Tag Archives: comfort food

Spring Veggie Shepherd’s Pie with Roasted Garlic-Cauliflower Whip

VeggieShepherd'sPie|Spoonwithme.com (18 of 25)

This is comfort food with a surprise nutritional kick!  Bam!  Just when you say, “oh I’d better not eat very much of that”, I say “gotcha!”.  There is NOTHING “bad for you” in there.  B-b-but….where’s the heavy cream?  No buttah?!  And that is where I smugly tell you that you can, rather must, eat more and be comforted, without the cloud of self-inflicted guilt over too much of this or that.  These are vegetables people!  Eat, drink and be merry!  My house, my rules.

VeggieShepherd'sPie|Spoonwithme.com (5 of 25)

VeggieShepherd'sPie|Spoonwithme.com (3 of 25)

VeggieShepherd'sPie|Spoonwithme.com (2 of 25)

These little pies would be perfect for a holiday meal,  Sunday dinner with the family, or any other time you want to see a vegetarian turn helplessly giddy.   This recipe is sans the lamb, of course.  If you have the kind of person at your table that doesn’t consider it a meal without meat, you could go one of two routes: First, entrance them with the balanced flavors of the white wine and tarragon vegetable stew and see if they even give a second thought to the “missing” ingredients—I play this game all the time.  If I’m intently staring at you while you take your first bite, it’s usually because I’ve tricked you in one way or another into eating something healthier and better than you ever expected.

VeggieShepherd'sPie|Spoonwithme.com (6 of 25)

VeggieShepherd'sPie|Spoonwithme.com (7 of 25)

If you’re really sure your dinner companion isn’t going to be happy without some meat on his or her plate, you could add a little to the mix. Traditional shepherd’s pie is topped with fluffy mashed potatoes.  My version is crowned with a golden whip of roasted cauliflower and garlic.   Have you ever whipped cauliflower?  To me, it tastes like a more flavorful version of garlic mashed potatoes.  I have nothing against potatoes.  I know some would argue with me on this, but I don’t stress excessively over the naturally occurring starches, sugars, etc in fruits and vegetables.  Obviously, I’m not advocating to eat a truckload of potatoes and nothing else.  The key for me is to vary the types of foods I eat throughout the day and week to make sure that I have a good balance of carbohydrates, fats, and protein, and a large variety of fruits and vegetables.

VeggieShepherd'sPie|Spoonwithme.com (9 of 25)

VeggieShepherd'sPie|Spoonwithme.com (8 of 25)

VeggieShepherd'sPie|Spoonwithme.com (12 of 25)

I’ve been thinking about this because a couple weeks ago, I went to Cancer Con, a young adult cancer conference put on by Stupid Cancer.  I spoke on a panel to 700 people (yikes!) about how I support my mind and body through cancer with nutrition, meditation, yoga and other physical activity.  I also attended a talk with an integrative oncology nutrition specialist.  The speaker, Mark Cohen (a clinical oncology specialist) advocated for eating a diet of a diverse variety of foods that are warm, whole, and cooked.

VeggieShepherd'sPie|Spoonwithme.com (13 of 25)

I know some are convinced of the benefit of a raw diet, but I know that my body digests foods better and therefore absorbs nutrients more readily when I cook them.  If you eat real food, you don’t need rules, Michael Pollan explains in his book Food Rules.  This philosophy feels right in my gut (pun intended).  It’s not a new idea, but with so many fad diets, with lists of dos but mostly do-nots, it’s easy to get confused.

Spring is officially here, and when the weather inevitably swings toward the cold and damp, I hereby invite you to “indulge” in this veggie loving shepherd’s pie.

VeggieShepherd'sPie|Spoonwithme.com (25 of 25)

Spring Veggie Shepherd’s Pie with Roasted Garlic-Cauliflower Whip

Stew adapted from Feasting at Home

Makes 4 to 6 Servings (Four two-cup pies or one 8×8 casserole dish)

For the cauliflower whip:

  • 1 large head cauliflower, broken into 1 1/2 inch florets
  • 3 large cloves garlic, in their skins
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2  cup vegetable stock
  • 3 tablespoons regular or vegan butter

For the stew:

  • 1 lb diced waxy potatoes (yukon gold, red or fingerling)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion or pearl onions
  • 4 cups any combination of the following: diced carrots, celery, fennel and crimini mushrooms (*see footnote for more details)
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine or vermouth
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons gluten-free (or regular) flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons arrowroot starch (or use additional flour)
  • 4 cups flavorful vegetable or chicken stock, homemade or store-bought
  • 2 teaspoons whole grain mustard
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen shelled green peas
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Special Equipment Needed:

Immersion blender, blender, or food processor

2-cup pie dishes or 8×8 casserole


Preheat oven to 425˚F.

Cover the potatoes by 1 inch water in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Add a tablespoon salt to the water.  Reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the potatoes are on the firmer side of being tender.

Make the Cauliflower Whip:

Toss the cauliflower and garlic in the olive oil, salt and pepper on a large sheet pan.  Roast in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until cauliflower is tender and deep golden in places.  Pop the garlic out of their skins into a large bowl with the roasted cauliflower (or into a food processor or blender if not using an immersion blender).  While hot, add the vegan butter and stir until melted.  Add the stock and blend using an immersion blender until smooth.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Make the stew:

Heat the oil in a large saucepan.  Sauté the onions for about 5 minutes over medium-high heat, until translucent.  Reduce heat to medium and add the carrot, celery, fennel, mushrooms, and salt and pepper to taste.  Sauté until the carrots are crisp-tender, about 8-10 minutes.  Pour in the wine and scrape the bottom of the pan to deglaze, cooking for about 3 minutes until most of it evaporates.  Add the potatoes, nutritional yeast, and arrowroot starch and flour.  Stir to coat.  Add the stock and mustard, and stir until it comes to a boil and thickens.  Add the peas, tarragon, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer for about 10 minutes to allow flavors to meld.  Fill the pie dishes or casserole dish with the stew.  Spread the cauliflower whip in a layer on top.

Reduce the oven to 400˚F.  Bake the pies for 20 minutes.  Turn oven on low broil, and cook an additional 5-6 minutes until the top is spotted a deep golden color (watch closely while broiling to avoid burning).  Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Freezing directions:

Spoon the stew into an oven safe, freezer safe dish and top with potatoes.  Cover with saran wrap and put inside a large freezer bag.  When ready to use, thaw in the refrigerator for 2 days.  Bake in a 400˚oven for about 30 minutes until hot and bubbling.  Broil the top over low for 5 minutes to achieve a speckled golden top.


*Note: I used 3 large carrots, 2 large ribs celery, 1 medium fennel bulb and about 3 oz crimini mushrooms.



Filed under Main Dishes, vegetarian, Vegetarian and Vegan

Vegan Kale and Ricotta Lasagna

I’ve been dreaming about this lasagna for the past week,” my friend Kim sighed.  “I can’t believe it was vegan!”  I know, I know, vegan lasagna is kind of an oxymoron, but do you know how hard it is to satisfy your comfort food itch without something ooey gooey and/or creamy?!?  Last week, I’d had just about enough of this cruel cheese prohibition forced upon me, and decided to take drastic measures.  It was either vegan ricotta, or the real thing, and that wouldn’t have been a good idea.

I was skeptical too. Vegan ricotta?  Made out of tofu?  Rrreally?  Sounds like weird flavorless health food.  A little voice inside my head said, There’s no way this is going to be as good as the real thing…But guess what?  It was every bit as good as I had remembered real ricotta to be.

I know what you’re thinking…you can’t really trust a person who hasn’t eaten actual ricotta in six months to give an evaluation of this ricotta-like tofu concoction.  Well, I don’t blame you, which is why I field tested this recipe on not just one or two, but three of my cheese-eating compadres.  Test subject one:  Manager at a fine dining restaurant, meat lover, sommelier and cheese plate fanatic.  Let’s just call him Mr. Duck Confit.  Test subject two:  Cute, petite and muscular, with dreams of even more sculpted abs and fitness competitions.  We’ll call her the Lean Protein Queen Kim.  Test subject three: My stand-by.  We’ll just continue to call him the Mister.  Believe me, despite his gradually developed tolerance for vegetable-based proteins, he had his doubts as well.

Results:  Test subjects one through three presented confusion as to whether or not the test administrator had secretly given them dairy after all.  Test subject one, Mr. Duck Confit, insisted that this was the best lasagna he had ever tasted.  Mr. Confit lives in the moment, and says such complimentary things every time I cook for him, but nevertheless, approved and eagerly went in for seconds.  Test subject two continued to experience flashbacks of the lasagna during subsequent days, and was invited over for a second round of lasagna a week later.  Test subject three, my biggest fan and most honest critic gave a rave review as well.

Perhaps the words vegan and comfort food  are not mutually exclusive as I once thought.  Not only did the layers of herbed vegan ricotta, homemade tomato sauce, garlic-sauteed kale and whole wheat lasagna satisfy my near-exploding craving for something homey, creamy and comforting, but it more than took care of my body’s need for healthy carbs, protein, lycopene and cruciferous leafy greens.  Yet more proof that eating healthy doesn’t have to be a drag!

 Vegan Kale and “Ricotta” Lasagna

Serves 6


For the sauce:

  • 10 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 2 24-ounce cans whole tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon marjoram
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste

For the tofu ricotta (Adapted from Whole Foods):

  • 1 (14-ounce) block extra firm tofu, drained
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons mellow white miso
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

For the Kale:

  • 1 bunch lacinato/dino kale, roughly chopped, about 5 cups packed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • a big pinch kosher salt
  • a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes


  • 1  9-ounce package no-boil lasagna noodles, preferably whole wheat

Make the sauce:
Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a medium saucepan.  When hot, add the garlic and cook until just beginning to turn slightly golden, about 1-2 minutes.  Immediately add the tomatoes and stir.  Add the oregano, basil, thyme, marjoram, crushed red pepper, and 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt.  Reduce heat to medium, and cook at just above a simmer for 35-45 minutes,  smashing the tomatoes with a wooden spoon now and then, until the sauce takes on a smoother but still slightly chunky texture.   Season with additional kosher salt to taste.
Make the tofu ricotta:
Break the tofu into smaller chunks and place in the bowl of a food processor.  Blend until smooth (the texture of ricotta).  Remove the blended tofu to a medium bowl.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.
Sauté the kale:
Heat the olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat.  When hot, add the kale and toss to coat.  Sprinkle with the salt and red pepper flakes, and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently, until the kale turns bright green and begins to soften, but still maintains some of its crispness.  Remove from heat and set aside.
Make the lasagna:
Preheat the oven to 375˚F.  In an 11×8 inch casserole dish, spoon a layer of marinara sauce, a sprinkling of kale, then a layer of noodles.  Spread a layer of ricotta on top of the noodles.  Continue to layer the lasagna in the same manner, ending with a layer of ricotta, sauce, and a sprinkling of kale.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the ricotta and sauce layers are bubbling, and the kale on top is crisp.

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Filed under Pasta