A one-pot meal can be created from Thanksgiving leftovers.

What are you planning to do with tomorrow's leftovers?

After cooking a Thanksgiving dinner with turkey, sides and desserts, you probably want a meal that's quick, easy and minimal cleanup. "I can't wait to cook another starch, protein and vegetable for dinner," said no mom ever on Thanksgiving night.

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A one-pot meal can be created from Thanksgiving leftovers.
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A one-pot meal can be created from Thanksgiving leftovers.

Reach for a Dutch oven and turn that leftover turkey into One-Pot Turkey Alfredo or transform roasted chicken into a one-pot Cajun gumbo.

One-pot recipes are the salvation of busy parents who come in at the end of the workday, after kids' athletic games, after a day of cleaning and laundry and then have to put something on the table.

One-pot meal means all the ingredients are thrown into the same pot to cook all at once. Huffington Post credits one-pot recipes with "saving weeknight dinners." Martha Stewart promotes the one-pot meal as a way to get "a hearty stew on the table in 30 minutes."

"This isn't really a new thing, as I found a cookbook from 2005 about one-pot meals, but I think with the growing trend of healthier cooking and time-saving measures, it's become a hot topic along with one-pan meals," says Rosemary Palmer, a Chattanoogan whose blog Not Just Paper and Paint has been online for a little over three years.

"With the influence of blogs and Pinterest, all things old become new again. This is a perfect way to cook. Who doesn't love to have a great meal, not feel stressed about it and not have a kitchen full of dirty dishes?" she asks.

Many cooks think one-pot and Crock Pot are synonymous, but the difference is in the amount of time required to cook a meal. One-pots are for getting a dinner on the table quickly; slow-cookers are just that — slow.

"Using a slow cooker is for meals that need a longer amount of time to cook such as a pot roast or even soups," says Palmer. "Slow cooking usually makes the meats more tender or, in the case of soups and chilis, you want a longer cooking time to bring all the flavors together. One-pot meals, to me, are more for ingredients that can come together quickly and not require a long cooking time."

The obvious perk to one-pot cooking is little cleanup, but there are other benefits.

"Cleaning out the fridge is a great way to throw your leftovers together to make a new meal," Palmer says. "Maybe you have some chicken or turkey; add some of your favorite vegetables and seasoning and you have dinner. And this way it doesn't feel like you are eating leftovers."

She also points out that one-pot recipes are a good way to introduce new foods, especially vegetables, in a meal. She suggests involving children in the prep work by letting them wash, chop or stir vegetables. They'll be more inclined to eat something they feel they've helped create.

Third, one-pot meals are time-savers that can help a cook prepare meals in advance. Double the recipe, freeze the extra and you have a meal now and one for later.

Contact Susan Pierce at or 423-757-6284.


One-Pot Turkey Alfredo with Spinach and Bacon

4-6 slices bacon

4 cups chopped or cubed turkey, cooked

6 ounces baby spinach, 4 cups packed

2-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Salt to taste

2 cups chicken broth or stock

3 cups whole milk

1 pound dry penne pasta (about 4 cups)

1 cup Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Using a Dutch oven or other heavy pot, cook bacon until crisp. Remove from pan, drain, cool and chop.

Add the spinach, salt and garlic into the pan, and cook just until spinach is wilted. Garlic can easily burn, so keep an eye on it.

Add cooked turkey, butter, bacon, broth and milk into the spinach mixture. Bring to slight simmer, just below a boil, and add pasta. Constantly stir this for about 10-15 minutes, until pasta is cooked.

Add the Parmesan cheese and parsley and stir until cheese is melted. Cover and let sit 10 minutes to allow sauce to thicken and serve.

Tips: If using raw turkey or chicken, add to the bacon grease and sauté until no pink remains, about 8-10 minutes depending on size of chopped pieces.

If the dish isn't quite as creamy as desired, a little milk or broth can be added.

Whole milk is recommended, but a combination of milk, half and half or heavy cream can be used. The dish will have a richer taste with the heavy cream.

— Rosemary Palmer

One-Pot 10-Minute Beef and Broccoli

1 pound lean ground beef

1 12-ounce bag frozen broccoli, chopped

1 bunch green onions, chopped, separating green and white pieces

3 cups cold, cooked white rice

1 cup thick teriyaki marinade and sauce

In nonstick, 5-quart Dutch oven, cook beef with salt to taste over medium-high heat, stirring frequently until brown. Do not drain. Meanwhile, make broccoli as directed on bag.

Add whites of green onions to pan with beef and cook one minute.

Stir in rice and teriyaki sauce. Cook and stir about 2 minutes or until rice is heated through.

Stir in broccoli. Top with green onion tops.


Half-Hour Chicken Gumbo

3 tablespoons vegetable oil, such as safflower

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

2 red bell peppers, ribs and seeds removed, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, chopped

1 teaspoon dried oregano

Salt and ground pepper, to taste

1 10-ounce package frozen, cut okra

8 ounces smoked (pre-cooked) andouille sausage, halved lengthwise and sliced 1-inch thick

1 rotisserie chicken about 2 1/2 pounds, skin and bones removed, meat shredded

In a 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy-bottom pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add flour and cook, whisking constantly, until pale golden, about 5-7 minutes.

Stir in bell peppers, onion, garlic and oregano; season to taste with salt and pepper.

Cook, stirring occasionally, 10 to 12 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender.

Add 4 cups water, stir in okra and sausage. Bring to a boil. Stir in shredded chicken and warm through, about 1 or 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve with homemade or store-bought cornbread.

— Martha Stewart

One-Pot Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce

12 ounces spaghetti, broken in half

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon tomato paste

4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

2 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped

Handful fresh basil leaves

Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

Kosher salt

1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving

Put the spaghetti, oil, tomato paste, garlic, tomatoes, basil, red pepper flakes and 1 teaspoon salt in a medium skillet with high sides.

Add 5 cups water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

Continue to cook, stirring the spaghetti frequently to keep it from clumping, until it is al dente and sauce has reduced and thickened, about 6 to 8 minutes.

Stir in Parmesan — sauce will thicken more — and season with salt, if needed.

Divide spaghetti among four bowls, garnish with more Parmesan and additional basil (optional) and serve.

— Food Network