I walk into my daughter’s house carrying my reusable bags full of groceries. I set them down and we begin to unpack all the ingredients we need to make our dish this week. There are lentils, sweet potatoes, some veggies including onions, peas and carrots, fresh rosemary, thyme, and some veggie broth. Along with some tortilla chips and hummus to snack on while we cook. She excitedly put on a pot of tea, preheats the oven and grabs some pans and dishes to begin. OK, let me start from the beginning….
I was sitting at work and my phone starts to vibrate and dance all over my desk. I look to see what all the commotion is about. It’s my daughter and she simply says in one sentence, “I think I want to go vegan” to understand my excitement, this is a person who is 25 yrs. old and is the ultimate junk food junkie, loves sweets, take out, and those awful and unhealthy energy drinks. Although in her defense she has tried to eat healthier but, often falls back to the old ways mostly for convenience, time and expense. Now that they have their own daughter she make sure she eats right but often forgets about herself and husband who always eats on the run. After realizing that eating this way will not help her to be a healthy parent in the long run, she has come to me to learn about vegan dishes and a vegan lifestyle for her and her family.
So now instead of texting her back I decide to call her. I stand up holding my phone listening to it ring while one are is waving around up in the air and my legs are doing a non-coordinated sort of dance move as she answers (if someone walked in and saw me, they would think that I was either choking on something or I really had to go to the bathroom). I then very calmly say to her, “so you want to learn how to become vegan?” What I really wanted to say was, OMG really, I am so excited, where do we begin, let’s make this and let’s make that, we can go shopping, pick out recipes and on and on. But, once again very calmly I said ok, “what did you have in mind?” Over the years she is used to seeing me eat many different vegan dishes and even tried some herself. But, doing it herself would be a complete lifestyle change.
She tells me she wants to try and cook different meals on the weekends with me, learn how to make simple, delicious and inexpensive dishes that will last a few days for her family. What kinds of snacks to have and what to do about lunches. She was a little bit hesitant to try anything with tofu but, that’s ok there are hundreds of things to make without tofu. So, I told her calmly, I will look for different ideas that she might like and we can cook it together on Saturday. It’s all about learning and discovering one dish at a time. Once I hung up the phone I did another little dance and went back to work. That night, I made myself a cup of tea, got comfortable and got on Pinterest to look for ideas for our first dish. I hit like on soups, casseroles, salads, stir-fries, burgers, pasta dishes and all sorts of good things to make.
Then, the first week we decided to make some stuffed shells. We stuffed them with a cashew cream, garlic sweet potato pumpkin and spinach, topped with a marinara sauce and baked. She was amazed on how flavorful and delicious this was and it was easy to make. The next week we decided to make a huge pot of spaghetti sauce (or gravy for you Italians as my husband corrects me all the time) with some vegan trader joes sausage and black bean “meat” balls. She had this for most of the week with some pasta and garlic bread. Again she was really excited that it was not expensive to make and it was very simple to put together.
Then, she calls me and says, what about shepherd’s pie? I said, “of course, we can make any dish vegan and it will be healthy and it will taste amazing”. So that’s what we did and this brings me back to this week and preparing our vegan shepherd’s pie. This was her all-time favorite dish growing up. I made this comfort dish on a regular basis; it was quick and cheap on a busy week night schedule. Traditional shepherd’s pie is made with a layer of ground beef, corn (usually one can plain and one can creamed) and instant mashed potatoes with some bread crumbs and butter on top then baked. Actually Shepherd’s pie is also called Cottage pie. Back in 1877 shepherd’s pie originally and English dish was made with lamb and potatoes and cottage pie was made with beef. This was an affordable meal and quite popular with the poor back then. Just a little fun fact (JamieOliver.com)
Finally, once we were done about an hour late, it turned out to be a huge hit and was a more delicious version of an old tradition. This made enough to last a few days feeding her, her husband and my sweet granddaughter. I happen to mention to my husband that we were making this for our weekly vegan meal and he said, why I can’t have one to. So I ended up making 2 of them.
Classic Shepherd's Pie
2 lbs sweet potatoes cut in cubes (I left the skin on but, you can peel them)
1 sweet onion
2 stalks of celery
4 cloves of garlic chopped
1 bag frozen peas and carrots
1 cup frozen (organic non GMO) roasted corn
1 ½ cups dried lentils
4 cups veggie broth
1 tbsp fresh rosemary chopped
1 tbsp. dried thyme
¼ cup vegan butter
¼ cup bread crumbs (I made my own by toasting a slice of bread then grinding it down in processer)
2 Tbsp. cornstarch or arrowroot
¼ (may need more) nondairy milk
Salt pepper to taste
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