Washed out, torn up, and slow cooker shepherd's pie

Today is our marathon day that wasn't. It came so very close. Final decision was made within hours of having to check in with Southwest. And truth be told, I'm awfully relieved.

It's not that we didn't want to run. We were feeling ready, thanks to Craig's superb guidance and plans. Only, a week out, northern California began bracing for floods and power outages, with a series of storms expected to pound the west coast. Everyday, the forecast got worse, with marathon morning expected to be the most ferocious. The point-to-point course would be run straight into a brutal headwind, of roughly 30 mph. PR hopes duly dashed!

That said, we were unquestioningly still going to go, because what's the point of taking on marathons if not for challenge? Runners were piping up on Twitter feeds and Facebook pages with tough and gritty, sometimes motivating and other times obnoxious, determination. Besides, worst case scenario, we could still have a nice visit with Artie, Tressa, and this cheeky, adorable face (who could resist?):

So, travel plans a go...until Thursday, when Dave saw Richie, and truth was hammered home that the terribly tight calf was a torn soleus. Again. I'd call strain of that muscle Dave's Achilles' heel, but it's happened enough now before big events that it does deserve to stand on its own as his Dave's Soleus instead. It's been painful for Dave to walk, but he would have tried to gut it out. He was so bitterly disappointed, I lost all personal momentum myself. Although, it must be said, that might have happened anyway, as by race morning, it was reportedly blowing a gale, and rain was lashing sideways in sheets. Plus, the roads looked like this:


                                                                                                                               Pic from KCRA Weather

We realize, of course, that it's a real luxury to be in a position to stress out, if so you choose, about whether or not you're going to run another marathon on the weekend. That fact alone is a reminder that such stress is a waste of energy, and kind of spoiled besides. Still, you can't avoid some disappointment when a solid three-month marathon build-up inadvertently culminates with the Turkey Trot Thanksgiving Day. A little simple comfort, therefore, is something to embrace.

This weekend, it's beautiful in Colorado. But our focus on Sacramento seems to have transferred a weird  chill in the bones. We've had soup on the stove, and this savory, rich, and healthy shepherd's pie in the crockpot. I was inspired this gorgeous recipe from Williams-Sonoma, using bison meat and a mix of sweet and gold potatoes, swapping out the beer for red wine, eliminating flour, and generally lazily cutting out a lot of work. Because, having gone in so many circles to come to the conclusion of not running a marathon this weekend, I'm mentally a little bit exhausted, and the less work-more flavor results of slow cooking suit me perfectly.  Hearty fuel for the next challenge, another day.

Slow cooker shepherd's pie

Serves 6-8

  • 1 tablespoon
  • 1 pound lean bison or beef
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup red wine
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup pearl onions, peeled
  • 1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup green beans, trimmed and halved
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Approximately 4 cups mashed potato and sweet potato mix (I used two baked sweet potatoes I'd put in the oven when cooking the night before, and 2 boiled gold potatoes)
  • 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
  1. In a stockpot, heat olive oil. Brown bison or beef.
  2. Transfer to slow cooker and add remaining ingredients through salt and pepper. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spread the mashed potatoes over the meat and vegetable mixture, forming a 1-inch layer, and sprinkle with the cheese. Transfer the insert to the oven and bake until the cheese is melted and starting to brown, 10 to 12 minutes.