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Turkey Shepherd's Pie - Bob Pennell

Low-stress leftovers

It's easy to leave out leftovers while planning the Thanksgiving feast.

But with a few low-stress strategies, cooks can extend the holiday bounty, its appeal in some unconventional dishes and the grocery-store dollar.

Although the cost of Thanksgiving turkeys increased about 20 percent this year, the bird is still the best value on the table, say culinary and nutrition experts. If she's not entertaining a crowd, Mary Shaw still roasts a 13- to 16-pound turkey for just two people and doesn't waste a bit of it.

"I treat it like a pot of beans," says Ashland Food Co-op's culinary educator, who advocates cooking a pot of beans on the weekend and using them in meals all week. "It's kind of the simple beginnings concept."

Simplifying the rest of the menu is the best way to ensure post-feast enthusiasm for leftovers. Roasted, braised or sauteed vegetables can be used in soups, stews, stir-frys, casseroles, even pasta dishes. But top the sweet potatoes with marshmallows or the green beans with french-fried onions, and it's game over.

"I don't know what you do with leftover grean-bean casserole," says Kellie Hill, owner of The Right Plan Nutrition Counseling in Medford.

It isn't just processed ingredients but sugar and a heavy hand with herbs and spices that limit leftovers. Because turkey is inherently bland, it's practically a blank canvas for Latin- and Asian-inspired dishes, as well as the "elegant comfort foods" that Shaw touts for Co-op customers' holidays. Her Turkey Shepherd's Pie is a "meal solution" available for taste-testing Saturday, Nov. 26, at the North First Street store.

"If you're really over pie crust, it's like a nice way to have a pot pie."

Stock is a key ingredient in the pie, Shaw's festive molé and just about any dish that needs a bit of depth. One 16- to 20-pound turkey carcass stripped of its meat makes four quarts of stock, which Shaw freezes in quart-sized containers.

"There isn't any food that doesn't benefit from stock," she says. "If you have it stashed away ... you can have a completely different meal."

So why lock up stock's potential in turkey-noodle soup? Use it in ethnic-flavored foods, to cook dry beans and grains or to braise vegetables with the goal of serving dishes that your family likes even better than the original holiday meal.

That's the reaction to Hill's turkey enchiladas, just one reason she roasts a whole turkey about once a month and just the breast — bones in for their mineral content, skin on for retaining moisture — about every other week.

"We eat turkey year-round," says Hill. "I love turkey."

Reach Food Editor Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4487 or email slemon@mailtribune.com.

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