Hannah: No – you can eat so many things! Just no sugar, dairy, alcohol, grains, legumes, or processed foods.
James: So… can I have granola bars?
James: How about beef jerky?
James: Pork rinds?
Hannah: No- and that’s disgusting.
James: I don’t get to have anyyyythingggggg. Basically my life will be all black coffee and bland crackers.
Hannah: Um, no – you can’t have crackers.
James: WHAT. So basically we are just surviving on pretension and snobbery… right?
If I had to estimate, the above conversation, in some version, happens approximately every day in our home as we both forge forward in this Whole30 business. I know that you are just dying for our full play-by-play of these thirty days, and I promise that it shall indeed come eventually, but for now just know that I feel great… other than when I feel hungry. Until we mastered the art of getting enough protein and calories in eating mostly veggies and stuff, we both felt pretty hungry and annoyed for the first couple days. But now, now we are champions.There are many great recipes clogging up the internet and boasting about being Whole30 appropriate. Some of them look good, while others look like suspicious blobs of food punctuated with strange colors and things like “coconut aminos.” I do not know what coconut aminos are, nor will you find them in my kitchen, my mother’s kitchen, or the shelves of a local Piggly-Wiggly (may they rest in peace). Which is to say, I promptly skip recipes that involve huge departures from standard practice and normal ingredients.
This is not to say that our past 16 days have not been without great food exploration and discovery. They have. But I draw the line at the point of Whole30 meals not resembling anything I would want to eat at any other point in my life. We have eaten some truly delicious things these past weeks, but as we moved into the end of the second week, I just started craving comfort food, the type of food that you want to eat on cold nights, curled in front of the fireplace (or “Fireplace for your Home” on Netflix for those of us apartment folk). Luckily, through a fellow 30’er on Instagram, I stumbled across Shepherd’s Pie. Y’ALL- SHEPHERD’S PIE.
There are two types of people in the world: Those who believe that casseroles are God’s gift to humanity, and those who disdain their food being presented in homogenous piles. I belong firmly in the first camp, having grown on the promise of potlucks and plates where everything was held together by a sticky layer of cheese. Why make everything separate when you can stack it all on top of each other and bake it with cheese? Of course, it doesn’t take the science of the Whole30 to let you know that casseroles are almost always bad for you. Therein lies their power. But the temptation of the one pot dish that cooks long enough for you to clean up the kitchen — I just can’t pass that up.
Cue Shepherd’s pie.For a long time, I didn’t know I loved Shepherd’s pie. It’s like a casserole without cheese, and that just sounds like a terrible idea. But then I had a Pie Encounter at the Temple of Gluttony, otherwise known as the Cheesecake Factory and I have never looked back. I unabashedly love chain restaurants, and if the Cheesecake Factory is the pinnacle of chain dining success and accomplishment, their shepherd’s pie is the pièce de résistance. The sauce around the veggies! The creamy potatoes on top! The total coziness that eating Shepherd’s pie inspires! I have never even tried to replicate their recipe because it is so good. Yet when I saw someone eating it on Instagram, I was intrigued. I was also starving, so they could have posted a big bowl of Stone Soup and I would have licked the phone. If you are Whole30-ing and are tired of endless days of chicken, eggs, and avocados, you should make this. If you are looking for an easy dish that you can assemble one day and bake days later, you should make this. If you are trying to sneak more veggies into someone’s diet and know that the mashed potatoes will distract them, you should make this. If you are budgeting but still want to make something impressive, you should make this. If you like good leftovers, you should make this. If it is winter where you are and you are hungry, you should make this. If you live right next to a Cheesecake Factory, aren’t trying to eat healthy, and have lots of money, you should just go get theirs to go. Or just make this one and then go pick up some cheesecake for dessert.
Whole30 Shepherd’s Pie*
- 3 Large potatoes/ 4 small ones
- 3 tablespoons ghee, divided
- 2-3 heap tablespoons coconut milk (make sure it Whole30 compliant)
- 1½ teaspoons sea salt, divided
- 2 tablespoons black pepper, divided
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1.5 cup of carrots, diced
- 1.5 cup of celery, diced
- 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
- 1 tablespoon of compliant tomato paste
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ cup chicken broth or bone broth
- 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1.5 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
- 1.5 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
- Place the potatoes in a large stockpot and fill with water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 15 minutes, or until fork tender. Drain well, place in a bowl and add 2 TBS of ghee and coconut milk and mash until smooth. Season generously with salt and pepper and set aside.
- In a skillet brown the beef until almost all of the pink is gone, about 7 minutes. Drain and set aside. In the same skillet add the remaining 1 TBS of ghee and wait until melted. Add in carrots, onion, and celery. After about 5 minutes, add mushrooms. Cover and cook on medium heat until they become tender, 8 more minutes.
- Next, stir in the tomato paste and garlic and sauté for another 2 minutes. Pour in the chicken broth, balsamic vinegar, herbs, and more salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Add back in the ground beef and mix until incorporated.
- Transfer to an over safe dish – I used a deep 9 inch pie plate. Pour the meat mixture in and top with the potato mixture, distributing evenly across the top. You can either bake it now (450 degrees for 30 minutes) or you can keep it in the fridge for a couple of days and bake it later. The first time I made this, mine leaked out and made a mess in my oven, prompting my smoke alarm to scream for a solid ten minutes. The second time I was smart and roasted veggies as a side in the rack below. Caught all drippings, spared the neighbors, and the veggies were amazing.
- VARIATIONS: If you are a white potato-hater, you could try parsnips or sweet potatoes, adjusting liquid and seasonings as needed. The Whole30 used to ban white potatoes, but started allowing them in August 2014 and I am all about that (in moderation), but you can be a purist if you so choose. I just feel like orange sweet potatoes on top looked really weird. If you are a vegetarian, double all the veggies, use vegetable broth, and leave out the meat. It should still taste really good, though you may want to bulk up on spices to account for the missing meat juices.
*A friend recommended this recipe on Instagram and I adapted from Brooke, @bitsofbbskitchen. Her Instagram feed is the most consistently awesome Whole30 recipe source I have found. So many hearty, cozy, comfort food favs!