As many of you know by now, I grew up in the South. I also attended public elementary school at a time in our history when the school lunch staff still cooked the food from scratch. I can remember seeing staff peeling potatoes and opening large cans of green beans, leaving them to drain in colanders. They cooked all the food in gigantic stock pots or baking pans. I have many a memory of a virtually homemade-like breakfast or lunch.

Favorite breakfast? It was at a small elementary school in a very rural town. It was the most perfectly fluffy scrambled eggs, a piece of toast with a little butter and jelly, and smooth, perfectly cooked grits with butter and salt.

Favorite lunch? It was a small elementary school in a somewhat small, agricultural town. And it was Shepherd’s Pie. A delicious Southern dish. For those of the unaware, Shepherd’s Pie is seasoned and fried ground beef, cooked with chopped onion and canned, chopped tomatoes. The meat mixture is spread into a large, shallow, baking dish. Then a layer of mashed potatoes is added, with shredded cheese mixed in.

I know,  not the healthiest of meals… but as a kid, I looked forward to bi-monthly Shepherd’s Pie day. Carb heavy, but loaded with protein.

I used to occasionally make my own Shepherd’s Pie, but once we changed our diet back in 2012… Shepherd’s Pie was off the menu. Well, until I found this cookbook: 365 Vegetarian Meals by Better Homes & Gardens. They have a vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie recipe, that is, dare I say it? It is better than the recipe I remember. *gasp*

img_0849 img_0848

The official name: Lentil & Veggie Shepherd’s Pie

WARNING: This is a weekend dish. It takes 2 hours to prep and cook. AND requires 2 people (plus wine) for sanity and efficiency.

BUT… it is well worth the time, effort, and wine. 🙂

Here is a breakdown (with pics) of the ingredients and steps:

Parsnips, Carrots, and (red) onion
fresh kale. Yum.
brown lentils. rinsed and drained.


  • When choosing parsnips, go with the smaller ones, they are less bitter.
  • Stop peeling all those root veggies! Invest in a vegetable scrub brush. I don’t bother peeling carrots, parsnips, or potatoes anymore… (Make it a point though to clean the vegetable scrub brush regularly and replace it when it is beyond the ‘cleanable’ point.)
  • Brown lentils, cooked and mashed are a wonderful protein replacement for beef. We have another Engine2 Recipe, Lynn’s Meatloaf, for super-tasty, fool-your-friends-and-family meatless meatloaf.  (Please see more recipes and meal plans at – their website was a shining beam of sanity in the early years of our ordeal.)

THE (okay, very lengthy) PREP TIME:

Open a bottle of this first:

Yes... it seems that, despite the general terribleness of that year, the 2012 bottles, to-date, is THE best version of this chianti (still one of our faves, even though 2012 is sadly out-of-stock). Angst makes the grapes sweeter? Hmm.... 2016 should be an interesting stock.
Yes… it seems that, despite the general terribleness of that year, the 2012 bottles, to-date, are THE best version of this chianti (still one of our faves, even though 2012 is sadly out-of-stock). Angst makes the grapes sweeter? Hmm…. 2016 should be an interesting stock.

The chopping, measuring, mincing, crushing, and slicing begins:

Great trick from this book: Want to flavor the potatoes? Boil the garlic cloves with them – and then mash it all together. Yum.
Lentils, veggie broth, and minced garlic. (Yes, there are 6 or 7 cloves of garlic in this recipe. But who’s counting?)

Trick? Start the potatoes and lentils boiling FIRST.

Then… continue on:

img_0860 img_0861

Chopped kale, diced and sliced carrots, chopped onion, and cubed parsnips. A can of chopped tomatoes (un-drained) and crushed herbs per the recipe.

I found this cute little mortar and pestle at Meijer’s some years ago. It’s used a lot. I have a slightly larger one that I found at Williams-Sonoma (on sale).


Once the lentils are cooked, you can add in the chopped vegetables. When they are finished, hopefully you don’t end up having this debate.

We have a 2.75 quart glass baking dish. We ALWAYS use it for this recipe. However, somehow, we always have the “are-you-sure-all-this-will-fit-in-that” debate:


For the record, and posterity… and the next time we make Shepherd’s Pie…





But… just in case… make sure you put a cookie sheet under the pan.

And without further ado… I give you Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie:


We usually have a salad, sautéed green beans, or some kind of steamed vegetable with it. Warning 2: This makes A LOT of food. This one 2.75 quart dish makes 8-10 servings.

Also, the only aspect of this recipe that makes it vegetarian versus vegan? Parmesan cheese and (1%) milk is mixed in with the mashed potatoes. (We use non-hydrogenated oil margarine, not butter.) Omitting the parmesan and milk or replacing them with a soy/nut-based cheese product should not affect the taste negatively… so feel free to explore. (And let me know how it goes!)

As always, I hope this helps you to be more brave in the kitchen and try some fruit or vegetable you have never tried before.

Remember… it isn’t the meat that makes the meal. It’s the herbs, spices, and seasonings, as well as the way the food is cooked that gives our meals flavor. The longer it takes to cook? Well, the more love and heart goes into it. 🙂