Another Thanksgiving has come and gone, which means today you may have a refrigerator that’s overflowing with leftovers. Ironically, the holiday season from Thanksgiving to New Year – a time centered on gratitude and giving – is actually one of the most wasteful times of year.
Household waste, including trash from packages and wrapping paper along with food waste, increases by more than 25 percent during the holidays, adding an additional 1 million tons a week to US landfills.1
As for turkey, Americans buy about 581 million pounds for Thanksgiving, and throw away 200 million of them – that’s more than one-third of it, wasted. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council:2
“Along with trashing uneaten turkeys… [Americans will] be wasting the resources necessary for its production…
…meaning 105 billion gallons of water (enough to supply New York City for over 100 days) and greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 800,000 car trips from New York to San Francisco. That’s enough turkey to provide each American household that is food insecure with more than 11 additional servings.”
Did You Know?
- This Roast Turkey Vegetable Soup recipe makes use of leftover turkey meat, carcass, and bones
- This soup is one version of nourishing bone broth, which is healing for your gut
- Americans throw away 200 million pounds of turkey after Thanksgiving; add yours to soup, not landfills
Roast Turkey Vegetable Soup
This recipe for Roast Turkey Vegetable Soup, from Earthbound Farm Organic,3 is perfect after Thanksgiving, but you can make it year-round (and substitute organic pastured chicken, if you like).
It makes use of your leftover turkey meat and, even better, the bones and carcass. The latter, which many people throw away as “waste,” are actually what make this soup so good for you – it creates nourishing bone broth.
Roast Turkey Vegetable Soup4
- 1 organic turkey carcass (with most meat removed)
- 2 yellow onions (cut into 8 pieces each)
- 2 large carrots (cut into 1-inch lengths)
- 2 stalks celery (cut into 1-inch lengths)
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 12 fresh parsley stems
- 1 tsp whole black peppercorns
- 1 large carrot (cut in half lengthwise, then crosswise into 1/4-inch slices)
- 2 stalks celery (sliced 1/4 inch thick)
- 1 small fennel bulb (cored, cut in half, and sliced 1/4 inch thick)
- 1 leek (cut in half lengthwise, then crosswise into 1/4-inch slices)
- 1 cup green beans (cut into 1-inch lengths)
- 2 small zucchini (cut in half lengthwise, then crosswise into 1/4-inch slices)
- 3 cups cubed cooked turkey meat (optional)
- Salt (to taste)
- Freshly ground pepper (to taste)
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the turkey carcass and bones in a roasting pan and place in the oven. Roast for 45 minutes, then add the onions, carrots, and celery to the pan. Cook until the vegetables and bones begin to brown, 30 to 45 minutes.
- Transfer the contents of the roasting pan to a large stock pot. Add cold water to completely cover the bones and bring to a simmer over high heat.
- Add the bay leaf, thyme sprigs, parsley, and peppercorns; reduce the heat to a setting that will maintain a slow simmer.
- Cook the stock for 4 hours, adding more water if the level drops below the bones and vegetables.
- Let cool for 30 minutes, then strain the stock through a colander or sieve, pressing on the solids to extract all the liquid. Discard the contents of the colander. At this point, you can continue with the soup recipe, or cool the stock and refrigerate it, covered, for up to 5 days, or freeze it.
- Return the stock to a large Dutch oven or 4-quart pot. Add the carrots and cook the soup over medium heat for 10 minutes.
- Add the celery, fennel, and leeks, and cook for 5 minutes. Add the green beans and raise the heat to medium-high. Cook for 5 minutes, then add the cubed turkey and the zucchini. Continue cooking until the zucchini are tender, about 5 minutes.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve hot.
Bone Broth Is Healing to Your Gut
Bone broth is a staple of the GAPS Diet, which is based on the Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) principles developed by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. It is an excellent food to improve your gut, bone, and joint health.
The GAPS diet is often used to treat children with autism and other disorders rooted in gut dysfunction, but just about anyone with allergies or less than optimal gut health can benefit from it, as it is designed to heal leaky gut.
If your gut is leaky or permeable, partially undigested proteins have the opportunity to pass through your intestine and access your bloodstream and contribute to allergic reactions. This is known as leaky gut syndrome, or LGS.
When your intestinal lining is repeatedly damaged due to reoccurring leaky gut syndrome, damaged cells called microvilli become unable to do their job properly. They become unable to process and utilize the nutrients and enzymes that are vital to proper digestion.
Eventually, digestion is impaired and absorption of nutrients is negatively affected. As more exposure occurs, your body initiates an attack on these foreign invaders. It responds with inflammation, allergic reactions, and other symptoms we relate to a variety of diseases.
The primary food that you focus on eating if you start out on the GAPS diet is bone broth, because not only is it very easily digested, it also contains profound immune-optimizing components. This is why, even if you don’t have gut issues, bone broth is still a wonderful staple food to include in your diet.
6 Top Benefits of Bone Broth
There are many reasons for incorporating good-old-fashioned bone broth into your diet. The following health benefits attest to its status as "good medicine."
|Helps heal and seal your gut, and promotes healthy digestion: The gelatin found in bone broth is a hydrophilic colloid. It attracts and holds liquids, including digestive juices, thereby supporting proper digestion
||Inhibits infection caused by cold and flu viruses, etc.: A study published over a decade ago found that chicken soup indeed has medicinal qualities, significantly mitigating infection5
|Reduces joint pain and inflammation, courtesy of chondroitin sulphates, glucosamine, and other compounds extracted from the boiled down cartilage
||Fights inflammation: Amino acids such as glycine, proline, and arginine all have anti-inflammatory effects.
Arginine, for example, has been found to be particularly beneficial for the treatment of sepsis6 (whole-body inflammation). Glycine also has calming effects, which may help you sleep better
|Promotes strong, healthy bones: Bone broth contains high amounts of calcium, magnesium, and other nutrients that play an important role in healthy bone formation
||Promotes healthy hair and nail growth, thanks to the gelatin in the broth
You Can Make Bone Broth from Beef, Pork, or Fish, Too
If you’re not a fan of turkey, don’t worry. You can also make bone broth using whole organic chicken, whole fish (including the head) or fish bones, beef marrow bones, or pork. Each will render a different flavor, with chicken being the mildest. Perhaps the most important caveat when making broth, whether you're using turkey, chicken, or beef, is to make sure the bones are from organically raised, pastured or grass-fed animals. As noted by Sally Fallon, chickens raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) tend to produce stock that doesn't gel, and this gelatin has long been valued for its therapeutic properties.7 As noted by Hilary Boynton, co-author of The Heal Your Gut Cookbook: Nutrient-Dense Recipes for Intestinal Health Using the GAPS Diet:
"You definitely want to get the best bones you can get—bones from pastured animals. If you can't find a farmer in your area, reach out to your local Weston A. Price chapter leader... There are also resources to get homemade bone broth if you can't make it yourself. ...If you can only get CAFO bones, I guess you go with that. You can still get some healing benefits. But it would be better to go with bones from pastured animals."
If you’re wondering when you’ll have time to simmer bone broth for hours on the stove, try preparing homemade bone broth by using a slow cooker or crockpot. A slow cooker is actually an excellent way to go, as it is safer than leaving a burner on for extended periods. To use a slow cooker, you will need to first bring the broth to a boil in a pot on your stove (since a slow cooker won’t boil), then skim the scum off the top. Pay careful attention to this stage, as once the broth begins to boil the scum is rolled right back into the broth. The scum are the impurities that you want to remove. You can then transfer the broth to your slow cooker and turn it on to low heat for 24 to 72 hours.
What Else Can You Do to Reduce Food Waste During the Holidays?
You’ve now got a way to use up all that leftover turkey, including the bones and carcass. But what about your other leftovers? First, reduce the amount of excess at future holiday meals by cooking only as much as you need. There are many free calculators online to help you make an accurate estimate. One to try is the Perfect Portion Tool from Love Food Hate Waste.8 While shopping, look for locally produced foods, which are fresher and keep longer, as well as have a smaller ecological footprint.
You can also make a point to buy the “ugly ducklings” in the produce section, which makes use of food that might otherwise be thrown away. When you store your food, such as produce, create a "vacuum pack" to help protect it from oxygen and airborne microbes that will accelerate its decay. Leave the produce in the bag it came in from the grocery store, place it against your chest, and use your arm to squeeze the excess air out of the bag. Then seal it with a twist tie (or use an automatic vacuum sealer like the FoodSaver).
Next, turn your food scraps into valuable fertilizer by composting. This benefits soil, plants, and the greater environment, while keeping more food waste out of landfills. Finally, donate excess food and garden produce to food banks, soup kitchens, pantries, shelters—and your friends and neighbors. If you’re adventurous, there are even apps available, such as LeftoverSwap, that allow you to swap leftovers with others in your community.
+ Sources and References