The following is a guest post by Ivy Larson with Clean Cuisine.
Hi everyone! I’m Ivy Larson visiting from Clean Cuisine. I am truly thrilled to be here, as I have always felt a connection to Lisa, her mission, and the 100 Days of Real Food audience. I SO wish there was a website like hers back in 1998.
Like Lisa, I radically changed my diet practically overnight. I did this in 1998 when I was just 22 years old, after being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, multiple sclerosis (MS). My husband, Andy Larson, M.D., was doing his surgical residency at the time and had never heard of using nutrition to fight a disease like MS. But, after consulting with my neurologist at the University of Miami, who prompted him to do some research, Andy finally agreed I had nothing to lose by giving nutrition a try. And since I desperately wanted to have children, knowing that the powerful disease-modifying MS medications were contraindicated (i.e., not advised) during pregnancy was a huge motivating factor.
But, like Lisa will tell you, it was not easy!
Ultimately, it was worth it though. And just like Lisa, changing my plate totally changed my fate. To make a long story short, I too gave up processed foods and made a commitment to eat only nutrient-rich real food. However, since MS is just one of the many inflammatory conditions (such as asthma, fibromyalgia, endometriosis, eczema, heart disease, etc.) affecting millions of people worldwide, I wanted to be sure my real food choices were as anti-inflammatory as possible (including no dairy).
I have since written a number of anti-inflammatory nutrition books with my husband, and (knock on wood!) I have not yet needed to take any of the disease-modifying MS medications, since my MS has been in remission now for over a decade.
My son, Blake Larson (in the photo with me below), has been raised to only eat real food, and I truly believe it has made a tremendous difference in his overall health, as he is rarely sick and has only been on antibiotics once in his 13 years of life. I most definitely cannot attribute Blake’s vibrant good health to genetics either because I used to be sick all the time! I am convinced it is real food with real nutrients that has made all the difference. You can read our family’s full story here.
And so today I wanted to share one of Blake’s favorite “Clean Cuisine” recipes and show you how I go about giving a British food favorite, Cottage Pie, an anti-inflammatory real food makeover.
Real Food Cottage Pie from Harrods in London
Cottage Pie is such a nostalgic food for me because it reminds me of my childhood and the times I spent in my all-time favorite city, London. I had been to London numerous times growing up and even lived there for a short bit, and so I was super excited to be able to take Blake back this past summer, especially since he is now old enough to appreciate all that the beautiful city has to offer.
As soon as we got off the plane, we headed straight for the Food Emporium at the world famous Harrods department store. If you have ever been to the Food Emporium, you know what a sight it is to see! One of the first items that caught my eye was, of course, my beloved Cottage Pie. As you can see from the photo below, Harrods provided the ingredients list for their Cottage Pie (I so love Harrods!), and since it was made from real food, my son ordered one and gobbled it right up.
However, I found it very interesting (and flattering!) that after he finished his Harrods Cottage Pie, Blake commented that he preferred my “more flavorful recipe” instead. Cottage Pie is not at all a spice-forward dish, so it wasn’t the spice that Blake was missing…it was the vegetables!
3 Tips to Boost Flavor, Improve Nutrition, and Reduce Inflammation
The three things I did to my Cottage Pie recipe to boost flavor, improve nutrition, and reduce inflammation were really rather simple and consisted of the following:
1. Add veggies! The #1 biggest diet mistake made by kids and adults is not eating anywhere near enough vegetables. The more veggies you can sneak into your recipes the better. And believe it or not, as long as they are properly prepared, veggies also boost flavor. For the Cottage Pie recipe, I shredded my veggies very, very finely in a food processor and mixed them in with the ground lamb (or beef).
2. Eliminate or reduce dairy. Cow’s milk protein is the leading food allergy in children (1) and has been linked to environmental allergies too.(2) Many with autoimmune issues have a sensitivity to cow’s milk. Although it is pretty hard to find a good substitute for cheese (I don’t even try. I just eat small amounts of the real stuff), milk and cream are easy to substitute, especially in recipes. To maintain nutrition and the delicious, rich and creamy full-fat texture derived from full-fat dairy, I like to use homemade cashew cream, hemp milk, unfiltered almond milk, or pine nut cream, all of which take less than 5 minutes to make. In the Cottage Pie recipe I used cashew cream.
3. Reduce the meat. Lisa talks about doing this too on page 27 of her newly released 100 Days of Real Food book. Like Lisa, I am not vegetarian, but I do go easy on the animal food. That’s because if you eat too much animal protein, then you inevitably end up pushing the anti-inflammatory, phytonutrient-rich, and antioxidant plant proteins such as beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, etc. off of your plate. And don’t worry about not getting enough protein by reducing meat! Every single unrefined whole plant food has protein. So as long as you meet your daily calorie quota, protein will not be an issue. I reduce the meat in my cottage pie recipe by mixing the ground beef (or lamb) with lots of minced veggies.
Note: Like Lisa, I too make sure to choose pasture-raised beef, chicken, and lamb. This is especially important if you have an inflammatory issue as pastured animal foods have a considerably more favorable omega-3 to omega-6 ratio.
Ok, enough chit chat. Let’s eat! On with the recipe….finally (wink).
P.S. You will surely have leftovers!
Clean Cuisine Cottage Pie
- ½ cup cashews, or substitute 1 cup whole milk if preferred
- ½ teaspoon sea salt, unrefined, plus more to taste
- 1 ¼ pound potatoes, Yukon Gold recommended (organic), unpeeled and cubed (you could also use Russet)
- 1 leek, medium, stalk only, cleaned and sliced into thin rounds
- ½ yellow onion, chopped
- 4 carrots, chopped
- 4 teaspoons olive oil, extra virgin
- 2 tablespoons thyme
- 1 ¼ pounds ground lamb, pastured (or pastured beef)
- 2 tablespoons white whole-wheat flour, or regular whole wheat
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, such as Annie’s Naturals
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste, plus more to taste
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place the cashews and 1 cup water in a high speed blender and process for a few minutes, until smooth and creamy. Add ½ teaspoon salt and process again. Set cashew cream aside. (Can substitute 1 cup whole milk instead of cashew "milk" if desired.)
Add potatoes to a large pot of salted water and bring water to a boil. Reduce to a rapid simmer; cook until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and return to pot. Using a potato masher, mash potatoes until mostly lump free; drizzle in the cashew cream a bit at a time, until desired consistency. Season with salt to taste.
Place the sliced leek rounds in a food processor and pulse several times to shred. Remove shredded leeks from food processor and set aside. Process the carrots and then the onions in the same manner, keeping all of the vegetables separate.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shredded leeks, carrots, and onions. Sauté 5 to 6 minutes until vegetables soften a bit. Season vegetables with salt to taste and add the fresh thyme.
Add the ground lamb or beef and use a spatula to fully incorporate the meat in with the vegetables. Cook for about 5 minutes or until meat is no longer pink.
Use a fork to whisk in the flour. Season with more salt to taste. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce and tomato paste and cook for about 2 minutes, until all ingredients are fully incorporated.
Spread the meat mixture on the bottom of a 9-inch square casserole dish or on the bottom of individual ramekins. Spoon the potatoes over the meat and smooth with the back of a spoon. Brush the potatoes lightly with oil; bake for about 15 minutes or until potatoes are just lightly browned on top. Remove from oven and let sit 15 minutes before serving.
I like to leave the skins on my potatoes for added nutrition and fiber.
To enhance nutrition and also make the cashews easier to blend, you can soak them in water for up to 2 hours and then rinse and drain before making the cashew cream. Leftover cashew cream can be stored in a mason jar in the refrigerator for three days.
I always serve a BIG but simple salad on the side drizzled with good extra virgin olive oil and a bit of unrefined sea salt. Buttery soft mache lettuce is my son’s favorite.
Potatoes are one food I always buy organic when possible. The potatoes in the Harrods photo were probably Yukon Gold, but I used Russet potatoes in my recipe because they were the only organic option. Either potato will be okay.
Lisa recommends organic ingredients when feasible.
Hope you enjoy the recipe! And Lisa, thank you so much for the opportunity to share my story and Clean Cuisine with the 100 Days of Real Food community.
1. A. Host, “Frequency of Cow’s Milk Allergy in Childhood,” Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology 89, no. 6, suppl. 1 (2002): 33–37.
2. A. M. Collins, “Xenogeneic Antibodies and Atopic Disease,” Lancet 1, no. 8588 (1988): 734–37.