Being: Conscious, mortal existence; life.
Every month we welcome two families, two people, two voices to share their stories in whatever way they chose. We hope that you find joy in their daily lives, and their simple habit of just being.
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I was twenty five years old the first time I tasted shepherd’s pie. My second son, Keats, had been born just a few days previous and I was most likely still in that sort of blissfully shocked state. There’s something about that second baby (and the first, and the fifth, and all those others in between.) A kind mama from my local moms’ club, a woman I actually didn’t know at all, brought us a meal that included a shepherd’s pie. I didn’t know it’s proper name, but I devoured that pie with the new mama hunger that seems to rage the first few weeks after birth.
Nearly one year later to the day, I bought Mollie Katzen’s Enchanted Broccoli Forest cookbook. There, within it’s pages, was a pie topped in mashed potatoes: shepherd’s pie. I read through the recipe, hoping to find a description of that babymoon pie from the year before, but it wasn’t quite right. So I did the obvious thing and made it my own, something between the gifted pie, the written pie, and the pie I wanted for dinner. Since then, I have made shepherd’s pie for dinner many times. Of my six children: four love it, and two hate it. Jonny and I both count it as a favorite, so the haters are far outnumbered. This isn’t a quick dinner, but it’s not that difficult to make either. Over the years we’ve made vegan, vegetarian, and grass fed ground beef versions as our diet has evolved. It’s great no matter what, unless you are my son Seth of course. The one warning I will give, is to be careful when you pull it from the oven. I dropped it once, spilling the contents of that pie pan all over the bottom of my oven. I cried. These days, one pie isn’t enough, so I double the recipe and make it in a giant casserole dish. I can only imagine the tears that would flow were I to drop one of those.
1) for the mashed potato topping:
~2.5 pounds potatoes scrubbed and cut up (any sort will do, peel if you wish)
2 Tbs. butter
3/4 cups milk
3 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
dried or chopped fresh parsley, to taste (I typically use dried, a couple good shakes of the bottle)
2) for the filling:
2 Tbs. olive oil
~1 1/2 cups minced onion
1 stalk celery, minced
1 medium to large carrot, diced
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp salt
black pepper to taste
~ 2 cups broccoli florets (I typically use two large crowns)
2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
1 cup peas (I use frozen)
3/4 cups grated sharp cheddar (optional)
3 Tbs. apple cider vinegar (essential)
protein of choice: one package of extra firm tofu, 1 lb. ground beef or ground turkey
1. For the mashed potatoes and meat or tofu:
Boil your potatoes until very soft. While they are boiling, start your tofu or meat. I liked to press the water out of my tofu, dice it into ~3/4 inch squares, then fry it-sprinkling it with soy sauce, and dusting it with nutritional yeast in the last minute or so of cooking. These days, I just brown a pound of ground beef. Set your tofu or meat aside when it is finished.
2. Drain the potatoes and add to a large bowl. Add butter, garlic, and milk and mash them all together. Add parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and have ready a large deep dish pie pan, or a 2 quart casserole dish of some sort.
3. For the vegetable filling:
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion, celery, and carrot and saute for about five minutes. Add garlic, salt, pepper, and broccoli. Stir, cover, and cook over medium heat for about eight minutes, stirring frequently. Add the basil, thyme, and oregano, and cover again. Cook for a few minutes more, or until broccoli is tender, but not mushy. Add the tomato sauce and peas, stir in about 1/2 cup of optional cheese, and the cider vinegar, along with your tofu or ground beef.
Spread the filling in the dish. Spoon the mashed potatoes over the filling. Sprinkle the remaining (optional) cheese on top and dust liberally with paprika. (I love paprika, so I get a little crazy with it. If I am being honest, I am generous with the cheddar as well.)
Bake uncovered for about half an hour, or until nice and bubbly around the edges. Serve hot.
(And, don’t drop it!)
This month we happily welcome Ginny Sheller as a guest in our Being series here on the blog. A mother of six, Ginny keeps her own beautiful blog, Small Things, where she shares her thoughts on everything from knitting and gardening, to homeschooling her six children and keeping bees on the side.
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