8 Original Ways to Finish Up That Last Can of Cranberry Sauce

Chances are good that you’re not all that different from me. Which is to say, chances are good that even though we’re nearly three weeks past Thanksgiving, if you check your cabinets, you’ll probably find a stray can of cranberry sauce.

It’s a pre-Thanksgiving compulsion, buying cans of cranberry sauce. For no particular reason, I do it every year. I buy it. I put it in the cabinet. And then I make cranberry sauce from scratch for the big Turkey Day dinner.

A few weeks later, I notice I have cans of cranberry sauce in need of using.

Even if you don’t have one kicking around, your grocer probably has a tower of cans lingering at the end of one aisle. And they’re most likely on sale, so… Bargain!

But what should you do with your extra sauce? (Other than pop 2 tablespoons of it in a cocktail shaker with 2 ounces of tequila, a ½ ounce of triple sec, and ice, then shake and strain it? Well, start with that.)

But that’s only 2 tablespoons. Luckily the rest of the can can be used to add some serious flavor to lunch box classics. Here are eight ways to make it happen:

1. PB&C: Just because it comes in a can doesn’t mean it can’t be pressed into service in a sandwich. Just slather peanut butter between slices of bread, then top it with a generous smear of cranberry sauce – sweet, delicious, and tangy. And if peanut butter isn’t your speed, try a cranberry and cream cheese sandwich.

2. Pasta salad: Toss leftover pasta with whatever cooked meat (or chopped deli meats) and veggies you have. Now make the best dressing ever: Combine equal parts olive oil and cranberry sauce with a generous pinch of salt and pepper, then whisk until smooth. Toss with the pasta salad (can be done the night before, too). For extra yum, top with crumbled feta cheese.

3. Grilled cheese: Cheese, particularly sharp ones such as cheddar, love a sweet and tangy accompaniment. That’s why fig jam is such a wonderful addition to grilled cheese sandwiches. And cranberry sauce isn’t far behind. Spread some on the cheese before adding your second slice of bread, then toast it as you normally would.

Photo by J.M. Hirsch

4. Chicken salad: Cranberry sauce is a great way to jazz up a basic chicken salad. Mix mayonnaise with a spoonful of cranberry sauce, a bit of pepper, and some chopped celery. Now add chopped, cooked chicken, then slap it between slices of bread or roll it up with some lettuce in a whole-grain wrap.

5. Yogurt parfait: It’s all about the layers. Start with granola or crumbled graham crackers, then add some yogurt, then cranberry sauce. Then, start all over and keep going until your run out of room.

6. Dip: Serve it straight up in a small container as a dip for pretzel rods and crackers. Or, make a true dip by mixing a bit of cranberry sauce with low-fat sour cream. Serve with carrots and celery.

7. Barbecue chicken: Trust me on this one! Blend bottled barbecue sauce and cranberry sauce (aim for a 3:1 ratio). Now, shred leftover cooked chicken (or the meat from a rotisserie) and add the cranberry barbecue sauce. Toss well, then serve cold on a bun or heat and pop into a thermos with the bun on the side.

8. Tangy Elvis: Grab a hot dog bun and smear peanut butter down the inside. Now add bacon, a banana and – of course – a few spoons of cranberry sauce down the top.

Love J.M.’s lunchbox tips? Try:

7 Ways a Dirty Skillet Can Make Lunch Packing Easier

8 Healthy Foods to Beat Holiday Sugar Blues

6 Tricks to Packing Cool Lunches Your Kids Will Actually Eat

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