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IMG_3108Just to prove I’m Irish, I’m going to repeat myself: To lose weight now and keep it off for life, you simply have to Eat More Things That Grow and Fewer Things That Walk…

But that doesn’t mean you have to cook with no meat, just low meat.  And here’s a dish that proves how easy it is to drastically cut calories, fat and bad carbs from a “meat and potatoes” dish without sacrificing taste or texture: Skinny Shepherd’s Pie.

A favorite on St. Patrick’s Day, the traditional version is a mostly lamb and potato stew topped with mashed potatoes made with butter and cream.  And though meat, potatoes and fat are tradition with my people (the Irish and the Texans), I knew that unless I was happy being shaped like Mrs. Potato Head, I had to find a better way…

IMG_3062The first fix was in the meat: Though rich in protein and nutrients, lamb roast is also high in fat and cholesterol…with more than 25% of your daily recommended cholesterol in just 3 ounces.

By switching to lamb shanks–which have less marbling and are  easier to trim– you immediately cut out (literally) about a quarter of the saturated fat.

IMG_3028Fix number two is in the choice of vegetables:  Rather than using  potatoes (118  calories and 27 g of carbs per cup) in the stew, we subbed turnips (34 calories and 8 grams of carbs a cup) and generously added in more low calorie and high fiber veg like celery, mushrooms, carrots and protein rich peas.

And by making a magically delicious topping of mashed cauliflower with just a IMG_3086wee bit of potato (with its flavorful and nutritious skin), a 2 big cup serving of this re-designed dish has less than 230 calories rather than 700!

So next time you’re craving the taste of St. Patrick’s Day, outwit the traditional Irish dish with this Skinny Shepherd’s Pie..



For the stew:

2 lamb shanks (Though not necessary, for extra flavor and tenderness, you can marinate the shanks for 24 hours in a couple of tablespoons of garlic and rosemary and 1/4 cup buttermilk.)

IMG_30191 T olive oil

2 medium onions, chopped (about 4 cups)

1-2 turnips, peeled and chopped (about 3 cups)

4 large carrots, chopped (about 2 cups)

IMG_30283 stalks celery, chopped (about 2 cups)

3 T chopped garlic

1 t kosher salt

1/2 t black pepper

2 T brown rice flour

12 oz mushrooms, any variety, chopped (about 4 cups)

IMG_30232 T fresh chopped rosemary

1 t dried thyme

1 t dried oregano

1 1/2 c red wine

2 c beef broth or veal broth

3 T tomato paste

1 c grape or cherry tomatoes, chopped

2 c frozen peas

1 T fresh chopped parsley

IMG_3031Remove the lamb shanks from the fridge and let sit at room temperature while you chop all of your vegetables, garlic and herbs. (Cooking any meat straight from the fridge will make it tough and this gives you time to get your act together.) If you’ve marinated the shanks, wipe off any garlic or rosemary before cooking.

Heat an enameled Dutch oven or a non-stick stew pot on medium heat for a minute, spray bottom and sides with cooking oil and add another T of olive oil–swirling to coat the bottom of the pot–and let heat on medium-high a minute longer. Lightly salt and pepper the lamb shanks and sear on all sides, about 6-8 minutes total.  Remove and set aside.

IMG_3035IMG_3037If the pan is dry, add a teaspoon of oil and toss in the onions, turnips, carrots, celery and garlic. Stir and cook  3 or 4 minutes.  Sprinkle in salt, pepper and brown rice flour and stir over medium high heat for 5 solid minutes.  (You’re not only cooking the veg, you’re cooking the flour so it loses its raw taste before you add any liquid.)

IMG_3042Start adding in the red wine, a half cup at a time, stirring constantly until most of the wine has evaporated and what remains has mixed with the flour to form a roux.

IMG_3043Add in the mushrooms, rosemary, thyme and oregano and cook another 3 minutes.  The mushrooms will release some of their own juices into the gravy and absorb some of the flavor from the wine and herbs.

IMG_3050Stir in the beef broth and tomato paste and cook another 2 minutes until all the tomato paste has melted into the gravy. Add in the chopped tomatoes and stir again.

Reduce heat to low, return the shanks to the pot and nestle them into the veg and gravy. Cover and simmer for 1 hour.  (Your house, by the way, will begin to smell AMAZING.)

IMG_3055After an hour, turn off the heat, remove the shanks to cool and stir in the fresh parsley and frozen peas into the stew. Let sit while you prepare your Cauliflower and Potato Topping.

(*Cook’s note: If preparing ahead, you can let the shanks cool in the stew and remove them later. Just don’t forget to add the parsley and peas before you finish the dish.)

IMG_3060IMG_3063When shanks are cool enough to handle, remove all the meat from the bone and trim away all fat and sinew.  (2 lamb shanks will yield about 2 cups of real meat and 3/4 cups of fat and sinew.)  Toss out the fat and shred or chop the lean meat and stir it into the stew.


IMG_3077If you’ve made my Skinny Mock Mashed recipe, you know the drill on how to make mashed cauliflower using the microwave. But to make this a little more Irish and rustic, I’ve added a microwaved baked potato, with skin, to this mix.

1 medium russet potato, skin on

1 large or 2 small heads cauliflower

1 t salt

1 T Smart Balance Light

1/4-1/2 c fat-free half and half (or plain, unsweetened almond milk)

1/4 c liquid egg whites

Wash the potato, pierce a few times with a fork, wrap in a paper towel and microwave for 8 minutes on high.  (When finished, leave it in the paper towel so the skin will continue to soften and set aside.)

IMG_3057While the potato is cooking, chop the cauliflower into small pieces and place into a large microwave safe bowl, sprinkling in the salt as you go.

Cover with a plate…or a large bowl if you’ve heaped it up too much. When the potato is done, set aside and nuke the cauliflower (NO water needed) for 8-9 minutes on high.

IMG_3069IMG_3077Using an immersion blender or a food processor, puree the cauliflower with Smart Balance Light and potato, adding in half and half (and/or almond milk) until the texture is smooth. Taste for seasonings, adding a little more salt if needed.

When the flavor and texture is right, add the egg whites and and puree again until smooth.


IMG_3065IMG_3079Preheat oven to 400 and pour the stew into a large baking dish.  (This recipe yields about 11 cups of stew and 7 cups of mashed cauliflower/potato topping so you’ll need a large pyrex or similarly sized baking dish to hold it all.)

IMG_3086IMG_3108Use a large spoon or ladle to cover the stew with the topping and carefully smooth.

Bake at 400 for 25-30 minutes until topping has set. Let stand 20 minutes before serving.

Garnish with freshly chopped parsley.


If your baking dish isn’t large enough to hold the stew mixture, just bag it and freeze it. It will be a yummy addition to any vegetable soup.

About Lisa McRee

After 25 years as a local and network anchor, Lisa was just another American mother struggling, and failing, to lose weight. Finally, she cracked the code, and lost 30 pounds, quickly and for good, by doing what she loves: reporting, cooking and eating! The Skinny is the inside story on how she did it, and how you can, too!
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