The countdown to the last week of the year is nearly here! If you’re hosting a dinner at some point in the next week, whether it’s for a small gathering or large group of guests, there will most likely be a wide variety of both traditional staples and experimental side dishes spread across the table. For many of us, the possibility that we might run out of roasted vegetables, rolls, or even (gasp!) turkey or ham, increases the volume of food cooked well beyond what could ever possibly be consumed.

The aftermath of your culinary masterpiece is likely apparent in your kitchen the following morning. With dessert dishes and wine glasses left on the kitchen counter, you open an over-stuffed refrigerator to a dozen plastic containers jammed one on top of the other filled with something that vaguely resembles the contents of a dish from the night before. Surely these dishes are just as tasty as the night before, but why settle for some blasé reheated dish of leftovers when you could do something much more creative than rehashing the same-old, same-old for the next three days?

Here are a few recipes you can use with the basic Thanksgiving leftovers: bread, vegetables, and turkey. They’re great any time of the year but especially around the holidays.

5-Way Vegetable Soup
Even if the vegetables that were to don your holiday table never left the refrigerator, this super simple vegetable soup can be used with any five vegetables. Here are a few recommendations to get you started:

Ingredients
5 cup of organic vegetable or chicken stock
3 tablespoon coconut oil (or extra virgin olive oil)
1 clove minced garlic
½ cup chopped onion
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 cup peeled and chopped sweet potato (easy substitute: potatoes)
1 cup peeled and chopped carrots (easy substitute: parsnips)
½ cup chopped onion
1 cup frozen or fresh corn (easy substitute: peas or green beans)
1 cup chopped celery
Sea salt to season

Directions
Add oil to stock pot and bring to medium heat. Sauté onion and garlic for two minutes. Add stock and pepper and bring to a boil. Add remaining ingredients, except sea salt, and bring to a simmer. Cook soup over low heat for at least 60 minutes. Add sea salt for flavor before serving.

French Toast Bake
This French Toast Bake is best if prepared the night before. You get the most texture (and heart-healthy fiber) by using a grainy bread. That said, use any leftover bread that can make a cozy fit into a 9x9x1½ baking dish.

Ingredients
½ lb of baguette, rolls or any other hearty grainy bread (sliced to fit into a 9x9x1½ baking dish)
2 whole eggs
2 egg whites
1¾ cup 2% Milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ cup butter
¾ cup honey (or agave nectar)

Directions
Butter baking dish and place bread in dish. In separate bowl, mix wet ingredients and spices. Pour over bread, cover and refrigerate overnight. The next morning, bake at 425 degrees F for 40-45 minutes (until the egg mixture begins to look brown and bubble). Top with a cinnamon-infused, low-fat vanilla yogurt. Note: all ovens are different, so you may need to heat this dish slightly longer.

Turkey (or ham) & Black Bean Quesadillas
While quesadillas may not come to mind when thinking of leftover holiday food, they’re great all year round and can be pulled together with very little preparation.

Ingredients
4 large whole grain tortilla shells
2 cup shredded turkey (savory ham would be a good substitute, too)
1 cup rinsed black beans
1 cup low fat cheddar cheese
1 tbsp coconut oil (my fave) or extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon cumin
½ ripe avocado

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a small mixing bowl add turkey, cumin, black beans and olive oil. Mix gently until all ingredients are covered. Place four tortilla shells on a baking sheet and place in the oven for about one minute (until warm). Remove tortilla shells and place ¼ of the turkey mixture on half of each of the shells. Top the mixture with ¼ cup of the cheddar cheese and fold the shell over. Place back in the oven for about 10 minutes.

If using a convection oven, reduce time by about 4 minutes.

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