Vegan & Gluten Free Shepherd’s Pie

My best friend came to visit from Norfolk on Wednesday and she’s currently gluten free and avoiding dairy. Combine that with my vegetarian-ness and I suppose our dinner options seemed a bit limited. But earlier in the week, a couple from church had us over for dinner and they made a vegetarian shepherd’s pie that was delicious. I figured it would be fairly easy to recreate it while keeping it gluten free and eliminating dairy. I knew lentils were such a perfect way to make it more filling without meat, so this dish managed to meet all of our qualifications!

Also, it turned out to be pretty delicious.

shepherd's pie vegan and gluten free

Vegan & Gluten Free Shepherd’s Pie
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Comfort Food
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
This twist on a classic favorite is perfect for the whole family!
  • 1 lb yukon gold potatoes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 3 large carrots
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 cups cooked lentils (I used canned)
  • 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 4 tbsp earth balance butter (which is vegan)
  • ¼ tsp salt (plus additional salt + pepper to taste)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Peel and chop the potatoes into large chunks, then add to a large pot of water and bring to a boil. Let it simmer until the potatoes are soft.
  3. While those are cooking, dice the onion and the garlic and cook over medium heat in the olive oil, in a very large skillet or saucepan. (You’ll be adding a lot to it, so make sure it’s decently large!)
  4. Chop the carrots and celery and add to the skillet.
  5. Let cook for 15 minutes, or until the vegetables begin to soften.
  6. Stir in the tomato paste and lentils.
  7. Add ¼ tsp salt.
  8. Remove the stems, then roughly chop the rosemary and thyme. Add to the skillet.
  9. Let cook for another 3-4 minutes.
  10. Once the potatoes are cooked, drain them and mash them with the butter.
  11. I did mine in my kitchen aid, but a hand mixer or potato masher would be fine!
  12. Spray a 13×9 size pan with non-stick spray and add the skillet mixture to the pan. Spread it out evenly, so you have an even layer.
  13. Top with mashed potatoes and cook in the oven for another 15 minutes.
  14. Sprinkle with additional salt and pepper, if desired!

This dish looks a little more involved than most things I make, but the vegetable chopping went by quickly since I had Alexa’s help, and everything goes faster when girl talk is involved. It was nice getting to catch up in the kitchen while we cooked. We hadn’t seen each other for a couple of months and even though we do text each other almost every day, there is no substitute for catching up in person! Especially when it involves dinner…

gluten free shepherd's pie I will certainly be cooking this again soon! If you’re looking for a comfort food recipe that is still pretty healthy… definitely give this one a try!

Have your had any comfort food lately?


Saturday Recap [What I Ate]

How is it already Wednesday? I swear this week is flying by, and I don’t think it’ll slow down until after the holidays! I’m so excited, because my best friend who has been in Norfolk is coming to visit tonight! It’ll be nice to have some girl talk and catch up with her since I haven’t seen her for a few months. Anyways, since it Wednesday, the day for sharing what I ate, I’ll give you a recap of our Saturday!

Alex and I woke up fairly early and started the day with some breakfast and coffee. Eggs for him, Greek yogurt for me.


I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of Greek yogurt. It’s such a perfect way to start the day off with a lot of protein!

After breakfast, we spent most of the morning working on the basement. By working on the basement, I really mean tearing stuff out. It’s hard to really fathom how gross the basement was with these photos, but imagine a dungeon full of dirt and trash. That’s what we were dealing with. The woman who sold us the house left a bunch of stuff in the basement (boxes, palletes, etc.) I chopped up a bunch of palletes with a reciprocating saw and then used a shop vac to clean up the ceiling. We made quite a bit of progress. Alex finished knocking down the rest of what was previously a bathroom (from maybe 50 years ago) so now the space has opened up a bit.


I know, it’s still pretty messy, but we’re getting a little closer to being able to paint the basement! So don’t consider this an “after” photo… it’s an in progress photo.

We eventually got hungry so while I was making banana chocolate chip muffins, I also made a pot of vegetarian chili. Seriously, this is the easiest, cheapest, healthiest lunch ever.

crockpot vegetarian chili

See how easy it is? If you haven’t tried making a veggie chili yet, consider this your encouragement to try it!

We spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning up the house, since we were having some friends over for a last minute housewarming/Christmas party. By the time dinner rolled around, I didn’t want to mess up the kitchen again, so we ordered take out from Carytown Burgers and Fries. Their burgers are so big that Alex and I just split a black bean burger and an order of fries. It was plenty of food for the two of us!


Their black bean burger is my favorite veggie burger in Richmond, for sure.

The rest of the evening was spent drinking hot chocolate and wine (separately… not in the same cup) and eating Christmas cookies. It was so fun having people over to the new house!

christmas cookies

Once our dining room table arrives, I want to have lots of dinner parties!

Have you enjoyed any Christmas cookies yet?

Easy Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

I’ll be honest, I haven’t been cooking much lately. We’ve been graced with quite a few dinner parties, so my contributions have mostly been side dishes and wine, although I did whip up a batch of these simple sugar cookies for a Christmas party we hosted on Saturday. Our spare time has mostly been spent on the house, which has been totally fun, but isn’t the same as making something in the kitchen. (On the plus side, I discovered that using a reciprocating saw is actually pretty fun.) Yesterday, Alex and I worked on the basement, tearing down some old walls, cleaning out the dirt from years and years past. It was exhausting, but quite satisfying. It still looks like a dungeon down there, but at least it’s going to be a clean dungeon.

Anyways, after a few hours of working on the house, I just had to bake something. Luckily, my pantry was stocked with plenty of ingredients, so I decided to use up the bananas that were on the edge of being too ripe since super ripe bananas are perfect for baking! So I turned on the fifth episode in the Serial podcast (I know, I know, I’m late to the party… but I’m catching up!) and got to work.

banana chocolate chip muffins

These aren’t super healthy muffins, but they don’t have any oil or butter in them! And I supposed if you left out the chocolate chips, you could totally pass these off as healthy, but why turn down chocolate chips? You could also do a 50/50 blend of whole wheat and regular flour, I just didn’t happen to have whole wheat flour on hand. These muffins came together very easily though, and Alex gave them a stamp of approval as soon as he took a bite. (His only complaint was that they were hot… since I had literally just taken them out of the oven.)

5.0 from 1 reviews

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
Recipe type: Muffins
Cuisine: Breakfast or Snack
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 15
  • 3 small (or 2 large) very ripe bananas
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup almond milk (or regular milk)
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1½ cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup mini chocolate chips (or 1 cup if you’re feeling crazy)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Grease a muffin tin with non-stick spray.
  3. Mash up the bananas and then stir in the honey.
  4. Beat the egg into the mixture, and then add the milk, greek yogurt and vanilla.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  6. Combine both mixtures. Don’t stir it too much!
  7. Add in the chocolate chips.
  8. Using a ¼ cup scoop, add in batter to each muffin tin. It should make about 15 muffins.
  9. Baking for 10-12 minutes or until just brown.

I’m glad we’ll have these on hand this week, since I have a feeling we’ll be needing a lot of grab-and-go snacks. Between the last minute Christmas shopping and numerous Christmas parties, easy snacks come in handy. Besides… you can’t go wrong with chocolate chips. You could use regular chocolate chips if you can’t get your hands on the mini kind, but I’m partial to the mini because it ensures that every single bite has some chocolate in it!

healthy banana chocolate chip muffins

I can’t believe Christmas is next week! Time to start wrapping gifts and listening to Christmas music on repeat. 

Have you been baking anything?

Being in the Moment

Grab a cup of coffee- let’s chat.


You’ve seen the cute quotes on Pinterest and coffee mugs, about “being in the moment” right? Every time I see one of those I think “Yeah, I totally need to work on that” and then I open 9 more internet tabs and go about my daily multi-tasking. Sure, there are all those studies about how multitasking doesn’t work and your brain can’t actually process more than one thing at a time. Yeah, we all know we’re too connected to our phones and we consume more information now than we ever have before. And if we’re being totally honest, I don’t hate it.

I like that feeling of doing a million things all at once. I like the chaos of Christmas and the constant notifications that pop up on my phone. (Well, I like it for awhile until I get totally overwhelmed and then all I want to do is hide under the covers for a week.) Maybe I need to work on that whole balance idea?


I really do want to make more of an effort to “be in the moment” and pay attention to the people I’m with or the simple task at hand. While my day job literally requires me to bounce around from social media channels, my personal life doesn’t. And while I love checking Instagram while I’m brushing my teeth, maybe I don’t need to. Maybe it would be ok to blow dry my hair without doing calf raises while wearing Crest Whitestrips and reading NPR on my phone.

Are you with me here? But the question is how. How do I break the cycle of constant multitasking and stimulation?

Here are my baby step goals:

1. Put the phone down. Innovative, right? But seriously, I need to get out of the habit of carrying it around with me all over the house. I want to stop sitting on the couch across from Alex while we both stare into our phones. At the very least, I’ll attempt to keep it off the dinner table.

2. Choose focused activities. Things like working out or playing the piano are such a good chance to focus because it’s sort of hard to multitask while you’re sight reading your way through sheet music or running intervals on the treadmill. Now that we have a piano, I plan on taking advantage of it.

3. Make decisions and move on. Oh man this is one I struggle with and I know it drives Alex crazy. I’m embarrassed to admit how long I spent picking out a dining room table. I need to accept that I’ll never “finish” researching all the farmhouse style tables on the internet. It’s a black hole. I’ll never get to the end. That should free up a little more time for other things.

I’m sure this will be an uphill battle and I’ve got a long road ahead, so share your tips and tricks with me! Do you struggle with this, too?

How do you stay focused in the present?

Weekend Meals

This Saturday was a fun one, although we were both feeling a little sluggish after a stomach bug. I was itching to get out of the house though, so we started the day off with breakfast from Lamplighter. This is my new favorite breakfast.

Lamplighter breakfast sandwich For those of you that are local, go to Lamplighter and order the Katie. It’s the best. This was eaten with the largest coffee they offer. Give me all the caffeine. After breakfast, we went antique shopping. Or rather antique browsing I guess.

antiques We headed up to Ashland to visit Class & Trash but we didn’t find any gems. We also stopped by Goodwill, but didn’t find anything there either. (It’s probably for the best. We’re spending all of our money at Home Depot.)

When we got home, we worked on the house for a bit, and we didn’t really start to get hungry until after 3:00. (I know, those bagels are huge.) I whipped up a quick kale salad.

Salad Mix Kit By the time we finished lunch, it was time to get ready to go to the City Church Christmas pageant. (Imagine tons of little kids in homemade costumes singing adorable songs.) I dropped Alex of after the pageant and headed to the soft opening of Coopers Hawk Winery & Restaurant in Short Pump.

coopers hawk RVA I was greeted with a glass of wine as soon as I walked in. If only more places were like that. I tried a few different wines but the Lux Meritage was my favorite. It was fun running into Brittany and Alison and I was glad I got to catch up with Christina!

When I got home, Alex and I set up the Christmas tree and drank a mug of hot chocolate.

hot chocolate How cute are these mugs? They were a wedding gift from my dear friend (and former piano teacher) Christine. I think they’re adorable! We listened to a few Christmas songs and drank our hot chocolate while looking at the tree. Doesn’t get more festive than that!

What’s your favorite Christmas song?

Linking up with Jenn

Easy Salad Kits

This weekend went by way too fast. Luckily we managed to get some stuff done, even though we were both still recovering from feeling a bit under the weather.

Christmas Tree

We unpacked a few more lingering boxes, got the Christmas tree set up, power washed the deck, painted the rest of the trim, and made 3 more trips to Lowe’s and Home Depot. (Actually not kidding.) Oh yeah, and somewhere in there we ate kale salad.

Salad Mix Kit You’ve known for awhile that I’m sort of obsessed with kale. My standard kale salad is simply massaged kale with some garlic tahini dressing or maybe a little lemon juice and olive oil. Add a little Parmesan, good to go. But to shake things up a bit I love adding cabbage, carrots, maybe some shredded Brussels sprouts… so good, right? The only thing I’m not a huge fan of is all the washing and chopping. So when Eat Smart sent me some of their new salad kits, I was so excited. I almost feel like bagged salad kits are cheating because they’re so easy, but luckily, there are no rules here, so it’s not cheating. And these bags aren’t just your standard iceberg, carrots, and more iceberg. These have the dressing, the toppings, and tons of veggies.

Eat Smart Sweet Kale Salad The sweet kale salad that Alex and I had on Friday was awesome. It was packed with a bunch of super foods including kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, & cabbage. All my favorites for a crunchy salad! The Poppyseed dressing was sweet but not too sweet and the cranberries, raisins and pumpkin seeds gave it a nice little punch!

I first tried one of these salad kits on Wednesday and by Friday, I was already raving to my co-workers and my BFF. (Richmonders, you can find these kits at Martins, Columbus friends, you can pick them up at Giant Eagle, and the rest of you, check out the store locater here!) While I obviously love making my own salads, it’s nice to have an option for those times when I don’t feel like getting out the cutting board.

Eat Smart Kale Salad Alex ate his with a grilled cheese sandwich and I had mine with a handful of tortilla chips. Clean up was as simple as loading our dishes into the dishwasher! It left us a little more time to tackle some of the house projects on our list. (Who knew hanging curtains could take so long?) The house is coming together and I can’t wait to show you a few more pictures, soon! The master bedroom is almost finished and the sun room is finally getting organized.

Here are a few of my past kale salad recipes, in case I’ve got you craving this cruciferous green.

kale collage

What’s your favorite easy meal idea?

Linking up with Katie & Tina!

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Southwest Sweet Potatoes with Avocado Cream Sauce

I found myself with an abundance of sweet potatoes this week and my first thought was to just eat plate after plate of sweet potato fries. While that might not be the worst idea I’ve ever had, I figured this was an opportunity to get a bit more creative. I had some success with these black bean & sweet potato enchiladas, so I decided to try putting southwest flavors into a baked potato. It was a little easier than the enchiladas and didn’t require as many ingredients, which is awesome. And if you’re feeling fancy, this avocado cream sauce will take your baked potato into an extra delicious territory. I promise.

southwest sweet potatoes baked

5.0 from 1 reviews

Southwest Sweet Potato with Avocado Cream Sauce
Recipe type: Side Dish
Cuisine: Vegetarian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
This southwestern twist on a traditional baked potato is loaded with protein, fiber, and healthy fats!
  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • ½ cup sweet corn, frozen or fresh
  • ½ cup black beans
  • ¼ cup mild tomato salsa
  • ½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 avocado
  • 3 tbsp Greek yogurt
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Pinch of cilantro (optional)
  • Dash of salt
  1. Start by cooking the baked potatoes either in an oven or microwave. (I did mine in the microwave- just make sure you poke it with a fork first!)
  2. While that’s cooking, heat up the black beans in a small pot over medium heat. Lightly salt.
  3. In a small frying pan, heat up the corn until it begins to brown on the sides.
  4. When the potato is done, slice it length wise.
  5. Scoop out the very center and combine it with the beans, salsa and corn.
  6. Place it back into the center of the potato, and top with cheddar cheese.
  7. Place it in the oven on a low broil for a few minutes until the cheese melts.
  8. In a separate bowl, stir together the avocado, Greek yogurt, lime juice, salt and cilantro until smooth. You can use a small food processor, but I just did it with a fork.
  9. Dip each bite into the sauce or drizzle on top! The sauce will even stay green for a few hours, since the lime juice will help it from turning brown, as traditional avocado will.

southwestern sweet potato

I made these last night, although we’ve both been under the weather a bit, so we still have leftovers in the fridge. Luckily, I think they’ll be easy to reheat. I think I could eat the avocado sauce with a spoon, it’s so delicious. I’m also hoping the vitamins in the sweet potato will boost our immune systems back to health. This whole zero-energy thing is no fun. I also have a million things on our house to-do list that I’d like to get done as soon so I’m hoping this healthy food works its magic.

baked sweet potato southwest

Leftovers sweet potatoes won’t last long in this house! I might even go back to my sweet potato and almond butter addiction from 2011.

What’s your favorite baked potato topping?

Follow along: Bloglovin // Twitter // Instagram // Pinterest // Facebook

What I Ate in the New House

Phew. What a week! I was planning on sharing what I ate on Sunday, but Sunday ended up being a bigger adventure than we thought! More on that in a minute, let’s get to the food and link up with Jenn:


yogurt for breakfast

I had my standard bowl of Greek yogurt with berries, along with a new-to-me coffee blend from Blanchard’s, which is probably my favorite local coffee.

blanchard's coffee

This holiday blend is fantastic! I might have to stock up so I can drink it in 2015. I had quite a few cups throughout the morning.


Alex and I spent the morning at Lowes (seriously, I think I’ve been to Lowe’s 10x in the last week) did some cleaning, and hung a few blinds around the house. We took a quick break for lunch so I just threw some sweet potatoes and veggie burgers in the oven.

veggie burger vegan nut free

It doesn’t get much easier (or un-photogenic) than that. I was wishing for some avocado with the burger, but it was great on its own. These were Hilary’s Eat Well Adzuki Bean Burger- our go-to burger right now. I love that they’re in sealed 2 packs, so I don’t end up with half a pack of freezer burned patties.


It’s kind of embarrassing, the lack of greens in my meals on Sunday, but I’ll blame it on the lack of groceries after moving. After church, we made another trip to Lowes (I’m totally not kidding. Blind measuring is harder than you think, people.) and once we got home, Alex was starving so I dug around in the fridge and whipped up some macaroni and cheese. It was basically the most simple macaroni and cheese recipe ever. Sometimes, you just need some comfort food. macaroni and cheese

We wrestled with the blinds a little longer and I cleaned up the kitchen. We were exhausted when we landed in bed, but when the phone rang at 11:30pm, I was instantly awake.  My brother called asking if I could come stay at their house and watch my 18 month old nephew, since my sister-in-law (who was 9 months pregnant) felt like the new baby might be on his way! The short version of the story is that I made it to the house just in time, as my new little nephew came into the world a little faster than planned, so he was born at the house rather than the hospital! None of us got much sleep that night, since it was a pretty crazy evening. Luckily, my sister-in-law and my new little nephew are doing wonderful.

baby gideon

Now I’ve got two perfect nephews! Not a bad way to end a Sunday, eh?

Do you have any nephews or nieces?

Before & After: Living Room and Dining Room

I’m physically exhausted. This house stuff is hard work! But I’m so excited to share some before and after pictures with you. As I mentioned on Monday, Alex and I moved in last Saturday and after a week in the house and some lots of help from my parents, we transformed the living room and dining room areas. Ready?

The living room was very blah and the only thing that really caught your eye was the dirty fireplace. Yuck. Obviously we wanted to add a bit of color to the white walls but what I was really focused on was the fireplace. Believe it or not, that “before” picture is after Alex and I scrubbed the inside and outside. There was so much ash on the front, it was impossible to get it off. It looked a little better once we cleaned it, but it still wasn’t the look we were going for.  painting fireplace tile After some sanding, primer, and paint, we ended up with a much more modern fireplace! We used a special primer specifically for tile and then covered it with Sand Beach by Sherwin Williams. We only needed a sample of the paint, since their paint samples are pretty big. For the inside, we just spray painted it black. It took a couple of coats but we were able to do it with one can of Rust-oleum 2x spray paint. Since we were already adding shoe molding to the living room, we added some around the base of the fireplace to really bring out the color. We’re pretty happy with how this came out, since it only cost about $20 to do.

Here’s a bigger shot of the room, which is still a bit of a work in progress.

neutral living room colors

It’s kind of funny how many paint colors we tested. The one I originally chose ended up looking way too dark on the walls so we tried a few samples before settling on Maison Blanche by Sherwin Williams. It’s pretty light but I love how bright the room feels. (Not so much in this photo… nighttime photos aren’t great.)

The dining room was also a blank canvas so we decided to paint the top half grey and do white wainscoting for the bottom half. I was a little nervous about the color (it’s a bit darker in person than in the photo) but I love the contrast with the white trim. I’m so thankful for my husband and father who cut out all the wood for the frames below! So much measuring. So much cutting.

dining room before and after

Here’s what it looks like leading into the kitchen:

dining room larger shot

Now if I can get my hands on a nice big farmhouse table, I’ll be all set for dinner parties! It’s been an exhausting week but I’m so excited with the progress we’ve made so far. We also painted the master bedroom and got some great Ikea wardrobes set up, but I’ll save all that for another post. I think our next big project will be tackling the basement!

I’ll be back with food-related content on Wednesday, but I just couldn’t wait to share some house photos! The biggest challenge so far has been the amount of cleaning we’ve had to do. So…

Do you have any cleaning secrets? Special products? Favorite formulas?

Wild Rice & Butternut Squash

This was our first Thanksgiving in Richmond and it was wonderful! My lovely sister in law hosted us all of us at her house and there was enough food to feed an army! I volunteered to make butternut squash, but I wanted to make something that didn’t need to be served immediately out of the oven, since I knew oven space would be tight. I settled on a recipe that could be served at room temperature. I adapted this recipe from Bon Appetite and it turned out pretty well!

butternut squash salad

Wild Rice & Butternut Squash
Recipe type: Side Dish
Cuisine: Vegetarian, Gluten Free
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
This side dish is perfect served chilled or at room temperature. It easily serves 12 as a side dish so you can halve the recipe if you don’t need that much!
  • 2 cups uncooked wild rice
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 medium butternut squash
  • 1 pomegranate
  • 1 cup pistachios
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  1. Preheat the oven to 450.
  2. Bring the water to a boil and add the rice. Simmer for 45 minutes.
  3. Peel and cube the butternut squash into 1 inch cubes.
  4. Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray and spread the squash into an even layer.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping once. (You may need to roast it a bit longer, depending on your oven. Make sure it’s a bit brown on the sides.)
  6. Once both are cooked, spread out the cooked rice and butternut squash onto foil and let cool.
  7. Remove the seeds from the pomegranate. (It’s easier if you do it while it’s submerged in water!)
  8. Mix together the olive oil, honey, and vinegar.
  9. Toss all the ingredients together in a bowl and serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.

wild rice salad

We had a huge Thanksgiving dinner with my family and my sister in laws family so it was fun being together! The mashed potatoes and cornbread stuffing we’re ah-maze-ing. Who needs turkey when you have amazing side dishes?

I’m thinking about braving a bit of shopping today to try to knock out my Christmas shopping and pick up a few things for the house. But first, I need some more coffee.


Wish me luck. I’m hoping to show you some before & after pictures of the house on Monday, so hopefully we can get the house put together in some sort of order. Right now, there are boxes and tools everywhere, but things are coming together!

What was the best dish you ate yesterday?

Linking up with Semi-Healthy Saturday.