Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Cleaner Eats

About four months ago my husband and I decided to change our eating habits. While I've been pretty judicious with my diet for the entirety of my adult life (sans college) we wanted to be even more conscious of what we were putting in our mouths, and even more so, of what we were filling our children's bellies with. Food should be enjoyable, but as humans we must let the idea of food being "fuel" outweigh our desire for processed, empty calories.

We are not complete vegetarians--more like ovo-lacto-pescetarians...ha! I've constructed our weekly meal plan around a more plant-based diet. At first, it was quite a challenge to make sure every meal was without traditional meats (ie. pork, beef, chicken), but now I think it's fun to try less familiar dishes and amp up the flavors without animal fats.

In addition, I've noticed a BIG difference in our gastrointestinal health. I used to be plagued with occasional bouts of Irritable Bowel Syndrome--very painful cramping with which I would end up doubled over for at least 45 minutes. It was much more frequent during my pre-teen and teenage years. Since we've altered our eating habits, however, I've had only one episode! That is a great victory for me.

People frequently ask, "But you give your kids separate meals, though, right?" I answer emphatically, "No!" While this lifestyle change is an effort to increase our family's health in the present, Brad and I also want to train our children to be conscious, healthy eaters--to respect animals and respect their own bodies.

I will be honest about the money aspect of it; our weekly grocery budget has stayed about the same (about $130-$160), but that's because of the necessary increase of nut and produce purchases. Processed foods are easier for stores to shelve and, therefore, can be less expensive. I have no qualms about spending the same dough for healthier options, though.

We also plan to add some more fruit trees on our land to supplement our pantry soon. And while I never really bought things like Little Debbie's and Cocoa Puffs for my kids, the increase in fresh veggies has been wonderful.

Here's a recipe for my Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie:

1 Large container Cremini Mushrooms (aka Baby Bellas)
1 Small Onion
3 Cloves Garlic
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Flour
1/8 cup Worcestershire Sauce
1 1/2 cups Vegetable Broth
1 Carrot
1 Small bag frozen peas
5-6 Russet potatoes
1/2 cup Almond Milk
1 Tablespoon Butter
Salt and Pepper to taste
Dash of Red Wine or Beer of choice
Optional: 1/4 cup Couscous

Peel and cube all 5 potatoes. Cover with water in pot and boil till fork tender. While my potatoes are boiling, I usually start the "meat" part of the "pie." Mince the onion and garlic cloves. Peel and mince the carrot. Chop the cremini mushrooms. In a large skillet (I LOVE my humongous, cast iron skillet my sister gave me last year as a housewarming gift--thanks, Tiss!) combine the olive oil, garlic and onion and sautée until translucent.

 Add carrots and mushrooms and cook until all vegetables are soft.(Sometimes I like to include a bit of kale or spinach with the vegetables--just for some extra nutrients) Add a splash of your favorite beer or red wine to bulk up the flavor a bit. Allow the alcohol to cook down. Add 1/8 cup of Worcestershire sauce and 1 cup of the vegetable broth and bring to simmer. Allow to simmer for 5-8 minutes.

While your "meat" is simmering, drain the boiled potatoes and place back in stainless steel pot. Add the butter, Almond milk and salt/pepper to preference and mash/whip with mixer.

*Here's where the optional couscous comes in: my husband really misses the heavier texture of meats, so I like to sometimes "bulk" up the bottom layer of the pie a bit. Add the 1/4 cup of couscous now to "beef" it up some.* Mix the remaining 1/2 cup of Vegetable Broth with the 2 Tablespoons flour in a separate bowl until all of the flour is thoroughly dissipated. Add this to the simmering "meat" in the skillet. Turn down the heat as the mixture will immediately begin to thicken. Constantly stir until a nice, gravy-like texture is achieved.

You're almost done--PROMISE! Grease a 9"x13" oven safe dish with olive oil. (I like to just pour a dab of oil on a napkin and spread it around, nice and redneck like :). Begin layering by pouring the gravy/"meat" mixture on the bottom.

 Spread the frozen bag of peas on top of the gravy.

 Finally, spread the mashed potatoes on the top. I like to sprinkle a tiny dusting of paprika on top, just for looks. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Ta-DAH! Your delicious, faux shepherd's pie is ready to be demolished!

Notice the little hand on the right shoveling the warm yumminess into his mouth!

 Peace be with you!



  1. Looks good, Hillary! Loving your blog posts. you're such a skilled writer.

  2. Thanks, Kate! Glad you like 'em. I've not got the knockout pics like your lovely blog (www.veganbelle.com) , but hopefully it's somewhat entertaining!