Holiday Leftovers Hearty Turkey Soup

or all your comfort foods in one over-sized bowl

Soon it will be my favorite holiday of the year - the only one that seems to truly revolve around food and family - Thanksgiving.  I love feeding people.  Well, that may be an understatement.  So, as it stands, there is no better holiday for me to host then one where I can show everyone how much I love and appreciate them by providing a buffet of enticing dishes.  And of course left overs are a must, it may be assumed that part of the reason of the excessive spread of food this holiday is to ensure leftovers exist after everyone has had their fill and are then comfortably reclined in the living room.  The other reason is that I somehow still have absolutely no concept of how much people will eat.  But that is beside the point.

I love finding new ways to use leftovers from big family meals.  In college, I was mildly  obsessed with a "Thanksgiving" sandwich at the restaurant chain Friendly's.  It consisted of texas toast, turkey, gravy, stuffing, and cranberry sauce (which I omitted).  It was delicious.  It was all the wonderful parts of comfort food in an easy, handheld format.  Well, obviously I can't just copy that.  So I thought about what other forms of comfort food I love, and it came to me - soup!  I am a sucker for good soup.  A few years ago I decided that we needed to consume all of the leftovers before they went bad and started throwing things together in a pot, what resulted was beyond delicious.  My husband likes this so much that for the first two years I had to make a roasted turkey breast a couple times each year, in addition to Thanksgiving, just so he could have the soup.  Here's how it is done:

2 turkey legs or half breast & bone
celery - 1/2 cup diced
orzo - 1 cup
cream of chicken soup - 1 can condensed
turkey gravy - 1 cup prepared
processed cheese - 3/4 pound cubed
carrots - 1/2 cup diced
onion - 1/2 cup finely diced or minced
peas - 1 can or leftovers
chicken stock - 1 quart
Spices: celery salt, pepper, thyme, parsley

1. Place bone from turkey in a large stock pot. Add the stock and fill with water so that the pot is 3/4 full. If using a deep pot additional chicken stock may be added to reduce the dilution in water.

2. Heat until boiling and keep at a low boil for 1 hour to prep the stock.

3. Cut the turkey meat into bite sized cubes or pull apart to taste. Finely dice carrots and celery, mince the onion.

4. Remove the bones and skim off any fat when the stock is ready. Keep the pot half full, the extra stock can be removed and stored either in the refrigerator or freezer for future use.

5. Add the turkey to the pot of stock. Remove any extra meat from the bones and add into the soup as desired.

6. Add spices and onion; allow to come to a low boil for 10 minutes.

7. Then add the carrots and celery, keep at a boil for 5 minutes.

8. Add in the peas and orzo, continue to boil for 10 minutes.

9. Stir in cream of chicken soup, gravy, and cubed cheese. Cook over medium-low heat until cheese melts, stirring often.

This can be adjusted to your tastes and leftover options, but this is where I started.  The processed cheese, aka Velveeta, was actually a leftover for us because we use it in a chili cheese dip that is generally among our appetizers and we don't use the whole "brick."  It isn't something I often cook with, but it smooths out nicely in soups so it does make it in once in a while.  Keep an open mind about it, it won't bite.  You can also omit the orzo if you want when pouring it over mashed potatoes or stuffing, though leaving it in does create a "turkey stew" feel that is quite a yummy take on the dish.  As always, give it a try, make its tastes your own, and enjoy!

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