Monday, May 4, 2015

Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd's pie.   Well it's not really a pie in the traditional sense.  Historically it began as a dish of leftover meat which was baked in a crust of potatoes.  As a kid, I always remembered my parents making it with canned cream of corn (it was the 80's) along with the traditional potato and ground beef duo. This is the one I prepare for our family.  It's an updated, healthier version of the Irish classic. 

One of the biggest differences in this Shepherd's pie is I use either sweet potatoes or butternut squash. No white potatoes in mine.  I guess if you really loved your white potatoes you could use them but I will promise you; you will not miss them once you try this version. 

3 Large sweet potatoes or 1 medium butter nut squash
1/4 cup plain whole milk yogurt or butter 
1 package of ground beef
2 medium yellow onions, diced
4-5 large carrots, diced
1 bag of frozen peas
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, minced or about 1 teaspoon dried
sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste
coconut oil 

What is so great about this meal, is the make it and done factor.  You can make this ahead and put it in the oven when you are ready to eat.  No watching over a boiling pot, no stirring, no tending to.  This is great for those nights you want to come home and have a great, healthy meal without having to make it fresh. Truly a one dish dinner.

Typically I cook the squash or sweet potatoes ahead of time.  For the sweet potatoes I wrap them in foil and place them in the oven on a baking sheet heated to 400 degrees. Bake until they are done. (about 25 minutes or so)  Don't worry if they are in the oven a little longer.  The smooshier the better.
Baked Sweet Potatoes-Skins removed

Sweet potato skins don't go to waste at our house.
If you are using butternut squash.  Cut it in half and de-seed. Rub with a little coconut oil and sprinkle with sea salt.  Place face down on a parchment lined baking sheet in the oven heated to 400 degrees. Again, no need to fuss too much if overcooked.  

Once your tubers or squash are done, allow them to cool.  Sometimes I do this step at night and allow the squash or potatoes to cool in fridge until morning.  This makes the potatoes or squash easily slip right off the skin.  Literally, they will fall right off and into a bowl for you. Once the potatoes or squash are in a bowl, add a generous scoop of whole milk yogurt or butter.  This adds a little creaminess to the sweet "crust".

Sweet potato mixed with plain yogurt
In a saute pan, add coconut oil and heat to medium.  Once oil is melted add in diced carrots and onions.  Season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook until carrots are soft. Occasionally give them a toss to make sure they are not sticking to the pan. Once the carrots and onions are cooked, place them in a bowl and toss in fresh minced garlic and rosemary. Taste and season as needed. 
Cooked carrots, onions, garlic and rosemary

Lana likes to pick the fresh rosemary

In the same pan, brown your meat.  I usually use grass-fed beef or buffalo.  Buffalo is naturally very lean, so when I use the beef I do drain off some of the fat once fully browned.  We eat fat.  Fat is good.  But as with all things-moderation is best. 
Browned Grass fed beef

Drain off a little fat
Once the meat is browned, season to taste and layer it in the bottom of a casserole-type dish. This is the first of 4 layers in my Shepherd's pie. 
Layer 1: Beef Layer 2: Carrots and onions

Next, add your cooked and spiced carrots and onions.  

Then open your bag of frozen peas and sprinkle them over your carrots and onions in an even layer.  No need to cook the peas, they will cook in the final bake.

Layer 2: Frozen Peas

My little helper wanted a pea or two

Finally spread the sweet potato or butternut squash over your layers.  Cover and bake when you are ready to eat.  
My little helper wanted more than a pea or two.Oh no you don't!

Life is rough.

I usually  bake mine at 350 for about 25-30 minutes.  There is no need to fuss too much with the perfect bake time.  It has so much moisture in it, you could bake it for 1 hour and it will not dry out. ( Not that I have tried.  At least not on purpose.)

Jam packed with flavor and loads of nutrients.  This could be one of your new go-to recipes.  Once you have made it for the first time, you can do it with your eyes closed there-after.  Really you can. 

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