Thursday, 28 April 2016

Hidden Healthy & Deconstructed Cottage (Shepherd's) Pie

I watched the Marilyn Denis show the other day which was about opening ourselves up to new things. I found it quite inspirational for both food and in life. One of her guests was Julie Daniluk RHN and is a leading nutritionist. I love her enthusiasm and her health conscious approach! Today she was talking about how to bump up the nutrition for those folks eat too much of one thing... those who gravitate primarily to fast food, or who eat mostly veggies (no proteins), or those folks who primarily eat meat (no veggies). The idea was to open up your taste buds to new things and balance out your nutrition at the same time. Her strategy of choice was to hide the goodness in things that people tend to gravitate to, or as she called it... use "stealth" to get the good things in.

Whether you call it "stealth" or hidden healthy, the idea is the same. On the show, Julie had some excellent ideas and you can see them here so that you can open up your taste buds to new tastes and flavours! Hidden healthy is a great way to bump up your plant based protein, improve your fiber, and sneak in some extra nutrition, especially for those uncooperative family members!

Some of my successful hidden healthy include chili, spaghetti sauce, sloppy Joes, tourtière, and even meatloaf. In these items, I have simply used cooked lentils with the ground meat. Sometimes I reduce the meat by as much as half and slip in 1 to 2 cups of green or brown cooked lentils. In other cases, I just "bulk" up the dish by adding a little amount, up to about half a cup. It all depends on how well the lentils can be hidden. Spaghetti sauce or chili are dishes that are quite forgiving and as long as there is a lot going on, like lots of chopped up veggies, then I can safely add a larger amount of these nutritious pulses. In dishes like sloppy Joes, tourtière and meatloaf, lentils are added, but with a lighter hand to preserve the integrity of the original dish but also because there is not as much ability to hide much in them! Red lentils are great in dishes that get puréed and so you can hide a lot in your marinara sauce, lasagna meat sauce, and even in your broccoli soup.

So now, without further adieu, I give you one of my tried and true, family approved, hidden healthy meals. It is tasty, satisfying and really bumps up our veggie intake. Cottage Pie is one of my fall and winter go-to meals. It is economical, satisfying, and pretty darn tasty. Sometimes when I am in a hurry, I don't bake my cottage pie in a casserole. I call this my Deconstructed Cottage Pie. If you have a favourite Cottage Pie recipe (on this side of the pond we also call it Shepherd's Pie), you can certainly deconstruct your recipe too. 

This would also be a great recipe to make ahead. You could prepare the meat filling and do the potatoes up fresh on the day. The other thing I discovered was that this was a perfect recipe in which to hide lentils. I discovered that I could make this recipe more economical and incorporate some plant based protein with ZERO family uprising! Wooooot! 

There is a lot going on in the filling providing the perfect camouflage for green or brown lentils, so now I cut my ground meat in half and save the other half for another recipe and add in a cup and a bit of cooked lentils. To further hide the lentils, I found that mashing half the lentils into a chunky puree works like a dream too. Out of sight, out of mind really works.

Cook up your lentils; 1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 cups water.

Sauté your veggies. 

Mix in your flavourings. Remember my budget tip for extra tomato paste? The tomato paste balls are from my stash in the freezer!

Add your broth and simmer for 30 minutes 

While your meat and lentil sauce is simmering, prepare and cook your regular potatoes and sweet potatoes. I like slicing in 1/4 inch slices for quick even cooking. 

Thicken the meat and lentil sauce with a flour and water slurry. Whisk until smooth!

Mix in your frozen mixed veggies. 

Ladle a few spoonfuls onto a plate and add a dollop or two of both kinds of potatoes. 

Deconstructed Cottage Pie 
1 large onion, medium dice
1 tbsp grape seed oil, or cooking oil of choice
2 stalks celery, chopped in a fine dice (nice but optional)
2 parsnips, chopped in a 1/4" dice 
4 oz cremini or button mushrooms medium dice (nice but optional)
1 lb lean ground beef or pork, pasture raised if possible 
OR 1/2 lb plus 1/2 cup  green or brown lentils + 1 1/2 cups water 
1 tsp dried thyme
2 garlic cloves, finely minced or 2 tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp heaped Dijon mustard
2 cups beef broth, or chicken broth, organic if you can
1-2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, depending on personal tastes
1 tbsp Tamari
1/4 tsp ground pepper, or to taste
3 tbsp flour
3 tbsp stock or water water
3 cups fresh frozen mixed veggies (carrots, peas, corn and beans)

3 large potatoes, I like Yukon Golds or Russets
1/4 cup milk of choice
a drizzle of olive oil or melted butter
A generous pinch of Himalayan pink salt or sea salt

3 large sweet potatoes
1/8-1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
a pinch of nutmeg (I like to use a whole nutmeg and use my rasp to freshly grate it)
A generous pinch of Himalayan pink salt or sea salt
In a medium, heavy bottomed pot, heat the oil over medium heat and sauté the onion until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the celery and parsnips and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the chopped mushrooms and cook until the water has evaporated and the celery is tender, about 5 minutes more. Transfer to a bowl.

In the same pot, add a little bit more oil and then scramble fry the ground beef or pork and break the meat up with a wooden spoon. Add in the garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Cook until the meat is browned, stirring regularly. Add the tomato paste, Dijon mustard, broth, Worcestershire sauce, tamari. If you are using the lentils, add them now with the cooked onion mixture. Add the stock and bring everything to a boil, stirring regularly. Lower heat to about medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes. 
In a small bowl whisk together the flour and water. Make sure the slurry is lump free. Add this mixture to the meat mixture and stir until the sauce has thickened. If the meat mixture is not "saucy", add a little water or more stock so that the meat mixture is not dry and the sauce has a gravy like feel to it.
Stir in the frozen mixed vegetables and stir to combine. Bring back to the bubble, and simmer gently until the veggies have heated through, about 10 minutes.
While the meat mixture is simmering, get the potatoes going.  Peel the regular potatoes and slice into 1/4 inch slices. Place in a medium sized pot, cover with water and add about 1 teaspoon of salt.

Prepare the sweet potatoes in the same fashion except fill the pot about 1/4 full of water so the potatoes steam more than they are boiled. I skip the salt though. You can also cook them in a steamer if you prefer.
Cook the potatoes over medium heat until they are tender. 
Drain the white potatoes, mash and add about 1/4 cup of warm milk and a little olive oil or butter, salt and pepper to taste, and mash till light and creamy. Cover and set aside. Drain the sweet potatoes, mash and add cinnamon, salt and pepper to taste and a pinch of nutmeg. Cover and set aside.
When the meat  mixture is all ready and both kinds of potatoes are done, you are ready to plate!
I like to put a few spoonfuls of the meat mixture in the centre of a plate and a spoonful or two of sweet potatoes and then the white potatoes as shown! Tada, deconstructed Cottage Pie.


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