Thursday, February 16, 2012

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A Twist on Tradition

Another mild winter day outside today, which eventually turned into a rainy evening. Rain? In February? Thank you global climate change. If this isn't proof enough, apart from the globe spontaneously combusting, I'm not sure what other signs we need to show that this isn't a hoax. Annnyway, the point I was getting at is that the winter months always put me in the mood for "comfy" recipes. The kind of food that wraps your taste buds and emotions in a warm fuzzy blanket of memories. Mashed potatoes, mac & cheese, we all have our favorites. One of mine growing up was shepherd's pie. Such a simple, humble dish that I would take over any five star restaurant's "i'll give you one flake of salmon, draw on the plate with some sauce and charge you $30" kind of meals. Since becoming vegetarian, ground beef isn't in my food radar anytime soon, but I still crave that comforting dish that mum used to make.

My adaptation of this classic dish, includes making mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes. If you've never had mashed cauliflower you are missing out! It's the same process as their tater counterparts, but have a nutritional boost in comparison. I also used a bean mixture (which I would double) in place of the ground beef. This is a great recipe for a meatless dinner that still has the easy prep, and comfort factor as the original.

Veggie Packed Meatless Shepherd's Pie
Serves 4

1 medium head cauliflower, roughly chopped
2 clove garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon oil
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon margarine (such as olivio, one without partially hydrogenated oil")
1 can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 teaspoons worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 & 1/2 cups frozen mixed vegetables, thawed

First off, you want to make your mashed cauliflower. Start by roughly chopping it, then steam. I used the stovetop with some water in a saucepan and a steam basket, but you can stick it in the microwave in a casserole dish with some water for the same effect. I steamed it about 10-15 minutes, whenever it feels pretty tender. Once it is done cooking, add it to a food processor along with the milk, margarine, garlic powder, and salt and pepper. I also added some of the water I cooked it in for a smoother consistency. Give it a few pulses, scraping down the bowl and repeating until it looks fairly smooth. Now it won't be as smooth as mashed potatoes, so don't expect that. Give it a taste, and season to your liking. Transfer to a bowl and set it aside (if you can keep from eating it!)
Steamin' Away!
 Loading up the garlic powder.

Once your smashers are done, preheat your oven to 400 degrees and spray a small casserole dish with non-stick spray. Then, heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until tender. In the meantime, you can make your "meat". This was totally an experiment, but I liked the outcome! Take half of the beans and add them to your food processor (cauliflower removed!) Add a couple tablespoons of water, and a dash of worcestershire sauce. Process until it makes a relatively smooth mixture, but still some texture. Like i said, I only used a small can of beans, but I would double the amount next time.

Once your onions are softened, add the other half of the beans that you didn't mix, along with the worcestershire sauce, thyme, salt, pepper, and about a 1/4 cup of water. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then add the pureed beans. Cook the mixture for another 5 minutes, or until it starts to thicken a bit. I added a bit too much water, so I added a pinch of flour to the mix to thicken it.

Now comes assembly! Start by putting the bean mixture into your casserole dish, followed by the mixed veggies, then finally the mashed cauliflower. Smooth over so it covers all the veggies! Top with a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper, then bake for 25 minutes.
Ready for the oven!

Ready for my belly!

What's your favorite type of comfort food?

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