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Happy Easter to all those who are celebrating!

Yesterday I ventured into Toronto and picked up some Easter treats at the Vegan Danish Bakery in Thornhill. As it was their last day before closing for the long weekend, they didn’t have their regular supply of goodies available, which was a bit disappointing after hearing about the wide variety of treats they normally carry, but they did have these adorable cupcakes which I picked up for the kids.

Vegan Danish Bakery April 2014 Earthgiven Kitchen (2)Vegan Danish Bakery also has frozen prepared vegan cannelloni and lasagne for take-out. I haven’t had cannelloni since going vegan, and when I heard that the owner of the bakery uses hand-made crepes, I had to pick one up for dinner. Were we ever impressed!

Vegan Danish Bakery April 2014 Earthgiven Kitchen (3)The fluffy  crepes were filled with vegetables and veggie ground round, topped with tomato sauce and Daiya and it was the most delicious dinner we had enjoyed in a long time. The cupcakes were very nice but the cannelloni was spectacular. Beyond passing the taste test, I love that the bakery says it uses no preservatives and 90% of ingredients are organic. I hope I have another reason to take me all the way to north Toronto again so I can pay a visit to Vegan Danish Bakery and stock up on more cannelloni.

One entrée I frequently make for Easter is another hearty comfort food: Shepherd’s Pie. It’s also a dish I tend to make when I have omnivores over for dinner as it is a hit with meat eaters and vegetarians alike.

Eartgiven Kitchen Shepherd's Pie (2)It’s made with soy crumbles, or crumbled veggie burger. The soy crumbles we like best are Yves and Tofurky brands of veggie ground round (Tofurky is free of GMOs and MSG making it my preference).

Traditional Shepherd’s Pie is a dish of lamb’s meat topped with mashed potatoes. I gave up eating lamb when I was 12 so I have no recollection of ever eating the meat version of this dish. The only meaning Shepherd’s Pie has ever had for me is a vegetarian version, so I haven’t felt the need to change the name, though I have seen vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie be called Shepherdess Pie.

This recipe is to fill two casserole dishes as I usually make a double batch: one to eat that day and one to pop one in the freezer as time-saving future meal, or for feeding a crowd. Feel free to halve the recipe to feed 4-6 people. This recipe can be made gluten-free.

Shepherd’s Pie – double batch

2 shallots, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp olive oil
8 cups chopped potatoes (about 7 medium-large potatoes)
1 cup non-dairy milk (I used soy)
4 tbsp vegan butter
1 tbsp Bragg’s/soy sauce
1 kg of crumbled veggie burger or soy crumbles (I use three 340 gm packages of veggie ground round. Choose gluten-free burgers for a GF option)
2 cups frozen peas
approximately 4 tbsp breadcrumbs (choose gluten-free bread for a GF option)

1 cup veggie broth (packaged, homemade or 1 cup water plus ½ vegan broth cube)
4 tbsp Bragg’s/soy sauce
½ tsp poultry seasoning (a mix of sage, thyme, rosemary, marjoram and black pepper)
2 tbsp cornstarch

Start by making the mashed potato topping: Heat the oil in a pan on medium heat and cook the garlic and shallots until soft and golden.

Boil the potatoes, then mash with the non-dairy milk, butter and Bragg’s/soy sauce.  Use a potato masher; don’t use your for food processor for this part or your mashed potatoes will be gummy.  Set aside.

Then make the gravy:

Heat 1 cup of broth (or the water, then add the broth cube) on a stove top on medium-high heat.  Stir in the 4 tsp Bragg’s/soy sauce and poultry seasoning then reduce heat to low.  Add the cornstarch and whisk until well combined.  Set aside to let thicken.  Will make about 1 cup of gravy.

Now assemble your pies:

Spray two casserole dishes lightly with oil.  In each dish, empty one and a half packages of the ground round, pour in half the gravy (about ½ cup), mix and spread out to evenly cover the bottom of the dish.  Sprinkle 1 cup of frozen peas on top of each pie.  Take half the mashed potato mixture and spread on top of the layer of peas, smoothing the top with a spatula.  Sprinkle with a bit of breadcrumbs.

Eartgiven Kitchen Shepherd's Pie (1)Cover with tin foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until heated all the way through.  Remove foil and cook another five minutes to crisp up the top to a light golden brown.

Makes 8-12 servings.

Eartgiven Kitchen Shepherd's Pie (3)