I spend most of my time thinking about what other people want to eat, which, in my line of work (feeding professional athletes in Los Angeles), generally means balancing someone’s desire to eat healthy (everything from paleo to vegan) with their primal need for food that leaves them comforted and satisfied. Sound familiar? I’ve come to think of this as a universal quest for balance.
Eating is emotional. Even when we don’t think it is, it is. We look to food to do more than provide us our daily caloric needs. We want it to charm us with its looks, tease us with its taste and leave us deeply satisfied. Sounds like some unattainable #relationshipgoals to me.
If we’re lucky, we toe the line between feel-good eating and eating for health. If we are not lucky, we learn this lesson the hard way. I certainly did.
I have spent the last decade inching my way towards better health. I started 70 pounds heavier, with esophageal ulcers, undiagnosed gallbladder disease, and a seriously unhealthy relationship with food. It took medication, surgery, and a complete rethinking of how I eat to get healthy.
The truth is that it takes a lot more than luck to eat healthy and have a balanced relationship with food. For starters, it takes access to good food, and being exposed to some body-positive messages. For me, it also took paying close attention to that little voice that lives in my gut. Shutting down the outside noise, learning to lean into my body’s cues, and focusing on the intersection of satisfying and nutritious foods is how I found my way out of a vicious cycle of poor health and self-destruction.
Actually, I am not “out.” I am climbing up the side of the crater, some days clawing my way to the top, some days sliding back down face-first, some days scurrying up the slope like a seasoned rock-climber.
Regardless of each day’s successes and failures, I’ve learned to live by a few simple rules that help keep me on track.
One is: keep the healthy food delicious and keep the comfort food nutritious.
Another is: eat more vegetables; the more plants on your plate, the better.
These two ideas are my guideposts. They keep me honest, happy and feeing good.
This Vegan Spiced Cauliflower Shepherd’s Pie hits all of those marks. I was inspired by this recipe on 101 Cookbooks (one of my favorite places to visit when I need inspiration for the nutritious and delicious). I riffed on this recipe by swapping out the lentils for cauliflower and playing around with the spices a bit. The result is a golden, fragrant vegetable stew tucked beneath coconut-kissed mashed potatoes. Veggie-centric comfort food deliciousness at it’s best.
If you’re looking for more plant-based or vegan recipes, check out my e-cookbook: Going Plant Based: 12 Ways to Get More Veggies On Your Plate.
I hope this hits the spot for you like it does for me! I would love to hear about what you eat when you need comfort food that won’t weigh you down.
- 1 ½ pounds russet potatoes
- 2/3 cup coconut milk
- sea salt
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced/grated
- 1-inch fresh ginger, minced
- 1 medium head cauliflower, chopped into florets (to yield about 4 cups)
- 2 roma tomatoes, chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground corriander
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- pinch cayenne
- pinch cinnamon
- 1 1/3 cup coconut milk, scant (the rest of the can after making the mashed potatoes)
- 1 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
- sea salt & ground black pepper
- cilantro, for serving
- plain Greek yogurt, optional, for serving
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Peel the potatoes and cut into quarters.
- Place in a pot; cover potatoes with cold water.
- Cook over high heat until potatoes are fork-tender.
- Drain and dump potatoes back into the warm pot.
- Add the coconut milk and season with salt.
- Mash until smooth --- there will be a few lumps. Not to worry. They add character.
- Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat.
- Add the coconut oil, onions, garlic and ginger.
- Cook, stirring often, for 8-10 minutes, until onions are very soft.
- Add the cauliflower, tomatoes, coriander, turmeric, cumin, cayenne and cinnamon.
- Add a bit of salt and pepper.
- Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes until spices are very fragrant.
- Add the coconut milk.
- Increase heat to high. Bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes until cauliflower is very tender.
- Remove from heat. Taste and add more salt and pepper as needed.
- Pour stew into a 2-quart baking dish.
- Top with the mashed potatoes, smoothing them out to cover all of the vegetables.
- Place dish on a baking sheet to catch any of the juices that bubble over during baking.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes or until lightly golden on top.
- Top with chopped cilantro to serve.
- A little dollop of plain Greek yogurt is also delicious.