Vegetarian – it’s not about finding a meat substitute

In our vegetarian experiment we have tried a number of meat substitutes. We have tried tofu, tempeh, and seitan. Now for the confession. We hate them all. No one in the family likes the texture or the taste. I have tried these in a variety of recipes and every time we all leave the table feeling disappointed and unsatisfied.

But there is good news. You can be a vegetarian and not eat any meat substitute. The trick is to find really satisfying recipes that focus on vegetables, beans, rice, and quinoa. This has been my quest. I have found some outstanding recipes that have quickly become family favorites. And we don’t miss the meat. Shepherd’s Pie is one of those recipes. I love Shepherd’s Pie in the winter. It is warm and comforting and a great excuse to eat mashed potatoes. Here is my version.

Shepherd’s Pie

5 medium potatoes
1/4 cup milk (or non-dairy milk substitute if you prefer)
4 tablespoons butter (or non-dairy butter)
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup baby carrots, sliced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup cashews
8 ounces frozen peas
8 ounces frozen corn
1/4 cup tomato paste
paprika for sprinkling


Preheat oven to broil.

Peel, cube and boil the potatoes until the potatoes are very soft. Once the potatoes are very soft, drain and then mash with the milk and butter. I use a hand masher so these are mashed rather than whipped and they have a little more texture.

While the potatoes are boiling mash the chickpeas and kidney beans together, I use a fork for this mashing and I don’t mash them too finely – leave a few whole beans.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onions, garlic, and carrots. Cook until the carrots start to get tender and the onion is translucent. When almost done add the cashews, peas, corn, tomato paste, and mashed beans. Mix it all together and cook for about 10 minutes to warm everything through.

Smooth it all out and top with the mashed potatoes. Sprinkle the top with paprika. Broil for 10-15 minutes just until the potatoes start to brown.

This recipe is hearty and warm. It is a fantastic comfort food. And you won’t miss the meat.

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