two fails in the kitchen… vegetarian shepherd’s pie & dairy-free clam chowder

Okay. Let’s sit down for a little fireside chat here. It’s snowing outside (YES IN THE MIDDLE OF MARCH WTH) so it’s the perfect setting to snuggle up for some real talk together: kitchen fails.

Fail #1 – Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie. I was expecting something more… solid… than what got pulled out of the oven. I was expecting something more like THIS, instead of a veggie/mashed potato soup concoction. And let me tell you why (or at least what I think went wrong.) The recipe called for 2 Tbsp unbleached organic flour to thicken everything. So I used Bob’s Redmill 1-for-1 gluten-free flour. But a successful gluten-free thickener should use cornstarch or arrowroot starch. Or a roux, made of butter and white rice flour or sweet rice flour. So close, yet so far.

Fail #2 – Dairy-Free Clam Chowder. Let me start off by saying that I love clam chowder, so my expectations were high. I totally miss being able to order a cup of chowder at seafood restaurants. The creamy, salty, comforting flavor is so amazing, especially when you can eat it right on the Oregon coast, when the clams are pulled fresh from the ocean. Since the dairy was cut out of this recipe, blended potatoes were used to add creaminess. And the texture got really close to traditional clam chowder. The fat that was cut out with the cream caused this humble little chowder’s flavor to fall short. I think adding a little butter or olive oil on top would maybe have made it better. I tried hot sauce, but that didn’t quite do the trick. Do you have any suggestions??

I think every time I make something in the kitchen, it’s a learning experience. And I definitely learn more from my mistakes than my victories. So now I know that if you cut out cream from a recipe, you need to add fat from another source to keep the flavor rich. And if you substitute a gluten-free thickening agent, make sure you use cornstarch or arrowroot starch if you don’t want to end up with a soupy (yet yummy) mess.
If you want to give these recipes a go, I’m adding them below. Good luck! πŸ˜‰

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie
from Native Foods Celebration Cookbook


– 1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
– 1/4 cup butter (or vegan butter)
– 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
– 2 tsp sea salt (*only add 1 tsp at first and only add more if needed)

– 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
– 4 garlic cloves, minced
– 1 cup yellow onion, diced
– 1 1/2 cups carrots, peeled and diced
– 1 cup parsnip, peeled and diced
– 4 stalks celery, diced
– 1 cup vegetable stock
– 3/4 cup non-dairy milk
– 2 tsp poultry seasoning
– 2 tsp garlic powder
– 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
– 2 tsp sea salt (*only add 1 tsp at first and add more only if needed)
– 2 Tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
– 2 Tbsp unbleached organic flour (**OR add 1 Tbsp of cornstarch at a time until the veggie/wet mixture is thick and not soup-y)


– Place the potatoes in a pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for ~ 30 minutes, until tender when pierced with a fork.
– Strain the potatoes and place them back in the pot. Add the butter, salt* and pepper. Mash and set aside.

– Preheat the oven to 425 F. Grease a casserole dish.
– Heat the oil in a skillet on med/high heat. Add the minced garlic & chopped onion. Cook for ~ 3 minutes.
– Add the carrots, parsnip and celery. Cook for ~ 3 minutes.
– Reduce heat to low.
– Add the flour** to the pan and mix to coat the veggies.
– In a bowl, whisk the stock and milk together with the seasonings & spices.
– Pour the liquid into the pan and whisk well. Cook another ~ 7 to 10 minutes, until the mixture becomes thick. Season with salt & pepper to your liking.
– Pour the veggie mixture in the casserole dish. Allow to cool. Spread out the mashed potatoes on top.
– Bake for ~ 25 minutes until the mashed potatoes are golden on top & it’s bubbling on the sides.
– Allow pie to cool for ~ 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy! πŸ™‚

Dairy-Free Clam Chowder
by The Big Dairy Free Cookbook by Pamela Ellgen
serves 4


– 2 Tbsp dairy-free butter
– 4 celery stalks, finely diced
– 1 onion, finely diced
– 4 garlic cloves, minced
– sea salt
-freshly ground black pepper
– 8 oz clam juice
– 1 thyme sprig
– 4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
– 4 cups non-dairy milk
– 2 (6-oz) cans of clams, drained and roughly chopped
– 1/2 tsp liquid smoke


– Heat the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the celery, onion and garlic and season with salt. Cook for ~ 10 minutes.
– Pour in the claim juice and thyme and bring to a simmer.
– Add the potatoes, cover the pot and cook for 25 minutes, until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork. Discard the thyme.
– Remove 1 cup of the potatoes and dump into a blender with 1 cup of non-dairy milk. Blend until smooth.
– Return the blended mixture to the pot. Add the remaining 3 cups of non-dairy milk.
– Bring to a gentle simmer and stir in the clams and liquid smoke. Cook until everything is heated through.
– Season with salt and pepper to your liking.
– Enjoy πŸ™‚ Maybe add a little extra melted dairy-free butter or olive oil on top, if you feel like it’s missing a little somethin’ somethin’.

One Reply to “two fails in the kitchen… vegetarian shepherd’s pie & dairy-free clam chowder”

what do you think? :)

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