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.

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Chilaquiles con Pollo y Salsa Verde

A buddy from Texas introduced me to these this weekend and I was immediately hooked.  I had to see what I could come up with as a fairly healthy recipe for them so I did what I usually do and scoured recipes on the internet and then built my own version with suggestions or ideas from all the others I found.   Pronounce chil-a-KEE-less and Spanish for “friggin’ delicious” there are a lot of variations to be found – con pollo, con carne, verde, rojo, etc.  Since the ones I tried were chicken with green salsa that’s what I tried to recreate.

I don’t claim my recipe is anywhere near authentic, but it is good.  If you’re watching your sodium you might want to tweak this one some, there’s a lot of salt in the taco seasoning.  This is awesome for breakfast or brunch, serve them with a sides of beans and you’re set.  You can add a salad and you’ve got a great, healthy dinner.

If you try this recipe please let me know what you think, if you have any suggestions for tweaks or variations please feel free to share those as well.

Chilaquiles con Pollo y Salsa Verde 

Chilaquiles con Pollo y Salsa Verde

SERVES 4

Ingredients

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 packet dry taco seasoning mix
1 cup chicken stock
6-8 small, yellow corn tortillas
½ small sweet onion, chopped fine
4 oz queso fresco (Mexican crumbling cheese)
4 Tbsp Mexican crema (substitute sour cream thinned slightly with milk if you can’t get crema)
4 Tbsp salsa verde (Herdez brand is good)
3 large whole eggs
Liquid egg whites equivalent to 3 whole eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
Water

Preparation

Coat chicken breast on both sides with ½ of taco seasoning mix.  Heat a large pan on medium high and spray with non-stick spray.  Add chicken breasts and brown on each side.  Add chicken stock to pan and remainder of taco seasoning and the diced onion.  Turn heat to low and cover pan.  Chicken will need to cook slowly for 2-3 hours, check it frequently and break into pieces as it cooks, when done chicken should shred easily, add more liquid (water will suffice) as needed to keep chicken moist.

When chicken is almost done cut the corn tortillas into 1” wide strips.  Pan fry or bake the strips to crisp them, use a little oil if necessary.  Once tortillas are done add them to the shredded chicken and cook for 2-3 minutes until tortillas become soft but not mushy.  Before adding the tortillas their should be a small amount of liquid to be absorbed, once cooked with the tortillas the mixture should be moist with no visible liquid.

Mix eggs and egg whites in a bowl with about 2 Tbsp of water, salt and pepper.  The combination of eggs and whites gives you the flavor of whole eggs but cuts down on calories and cholesterol, of course you can use all whites if you like.  If possible get fresh eggs from a local farmers’ market as they have a more rich egg flavor.  Thanks to my buddy Stan for this tip.  Scramble eggs in a pan taking care not to overcook them.

Plate ¼ of the chicken mixture and top with ¼ of the scrambled eggs.  Pour 1 Tbsp crema over eggs and crumble 1 oz of the queso fresco over that, top that with 1-2 Tbsp of salsa verde.

Chilaquiles are excellent served with black beans or refried beans.  Great for any meal, especially Sunday brunch.  Add a small side salad for a delicious and healthy dinner.

Tips, tricks and shortcuts

  • You can use tortilla chips in this recipe and save the steps of cutting and cooking the tortillas.  Mission sells tortilla strips that would be perfect for this.
  • Buy a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken and shred it then add the taco seasoning and stock and cook down.  Get plain rotisserie flavor or mojo if available.
  • As mentioned above you can use sour cream thinned with milk to a heavy but pourable consistency if you can’t find Mexican crema or simply choose not to use it.

BASIC NUTRITION INFO (per serving)

Calories:  404
Carbohydrates:  23 grams
Fat:  11 grams
Protein:  37 grams
Fiber:  3 grams

Smoothies, smoothies everywhere.

The Kitchen Sink Smoothie

Since originally writing this post I’ve had some issues wit the NutriBullet, see my update here.

I’ve always enjoyed smoothies.  I get them out sometimes and make them at home as well.  However up until recently my blender was a pain to make a smoothie in, it would always get “stuck” and I’d have to poke at it with a spatula to get everything blended together.  Grrr!  Now I know I could get a Vitamix or Blendtec and take care of that issue but I just struggle with paying $400.00+ for a blender.  Even if Blendtec does have some really cool uses for their blenders.

About a month ago one of my friends picked up a NutriBullet blender after seeing an infomercial on it.  I’m always skeptical of things sold on infomercials, I’ve got some real duds before.  But then my buddy started talking about how much he loved it.  Then another friend picked one up and gave the same review, he loves his NutriBullet.  I use Amazon a lot to check out items as the review there seem to be pretty accurate, I just look for a seller that has the most reviews on said item and see what others have to say.  Reviews were mostly positive with an overall 4 out of 5 stars on 91 reviews.  So I bit the bullet (LOL, I’m so funny!) and ordered one myself directly from the NutriBullet website.  A warning if you order one, when you checkout you have to go through about half a dozen screens where they try to upsell you stuff.

To make a long story short I got my NutriBullet in and I love it.  Rather than a blender they like to call it a Nutrition Extractor.  Oooh, fancy.  It blends smoothies very quickly and cleanup is much easier than with a full-size blender, plus you don’t have to dirty the blender and a glass since you blend in the glass with the NutriBullet.  It also blends things very smoothly – including nuts, seeds and tough leafy greens like kale.  I was always frustrated with some of the chunks when using kale in my smoothies.  I’ve also found a couple other uses for it.  You get a blending blade and a milling blade with the blender.  I’ve used the small cup and the blending blade to mix spices in with eggs for an omelette, the Bullet adds air to the eggs and they cook up very light and fluffy.  I’ve also used the small cup with the milling blade and poured in whole oats, spices and some fresh grated Parmesan and made my own Shake and Bake coating for some chicken.

NutriBullet Loaded Up and Ready for Action

It probably won’t seem like it but I didn’t intend this post to be a review for the NutriBullet but rather to talk about smoothies and smoothie recipes.  I’ve read up a LOT on ingredients for smoothies and I’d really like a recipe that’s an all-in-one smoothie.  I found a lot of recipes that said this smoothie is for weight loss and this one is for circulatory health and this one is for vision, etc.  Soooo… I solved that problem by making what I call my Kitchen Sink Smoothie, it’s got a bit of everything in it.  It tasted great, lots of the cocoa comes through, and is very thick in consistency as is.  You could leave out the avocado and add more liquid which would cut fat and calories and thin it down quite a bit.

I’d also like to hear any great recipes others have or if you own a NutriBullet what you think of it and any interesting uses you’ve found for it.

Kitchen Sink Smoothie

This lady’s pic was in the NutriBullet recipe book. I don’t know what she put in her smoothie but I need to get me some of that.

  • 1 cup Baby Spinach
  • 10 Blueberries
  • 3 medium Strawberries
  • 1/2 small Cucumber
  • 1 Tbsp PB2 powdered peanut butter
  • 1 Tbsp Chia Seeds
  • 1 Tbsp Goji Berries
  • 1 Tbsp dried Cranberries
  • 1/2 oz Crystallized Ginger
  • 1/2 medium Banana
  • 1/2 Mango
  • 1/2 medium Hass Avocado
  • 1/4 cup Fat-free Vanilla Greek Yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp Dark Cocoa Powder
  • 1 cup Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk

Directions

Blend everything together and drink. ;-)

Basic Nutrition Info per serving (Recipe makes one LARGE serving, can definitely be eaten as a meal.)

  • Calories = 532
  • Carbs – 86 grams
  • Fat – 20 grams
  • Protein – 18 grams

You could drop the avocado and save 125 calories and 11 grams of fat if those things are a concern.  You could also substitute protein powder for the avocado and keep the calories close to the same but gain another 20’ish grams of protein while cutting about 10 grams of fat.

DISCLAIMER:  I am not a doctor.  Always consult your physician on dietary changes.  Some nutrients can interact with certain medications.  I’m just sharing this recipe because I like smoothies and thought this one was pretty good.

Scallops Fra Diavolo – Low calorie, low carb, packed with protein.

One of my local stores sells a take-and-bake version of this dish.  They use bread crumbs and butter in there’s and I wanted to see if I could tweak it to low the carbs and calories a bit.  Many other Scallops Fra Diavolo recipes have a spicy tomato sauce.   By making this dish without a sauce it eliminates the need to serve it over pasta, and you still get the spicy tomato flavor.  If you want this a bit more saucy you can use canned diced tomatoes instead of the fresh tomato, just drain off any excess juice first.

Scallops Fra Diavolo

Serves 2

Click here for a printer-friendly version of this recipe.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz bay scallops, raw
  • ⅛ cup almond meal
  • 2 medium Roma tomatoes, diced & seeded
  • ½ medium onion, diced
  • 2 Tbsp dried parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp grated parmesan
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil spray


Directions

Start by combining almond meal, parsley, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes in a bowl.  Once combined add scallops then stir to coat in the seasoned almond meal.  Add tomatoes, onion and garlic and stir gently to combine all ingredients.

Spray a shallow pan with non-stick cooking spray and add scallops to pan, spray top of scallops lightly with olive oil.  Scallops should fit in pan in a single layer  Bake in preheated 400° oven for approximately 20 minutes until scallops are firm.  Plate and serve, topping each serving with ½ of the grated Paremsan.

Basic Nutrition Info (per serving)

  • 183 calories
  • 14 grams carbs
  • 6 grams fat
  • 20 grams protein


Approximate Cost = $4.00/serving ($8.00/recipe)
At about $9.00/lb the only major cost here is the scallops.  Almond meal is about $14.00/lb but you only use a small amount.  Add a side salad to this meal and you can feed 2 people for about $10.00.