Sweet Potato and Turkey Shepherds Pie and About That Long Absence….
Another long hiatus from blogging, it would seem. And while I can’t guarantee this post is the start of a new, more frequent blogging trend, I *can* tell you with some certainty that I think the valley I’ve been walking through for some time is finally ending.
I’m not going to lie: this past year was hard. There have been a lot of breakthroughs, a lot of light, a lot of love, but in it, at the core of it all, was healing. And healing, if its true, always seems to make more hurt at the outset.
I still tap out my thoughts every now and again in a book. Perhaps one day I’ll publish it, for most of them are not thoughts I want to delve too deeply with here. But for now, let me tell you that most recently I learned that I had begun to guard my heart in an unhealthy way, as if by building up a wall around parts of it I could keep out more pain. It’s something I’ve never done before, as I’ve always shared and given freely of myself, even when it hurt me.
But this part of my heart I had been guarding had to do with Chloe. It’s hard for a mother to admit, but I was, with the help of our therapist, finally able to admit to myself that what Chloe and I have gone through these past four years was painful for me. I kept pushing it down, because I worried that focusing on what it did to me would take away what it was doing to her and how I could help her. And for awhile that was true. I had to hone in and use every ounce of my intuition to chase every possible answer and soothe in any way I could.
But once the answers started coming. And the professionals. And she started kindergarten. I was left with a shocking emptiness filled only with painful memories. I felt cheated – robbed, really – of all the fun things I’d wanted to do with her while she was in preschool. Things we couldn’t do because of her issues. I felt exhausted, just worn so thin from the fight of it all, that it rubbed me raw. I felt isolated. So very alone in this painful emptiness. And then the bitterness set in and became a poor bedfellow.
And the worst part was that, because Brian and I, while both incredibly strong, are also incredibly different in our strengths, we have disagreed on how best to handle and help Chloe through all of this. And that disagreement gave birth to anxiety, stress, fear, anger, frustration, and hurt.
Recently I had to learn to let go of that wall around the big Chloe section of my heart. I didn’t want to. I fought tooth and nail to keep it, in fact. And tearing down that wall was, in a lot of ways, the absolute most painful thing I have ever had to do. In the end, it felt like I ripped out that part of my heart and offered it up on a silver platter.
Yet in tearing down those walls, I gained healing. And I know that was part of God’s desire in this all along. I can look back on Chloe’s preschool years and find the happy and the joy, I can see past the pain to all the good it has brought to us. And I can be, for the first time ever, thankful for this journey. I would not be the mother I am, and she would not be the kind, compassionate, amazing little girl she is, without it.
And because I was healing and hurting, my husband – my amazing and strong husband – finally got to see past his own frustration at being unable to “fix” my feelings for me, and unable to “fix” Chloe’s problems for her, and instead for the first time really started to try to understand it all. And in doing that, we healed years of communication struggles between us.
So here I am! Unguarded. Free. Healed. Whole. Loved and Loving. And I’m ready to write about our journey again.
On a brief bit of news, we have re-done Chloe’s bedroom now, having taken a brief hiatus from finishing our entire home remodel (yes the kitchen remodel became “let’s remodel the entire house all at once), so I will write a reveal post about that soon. And, believe it or not, we are coming to a close on the bulk of the remodel shortly and I can actually reveal that soon, as well.
But for now, a recipe. I continue to cook predominantly dairy-free, unless it’s a meal made special for just Brian and I, and this one is no exception.
Over the weekend it was rainy and gloomy, and we had been working ourselves ragged trying to finish-up the pantry, and so on a whim, I just decided we needed some good old-fashioned comfort food. And it was delicious. So delicious Brian had seconds. 🙂
Turkey and Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie:
Yield: 1 8×10 inch baking pan – enough for at least 6
2 T olive oil
1 pound lean ground turkey
1 sweet onion, diced
6 medium cloves of garlic, minced
4 large carrots, peeled and diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1/2 C cut frozen green beans
1/2 C frozen peas
1 1/2 to 2 t sea salt (to taste)
1 t black pepper
1/4 to 1/2 t crushed red pepper (to taste)
1 t ground rosemary
1/2 C balsamic vinegar
4 ounces tomato paste
1 T worcestershire sauce
3 T brown sugar
1 very large sweet potato, peeled and quartered
3 to 4 medium to large russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
4 to 5 green onions, green part only diced
1/4 C Earth Balance Soy-Free Vegan Buttery Spread*
1/4 C plain unsweetened coconut milk*
1/2 t white pepper
1 t sea salt
1/2 t black pepper
*You can eliminate both of these for a good chicken or vegetable stock if that’s your preference. Or, of course, you can also use real butter and real milk if you don’t need it to be dairy-free. 🙂
For the Filling: heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add all the diced raw vegetables (but not the frozen ones) and cook until nearly soft. Add the meat and all the seasonings (salt, both peppers, and the rosemary) and cook until the meat is nearly done. Add the green beans, peas, vinegar, tomato paste, worcestershire sauce, and brown sugar. Cook until all the green beans have softened a bit – about 4 or 5 minutes.
For the Mash: Add the potatoes to a pot of salted water and bring it to a boil. Boil for 10 to 15 minutes, until very fork tender (you don’t want a stiff mash for shepherd’s pie). Drain in a colander and return the potatoes to the hot pan over the hot burner for 30 seconds to finish evaporating any lingering water. Remove the hot pan to a heating pad. Add the green onions, butter, milk, and seasonings, and mash with the beaters of an electric mixer not turned on until it’s almost fully mashed. Then turn the beaters on and whip it until fluffy. Yes, even if you prefer lumps in your mashed potatoes, for shepherd’s pie – trust me – you need them to be whipped. They should also be lighter than what you’ want for plain old mashed potatoes. We’ll get to the why of that.
To Assemble: Dump the filling into the bottom of a glass baking dish. And here comes the special part: Add the potatoes to an empty pastry bag with no tip fitted. Squeeze bursts of potatoes out into blobs, similar to a cupcake, on top of the filling in rows. It’s great if you have little ice-cream-swirl-like tips on the top. The more the merrier. If you don’t have a pastry bag, take a rubber spatula and just kind of frost it on the top and make some spikes, kind of like frosting a messy cake. Then you’re going to stick this whole thing under the broiler on high for a good 5 to 10 minutes – until those little spikes start to brown and the filling bubbles a bit. This will make it delightfully crisp yet soft, the perfect texture. 🙂 Serve immediately and enjoy!!