Everyday Food's Cheddar-Topped Shepherd's Pie

Here in Kentucky, the weather has changed drastically in the past week. We went from 80 and 90 degree days to cold, chilly, windy and 50 degree days. With such a drastic temperature change I found myself craving comfort foods. After flipping through books and magazines I finally settled on Everyday Food's Cheddar-Topped Shepherd's Pie. Not only did it look delicious, but it was something I knew I could lighten up to suit my diet.

About two months ago I mentioned that I gained the Blogger 15. I decided that it was time to lose that weight before it turned into the Blogger 30, especially with the holidays fast approaching. In these past two months I have managed to lose the Blogger 15 and couldn't be happier. Ever since having my second child, losing weight is a real struggle for me. It seems like my body doesn't respond like it did when I was in my twenties and it usually gets the best of me. This time I was able to find my motivation and I'm so excited about losing the first 15 pounds that I'm going to shoot for losing another fifteen. This next 15 pounds isn't going to be easy. In fact, it's the same 15 pounds that I've been struggling with since the birth of my second child, which was almost 4 years ago now. It's a very stubborn 15 pounds, but I'm hoping that I'm a little more stubborn.

I lightened up this shepherd's pie by using 95% lean Hereford ground beef, 2 teaspoons of oil instead of 1 tablespoon, and 2% milk instead of whole milk. I made it a little healthier by adding more vegetables and using whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose. The end result was absolutely fantastic!

Cheddar-Topped Shepherd's Pie
Adapted from Everyday Food's October 2008 Issue
Serves 8
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hr

2 pounds baking potatoes (about 4), peeled and thinly sliced
coarse salt and ground pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (*I used 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil)
6 medium carrots, halved lengthwise, quartered if large, and thinly sliced
6 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced (*my addition)
1 zucchini, chopped (*my addition)
1/4 cup all purpose flour (*I used whole wheat)
1/4 tomato paste (*I used the entire 6oz. can)
2 pounds ground beef chuck (*I used 95% lean Hereford beef)
1 cup whole milk (*I used 2%)
1-1/2 cup shredded sharp white cheddar (I used regular full fat cheese)

Preheat oven to 450. Place potatoes in a large saucepan, and cover by 1 inch with salted water. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer. Cook until potatoes are easily pierced with the tip of a paring knife, 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a 5 quart Dutch oven or heavy pot over medium-high. Add carrots, celery, onion (zucchini & garlic if using). Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, 8-10 minutes. Add flour and tomato paste; cook, stirring 1 minute. Add beef; cook, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink, 6-8 minutes. Add 1 cup water; bring to a boil, and simmer 1 minute. (I found I needed a little extra water, almost another 1 cup). Set beef filling aside.

Drain potatoes; return to pan. Cook over medium, stirring, until liquid has evaporated and thin film covers bottom of pan, about 1 minute. Remove pan from heat; add milk and 1 cup cheese. Mash until smooth; season cheddar-potato topping with salt and pepper.

Pour beef filling into a 13x9-inch baking dish. Drop dollops of topping over filling; spread to edges with a spatula. Using a fork, make decorative peaks; sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake until topping is browned and filling is bubbling rapidly, about 20 minutes (if topping and filling were chilled, increase to 35 minutes). Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Notes/Results: Absolutely delicious, even lightened up! In fact, this meal will be something that I make at least a couple times this fall and winter. This is actually a really healthy meal with lean ground beef and lots and lots of veggies. The filling is really adaptable and a great way to empty out your veggie bin. If you serve this with a green salad you will definitely be getting all your veggies in!

Nutrition Facts as written in Everyday Food Magazine: 558 calories, 33.4g fat, 29.1g protein, 34.3g carb, 4.2g fiber

Serving 8, the Weight Watchers points for my lightened version is 9 points.