If you’ve been following me for a while, you already know I’m slightly obsessed with sneaking vegetables into my kids tummies. It’s a little game I like to play and really like to win, and when I do it’s the very best feeling. This veggie loaded version of my mom’s classic shepherd’s pie is probably my best win yet! All three of my kids, plus my husband (bonus points) licked their plates clean without a clue to how may vegetables they were eating! Winning.
I grew up on casseroles. In fact, my mom was labeled the casserole queen by my uncle Danny. Her casseroles are award winning and for me they are the ultimate comfort food and instantly take me back to my childhood. I remember jumping for hours in a pile of crisp fall leaves or spending the entire day building a snowman family in the freezing cold, that feeling of coming inside to a warm home filled with the aroma of a delicious hot meal (usually a casserole)… to me that is comfort food.
How do you define comfort food?
food that provides consolation or a feeling of well-being, typically any with a high sugar or other carbohydrate content and associated with childhood or home cooking.
I’m not sure how I feel about this definition. Yes, to a feeling of well-being associated with childhood or home. But I don’t like the term consolation when referring to food, nor do I think high sugar and carbs provide us all comfort, although Google does. Give me a fire, fluffy blanket and cup of piping hot tea… comfort + food. Amiright?
A food is comforting because of the memories it evokes, and the emotions and relationships that we associate with it. Maybe your grandmother made you hot out of the oven chocolate chip cookies when you visited OR your mom made the world’s best grilled cheese that could literally cure a teenage broken heart and to this day still feels like a hug. Thanks mom.
Whatever that food may be, by all means don’t deprive yourself of it. Eat it. Enjoy it. I firmly believe all things in moderation. But if that hankering for your favorite comfort food just won’t go away, it’s possible to still fulfill our comfort cravings and stick to our health goals. Here’s a few of my favorites.
Healthy Comfort Food swaps
- ice cream sundae < acai bowl
- french fries < sweet potato wedges
- mashed potatoes < cauliflower mash
- milk chocolate < dark chocolate
- cookies < powerballs
- pasta < spaghetti squash or zoodles
- grilled cheese < avocado toast on multigrain bread
- milkshake < fresh fruit smoothie
- potato chips < kale or plantain chips
- salt < citrus juice
- whipped cream < coconut cream
- soda < seltzer water with fresh fruit
I feel no guilt sneaking vegetables into my family. None, zero, zilch. They eat more zucchini, kale and cauliflower than they will ever know and it makes my heart extremely happy. They have their favorite vegetables that the eat with no complaints (brussel sprouts what?) but the rest I have to get creative with. Here’s how I do.
- I add peeled shredded zucchini to eggs, soups, burgers, spaghetti sauce, casseroles and baked goods. It disappears like a magic trick.
- I add steamed cauliflower to mashed potatoes and smoothies and riced cauliflower to brown rice for a 50/50 blend.
- I add kale to fruit smoothies, frittatas, soups and salads… massaged with a little oil beforehand and it blends right in with the other salad greens. Try making kale chips, my youngest begs me for them.
- I also love swapping canned pumpkin or applesauce for oil and butter in baked goods. Not only is it extra tasty but it makes baking so EASY.
- I even snuck butternut squash into my families favorite Mac and cheese!!
Not once have they questioned me… well until they read this. LOL. Don’t get me wrong, we still serve vegetables with every meal this is just a little trick I like to use to get MORE vegetables into their tummies and IT WORKS EVERY TIME.
Do the mash
My family loves mashed potatoes and we eat them often. Not only are potatoes an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, they are also filling and inexpensive making them a wise addition to your weekly meal plan. I’ve been adding an entire head of cauliflower to our mashed potatoes for years and my kids (or my in-laws) have never once questioned me. The flavor is so mild you can’t even tell it’s in there. Pinky promise.
If you have an Instant Pot I highly recommend making your cauliflower potato mash in there. It literally takes 5 minutes and turns out perfectly every time. Just add your potatoes, cauliflower and 1/2 cup of liquid. Set to manual for 5 minutes and walk away. Do the dishes or take a mid day dance break while you wait.
As soon as its done, quick release and mash right in the pot. You will never make mashed potatoes any other way again. So easy and so tasty!
Fall food is my favorite
As soon as the crisp fall air rolls in, I am making all the soups and casseroles. This Shepherd’s Pie makes the rotation at least twice a month, sometimes more. My whole family absolutely loves it and I love that they are eating such a healthy well balance meal. There are more than half a dozen vegetables in this delicious pie. Did I mention I snuck zucchini in there too? Insert GIF break dancer here.
I swapped out the traditional ground lamb for lean ground turkey (technically making this now a cottage pie) and the flavor is just as, if not more delicious. The beef stock and bouillon keep the flavors rich while the turkey lightens up the dish a bit. It’s the perfect combo.
I buy the Simple Truth organic ground turkey from my local Kroger store. It has the best flavor IM(honest)O. I’ve tried many and I always come back to Simple Truth. It really is a key player in this recipe, so don’t skip it.
Turkey, gravy and vegetables all topped with a delicious garlic cauliflower potato mash and parmesan cheese, this dish is sure to be your new favorite comfort food. I hope your family loves it as much as we do!
Can you see the cauliflower and zucchini in there? Yeah I didn’t think so.
I always reserve enough to make individual portions for my kids. They love putting them together and having their very own pies. Chances are if they help make it, they are more likely to devour it too. Plus look how cute!!
Get your kids in the kitchen mamas!!
I’d love to know what tips and tricks you use to get your kids to eat vegetables. Leave me a comment below and share your tried and true with us!!
With the cooler weather quickly approaching cold and flu season is too. Stock up on all your families must have remedies now with these downloadable coupons from your local Kroger store. As always arm your bodies with proper nutrition, vitamins and supplements. You can see our families line of defense here.
Happy fall ya’ll!!
Healthy Shepherds Pie with Hidden Vegetables
A healthy twist on a classic favorite!
- 2 tbsp avocado or olive oil
- 3 large carrots peeled and chopped small
- 1 medium yellow onion chopped small
- 2 ribs celery chopped small
- 1 medium zuchinni peeled and shredded
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 pounds Simple Truth Organic ground turkey
- 1 tsp rosemary
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 4 cups Simple Truth Organic beef stock
- 2 tbsp organic better than bouillon beef base
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 3 tbsp worcestershire sauce
- 4 tbsp flour see notes for gluten free
- 1 10 ounce bag Simple Truth Organic frozen yellow corn
- 1- 10 ounce bag Simple Truth Organic frozen cut green beans
- For the potatoes
- 4 medium russet potatoes peeled and diced
- 1 head cauliflower chopped
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/3 cup parmesan cheese see notes for dairy free
- 4 tbsp earth balance spread
- 2 tbsp milk of choice
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1-2 tsp garlic powder adjust to liking
Peel the potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Place in a the instant pot and cover with cold water and set aside.
Meanwhile, break the cauliflower into florets.
Drain the water from the instant pot and add cauliflower to the drained pot on top of the potatoes. Add 1/2 cup of water back into the instant pot. Set to manual for 5 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
While the potatoes are cooking prepare the filling. Add oil to a large sauce pan and heat to medium. Add onion, celery and carrots and sauté until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.
Add the ground turkey, garlic powder, salt and pepper to the onion mixture and cook until browned.
Sprinkle the meat with the flour and stir evenly to coat, continuing to cook for another 1-2 minutes.
Add the beef stock, bouillon base, tomato paste, worcestershire, rosemary, thyme, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer slowly 10 to 12 minutes or until the sauce is thickened slightly.
BACK TO THE MASH: quick release the valve when cook time is up and remove lid. Turn the instant pot off. Add the earth balance, parmesan cheese, milk, salt and garlic powder to the potato and cauliflower mixture. Mash with. potato masher right in the pot. Set aside.
Add the corn, zucchini and green beans to the meat mixture and spread evenly into an 11 x 17 baking dish.
Top with cauliflower potato mash starting around the edges to avoid spilling over. Spread evenly with a spatula and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
Place on a sheet pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 25 minutes or just until the potatoes begin to brown. Remove to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
- For a gluten free recipe omit the flour and sub for arrowroot powder or cornstarch.
- For a dairy free recipe omit the parmesan cheese and sub for nutritional yeast. Replace milk with chicken stock.
- Sometimes I will add a sprinkle of cheddar cheese on top or mixed in the cauliflower potato mash if I'm serving to a crowd.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Kroger. The opinions and text are all mine.