Two amateur cooks explore the world of cooking for a Crohn's and Colitis diet

Love the Southern flair!

Marnina and I will be visiting the wild and wacky city of New Orleans later this month to tour Tulane University as part of our graduate school search.  We are always excited to visit new regions and cities that offer entirely different styles of cooking, different ingredients, and new combinations of food.  New Orleans is well-known for its food – it mostly combines elements of Creole and French cuisine, as well as some elements of African, Spanish, and Cuban traditions. While different cultures may share the same ingredients and cooking styles, multiculturalism can clearly give us something new.

Unfortunately, many of the dishes we associate with New Orleans (gumbo, jambalaya, oysters, shrimp, crawfish, and other seafood) are off-limits to us because Marnina and I keep kosher, and because many of these dishes have beans and other high-fiber foods. Even po’boys, a submarine sandwich that usually consists of meat or fried seafood, is mostly off limits to the both of us because of the kosher issue. Other than maybe a beignet, (a square-shaped fried pasty that is similar to a doughnut) and maybe a King Cake and some VERY well-cooked collard greens, we will never get to try a truly New Orleans dish.

In honor of our upcoming New Orleans trip, we felt obligated to experiment with some kind of southern dish.  We tried out a twist on a dish that we made many months ago – Shepherd’s Pie.  We found a Louisiana-style recipe that has a southern flair – a sweet potato shepherd’s pie.

This take on a shepherd’s pie has some Louisiana influences because of the Cajun spices, and the collard greens and sweet potatoes are vegetables that are staples in the south.  We love to make these types of casseroles because we have found that layering food creates a combination of flavors that really excites the senses.  Our first bite of the casserole was a trip to heaven – Cajun seasoning, which definitely has a hit of spice, paired perfectly with the subtle sweetness of the sweet potatoes and the meaty tenderness of the turkey.

Cooking a casserole usually involves ample preparation and time management, as well as some multi-tasking skills.  It sometimes feels like you are cooking multiple dishes at once because there are multiple foods cooking at once, and the kitchen can become a bit messy with dishes.  We definitely recommend prepping everything beforehand, such as having the spices and liquid ingredients measured out before starting the recipe. The alternative is to just cook the separate casserole layers sequentially, but that is a lot slower….and does not help elevate your cooking abilities to the next level!

This Shepherd’s Pie was also great fuel for us as we continue to train for the Virginia Wine Country Half-Marathon and SKEWER IBD.  We are currently $60 away from raising $4,50o for Crohn’s and Colitis research.  THANK YOU for your support and commitment. Your donations are keeping us running! Marnina ran 7 miles at 5 am this morning, while Seth ran 5 miles. Now that is true dedication!

Nutritionally, collard greens are a good source of vitamin C and soluble fiber, and contain multiple nutrients with potent anticancer properties[1].  Sweet potatoes are rich in complex carbohydrates, vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium.   One consumer advocacy group ranked the sweet potato highest in nutritional value when compared to other vegetables.[2] It is definitely one of our favorite vegetables.

Pictures and recipe below:

Sauteeing the collard greens

The sweet potatoes are exposed!

Preparing the layers

Adding the collard greens

The finished product! (before we cut into it)


  • 2 1/2 pound(s) (about 5) sweet potatoes, washed
  • 1/2 cup(s) water
  • 1/2 cup(s) low-fat (1-percent) milk (we used soy milk)
  •  Salt
  •  Pepper
  • 1 tablespoon(s) canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon(s) canola oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch(es) (12 ounces) collard greens, stems discarded, leaves very thinly sliced
  • 2 clove(s) garlic, chopped
  • 1 pound(s) 93-percent lean ground turkey
  • 2 teaspoon(s) salt-free Cajun seasoning
  • 2 tablespoon(s) tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon(s) finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves, for garnish


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. In large microwave-safe bowl, combine sweet potatoes and 1/4 cup water. Cover with vented plastic wrap and microwave on high 15 minutes or until tender. When cool enough to handle, discard peels. In large bowl, mash potatoes with milk and 1/8 teaspoon each salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Meanwhile, in 12-inch skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil on medium-high. Add onion and cook 5 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Add collard greens and 1/8 teaspoon each salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook 1 minute or until just wilted, stirring. Transfer to medium bowl.
  4. In same skillet, heat remaining teaspoon oil. Add garlic and cook 15 seconds. Add turkey and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook 3 minutes or until browned, breaking meat into small pieces and stirring. Reduce heat to medium and add Cajun seasoning. Cook 1 minute, stirring. Add tomato paste and 1/4 cup water. Cook 2 minutes, stirring.
  5. In 8- by 8-inch shallow baking dish, spread half of mashed sweet potatoes. Top with turkey mixture, then collard greens mixture. Spread remaining sweet potato mixture on top. Bake 30 minutes or until golden on top. Garnish with parsley.

Recipe adapted from Good Housekeeping magazine

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