Turning turkey into a healthy salad _lowres

Associated Press photo by Matthew Mead -- It is easy to turn leftover Thanksgiving turkey into a dinner-worthy salad that will have everyone craving more greens.

When I was a child, my grandmother used to roast up two enormous turkeys at the holidays. And, of course, that was on top of all the usual gravies and sauces, sides and pies. For days after, the entire family would eat Grandma’s famous “blue plate special,” which was our euphemism for leftovers.

Fast-forward to today, and I think turkey actually has a bit of an identity crisis. On one hand, it is associated with a day reserved for feasting with abandon. On the other, turkey is a lean protein whose versatility should be celebrated. Just one serving of skinless turkey meat has over half the protein you need for an entire day (and less than one gram of fat!). Plus, turkey is a good source of vitamin B and selenium.

Not only is turkey a healthy choice, but it’s a versatile one, too. And its versatility is the key to avoiding leftover fatigue.

In this Turkey and Napa Cabbage Salad With Lime-Ginger Vinaigrette, I take the taste buds someplace decidedly un-Thanksgiving-y in a couple of ways.

I lean toward the anti-feast by making a fresh dinner salad with crunchy veggies and a bright citrusy dressing. Also, I completely change the flavor profile by bringing in ginger and lime, which feel more Asian than Pilgrim. Also consider using leftover turkey to go Mexican (try tacos and a chunky salsa), or Vietnamese or Thai (add turkey cubes to a pad Thai or a coconut curry).

However you decide to give new life to your protein-packed leftovers, here is a tip: It’s always easier to remove the meat from the turkey bones the same day it’s roasted. The meat comes away more easily, it won’t dry out (because it’s easier to wrap than a whole bird), and it’s fast and simple to grab just what you need.

Food Network star Melissa d’Arabian is an expert on healthy eating on a budget. She is the author of the upcoming cookbook “Supermarket Healthy.” http://www.melissadarabian.net

Turkey and Napa Cabbage Salad With Lime-Ginger Vinaigrette

Serves 4. Recipe is by Melissa d’Arabian.

For the salad:

1/2 head napa cabbage, thinly sliced

2 scallions, chopped

1 medium carrot, grated (about 3/4 cup)

2 cups cubed cooked turkey (or chicken)

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 oz. low-fat baked tortilla chips, lightly crushed

1/4 cup chopped peanuts

For the dressing:

1 tbl. Dijon mustard

2 tbls. reduced-sodium soy sauce

2 tbls. unseasoned rice vinegar

Juice of 1/2 lime (about 1 tbl.)

1 tsp. hot sauce (such as Sriracha)

3 tbls. vegetable oil

1 tbl. grated fresh ginger

1. In a large serving bowl, layer the cabbage, scallions, carrot, turkey, cilantro, tortilla chips and peanuts. Set aside.

2. To make the dressing, whisk together in a small bowl the mustard, soy sauce, rice vinegar, lime juice and hot sauce until smooth. Add a tablespoon or 2 of water if too thick. Slowly whisk in the oil until well-blended and the dressing is uniform. Add the ginger and whisk until incorporated. When ready to serve, drizzle the dressing over the salad, then toss well.

Nutrition information per serving: 290 calories (160 calories from fat = 55 percent of total calories); 18 grams fat (2.5 grams saturated; 0 grams trans fats); 30 milligrams cholesterol; 15 grams carbohydrate (3 grams fiber; 4 grams sugar); 15 grams protein; 970 milligrams sodium.