Low Carb Lentil Shepherd’s Pie (With a Southwestern Twist!)

When you were in school…I’m talking like, elementary school here…did you ever have to fill out those “about me” surveys that would ask you all of your favorite things?  Well.  I did.  I don’t remember much about them.  But I do remember one.  One questionnaire that I was filling out, stressing over the answers because, let’s face it….my indecisiveness started young.  As I sat there contemplating my feelings on colors, seasons, animals…I came to “What is your favorite food?”  Ha!  That one was easy peasy!  SHEPHERD’S PIE!

And I still adore it to this day.

However, Shepherd’s Pie as I knew and loved as I penned that answer so long ago…it may not be exactly what you are thinking of.  See, there are multiple meals that I grew up with that I had no idea my family made different.  Then when I hit 19 and moved across the country and started cooking for myself I suddenly found myself asking questions like “what do you mean you don’t put veggies in your spaghetti sauce?” and “you really don’t know what a German pancake is?”, or “you don’t put Cheez-Its in your scrambled eggs?!”  Or the question that is the subject of this post: “You don’t put taco seasoning in your Shepherd’s Pie?!”

Yes. You can mull that over for a minute.  You may not know how to feel about that, but let me tell you…it is GENIUS!  The flavors are PHENOMENAL!

Now I am grown up and trying to eat super healthy.  But the little girl in me still loves Shepherd’s Pie.  So I decided there MUST be a way to still enjoy this flawless flavor combo without the compromise on health.  We gotta kick out the starchies.  And why not try and make it meatless but still satisfying for all my veggie friends out there?!  It was a challenge I had to accept.  So here you go.  Welcome to my (very successful) experiment!

So, here’s what you need:

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 6 Tbsp Butter
  • 2 Tbsp Fresh Parm
  • 1/4 C Almond Milk
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1/2 lb Dry Lentils
  • 3 C Frozen Mixed Veggies (Or fresh if you want to go that route.  I was just using up what was in the freezer)
  • 1/2 Onion, Chopped
  • 4 Cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1 Recipe Homemade Taco Seasoning
  • 2 Cans Tomato Sauce (The small ones)
  • Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
  • Shredded Cheddar Cheese (To taste)

And here’s how you do it!

  1. Preheat oven to 350*
  2. Have you made mashed cauliflower before?!  Well you’re about to!  Chop cauliflower into small florets and place in a pot of water so they are covered.  Bring to a boil and cook until very tender, about 15 minutes.
  3. Cook lentils according to package instructions.  You should only need to boil them about 15 minutes, but it may depend on the type of lentil you ended up with.  Just make sure they are beginning to get tender.
  4. Prepare your taco seasoning.
  5. When cauliflower is tender, drain it and quickly add to a blender or food processor.
  6. Add butter, parmesan, almond milk, and salt/pepper to taste and blend until smooth and creamy.  It should look just like mashed taters.
  7. When lentils are beginning to become tender, drain and set aside.
  8. Melt a couple Tablespoons of Coconut Oil or butter in a large cast iron skillet.  Add chopped onion and cook until tender.  Add garlic.
  9. Add mixed veggies and cook about 5 more minutes, or until veggies are also tender.
  10. Dump lentils in and stir to disperse.  Cook an additional minute or so.
  11. Add taco seasoning and tomato sauce and stir in.  Reduce heat and let simmer for a few minutes.
  12. Carefully spread mashed cauliflower evenly over lentil mixture.  Top with shredded cheese and fresh cracked black pepper.
  13. Slide into preheated oven and cook until cheese is melty and buttery and everything is warm through, 10-15 minutes.
  14. Enjoy my version of a family favorite!

Peectures!

Lentil Shepherds Pie 1Start your cauliflower boiling!  Simultaneously if possible, get your lentils boiling too!  Both should take about 15 minutes, but check for tenderness part way through!

Lentil Shepherds Pie 2

Drain cauliflower and place hot in a blender or food processor.  Add butter, parmesan, almond milk, salt, and pepper and whiz until you get the perfect rich and creamy texture!

Lentil Shepherds Pie 3See?  I don’t know if you can tell here, but it is almost exactly the texture of mashed potatoes!

Lentil Shepherds Pie 5Make sure your veggies and your taco seasoning is prepped.

Lentil Shepherds Pie 6

Melt a few Tbsps of butter or coconut oil in a large cast iron skillet.

Lentil Shepherds Pie 7

Add onions and sauté until tender.

Lentil Shepherds Pie 8Add garlic and stir in.

Lentil Shepherds Pie 9

Add mixed veggies…

Lentil Shepherds Pie 10

How great are those colors, eh?  Cook for about 5 minutes, or until everything is tender.

Lentil Shepherds Pie 11

Toss in your lentils and stir…

Lentil Shepherds Pie 12

Pretty!

Add in home made taco seasoning…

Lentil Shepherds Pie 13

And tomato sauce…

Lentil Shepherds Pie 14

Stir in.  Reduce heat and let it simmer gently for a few minutes, or however long you have until dinner time.

Lentil Shepherds Pie 15

Yummmmmmmmm!

Lentil Shepherds Pie 16

Evenly spread your mashed cauliflower over top of the lentil mixture.

Lentil Shepherds Pie 17

Top with shredded cheese according to your taste and dairy convictions. 😉  Oh and don’t forget a few cranks of fresh black pepper!

Lentil Shepherds Pie 18

Slide into your 350* oven and cook until melty bubbly goodness ensues!

Lentil Shepherds Pie 19

YES.

Lentil Shepherds Pie 20

Is your mouth watering yet?!  My husband LOVED this, and he is a serious carnivore.  He told me that the taco seasoning along with the lentils gives the illusion that you are scarfing down beef!!!  MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!!!  Boom baby!!!  I hope you enjoy!

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Chicken Asparagus Stir Fry

So. When I cook, I usually end up using a “more is better” sort of theory. A lot of times, it works perfect, because you end up with a lot of flavor. However, it can also hold you back if you think that way ALL the time. Because often times, there is beauty in simplicity! Which is the truth for this stir fry recipe! You see…USUALLY when I make stir fry…I cram so many veggies in it that my HUGE wok is overflowing, and we eat it for days. I just get so excited about cramming everything I can think of into the pan. And it really, truly is delicious. But then…I met this recipe. ❤

I LOVE IT! Really. Its wonderful. And it somehow turns out so pretty, even without overflowing with all the different shapes and colors. The green of the asparagus catches your eye, and the perfect sear on the chicken makes your mouth water! You should try this. It’s great!

Adapted from gimmesomeoven.com! Lovely blog!

So, here’s what you need:

  • 2 Tbsp Amino Acids (Our better version of Soy Sauce!)
  • 2 Tbsp Honey
  • 1/2 tsp Ginger Paste
  • Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes
  • 2 Lg Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts, chopped into bite size pieces
  • 1 Tbsp Coconut Oil
  • 1 Bunch Asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 Scallions, choped
  • 2 tsp Sesame Oil
  • 1 tsp Sesame Seeds

 

And here’s how you do it!

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the first four ingredients. Pour half in a container to save for later.
  2. Chop the chicken and place in a ziploc baggie, then pour the previous mixture over top. Seal it up, shake it up, and place it in the fridge to marinate. Preferably over night!!
  3. Melt your coconut oil over medium high heat; it works best in a cast iron skillet! Plus it just makes it look that much more awesome!
  4. Toss in your asparagus bits and saute until tender-crisp and starting to brown; about 5 minutes. Remove from pan.
  5. Add chicken cubes to the cast iron skillet and cook until nicely seared and cooked nearly all the way through.
  6. Add garlic, scallions, and reserved marinade.
  7. Sauté a couple more minutes until garlic and onions are tender and smell delish….and make sure your chicken isn’t pink in the middle!
  8. Add the asparagus back in.
  9. Remove from heat, stir in sesame oil and garnish with sesame seeds! Serve with some hot quinoa, and spoon the pan juices all over it! YUM!!! SO GOOD!

Perfect hot meal for any season! And it is so kind to the ol’ body!

Chicken Asparagus Stir Fry 1

 

Whisk together the Amino Acids, honey, ginger, and pepper flakes. Reserve half, and dump the rest over the chicken in a ziploc baggie. Place in your fridge and let marinate for as long as you got…preferably over night!

Chicken Asparagus Stir Fry 2

 

Melt the coconut oil over medium high heat, and saute your asparagus pieces until browned and tender crisp…about 5 minutes! Remove from pan.

Chicken Asparagus Stir Fry 3

 

Add chicken to hot pan and cook until almost done, and you have a nice sear on the sides. See? Pretty!!

 

Chicken Asparagus Stir Fry 4

 

Add your garlic and shallots and dump in the reserved marinade. Cook until shallots are soft and chicken is cooked all the way through!!

Chicken Asparagus Stir Fry 5

 

Add the asparagus back in and stir it all together…take off heat, add in sesame oil, and garnish with sesame seeds!

Chicken Asparagus Stir Fry 6

 

Yummy yummy yummy!! Eat on top of a pile of hot steamy quinoa with the pan juices dribbled on top!! Hallelujah!

Simple Dill Cucumber Salad! (A “Transition to Fall” Recipe!)

So, to all my gardening friends (I know there are lots of you!)  Is anyone else scrambling to use up their veggies because the air is getting nippy and the frost is threatening?  At least here in New York that is how it goes!  Or maybe you are simply overwhelmed with cucumbers…cause they are lively little guys!  The first to sprout, countless little flowers that turn into resilient veggies!  I LOVE how well my cucumbers do…but often times feel at a loss as to what to do with them!

Well, here is the perfect way to use ’em up!  This was just so delightful!  A great side to a slab of meat, and did well for a light lunch the next day!  What was even better was the fact that my cucumbers were so crisp and delightful this year…ohhh the texture of this salad was amazing!!!  You’ll love it!  Read on!

 

So, here’s what you need!

  • 2 Lg Cucumbers, or 3-4 C(You have to scroll down and see how pretty my cucumbers were, I was so proud that I grew them all by myself!)
  • 1/2 Medium Red Onion, or 1 1/2 C
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 C Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/4 C Water
  • 3/4 Tbsp Agave
  • Couple Cranks Fresh Black Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Dill Weed (Feel free to use fresh dill.  I used what I had, and it was totes delicious, but would shine with a slightly different flavor with fresh dill.  Both will be fantastic!)
  • Tiny Dash Sriracha (I put it in everything!)
  • Tbsp Fresh Parsley (Garnish)
  • 1/4 C Sunflower Seeds (Garnish, my husband loves the crunch!)

 

And here’s how you do it!  (It’s really so easy!)

  1. Thinly slice your cucumbers.
  2. Thinly slice your red onion.
  3. Toss it all in a bowl.
  4. Combine the vinegar, water, agave, sriracha, and herbs/spices. (Minus the parsley.)
  5. Pour vinegar mixture over the veggies.  Toss to coat.
  6. Garnish with parsley and sunflower seeds. BAM!  YOU’RE DONE!  THAT FAST!  Woohoo!  Fun.  Easy.  Feel good.  I think this sort of thing is the real comfort food.  Because you don’t feel like death afterwards, haha.  ENJOY!

 

 

 

Aren’t those beautiful cucumbers?  I thought it was pretty good for an amateur gardener like me, getting on my hands and knees, ripping up a chunk of lawn, adding some fertilizer and throwing in some seeds!!  I really am quite proud!

Dill Cucumber Salad 1

 

Thinly slice your cucumbers.  Oh, and peel them to if you desire!!  I chose to 🙂Dill Cucumber Salad 2

 

Thinly slice your red onion!Dill Cucumber Salad 3

 

Toss it all in a medium bowl…

Dill Cucumber Salad 4

 

Combine vinegar, water, agave, sriraha, and herbs/spices.  Whisk together until everything is distributed, then pour over the veggies.

Dill Cucumber Salad 5

 

Toss to coat!  Garnish with parsley and sunflower seeds!  (I didn’t get a picture with the sunflower seeds because I forgot about that genius idea until the next day!  But Mr. Rodgers loved it even better with them on top, so you should try!  A great texture addition, and a good salt touch too!)

Dill Cucumber Salad 6Yummy!  Healthy!  This makes you FEEL so good as well as delighting your taste buds!!  BOOM!  AWESOME!!  YEAH!!

Okay.  I gotta go to bed.  But let me know what you think!  What is your favorite variation of a dill cucumber salad?

 

 

Chocolate Gravy and Biscuits (A Tribute to Grandma!)

I’m back!!  Yay!!

Those of you who follow me regularly will know from my Heart Talk post that there was a reason for my absence this past week.  Usually I am so good at posting three times a week, right on schedule.  However, last Saturday I tried to call my family and could not get a hold of anyone.  After calling seven phones and starting the rounds to try each number again, my dad answered and said he couldn’t talk cause there was an ambulance there to pick up grandma.

I was on the next flight to Washington.

Unfortunately, I missed her by less than half a day.  Fortunately, she is free from pain.  She is reunited with “daddy,” what she affectionately called her husband of over 70 years.  She is in the arms of the Jesus she loved with her everything.  She’s singing with her father again just like she did back in the revivals, only this time she’s joined by a heavenly choir.  She’s dancing on golden streets, free from the confusion that had just begun to cloud her mind.  She’s happy, healthy, and whole.  She has longed for that moment for years, and it finally came true.  I’m so happy for her, and even more proud.  She was an amazing little lady who  cooked so well that you would eat till you hurt, and then just a little more.  I hope to carry on that legacy.

So…that being said…I decided it was only fitting that my first post back be one of her most famed recipes.  Many a non-family member has been introduced to this beauty and never been the same.  A true Oklahoma breakfast right here.  I know many of you follow me because of my decision to steer toward health.  But, just for today…just for grandma…let’s throw caution to the wind just this once and indulge in her genius.  CHOCOLATE GRAVY AND BISCUITS.

This recipe is so good that if you simply mention it, people who have experienced it before can think of nothing else until it is in their belly.  In fact, that is exactly what happened while I was home with my family.  We had talked about how we had to make this, and my “big-little” brother Jesse over heard us.  The next morning he came home from work around 10:30, threw open the front door and shouted “BREAKFAST! CHOCOLATE GRAVY AND BISCUITS!!!”  After laughing and saying “nice to see you too Jesse,” mom and I got right down to business.  For Grandma.  And Jesse too I guess 😉  P.S…you have to see the super fun pictures I got of him enjoying his breakfast.  I have the best brothers in the world.

So Grandma, this one is for you.  Thank you for passing down a love for cooking, for showing me how to love people with my passion…for simply showing me how to love in general.  For all the laughs, and the wisdom too.  We miss you more than you know, but you have left an impression on us all that has changed us for the better, and in turn will change the world for the better.  This I am confident of.  Be it the world of food or the world of people looking for kindness.  You rocked both, and we will continue your legacy for you.  Love you!

So, here’s what you need:

Biscuits:

  • 1/4 C Butter or Oil (Or shortening)
  • 2 C All Purpose Flour
  • 1 Tbsp Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 C Milk (We used buttermilk!)

Chocolate Gravy: (Note…if any of you have a grandma that cooks, you probably know that measuring is not usually part of the process!  So all of the following ingredients really are “to taste,” but for your sake mom and I tried to measure things out so you had some idea of proportions.  Feel free to play with it, that’s what grandmas do!!)

  • 8 Tbsp Butter (a cube)
  • 8 Tbsp Flour
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 4 C Heavy Cream, Half and Half, Whole Milk…whatever creamy delicious substance you desire
  • 1 1/4 C Sugar
  • 2/3 C Cocoa
  • 1 tsp Vanilla

And here’s how you do it:

  1. It’s a good idea to start your biscuits first.  We kinda did it backwards, and ended up having to put Jesse on gravy duty to stir it constantly while the biscuits baked so we didn’t burn it, haha!  But at least he worked for his breakfast, eh? 😉
  2. Heat oven to 450*.
  3. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.  Add butter or oil, and combine with a pastry blender.  If you don’t know what that is, I have pictures if you scroll down!  I suppose you could probably use a fork as long as you end up with the same crumbly texture.  It should look like crumbs!
  4. Stir in the milk a little bit at a time.  You may not need all of it, you want the dough to form a ball and pull away from the sides of the bowl.  It should not be really sticky.
  5. Drop dough onto a cookie sheet.  Rub some butter onto your hands and pat it down to square/rectangle shape.  About 6 inches across.
  6. Use a knife to cut into two-inch squares, should be 9-12 total.
  7. Spread some additional butter across the tops.
  8. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes.
  9. While biscuits are baking, start your gravy!
  10. Melt your stick of butter in a large sauce pan over medium heat.
  11. Whisk flour into butter until thickened and evenly combined.
  12. Add cream or milk slowly, in shifts if it works better that way, whisking continually.  Continue to whisk until it is thickened and evenly combined.
  13. In a bowl combine sugar, cocoa, and salt.
  14. Whisk dry ingredients into the wet ingredients in the saucepan until evenly combined.
  15. Add Vanilla.
  16. Let sauce come to a gentle simmer until it is thick and creamy, being careful not to burn the bottom.  If needed you can add milk if it gets too thick for your liking.  Taste and adjust sugar/cocoa level as you see fit.
  17. When your biscuits are done, place a couple on a plate, cut open and smear with more butter (yes, I know.  Kirkwoods love butter.  What can I say?!  My grandma is from Oklahoma! ;))  Take a ladle full of chocolate gravy and dump it all over those biscuits!!!
  18. READY, SET, DEVOUR!

I know that looks like a lot, but it is actually crazy easy.  And you won’t believe how delicious the rich, smooth, dark chocolate gravy compliments the warm, fluffy, buttery biscuit.  Oh my gosh I am so hungry I want it right now!  Grandma, you’re a genius!

Pictures!  Starring Jesse Kirkwood…and the hands of Sandi Kirkwood!

Choc Gravy Biscuits 14Start your biscuits!  Preheat your oven to 450* and grab your ingredients!!  If you scrolled down because you don’t know what a pastry blender is, it’s that little wire guy with the handle in the front.  You can use butter or shortening instead of the oil, depending on your likes.

Choc Gravy Biscuits 15

 

Combine your dry ingredients!  2 C flour…

Choc Gravy Biscuits 161 Tbsp Baking Powder…

Choc Gravy Biscuits 17and 1 tsp salt!

Choc Gravy Biscuits 19When they are evenly mixed, add your oil or butter…

Choc Gravy Biscuits 20

 

Then use your pastry blender till it is about this texture!  Evenly combined and crumbly!

Choc Gravy Biscuits 21

 

Add buttermilk (or normal milk) in a little bit at a time and stir in until you have a ball of dough that isn’t sticking to the sides.

Choc Gravy Biscuits 22

 

Drop the ball onto a cookie sheet…

Choc Gravy Biscuits 23Butter your hands!  Yummy, haha!  Love those hands, my sweet mamma!

Choc Gravy Biscuits 24

 

And start patting down into a rectangle shape. Sorry some of the pictures are fuzzy, my mom just works so fast my camera couldn’t keep up, haha!!

Choc Gravy Biscuits 25

 

Get it to an even-ish rectangle.  Doesn’t have to be perfect!

Choc Gravy Biscuits 26

 

Cut into 2 inch squares and butter the tops.  Yes.  We love butter.  Scoot them into your preheated oven and bake until golden brown on the tops, about 15 minutes.

Pause for a moment to see the excitement in your family’s faces!  Jesse could barely contain himself!

Choc Gravy Biscuits 11

Choc Gravy Biscuits 12

Choc Gravy Biscuits 13

 

I love that kid, haha.

Now start your gravy!

Choc Gravy Biscuits 1

 

Gather your ingredients!!  (See my home made vanilla extract I made them for Christmas?!)

Choc Gravy Biscuits 2

 

Put your butter in a large saucepan!

Choc Gravy Biscuits 3

 

Place on the stove over medium heat and let butter melt.  Whisk in flour.

Choc Gravy Biscuits 4

 

Whisk till well combined and butter has an even, thickened consistency.

Choc Gravy Biscuits 5

 

See?

Choc Gravy Biscuits 6

 

Now slowly whisk in your cream substance of choice so that it also becomes evenly combined and a thickened texture.

Choc Gravy Biscuits 7

 

Now whisk in the rest of your dry ingredients; cocoa, sugar, and salt.  Though it is different than the pictures would suggest, we recommend whisking all the dry ingredients together in a bowl so they are already evenly distributed when you add it to the wet.

Choc Gravy Biscuits 10

 

 

Add Vanilla.

Now stir until it is thickened and creamy.  Here is Jesse on gravy duty.  Sneaking licks off of anything he can find…Choc Gravy Biscuits 18And this is Jesse when we told him that he still had to wait about 15 minutes for the biscuits to cook…

Choc Gravy Biscuits 27

 

Sad boy!  Haha!

Choc Gravy Biscuits 28

 

Keep an eye on the gravy until the biscuits are done!  Take the opportunity to pour some glasses of milk (you’ll need it), cook up some sausage, set the table!!  Awe, look at the brother and sister making breakfast together!  Grandma would have loved this! (And yes, yes I did get bangs)

Choc Gravy Biscuits 29

 

Biscuits are done!  Look at that golden brown deliciousness!  Hallelujah!

Choc Gravy Biscuits 30

 

Place a few on a plate, cut them open, and smear on more butter.  It melts and creates such a beautiful layer between the biscuit and gravy!

Choc Gravy Biscuits 31

 

Ladle on the delectable gravy!  Don’t be stingy now!!!

Choc Gravy Biscuits 32

 

Oh wow.  If your mouth isn’t watering right now…I don’t think you have taste buds.  Best.  Breakfast.  Ever.

Choc Gravy Biscuits 35

 

Now say a prayer to bless the food…

Choc Gravy Biscuits 33

 

Grab your utensils….

Choc Gravy Biscuits 34

 

And devour!!!  Sweet victory, hahhahahahahaha!  This is probably in my top ten favorite pictures ever!!!  I just keep laughing.  Disclaimer:  This meal is so good, it may just make you go cross eyed!

Choc Gravy Biscuits 36

 

Happy boy!!  Finally got his chocolate gravy and biscuits!!  If you want a smile this big on your face, try my grandma’s recipe!  You won’t regret it!  🙂  Here’s to you, grams!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heart Talk

Hey guys! I just wanted to let you know that this week may not be as consistent with blogs as usual. This beautiful woman…my sweet grandma Maudie Kirkwood went to be with Jesus pretty suddenly this weekend. As soon as I heard that she was on an ambulance I scheduled the first flight to Washington. I missed her by a few hours. But, amidst the broken hearts we are experiencing so much peace. She is finally with the husband she was married to for over 70 years, and has longed for these past 5. And she is in the arms of the God she lived for every day of her life.

I am proud to have her blood in my veins. She is the one who started the tradition of loving people with food. Till age 94 she served us a feast every Sunday afternoon. Roast. Muffins. Carrots. Beans. Mashed potatoes. Fried corn. Classic Oklahoma feast from my little Oklahoma Gramma.

So for now, I am going to squish onto couches with my brothers, listen to my daddy, hug my mommy, and toast to a beautiful life. Soon I will be cooking again like never before, in her honor. Thanks guys!

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Cranberry Gin and Tonic!!!

A special treat after a stressful day!!  One I was very thankful today.  Yes, through the stress today I feel an underlying thankfulness, which seems appropriate since cranberry is usually associated with Thanksgiving 😉  Get it?!  Anywho.  I am also thankful for cuddly puppies, gardens with spring mixes, and a husband that lets me turn our sectional into a giant bed and will sleep on it with me all night, just for funsies.  Perfect end to a tense day. 🙂  Care to try?!  As always, remember to drink responsibly.  😉

Photo (14)

So, here’s what you need:

  • 2 oz Gin
  • 3 oz Cranberry Juice (A little more if you want more cranberry flavor!  That was my route;))
  • 2-3 oz Tonic Water
  • 2-3 Lime Wedges
  • Ice

And here’s how you do it:

  1. Um.  I don’t think I need to explain it haha.  Mix and pour over ice and enjoy!!  Simple, right?!  🙂  What do you think?  What’s your favorite, super easy home drink?