Vegan Cottage Pie ~ A Shepherd’s Pie Without A Shepherd

One of my favorite cold weather dishes is shepherd’s pie, has been ever since I discovered this bit of deliciousness thanks to a friend who had a fetish for all things English. My very first pie was made with lamb, onions and peas and it was incredible. Since then I’ve made it with pretty much every variation you can think of from, including all of your average proteins and sure, some not so normal ones.

Then I went vegan and since then I have experimented with every mushroom I had access to in Germany and now Romania in an effort to keep my taste buds interested. My favorite is portobello mushrooms because they are gigantic and satisfying as hell but I also like crimini and even white button, oyster and chanterelle mushrooms. They are a perfectly suitable and delicious meat replacement in a cottage pie or as I informed my father in law, a meatless meat pie.

For this shepherd’s pie, I decided to do a blend of chanterelle mushrooms and tofu crumbles because my husband and I are working very hard to get his parents to improve their diets and the tofu crumbles look enough like ground beef to trick their carnivorous brains into thinking it’s meat. I also added onions, garlic, carrots and peas with tomato paste and vegan Worcestershire, which is pretty damn hard to find so if anyone has a preferred brand, drop the brand or link in the comments section.

I started with the mushrooms first because they take awhile to cook and because I like to get them a bit crispy around the edges by heating them in a non-stick pan with no oil. You know how I feel about it, but if you want/need/gotta have oil, then do your thing. Just know that my chanterelle mushrooms are wickedly crispy!

As you can see, I made sure we were all good little grown ups by making a salad to go with the pie.

And the other perfect thing about cottage pie? Mashed potatoes. My potato love is well documented and anytime I get to have mashed potatoes is a good time for me. These particular potatoes included plant butter, sea salt, fresh black pepper and fresh parsley because that’s my favorite way to have them and because I didn’t want to go too ‘exotic’ because this was the first time the in-laws have had this dish.

I used the large 9×13 casserole dish because I’m used to cooking for two people with maybe one extra serving left over for us to split. Not because we’re constant dieters but because both of us are more aware of what we eat and how much, so I make sure to never make that much food for us because, look at the cottage pie, we will eat it just because it’s yummy and we can.

I was so proud of myself with this particular shepherd’s pie because it finally came out like a friggin’ Shepherd’s Pie!! Usually I make too much sauce for the veggie mixture and it never quite comes out like this. One time I made it so dry that basically crumbled when my hubs, Cos, served it up. He’s much better at that part than I am so when he was able to get it out in one piece like this, I cheered.

I literally cheered, y’all.

Of course we enjoyed it with a shot (or two) of Tuica, you know, just in case we didn’t warm up enough from the cottage pie!

Banana Blueberry Oatmeal Squares ~ A Plant Based Sweet Treat!

One of the things you should know about me is that I’m not that big into sweets. Once in a while I’ll make a pan of chocolate-y brownies to satisfy a craving for something sweet, but mostly I make them for the hubs. He has a sweet tooth the size of Alaska and he isn’t ashamed of it, so you can imagine that when we gave up animal products, there was an adjustment period.

Let’s just say that those early days helped break me of my sugar addiction, if I had one in the first place. Applesauce is not my friend. Sure it has its benefits, especially if you want to enjoy baking without the help of eggs, but for me it just made the cakes too dense and they were no good at all for cookies. Then I tried those strange combinations but many of those ingredients weren’t easy to find.

Until Arche VegEgg. A nice little egg substitute that works beautifully in cakes, breads and cookies. But if you can’t find that in your neck of the woods, there are plenty of options for you non-dairy pastry lovers!

There is no big story with this dish, honestly. I was in the mood for a rare sweet treat and there was nothing but a couple mandarin oranges and and a pineapple my hubs had reserved for a delicious cauliflower dish that I’ll be sure to tell you about later. The blueberries I used were frozen because this time of year in Germany, they are less than desirable but they were delicious.

What I used:

Bananas, mashed

Brandy (to mash with the bananas)

Plant butter

Brown sugar

Whole wheat flour

Oatmeal

Blueberries

VegEgg

Pecans

Vanilla extract

Almond milk (plus some for drinking!)

Making the squares is easy, just mix the butter and sugar, add the eggs and then the bananas before adding the extract. Mix the dry ingredients and slowly add them to the wet mixture until combined. Don’t worry if it’s lumpy, that just means it’ll be nice and moist when it’s all done.

vegan banana blueberry bread

I used a 9×13 pan but if you want thicker squares, use a smaller pan or readjust the recipe.

The almond milk–with no sugar added, thank you very much–was mostly for the photo but since the hubs has a much steadier hand, he was tasked with taking the photos and thus, chugging the milk when it was done. I like the almond milk for cooking and sometimes for coffee, but before I switched to a plant based diet, I absolutely loathed milk. I haven’t had cow’s milk since I was 7 or 8 years old thanks to an incident where the milk tasted/smelled spoiled. Ever since then, that’s how all milk tastes/smells to me. And unfortunately that has mostly carried over to being vegan.

Luckily I get my calcium from many other sources so I won’t get into the calcium absorption rates of cow’s milk but I will tell you that dry beans and dark leafy greens are a great non-dairy source, and if you suspect you’re not getting enough of it, add a supplement to help!

vegan banana blueberry oatmeal squares

Here’s a tip when cooking with blueberries: toss them in flour or cornstarch to prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the dish during baking.