Healthy Butternut Squash Shepherd’s Pie

Ok, so you know I don’t usually include the term “healthy” in my recipe titles. For the most part, you can assume that what comes out of my kitchen is relatively healthy, clean, nutritious, what have you.  (Unless it involves wontons or the Superbowl, because for those I make no promises)

I felt that this dish, in particular, was deserving of the descriptor because honestly this is one of the healthiest things that I’ve made in a long time that will without a doubt make you want to go back for seconds.

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Obviously, shepherd’s pie isn’t really a new thing in my life.  We all know that I’m a big fan of casseroles for their convenience and affordability and ability to satisfy big appetites.  Plus, the leftovers are delicious and easy to tote to work for lunch, which is a big bonus.

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So here’s how to do the thing:

The butternut squash will take the longest to prep, so get that going in the oven first.  You can throw your garlic in with it at this point, too.

Next, get all of your veggies going in a large skillet.

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The funny thing is that you won’t even notice a lot of those veggies in the finished product, so if you’re cooking for picky eaters, don’t be afraid of that massive heap of vegetables.  It will be still be a hit, I promise.

Next, get the meat going.  Once it’s browned, add your spices and liquids.

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What’s awesome is that you really don’t need to add a heavy gravy to the mixture (like you see in a lot of shepherd’s pie).  There’s enough going on and if you let it simmer over very low heat, your broth and tomato paste will thicken up enough to simulate a gravy.

Here’s the fun part (and by fun part, I totally mean, “if you need a shortcut, this is where you want to take it”) – you can go ahead and buy yourself the pre-chopped butternut squash if you want.  I don’t advocate for many “convenience” items, but this is one I’m all for.

Scooping out the butternut squash when you’re as impatient as I am and can’t freakin’ wait for it too cool down = several near misses with steam burns.

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Mash that up with some roasted garlic, and set it aside.

Finish off the meat by adding the frozen peas and then pour it into a casserole dish (or pie pan, if you’re like me and never have the right size container for anything).

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Add the squash and gently spread it in an even layer over the meat mixture.

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Bake until bubbly and enjoy!  Well, I mean…let it cool for a minute or two before you serve it because that ish will be HOT.

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Oh yes.  Beeee-autiful.

Healthy Butternut Squash Shepherd’s Pie
serves 5

1 medium butternut squash, sliced lengthwise and cleaned of seeds (or a 10 oz package of prepped butternut squash cubes)
1/2 bulb (about 5-6 cloves) garlic, tops chopped off but still in the peel
1 lb extra lean ground beef (mine was 96% lean)
1 small onion, diced
2 medium carrots, shredded
1 small zucchini, shredded
1 cup cremini mushrooms, chopped
1/2 medium bell pepper, diced
1 clove garlic
1 1/2 cups beef broth
2 T tomato paste
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/4 t each salt, pepper, chili powder
1/8 t ground mustard
1/4 t rubbed sage
2 T grated Parmesan
cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 400°.
2. Spray squash with cooking spray and roast for 45-50 minutes, until fork tender.  At the same time, spray garlic cloves in their peels with cooking spray and wrap in tin foil, roast alongside squash.
3. While squash cooks, lightly coat a large skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat.  Add the prepared veggies (onion through garlic) and saute until tender and onion is translucent.
4. Add beef and cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon as it browns.
5. Once meat is brown, add broth, tomato paste and spices (except for sage), reduce heat to low, stir until paste is fully incorporated.
6. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until the sauce reduces by half.  If it starts looking too dry, add broth in 1/4 cup increments.  Add frozen peas during the last 3 minutes of cooking.
7. When squash and garlic are tender, scoop squash flesh from the shell and squeeze garlic out of the peels into a large bowl.  Add Parmesan and sage, and additional salt and pepper to taste, and mash well.
8. Pour beef mixture into either a pie plate or 8-inch casserole dish, spoon squash mixture on top and gently smooth into an even layer using the back of a spoon or spatula.
9. Bake for 15 minutes, until bubbly.  Let sit for 3-4 minutes before serving.

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Just for funsies, I ran the nutrition stats on this baby.

BS SP stats

Not bad, right?  The stats on the sodium may be a tad low in that graphic (only because I don’t really measure my salt and pepper because I’m a rebel and like to live on the edge), but overall I’m pretty proud of those nutritionals.

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If you’re serving this to your 75-year-old traditionalist great uncle, sure, you might get an argument that this isn’t the “right” way to make Shepherd’s Pie.  But I think this is one for the entire family – it feeds a crowd, is inexpensive, has great stats and (most importantly) tastes really good.

Enjoy!

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