Comfort food is defined as a meal providing nostalgic or sentimental feeling. There are a few dishes that remind me of eating at Grandma’s house. They are fried chicken, meatloaf, ham and shepherd’s pie.

When I decided to become vegan last February, I thought my comfort food would be history. Boy, was I wrong.

I could still have my favorite dishes, but with just a minor change. Yes, you can have shepherd’s pie with no animal products.

You still use the mashed potatoes and corn, but when you are vegan you don’t use hamburger. That’s when you try something called ground meat replacer. It sounds kind of gross, but it really isn’t.

For the most part, meat replacement is typically made from textured soy protein or soy protein concentrate.

You can find this in most grocery stores in the produce section. Some of the most popular brands are Gimmie Lean, Ives and Smart Ground. Sometimes they are labeled as beef-style crumbles.

Still not persuaded to try it? My children love vegan shepherd’s pie. My 12-year-old daughter actually just requested the meal for her birthday.

You really can’t tell the difference between shepherd’s pie with hamburger and meat replacer. 

To top it all off, it is very healthy for you. Most brands are free of cholesterol and saturated fat and high in protein, iron, zinc and vitamin B-12.

Give it a try. Comfort food has never tasted better or been better for you. Preparing and eating this would make Grandma proud.

4 medium potatoes, diced

2 tablespoon non-dairy butter/spread

¼ cup almond milk

Sprinkle of salt and pepper

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

12 ounces faux ground beef-style crumbles (I like Gimmie Lean, Ives or Smart Ground)

1 10.5-ounce can Campbell’s mushroom gravy (we don’t use the pieces of mushroom, just the liquid)

1 6-ounce can of corn

Salt and pepper

Boil the potatoes for 20 minutes, or until tender. Drain and mash with the non-dairy alternative. Season with salt and pepper.

In a medium pan, saute the onion in the oil until translucent.

In a medium bowl, mix the cooked onions, faux beef crumbles, mushroom gravy and corn.

Pour into a pie pan. Top the crumble mixture with the potatoes, spreading to the edges.

Bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the potatoes are browned and the crumble mixture bubbles out the edges.

Jeff Peterson anchors the 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. news on WGME-TV and is a vegan.