy unsaturated kind from nuts, and I add just enough pure maple syrup for a touch of sweetness. Allspice or Chinese five spice powder provides added sweetness without sugar. For variety, I add 1/4 cup dried wild blueberries or unsweetened coconut during the last few minutes of baking. Add whatever you like to make it your own recipe.”


3 ½ cups old fashioned oats
2 cups finely chopped nuts of your choice (I love to mix pistachios, almonds, walnuts and pecans)
¼ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup pure maple syrup
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice Powder

Preheat oven to 325˚F. In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients, stirring well to combine.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Transfer the granola to the pan and spread evenly. Bake for 30-40 minutes, turning once, or until golden brown. Higher heat burns the nuts.

Favorite convenience food: Canned petite diced tomatoes.

Why: “These little gems are the perfect addition to so many recipes. They add color, flavor, texture, fiber, and other nutrients. I put them in egg dishes, soups, sauces, stews, guacamole, chili, salsa, spaghetti sauce and anything with a red sauce. You can purchase them fire-roasted, with herbs and spices, and with no added salt.”

Why I Eat (White) Pasta and Other Refined Grains

Apparently, today is World Pasta Day, but I don’t need an international celebration to put pasta on my plate. Yes, I eat pasta, and not the whole grain kind. Pasta, and other refined grains, have been demonized in the last few years, often unfairly.  Certain refined grains have more to offer than you may realize, and refined grains can be part of a balanced eating plan.  Here’s why it’s OK to indulge your passion for pasta, and how to do it better.


Disclosure: Last month, Barilla invited me to their Good for You, Good for the Planet gathering of registered dietitian nutritionists. They paid for my travel and lodgings, but not for my time, and are not compensating me for this blog.

Why It’s OK to Eat Refined Grains

You may have heard that you should make at least half of the grains you eat whole grains. For people following a 2,000-calorie eating plan, that amounts to a minimum of three servings of whole grains daily. Whole grains contain more fiber and higher levels of some other nutrients than refined grains, and they are a wise choice. But you don’t need to make all of your grains whole.


Enriched refined grains are a good alternative to whole grains. Most refined grains sold in the U.S. are made from enriched flour, which means they have added iron and four B vitamins, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folic acid. (Whole grains and gluten-free products may not be enriched.)  Folic acid is particularly important for helping to prevent birth defects that occur early in pregnancy, and iron helps to head off anemia. About half of the iron that we consume comes from enriched grains.

How to Improve your Pasta Meals

Cook pasta right: Barilla’s Chef Lorenzo Boni schooled us about how to put together a balanced pasta meal in minutes. While watching him cook and listening to him talk, I realized that, like most people, I overcook pasta.  He recommends undercooking it by a minute or even more, and reserving some of the pasta cooking water to finish off your pasta dish. (See below for how to put together a pasta meal.) img_5441

Balance your plate: No single food will make you overweight, unless you eat too much of it, of course! It’s possible to overeat pasta because it’s so delicious, but I’ve also found that when a meal is too high in carbohydrate (read: pasta), it’s even more likely that you will overdo it. Adding protein-rich foods such as seafood, meat, chicken, and beans, and practicing portion control are key for better-for-you pasta dishes.

Barilla has put together a Pasta Recipe Builder to help you create balanced meals in minutes. You can build any type of meal you like from an array of ingredients, including whole grain pasta if that’s what you prefer.  img_4684

Personally, I like to include at least four ounces of seafood, meat, or poultry at mealtimes, and I think the rest of my cooking buddies agreed they wanted more protein than the pasta recipe builder suggests. When we got our chance to cook in the Barilla kitchen, our group took it up a notch with lots of extra shrimp!



My cooking companions, Victoria Shanta Retelny, Chris Mohr, and Jenna Braddock.


One of the best parts of the meeting was feasting on our own creation as well the other groups’. Ours didn’t take top honors (yes, it was a competition!), but we certainly had passion for our pasta dish!


Happy Birthday to My Blog!

My blog is a year old today! First of all, I want to thank you for following my posts, for sharing them, and for taking the time to comment on them.  This first anniversary is a perfect time for me to take stock of what I’ve written during the last 12 months. Here’s what people read most, and least, often. Complete with comments from me, of course!


My 3 Most Popular Posts

And the winner is: Surprising Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight with Exercise, which obviously hit a nerve.  I wrote about this because I struggled with using exercise for weight loss for years before I realized it was fruitless, and I know a lot of other people struggle, too.

Runner Up: 13 Holiday Survival Tips from the Pros. It’s really no wonder why this was widely read.  This post has some serious star power, including Sally Kuzemchak of Real Mom Nutrition, Janice Bissex and Liz Weiss of Meal Makeover Moms, and Ellie Krieger of Ellie’s Real Good Food, a public television cooking series, as well as great strategies for keeping it together during the holiday season. Bookmark this one for December.

Tied for Third Place: Pumpkin Spice Smoothie is one of my first, and most favorite, posts, and even though it’s a seasonal subject, it gets regular traffic. Know Your Limit: How to Eat Less Added Sugar is just about tied with Pumpkin Spice Smoothie. I’m glad to see that people are curious about how to reduce added sugar intake. It’s not always as easy as it looks.


My 3 Least Popular Posts

Easy, Creamy Polenta, Shrimp, and Vegetable Bowls. This is my worst performer yet. Really? What’s not to like? Is it the shrimp? The vegetables? The creamy polenta? Maybe it’s the combination? Truly, it’s a delicious and super simple dish. Reconsider, won’t you?

Food, Fun, and Flames. I understand if you don’t want to read about how I torched an ice cream pie during recipe testing, and then redeemed myself, sort of, with another version. It’s probably a food blogger thing. I laughed until I cried when I wrote this post, so it was worth it, even if it wasn’t so popular.


5 Ways to Fall into Healthier Habits. Perhaps nobody needs to get healthier after a summer filled with burgers, fries, and beer? My strategies are easy, I swear. Give them a try.

3 Posts I Loved More Than My Readers 

I wanted to write about the deep connection I have to my exercise buddies so I produced Strength in Numbers: My Social Exercise Network.  For some reason, I didn’t connect with readers in the way I was hoping. Maybe it’s the title?

3-Ingredient Broccoli Cheese Calzone. I was in a rush, and I didn’t bother taking pretty pictures of one of my all-time go-to meatless dinners. Perhaps that’s why the traffic wasn’t what I expected. Really, though, try the calzone.  It only has 3 ingredients. What more could you ask for in a meal?


Healthier Chocolate Holiday Treats.  I’m confused. The title has the word chocolate in it. That’s click-bait for sure! At any rate, I enjoyed making all of the easy, healthier treats to photograph for the blog, and eating all the leftovers!

Thanks again for your support!



Easy Creamy Polenta, Shrimp, and Vegetable Bowls

I love quick and easy dinners that combine several food groups on one plate, or in this case, in one bowl. Frozen shrimp are great to have on hand for quick seafood dinners on busy weeknights, but you can also use the fresh variety.  If you don’t have any whole grain cornmeal in the house, it’s OK to substitute pasta.  No spinach? Kale works well, too.



Easy Creamy Polenta, Shrimp, and Vegetable Bowls
Makes 4 servings.

2 cups water

1 cup whole grain cornmeal

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, peeled and diced

8 cups raw baby spinach, washed and drained

40 cherry tomatoes, cut in half

6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, if desired

1 pound large raw shrimp, peeled and cleaned, defrosted if using frozen

Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 3 minutes or until just tender. Add the spinach, tomatoes, and garlic to the pan and sauté, stirring until the spinach wilts and the tomatoes become tender, about 5 minutes. Add the crushed red pepper and stir. Remove from heat. Cover and set aside.

When the water has boiled, add the cornmeal, using a whisk to prevent clumping. Turn heat to low, cover, and simmer the cornmeal for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the butter and cheese and continue to whisk for another 2 minutes until the cornmeal achieves a creamy consistency. Remove from heat. Cover and set aside.

Add the shrimp to the spinach mixture and cook for about 3 minutes or until the shrimp is pink.

Divide the polenta between four bowls and top each bowl with equal amounts of the shrimp-vegetable mixture. Season with fresh ground black pepper, if desired.

Per serving:
416 calories; 17 grams fat (6 grams saturated fat); 190 milligrams cholesterol; 340 milligrams sodium; 36 grams carbohydrate; 9 grams fiber; 30 grams protein

Food, Fun, and Flames

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a picture on Facebook of a monumental recipe fail. The food was so unrecognizable that many of my Facebook friends amused themselves (and me!) by guessing what it was.  As recipe developers know, sometimes certain dishes are simply not meant to be. Still, I have to wonder: how could a recipe with just three ingredients appear so unappetizing yet taste so good? Here’s the story of a bad day in the kitchen.

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 4.07.48 PM

S’mores pie, Take 1.


The Mission

My goal: create a recipe for an easy s’mores dessert that didn’t involve a campfire or any other form of flames, including a kitchen torch for browning the marshmallow topping.  I wanted every cook to be able to make this s’mores pie, even those who don’t own a kitchen torch, so I decided to use the broiler to caramelize the marshmallows.

The pie is filled with ice cream and I was concerned about broiling the top of the pie without melting the ice cream too much. Obviously, I wasn’t thinking about the potential for setting the pie on fire.

Playing With Fire

The first time around (see above picture of burnt mass), I used mini marshmallows, which probably would have worked if I hadn’t placed the pie so close to the broiler. As luck would have it, one of my daughters was with me in the kitchen, watching the experiment unfold, and was there to document the disaster.

After 30 seconds under the broiler, a pleasant aroma of roasting marshmallows filled the kitchen, and we thought all was going well. Ten seconds later, we were contemplating how best to put out the flames on the top of the pie. Thankfully, the smoke detectors did not go off, which is more than I can say on some nights when I get distracted making dinner.

Let’s Try This Again

Perhaps you think I threw my failure in the trash. Nope. I’m a frugal Yankee and that would have been a colossal waste of food. I scraped off the burnt marshmallow, wrapped the pie in foil and put it back in the freezer.  

My next attempt including using bigger marshmallows and no flames. I cut the marshmallows in half, and covered as much of the ice cream as possible. I took a “before” picture, you know, just in case there was another catastrophe. Here it is:


Roasting marshmallows, part 2. Clearly, I wasn’t wearing my glasses so the picture is out of focus.  But you get the point.


I have to admit I was a bit nervous.  The second time around, I left about a foot between the broiler and oven rack the pie was on. I put the timer on for 30 seconds and shut the oven door.  It smelled good. I peaked at the pie after 30 seconds and it looked OK.

Just OK. Not great.

When you take pictures of recipes, you want them to appear as appetizing as possible. Sadly, this  pie was not performing up to my expectations, which I don’t consider high.

I put the pie back under the broiler, rotating it for more uniform browning, but that didn’t work as well as I would have liked. Plus, I could only leave the pie in the oven for so long because of the ice cream, so time was of the essence.

Here’s the outcome of try #2:


This picture was actually a mistake, but one of the best of the lot on a very bad day.


I figured that the whole pie looked alright, but not as attractive as I would have liked. I tried cutting a piece to see if that would look more appealing.

It looked worse! Are we having fun yet?






Not my best work, for sure. 


This is one of the worst slices, but in my defense, I was shooting an ice cream pie outside in 85˚ weather. Still, the heat is really no excuse for the pie’s poor appearance.

It wasn’t possible to make a piece of that pie look appetizing. When I cut into it, the crust crumbled, the marshmallows were excessively gooey and downright unruly, the ice cream melted too fast, and I couldn’t get any definition between the ice cream and the crust in the pictures.

That’s when I realized the pie looked too awful to publish the recipe in all seriousness. At this point, I wanted the last three hours of my life back.

I throw in the towel. I put all the pieces of pie that I’ve tried to make look edible back into the plate and it all goes back in the freezer.

That evening, I devour it (not ALL of it) with one of my kids. And it’s delicious.


Disaster confirmed. Dig in, kids!


This pie is not photogenic, or I was having a bad day, or the recipe just doesn’t work, or all of the above. Who knows? It’s not perfect, but that doesn’t always matter. Here’s the recipe, in case you want to make it. I hope yours turns out better. Send me a picture!

S’Mores Pie

Serves 12. Sort of.

5 cups chocolate ice cream or chocolate frozen yogurt

1 10-inch prepared graham cracker crust (I transferred it to a glass pie plate)

22 – 24 regular size marshmallows, cut in half

Pack the ice cream or frozen yogurt into the crust. Cover with aluminum foil and place in the freezer for at least 2 hours.

Place an oven rack about 12 inches from the broiler element. Preheat the broiler.

Place the pie on the oven rack for 30 to 45 seconds or until marshmallows are golden brown. In some places, at least. Do not allow the pie to erupt in flames.

Remove the pie from the oven. Serve immediately, and attractively, if possible!



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