Cold & Gloomy Weather Food: Lighter Shepherd’s Pie

by Maris Callahan on October 29, 2008

Today, it rained. From the moment I woke up to drops pelting my air condtioning unit, to 7 P.M., when I dragged my drowned-rat hair and squeaky rain boots up the stairs and into my warm apartment.

On a cold rainy night, after a particularly long and trying day, I, like most people, crave comfort food. What I consider comfort food, moreso than chocolate or ice cream or stereotypically soothing bad-for-you treats, I crave meals that I ate frequently as a kid. Specifically, macaroni and cheese, spaghetti and meatballs, grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup and sometimes, Shepherds Pie.

Usually, when I see a one-dish meal recipe that I can’t wait to try, I hold off until I’m cooking dinner for friends or spending a weekend with my family, to make anything in the casserole family. Shepherds Pie seems like a famliy meal, so I’ve resisted making it on my own, but it can easily live in the freezer for a quick reheated lunch. I’m sure there are ways to turn this into some sort of soup or stew if you were feeling really ambitious, but I’m more of a freeze-and-reheater than an experiment-with-the-crockpotter.
Shepherds Pie wasn’t even a favorite of mine growing up – I liked it enough to eat it – but it’s a favorite of my mother’s and therefore a usual suspect in the dinner lineup. We used to eat it with a condiment called Saucy Susan, which I thought was a funny name for a sauce. What was it exactly?

In any event Shepherds Pie is just as good without it. I made this from memory, loosely based on the recipe I grew up with. I substituted ground turkey for beef and threw in whatever veggies I had in the house. Though I kept it simple, you could probably experiment with seasoning if you like more exotic flavors.

Lighter Shepherds Pie


For mashed potato topping:

1-2 lbs. white russet potatoes (about 4 small potatoes, peeled)

1/4 cup low-fat milk

2 tsp. light butter
1/2 cup RF sour cream

For filling:

20 oz. lean ground turkey

2 large carrots, peeled and diced

1 tsp minced garlic

1/2 large white onion, chopped

2/3 cup peas (frozen)

1/2 cup yellow corn (fresh or frozen)
2 Tbsp. worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste


1. Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a large skillet with PAM and sautee garlic and onion until tender. Add ground turkey and cook until meat is no longer pink. When turkey begins to brown, add chopped carrots, peas and corn.

2. Meanwhile, boil peeled potatoes over high heat until tender. When potatoes are soft to the touch when poked with a fork, drain water and return to pot. Mash with a potato masher, add milk, butter and sour cream and stir until fully combined. Add salt and pepper to taste.

3. When turkey begins to brown, and vegetables are tender, add tomato sauce and worcestershire to skillet and stir until meat and vegetables are coated with sauce.

4. Transfer the meat/vegetable mixture to a 9×13 glass baking dish and top with mashed potatoes. Sprinkle with paprika and bake at for 20-25 minutes or until potatoes are firm and beginning to brown on top.

Serve with a dollop of reduced-fat sour cream and add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 6-8

I was worried that this would turn out bland, but it didn’t really even need condiments or seasoning. I cut this into eight pieces so that I could freeze leftovers, but I was hungry enough to go back for seconds. If served with a side salad or another vegetable, I think one serving would be filling enough for most people, making it a healthy, not to mention, budget-friendly, meal.

What are some of your favorite comfort foods? What do you reach into your fridge or cabinets for when it’s gloomy and cold out? Do you have a go-to recipe when the five-day forecast isn’t showing signs of sun for days?

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) October 29, 2008 at 3:00 am

With the wind howling outside and the first snow showers of the season expected at any moment, I have to say that your shepherd’s pie looks pretty darned good right now!


sforshner October 29, 2008 at 3:00 am

I love Shepherd’s pie – my mother made that a lot when we were younger too. I also love mashed potatoes with garlic (though my Irish mother never “tainted” hers with that).
I can’t believe I have never heard of Saucy Susan :)


Joanna October 29, 2008 at 3:00 am

I went the tomato-soup-and-grilled-cheese route last night, but I would have loved a piece of your shepherd’s pie! (I live in NY too and couldn’t handle the rain and cold yesterday. Yuck.) I never had shepherd’s pie growing up, but my ultimate comfort food is similar, though in a different form – meatloaf and mashed potatoes. My mom’s meatloaf was the bestest.


sharon October 29, 2008 at 3:00 am

I love shepherd’s pie on a cold, rainy day. Now that I live in San Diego, I don’t get many of those!
My favorite comfort food will always be a thick and creamy homemade mac ‘n cheese.


Amy October 29, 2008 at 3:00 am

I love Shepherd’s Pie, and usually make mine with sweet potatoes whatever milk-like substance I have around (buttermilk, soymilk, etc.) – it’s pretty, full of vitamin A, and delicious!


biz319 October 29, 2008 at 3:00 am

I just made a shepherd’s pie a couple weeks ago after having made pot roast. I just made up some mashed potatoes and then put it in the freezer.
You just reminded me that it is there – I’ll have to pull it out tonight to defrost!
Thanks for the reminder!


melissa October 30, 2008 at 3:00 am

I love Shepards pie- of course I make a vegan version for the Husband and me, but it gets the job done.
A new twist: My Mom made one with a sweet potato mash last winter. Also really good.
And for comfort food: mac’n'cheese, a warm chocolate chip cookie, or a piece of my mom’s apple pie…for breakfast.


Zoe Francois October 30, 2008 at 3:00 am

This looks fantastic! I can’t wait to make it for my husband, who grew up eating Shepards pie and wonders why I never make it!


Debbie Davis October 30, 2008 at 3:00 am

It’s getting cold here in the evenings in East Texas. Perfect weather to try your recipe. Thanks for sharing!


any little reason October 30, 2008 at 3:00 am

Shepherd’s pie is an ultimate comfort food! I’m also with you on grilled cheese soup…especially on a rainy day!


noble pig October 30, 2008 at 3:00 am

I love the idea of a lighter Shepard…the regular version can be hard on the jeans.


soulchocolate November 18, 2008 at 3:00 am

I love Shepard’s pie in all its different forms; be it for vegans or for meat-lovers! It really is amazing that the simplest of ingredients produce the tastiest pie around! Yours looks nice oozing with peas and carrots. Yummy.


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