Healthy eaters need meat and potatoes night too!

For me, Shepard’s Pie is one of those nostalgic meals that brings back good memories of hours spent playing with my siblings in the snow during the cold winter months in New England.  It was a relatively easy dish for my busy mom to put together, and stick-to-the-bones satisfying for her hungry brood.   Unlike my mom who was at times preparing meals for a crowd of 13, I am generally just cooking for two.  However, Shepard’s Pie is one of those dishes that tastes more fantastic next day as the flavors become friends.  So don’t shy away from making a big pan, as you can indulge in the delicious leftovers for up to a week.

I still get cravings for the hearty home-cooked meals my mom used to prepare, but if I want to keep my health and weight in check I have to be mindful of how much I choose to indulge.  When I first began making over my diet, I stopped eating many foods I loved that were starch and fat intensive.  That wasn’t really sustainable for me in the long-term.  As someone who really loves to cook and has always enjoyed flavorful food, I realized that I needed to figure out how to prepare some of the meals I missed in a way that didn’t wreak havoc on my waistline.

My rule in giving any dish a healthy makeover is that it remains enjoyable, dare I say delightfully delicious.  I’ve done a lot of experimenting over the years, trying to determine what ingredient substitutions  I can make that will yield a healthier dish of equivalent or superior flavor.  Sometimes I come to the conclusion that an ingredient is worth the calorie splurge.  For this recipe, I recommend buying a block of good cheddar and shredding it yourself.  Most pre-shredded cheese just doesn’t taste as good in my opinion.

My mom’s Shepard’s Pie topped hearty ground chuck with sweet corn niblets, creamy mashed potatoes, and melted cheddar.   I’ve knocked out some fat, replacing ground chuck with lean beef.  I’ve upped the fiber with the addition of carrots and by using cauliflower in place of some of the potatoes.  For simplicity and texture I used Yukon gold potatoes in this recipe.  You could easily substitute red potatoes.  Both types have a thin edible peel that doesn’t need to be removed before cooking.  I made my pie with sweet peas instead of corn, although I still sometimes like to make it with corn.  Feel free to try out your own variation, and let me know how it goes!

Sometimes real cheddar can’t be beat.

Shepard’s Pie

Yield: 10 Servings

 

Ingredients:

2.29 lbs 93% Lean Ground Beef

1 Head Cauliflower

4 Medium Yukon Gold Potatoes

3 oz “Good” Sharp Cheddar (block cheese recommended)

1 16oz Bag Frozen Peas

1 10oz Bag Matchstick Cut Carrots

¼ cup Lite Sour Cream

1 Bundle of Scallions

1 tsp – 1 TBSP Garlic Powder (depending on how much you love garlic!)

1 tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper

1 TBSP Litehouse Freeze-Dried Italian Seasoning

A Few Shakes of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce (to your preferred degree of ‘hotness’)

Non-stick Spray

½ tsp Salt

 

Equipment:

Chef’s Knife

Cutting Board

Colander/ Strainer (or whatever you call the thing with the holes in it)

Medium-Sized Pot

Potato Masher or a Heavy Duty Long-Handled Spoon

Electric Hand Mixer (optional)

2 Spatulas (one that you would use to flip hamburgers and one that you might use to spread icing)

Large Skillet (cast iron recommended)

9”x13” Pan (glass or metal)

Cheese Grater

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Rinse potatoes under running water, removing any ‘eyes’. Working at the base of the cauliflower, remove the leaves with a knife.  Once revealed, trim off the base of the cauliflower head (the part that feels ‘woody’).  Similar to brocolli, the stalk part of the cauliflower is edible, but the really tough base won’t mash well later on.  Rinse your pruned head of cauliflower well, as sometimes bits of soil can get caught in the base.
  3. Cube potatoes and cauliflower into similar 2” chunks. Add these guys to a medium-sized pot along with 3-4” inches of water.  Lid the pot, and cook on high until the contents come to a boil.
  4. Spray a skillet with non-stick spray and bring the pan to medium-high heat. Once a couple drops of water lightly sizzle when flung on the pan, you’re in business.  Add the ground beef to the pan, and slowly begin breaking it up with a spatula.  For best flavor, I recommend using a cast iron skillet if you have one.
  5. As the water in cauli-potato pot begins to boil, turn the heat down to medium/high and simmer until both the potatoes and cauliflower are ‘fork tender’ (meaning that a fork can be inserted into them easily).
  6. Add the Litehouse Italian Seasoning to the beef as it’s cooking. Continue to turn the bits of meat every couple minutes to help it brown evenly.  When the meat is almost down, stir in the carrots.  This way, they won’t get mushy, but they will absorb some flavor from the meat.  If you’re not a carrot fan, this is an excellent way to hide them from yourself, while ironically boosting your vision.
  7. Spray a 9”x13” pan with non-stick spray. Once done, add the browned meat/carrot medley, evenly spreading it out in a layer with your spatula.  Immediately top the beef layer with an evenly distributed layer of frozen peas.
  8. Once tender drain the water from the potatoes and cauliflower using the colander. Return the drained veggies to the pot and begin to break them down with a potato masher, wooden spoon, or hand mixer.  Mid-way through your mashing, add the sour cream, garlic, hot sauce, and salt.  I like to initiate my mashing using a potato masher, and finish with a hand mixer, leaving some soft lumps for texture.  Once everything has been incorporated, taste your mash and decide if the seasoning is agreeable to your taste buds.  Add additional seasoning if you like.
  9. Add the mashed potatoes in clumps atop the peas, and spread them out with the spatula for even coverage.
  10. Shred the cheddar over the potatoes as evenly as possible (you don’t want to short those fabulous corner pieces). Thinly slice the scallions and sprinkle on top of the cheese.
  11. Bake your pie for 30 min or until cheese is melted, slightly brown and ridiculously delicious-looking. Cut into 10 pieces, and happily enjoy!

What recipe would you like to see get a makeover next?

Email me your comments, questions, and suggestions at: nnwnancynash@gmail.com.