Cooking and baking are usually stress relievers for me but I've had such little energy after long work days that the task of preparing even a simple salad seemed overwhelming. I began consuming ridiculous amounts of fast food, quickly becoming 'The Chocolate Glazed Girl' at my local Krispy Kreme. (It's literally across the street from my house. What other choice did I have?)
Naturally, I became sluggish, my sweater dresses became tighter and more ill-fitting by the day and I was disappointed every time I walked by a mirror.
And so a diet was deemed necessary. The first order of business was cutting back my coffee intake which resulted in two days of intense migraines that were only dulled by a combination of Excedrin, 30-minute steam showers and 7 p.m. bedtimes. (And lots of puppy kisses. I can't deny Nurse Maple's excellent bedside manner.)
Of course woman cannot survive on rice cakes alone, so I treated myself to an old favorite on Sunday night - Shepherd's Pie.
This is the most decadent thing I've made since starting my diet, if you can consider a meat pie decadent. I used lean ground beef and fat free sour cream for the potatoes - healthier choices than I would've made a few weeks ago.
It wasn't exactly gourmet, but after a week of whole wheat toast, fruit smoothies and spinach salads, this pie tasted like triumph.
This simple meat pie can be altered to
include whatever vegetables or ground meat
you like. Serve with gravy and a bowl of veggie
soup for the ultimate winter comfort food.
deep-dish pie dish
1/2 pound lean ground beef
1/2 pound ground lamb
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup onions, chopped
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen kernel corn
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2 pounds russet potatoes
1/2 cup sour cream (I use fat free but any kind will do)
1/2 cup milk (I use 2% but any kind will do)
2 Tablespoons butter
1 cup brown gravy, plus more for serving
9-inch pie crust (Pillsbury refrigerated crusts work wonderfully)
salt & pepper to taste
Season the ground beef and lamb with paprika, thyme, salt and pepper. Brown the meat in a skillet and cook through. Use a wooden spoon to break the meat into small, evenly-sized pieces. Drain the grease, then set the meat aside in a covered storage container.
Add olive oil to the same pan and saute the onions over medium heat until translucent. Add the peas, corn and garlic, and cook until fully thawed, about 3 minutes. Set the veggies aside in a covered storage container.
For the mashed potatoes, peel the potatoes and chop them into 1-inch cubes. Add to a pot of water and bring to a boil. Cook at a low boil until fork-tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the water and place the potatoes back into the pot. Add the sour cream, milk and butter, and mash to desired texture. (I use an old-fashioned hand masher, then transfer to my Kitchenaid mixer and whip on high speed until smooth and fluffy.) Add salt and pepper to taste.
Prepare the brown gravy as per the directions on the package. You'll need at least one cup, plus more for serving so two packages may be necessary, depending on the amount each package yields.
To assemble the pie: place the pie crust in the bottom of a deep pie dish. Add the veggies in an even layer. Next, add the beef in an even layer. Pour one cup of gravy over the top of the beef. Next, add the mashed potatoes in large spoonfuls. Gently smooth with a rubber spatula. To form peaks, make a series of quick, shallow judo chops to the mashed potatoes with the rubber spatula. Finish with salt and pepper.
Bake in an oven preheated to 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes. The tips of the peaks should be browned. Serve with more brown gravy.