Saturday, February 23, 2013

Lighter Version of Shepherd's Pie (with a Southwest twist)

I've never had Shepherd's Pie before.  Decided to give it a go when I found a recipe on dLife.  There are a lot of ingredients in this one, and it's more complicated than what I normally like to do, but I got Sara to help me through it step by step and we did a good job.  I got all of my ingredients out first.  I separated them into two groups:  one for the base and one for the topping.

Here's what you need for the base:
1 large onion (chopped)
3 medium cloves garlic (minced)
3 oz shredded carrots (or one average full size carrot)  I used my favorite kitchen tool, the Ninja Express Chop to make mine into tiny bits that were perfect for this.
6 oz mushrooms (chopped...used the Ninja for this too)
1 lb lean ground beef
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp ground thyme
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp flour
1 1/3 C low sodium, fat free beef broth
2 Tbsp tomato paste
Cooking spray

For the topping you will need:

1 lb russet potato (peeled and cut into chunks)
3 Tbsp low fat milk
1/2 tsp salt (optional)
1 oz diced jalapenos.  (I used jarred jalapenos and chopped them up in the Ninja.  You can use fresh--just make sure to seed and de-rib it and don't touch your eyes before washing your hands.  Or, you can use a small can of diced jalapenos too.  I will use the hot canned jalapenos next time for ease and extra heat.)
1 Tbsp fresh cilantro (minced)
2 Tbsp green onions (chopped)
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 C shredded Monterey Jack cheese.

The ingredients list is a little overwhelming, I know, but if you just break it down step by step instead of looking at the whole big picture it's not too bad.

Prepare the base:

1.  In a large non stick skillet, saute onion, garlic, carrots and mushrooms over medium heat, stirring occasionally until vegetables are wilted (about 6 minutes)

2.  Add the ground beef and cook thoroughly until well browned.  Drain off any excess fat.
3.  Add oregano, thyme, cumin and pepper.
4.  Sprinkle flour over the beef and stir.
5.  Add beef broth and tomato paste.  Stir until well combined.

Prepare the dish:

6.  Line a 2 quart casserole dish (smaller around, but taller in height would probably work best) with aluminum foil so that it can completely encase the casserole.  I have no idea what the purpose of that is, but I did it anyways.  Lightly spray the inside of the foil with cooking spray.
7.  Transfer the beef to the prepared casserole dish.  Set aside.

Prepare the topping:

8.   Put the potatoes in boiling water and let them cook until they are fork tender.  Drain.  Put potatoes back in pot or in a bowl.

9.  Mash the potatoes, add milk so they get fluffy.  If 3 Tbsp is not enough, add a little more.
10.  Stir in salt (optional), jalapeno, cilantro, and green onions.
11.  Spoon potatoes over beef, careful not to push the potatoes down into the beef, but just spread on top.
12.  Sprinkle top with cheese and paprika.


13.  Close up the foil around the casserole.  Bake at 375F for 40 to 45 minutes, until golden and bubbly.

The original direction said that it may bubble over and a sheet of aluminum foil under the casserole is a good idea.  My casserole was completely closed in so I didn't have that problem, but it's something you may want to consider.

So, you see, if you break it down into 4 sections--base, topping, preparing the dish and baking--it goes pretty smoothly.  And I just put the ingredients away right after I added them so that my space was cleaned up and decluttered as I went along.

I think it would be better with more potatoes, but then it wouldn't be lighter, would it?  The taste was fabulous.  The seasonings were just right and the jalapenos and cilantro gave it just a little Southwest flare.  Every one, husband and meat-eating kids, loved it.  It reminded me of a cross between chili and beef stew.  It was a very interesting and different flavor for me, but in a good way.  Even though it was a little more involved to make, I'm sure I will make this again (just not an every week thing!).  Fortunately, my vegetarian child was not home that evening and so I didn't have to attempt to make a vegetarian version for her.  That would be a total pain in my butt to make 2 complete casseroles that are this involved.  Next time we have it, if she's home, she'll be getting Morningstar Farms BBQ Riblets or something like that.  Unless I'm in a completely manic mood that day and decide to tackle it, but I won't promise anything!

It's a little high in calories, but it's not beyond my limits.  Here are the stats (serves 4):  393 calories, 16g fat, 5.8g saturated fat, 1.2g polyunsaturated fat, 1.8g monounsaturated fat, 78.7mg cholesterol, 738mg potassium, 720mg potassium, 34g carbs, 3.9g fiber, and a whopping 28g protein. (10 Points Plus)

Pick a day when you're not in a rush and give this one a go.  Serve it with a nice little salad or some other vegetable on the side, and it will be a winner for sure.

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