Healthier Shepherd’s Pie

I. Love. Shepherd’s Pie.  The stuff has all the making of an awesome and hearty meal – meat, potatoes, veggies in a PIE!  Damn.

Buuuut, I’m trying to get fitter not fatter so I had to go to the lab with this one and try to tweak it to make it healthier.  The end result was the best Shepherd’s Pie I have ever made with a 33% drop in calories from a traditional recipe.  I used two main tricks to accomplish this, using creamy mashed cauliflower instead of potatoes and using extra lean ground beef.  Plus, I really loaded the veggies up instead of having a small layer you end up with about 50/50 meat to veggie ratio.

So here’s how you do it…

Healthier Shepherd’s Pie

Serves 6

Ingredients

Mmmmm…. pie.

1 lb lean ground beef (93/7)
¼ yellow onion, diced
1 cup sliced mushrooms
½ cup beef broth
1 Tbsp corn starch
1 cup small lima beans (pre-cooked or canned)
1 cup sweet peas (pre-cooked or canned)
1 cup sliced carrots (pre-cooked or canned)
1 medium head cauliflower
2 oz low fat cream cheese
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

Spray a heated pan with cooking spray, set heat to medium and saute onions until soft then add ground beef and cook until it’s almost done.  Add sliced mushrooms and cook until beef and mushrooms are done.

Stir corn starch into cold beef broth making sure the corn starch is thoroughly mixed into the broth.  Pour the broth slowly into the pan of ground beef and stir continuously until hot.  Once heated it will start to thicken, you can add a bit more broth to thin the mixture or a bit more broth and starch to thicken.  You want the sauce to be very thick, but not pasty.  Add lima beans, carrots and peas to the beef mixture and cook until heated.  Add a generous amount of black pepper to the mixture and place on low to keep warm

To make the creamy mashed cauliflower:  Clean and cut the head of cauliflower into small florets.  Cook in salted, boiling water for 15 minutes or until fork tender.  Do not overcook as the cauliflower will be mushy.  Drain and place into a mixing bowl.  Add the garlic, low fat cream cheese and Parmesan and mix with hand mixer until smooth.  Taste to see if additional salt or garlic is needed.

Pour beef mixture into a casserole dish and spread into an even layer.  Top with the creamy mashed cauliflower spreading that into an even layer covering all the beef mixture.  You may add additional grated Parmesan, ground pepper or parsley to the the top prior to baking.  Place in preheated 400F oven for 30 minutes.  Remove and let stand for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Tips, tricks and shortcuts

  • You can use any mix of vegetables you like for this.  If you don’t like lima beans, don’t use them.  Some people use corn, some simply the peas and carrots.
  • Do yourself a favor and get some REAL Parmesan cheese, not the stuff in a shaker can but a block of the real deal.  It will actually last longer as the flavor is much more intense so a little goes a long way.
  • The creamy mashed cauliflower makes a great side dish on its own.  Also, the cauliflower recipe is not my own, I found it on a Google search.

BASIC NUTRITION INFO (per serving)

Prepare to be amazed…

HEALTHIER VERSION
Calories: 257
Carbohydrates: 22 grams
Fat: 8 grams Fat: 21 grams
Protein: 24 grams
Fiber: 7 grams

ORIGINAL VERSION (WITH POTATOES & GROUND CHUCK)
Calories : 433
Carbohydrates: 38 grams
Protein: 21 grams
Fiber: 6 grams

I was really impressed with how this turned out.  The bit of cream cheese in the cauliflower really helps to nail the consistency that makes mashed potatoes so damn good.   Since the veggies are mixed in with the meat and sauce mixture they have a ton of flavor as well, this one is a winner.  I guarantee you will like this recipe or I’ll send you a link to someone else’s recipe… you have my word on that.

If you try this recipe please let me know what you thought!  If you have any awesome ideas to make it healthier or more awesome please feel free to share those, too.

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Shepherd’s Pie fresh out of the oven.

What’s Healthy and What’s Not?

I originally posted this on a discussion forum but thought it was a pretty good topic to post here as well.

OK, nutritional wisdom confuses the hell out of me. I’m sure I can’t be the only one.

I’m 40 years old so I was raised in the era of the traditional food pyramid and “3 squares a day”. Beef was good for you, so was Wonder bread and white rice. Anyone else remember the old Schoolhouse Rock cartoon “Beans & Rice is nice.”? Eggs and pork were OK… and milk, lots and lots of milk – it does a body good. And Juice! I just remembered that one, fruit juice was good for you, too. You had to eat breakfast as it was the most important meal of the day. And don’t eat too much sugar or fat.

Then we were told eggs were bad… too much cholesterol. Movie theaters quit using coconut oil in their popcorn because it was deemed too unhealthy. And fruit juice is no better for you than soda. Wonder Bread and white rice are no-no’s, and you have to limit your beef and pork. Eggs are good again, I think so anyhow, not sure the official word this week. And if you ask a Keto fan you can eat all the fat you want. I’m not even sure what the hell the Paleo diet is about but I do know I’m not sure about a diet based on people whose average life expectancy was 33.

Personally I just try to eat a balanced diet with lots of vegetables, lean meats and some healthy carbs. I just can’t get behind a ketogenic diet, it just seems wrong to me, all that fat can’t be good for you – at least not based on everything I was taught for 35 or so years. I’m not trying to argue keto here, I know you people are like a cult when it comes to defending a ketogenic diet. (I kid, I kid… sort of.) I’m just saying to me it doesn’t feel right. My body doesn’t feel right when I eat that much fat and anyone starting a ketogenic diet usually goes through a sickness. I realize a body can get used to a new diet but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for you long term. I know reports are mixed, even among the “professionals”, but there are definitely pros and cons to a keto diet that people need to be aware of.   I realize also that for a lot of people it’s helped them find a diet they can stick to and lose weight, I just wish think there should be more consensus on the long-term benefits of the diet before it’s preached as gospel.

However I see where trying to eat healthy can be very confusing for some people because the rules keep changing. Also, you see people losing weight on a diet like keto or Paleo and they start preaching it like gospel, like they are nutritional experts. I saw a post on another forum where someone said they were trying to watch their fat intake and someone replied that they didn’t need to do that because fat was good and they didn’t need to watch it. The original person said, “Oh, OK… I didn’t know that.” They had nowhere near enough information to base their decision on but they just said OK. In another discussion a person was told not to eat breakfast as that wasn’t important but in another discussion someone was told to eat 5X or more a day, even waking up at night to have a shake to keep the metabolism going.

I could go on and on about the points that confuse me, but I’ve pretty much made my point.  I’d love to hear what anyone else thinks about this.

What I Learned From a Week at the Beach

I spent last week in Destin, FL with some family and friends.  The beaches and water there are amazing, I highly recommend it.

I knew before heading out that staying on track with my diet would be tricky.  So much good food at the beach, and so many cocktails.  Fortunately seafood is pretty healthy and when you’re at the coast why not enjoy it as much as you can.  However a trip to an Irish pub and a BBQ place were challenging.  I was well-behaved at the BBQ place, had a smoked turkey salad and water, however the Irish pub was a different story, I had a huge Reuben, boxty, beer and an Irish Wake. The Irish Wake alone had almost 700 calories!

After the first day we decided to hit the store and get some groceries for the condo to avoid eating out every day.  I picked up mini-carrots, celery sticks, hummus, Babybel Light cheese, green tea and protein bars.  However the others grabbed chips, pop tarts, more chips, popcorn, etc.  I know food is my weakness and I do my best by staying away from bad foods, I held out for a few days but then I started snacking on the chips and other goodies that were there.  I don’t consider myself cheating when I have a meal or a snack that is bad, I simply adjust my calories for the day or work out a bit more.  However a few bad meals (pizza, cheeseburger and fries, Irish pub grub and lots and lots of cocktails) and the week added up more than I expected.  That said, I only had two days that I was over my calorie goals.  As far as exercise goes I did OK.  Our condo had a fitness center however it was pretty small and with 100 units every time I tried to go it was full.  I did swim quite a bit and we walked a lot.  However I didn’t get in as much activity as I wanted to.

So, the sum total of the week when I stepped on the scale this morning is that I was up 7 lbs.  Wait, what?!?!  7 lbs in 6 days?!?!  Yep, that’s what the scale said.  I honestly don’t see how that could be but I guess the scale doesn’t lie.  I hope some of it is just needed to flush the system from a week of slacking but I guess we’ll see, my normal weigh in day is Friday so I’ll see where things stand then.

Outside of the diet and exercise I had a great time at the beach.  Destin is gorgeous, my family is a fun bunch to hang out with and the food and cocktails were (obviously) damn good.  This is my first real slip-up since I got serious about my health.  I learned a lot from it and we’ll be more diligent when in the situation again.  A week of slacking means I have to work twice as hard for the next couple weeks just to be back where I was, it could cost me a few weeks progress… I just don’t think it’s worth it.

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