I ventured for my first time to Balsam Mountain in the Catskills (http://www.trimbleoutdoors.com/ViewTrip/1325324). Boy, did the weather forecast get this one wrong! That morning you could certainly tell Autumn had left us; as we got closer to the mountain we could see everything above 3,500 ft elevation was covered with a fresh sprinkle of snow. As weather would have it, it started to snow as we were driving, which made us all a little hesitant about continuing on to our destination trail, but we’re troopers!
The area of McKinely Hollow was unrecognizable after Hurricane Irene destroyed the area in 2011. In addition, there were so many downed trees on this mountain from the Hurricanes. The entire trail head was rebuilt (more like a bushwhack until you met up with the original trail). Only a half mile down the trail is a lean-to, an area I played in since I was a young child.
The trail was beyond peaceful, following a meandering stream in the magical forest of the mountain. As we gained elevation, we noticed more snow, until the ground was completely covered. We were hiking into a winter wonderland and loving every second of it! The silence the fresh snow brings to the forest is the most beautiful sound and brings such peace to my soul. It was a steep, steady incline up the mountain (pictures don’t do it justice). When we reached the summit, the clouds parted above us giving way to blue spots and when we reached the view, the sun peaked out to warm our faces. The trees surrounding the view were snow-covered and made the most beautiful natural frame!
Needless to say, we certainly worked up an appetite after this full-day winter adventure! I’ve been working on my Thanksgiving recipes, and this would certainly be a delicious addition to any table (no one would be able to tell it’s vegan and gluten-free)!
Shepherd’s Pie Filling
- 6 medium carrots, diced (I used local Purple Haze carrots)
- 4 stalks of organic celery, diced
- 5 medium organic sweet potatoes, diced
- 6 organic oyster mushrooms, cut in strips
- 10 organic shitaki mushrooms, cut in strips
- 1/2 bunch of chopped fresh sage
- 3 cloves of organic garlic, minced (OR 2 teaspoons organic garlic powder)
- 1 medium onion, diced (OR 2 teaspoons organic onion powder)
- 2 Tablespoons organic olive oil
- salt & pepper to taste
- Wet ingredients:
- 1/4 Cup organic white cooking wine
- 1 Cup organic vegetable stock (or water)
- 2 Tablespoons arrowroot powder (plus more if needed to thicken)
Garlic Smashed Mashed Potato Topper
- 3 lbs of organic potatoes (I used Yukon Gold), diced (peel if desired)
- 1/4 Cup organic almond milk
- 3 Tablespoons non-dairy buttery spread
- 3 teaspoons organic garlic powder
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1 Cup vegetable broth (water is fine if you don’t have any on hand!)
- 2 Tablespoons raw organic agave nectar
- 2 Tablespoons organic balsamic vinegar
- 2 teaspoons organic brown mustard
- 1 Tablespoon organic GF tamari
- 1 teaspoon organic garlic powder
- 3 Tablespoons organic tahini
- ¼ Cup nutritional yeast
- 1 Tablespoon arrowroot powder
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
- Bring a large pot of water to boil. Once your water is bubbling, carefully add your potatoes. Turn your heat down to medium-high. Potatoes should be tender in 30 minutes.
- While your potatoes are cooking, in a large saucepan on low-medium heat, add the olive oil, garlic, and onion and saute for 5 minutes. Add the sage, carrots, celery, and sweet potatoes and let the flavors meld for about 15 minutes.
- In a bowl, whisk your filling’s wet ingredients together (make sure your arrowroot powder doesn’t clump!). Pour into your saucepan and mix into your ingredients. Simmer for 7 minutes, or until the sauce starts to congeal.
- Test a potato by inserting a fork; if it slices through easily and is tender, your potatoes are ready. Drain your potatoes and add them back to your cooking pot. Add the almond milk, non-dairy buttery spread, and spices and smash away. Let rest until you’re ready to top the shepherd’s pie.
- To prepare your gravy, whisk all ingredients together in a pot and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once boiling, turn heat to low and let thicken, still stirring occasionally.
- To assemble the shepherd’s pie: in a pre-greased 9 x 13 baking dish, add your vegetable filling. Smooth your smashed potatoes over your vegetables. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil over your topper (if desired; makes a nice crisp top) and bake until golden (20-25 minutes).
- Serve your shepherd’s pie with the gratifying gravy & enjoy eating whole!
To make this meal complete and balanced, I baked Nasoya Sprouted Super Firm tofu with 1 Tablespoon fresh sage, 1 Tablespoon olive oil, and salt & pepper to taste for protein (baked at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, flipping halfway through), and a farm-fresh spinach salad with creamy balsamic dressing to pack in iron, calcium, vitamins A & K, phytonutrients, and antioxidents.
Creamy Balsamic Vinaigrette: 1 Tablespoon vegan mayonnaise, 2 Tablespoons organic balsamic vinegar, 2 Tablespoons raw organic agave nectar, salt & pepper to taste, whisked together.
My dad left snowman cairns to lead the way through the snow.
Gravy adapted from Eat, Drink, & Be Vegan cookbook.