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Vegetarians in Paradise
Ask Aunt Nettie

We're delighted to share our Aunt Nettie with you. She's agreed to answer any questions you might ask about food, its preparation, and even clean-up tips. But we have to prepare you. She just might want to come right over to your house and help you fix dinner.

To send any questions to Ask Aunt Nettie an/or get her cooking advice, .


Editor's Note: Instead of Aunt Nettie answering individual questions, she has decided to address a number of requests from people who want to save money on the food budget and still enjoy healthy dining. This is one of a series of money-saving tips and recipes designed to stretch those slim dollars.

As an example of Aunt Nettie's impressive, penny-pinching ability to save, she still has some depression glass dishes and bowls in the cupboard--they're the real thing and she still treasures them.

In future issues of Vegetarians in Paradise, Aunt Nettie and her niece Zel will offer more money-saving recipes for the most extreme skinflints along with suggestions to help bargain-hunter foodies seek out cheap fare that still brings good cheer to the table.



RECESSION GRUB:
RECESSION GRUB: COUNTRY COMFORT SHEPHERD'S PIE

Thirty-seventh in a series of articles

BY AUNT NETTIE

Howdy there darlin's,

I'm always lookin' out fer good prices at the grocery store, 'cause it's the way I git by when ever'thin' costs an arm an' a leg, includin' food prices. Now, can't nobody tell me prices isn't goin' up, 'cause I kin see they ARE. Jes 'cause some folks say prices is not goin' up don't mean a thing. Y'all kin tell it costs a-plenty to go food shoppin' if'n yer not careful. An' y'all knows bein' a good shopper stretches them dollars a tad.

T'other day I was lookin' over the grocery ads an' found a mighty good price on 'taters--a whole 10-pound sack fer only 99 cents. Now that's a price that makes good sense ta my budget, so I done bought that 10-pound sack an' hauled it home. Then, I started thinkin' 'bout what kinda fixin's I was goin' ta cook up fer ya.

It weren't hard ta figger that out. Don't y'all jes love a nice, down home shepherd's pie? Yes, darlin's I know it's only simple country food, but my, oh my is it mighty fine tastin' and makes home feel an' smell so good, the way it oughter.

Shepherd's pie is one o' them homey dishes you kin put together in fits an' spurts while cookin' up other things in the kitchen, so don't go a-frettin' 'bout rushin' ta git it done in a hurry.

Life don't need ta be that way--always bein' in a hurry ain't good fer ya. Why, ever' so often it's good ta pour yerself a nice cuppa tea an' set awhile. Gits ya ta thinkin' 'bout what's good in yer life. An' no matter if life is tuff, there's always a little somethin' that's good.

Oh, my, my I done went a-wanderin' a fur piece from that shepherd's pie. Well, now I started by marinatin' some tofu, cookin' up them 'taters, an' choppin' up a heap o' my favorite vegetables fer the middle o' the pie. But you kin chop up any o' yer own favorite vegetables an' spoon 'em over the tofu. Last thing is ta heap them 'taters on top and tuck the bakin' dish inter the oven.

An' when that pie come outta the oven with them nice an' purty brown 'taters on top, why that's a dish o' country comfort, it is. I hope ya like it--I sure do.

Yer ever lovin' Aunt Nettie


Country Comfort Shepherd's Pie

AUNT NETTIE'S COUNTRY COMFORT SHEPHERD'S PIE

Yield: 6 servings

Tofu Layer

    3/4 to 1 pound (340g to 450g) extra-firm tofu, crumbled
    1 green onion, chopped
    2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
    2 tablespoons rice vinegar
    1 tablespoon maple syrup
    1 garlic clove, finely minced
    Pinch Cayenne
Potato Topping
    1 1/2 pounds (675g) potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1 garlic clove, sliced

    1/4 cup (60 ml) vegan margarine
    5 to 6 tablespoons soymilk, rice milk, or almond milk
    Salt and pepper

Vegetable Layer
    1/2 pound (225g) broccoli crowns, cut into small florets
    1/2 pound (225g) cauliflower, chopped (about 3 cups)
    1 red bell pepper, chopped
    1 large carrot, cut into 1 1/2-inch matchsticks
    1/2 small onion, chopped
    1/2 cup (120 ml) water
    Salt and pepper
  1. Lightly oil an 8 x 8-inch (20 x 20 cm) baking dish and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. (Gas Mark 5)
  2. To make the Tofu Layer, combine the tofu, green onion, soy sauce, rice vinegar, maple syrup, garlic, and cayenne in a medium bowl and mix well. Set aside to marinate.
  3. To make the Potato Topping, put the potato pieces in a 3 or 4-quart (3 or 54 liter) saucepan with water to cover. Add salt and garlic, cover the pan, and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium and simmer about 5 to 7 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork tender.
  4. While the potatoes are cooking make the Vegetable Layer. Combine the broccoli, cauliflower, red bell pepper, carrot matchsticks, and onion in a large, deep skillet. Add the water and cook over high heat, stirring frequently for about 5 to 7 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Add 1 or more tablespoons of water as needed to cook the vegetables and prevent burning. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
  5. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked potatoes to a large bowl. Add the margarine and soymilk and mash the potatoes until they are smooth and creamy. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. To assemble the Country Comfort Shepherd's Pie, spoon the marinated tofu into the bottom of the prepared baking pan and spread it evenly. Drain any excess water from the vegetables and spoon them over the tofu layer. Spoon the mashed potatoes over the top, covering it completely. Keep the surface of the potatoes lumpy so the peaks will brown when baked.
  7. Bake for 40 minutes. or until the potato peaks are golden brown. Serve immediately.





If You Haven't Met Aunt Nettie. . .


Our Aunt Nettie has a head like a hard disk. It's filled with gigabytes of information about food and cooking. And she's just itchin' to share her learnin' with city folk who live in mortal fear of the stovetop.

Aunt Nettie grew up on the farm. She did not eat out of a can or reach into the freezer. There was no microwave to pop her food into. Everything she made was from scratch. All the food she ate was natural, without pesticides. It was grown right there on the family farm, and she had to cook to survive. At eighty-three years young she still leaps and bounds around the kitchen and can shake, rattle, and roll those pots and pans with the best of them.

Nowadays, Aunt Nettie just shakes her head and complains, "Nobody cooks anymore. They have no idea about puttin' a meal together." She's on a mission. She wants to help those younguns eat better so they can grow up healthy like her own eight kids.



Click here for past Ask Aunt Nettie Columns



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