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Thanksgiving leftovers make excellent macaroni and cheese.

Thanksgiving is upon us, and while everyone loves a big loaded feast, nobody loves the waste that comes with feeding a dozen friends and/or family members. In the rush to get dinner on the table, many home cooks cut corners that could yield delicious and valuable benefits in the days (and months) to come. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind during preparation that will make you feel extra thankful. And if a particular family member is having a holiday-induced breakdown, unleash the fact that you’re making dinner and saving the planet, so simmer down and have some cheese, ‘kay?

zera food recycler


Thanksgiving compost is some of the best of the year, owing to the high percentage of vegetable trimmings and peels, eggshells, bread crusts, coffee grounds, tea bags and veggie-based plate scrapings. Remember to avoid harmful bacteria (and critters) by not tossing any dairy, meat or bones in there, unless you’re utilizing the bokashi process. The more guests you’re hosting, the more compost you’ll reap. While the weather may not be ideal for natural decomposition, with freezing temperatures sending microbes into hibernation, the moment the spring thaw begins, they’ll pick right back up where they left off. Imagine enriching your first spring plants with Thanksgiving compost!


Carrot tops

Who doesn’t love starting a Thanksgiving feast with a hot bowl of hearty carrot-ginger soup? If you’re using carrots with the feathery green tops still intact, don’t just toss them into the compost bin — they’re packed with nutrients and fiber, and surprisingly delicious. Props to vegetable doyenne April Bloomfield for her carrot top pesto recipe.


The carcass
You are a bona fide Terrible Person if you throw away the turkey carcass before making soup with it. There’s way too much good meat clinging to the bones (which are themselves packed with collagen, cartilage and marrow) to waste. In some ways, it’s the best part of the turkey: no fighting over dark and white meat, no brining, basting or resting, and neither muss nor fuss. Just drop the whole thing in a pot, fill with water to cover, add some leftover raw onions, carrots, celery, garlic, peppercorns, fresh herbs, salt and a bay leaf and simmer for a few hours, skimming off the foam occasionally. That’s turkey stock, and it makes killer noodle soup.

Try your hand at any variation you like — my mom adds drained canned chopped tomatoes, lots of freshly squeezed lime juice and tiny round acini de pepe pasta, then poaches thinly sliced jalapeños in the resulting broth for a rib-sticking, flavor-packed lunch the next day.

The cheese board

Don’t wrap up the little nubs of cheese left behind on the appetizer boards and convince yourself that someone will eat them before they become dried-out, mold-ridden blocks of wasted dairy potential. Toss them all in a large zip-top bag and use them in the next few days to make four- or five-cheese Thanksgiving macaroni and cheese (see photo at top of page). Try it with a side of leftover cranberry sauce for the post-Thanksgiving treat you never knew you needed.