PART 1 – Lula’s Story
I grew up in Georgia in the 1950s and early '60s, with a working mother, which says a lot about the early influences on my eating habits.
On the dinner plate, meat was the star performer, whether it was steak, pot roast, pork chops, ham or chicken, and it occupied the central part of our meal planning. It was accompanied by frozen or canned vegetables such as peas, green beans or corn, the homemakers’ timesavers.
Our preferred starch was mashed potatoes or rice. Salads were a canned pear or pineapple slice topped with cottage cheese, or Jell-O with canned fruit cocktail. And then there was Spam, frozen chicken pot pies and TV dinners. We washed it all down with copious amounts of sweet tea.
Our son still pokes fun at some of our former meals, like pigs-in-the-blanket using Vienna sausages wrapped in Pillsbury biscuit dough. What’s in those sausages anyway? And do they come from Vienna — really?
Another favorite was to put cubed steaks on a sheet of foil, top with sliced potatoes and carrots, and flavor with a sprinkling of Lipton Dried Onion Soup Mix. Make tents of the foil and seal. Cook in the oven and no pans to wash!
Changing things so integral to your life like eating and cooking is difficult. The foods you eat and the way they were prepared are all wrapped up in your memories of home and loved ones.
So you need to have a clear reason and path to make a change. And it’s not necessary to do it all at once. It’s a journey. Your goal may not be the same as everyone else’s, and your reasons may be different.
My husband, Kim, and I began together. Cooking and planning together can make a big difference in your success.
First, we gave up red meat. Cows are so detrimental to the environment, especially when they are raised in crowded feed lots, where disposing of waste often contaminates rivers and streams.
Our son and his wife are great cooks. They influenced us to begin changing our eating habits and trying new recipes. Upon moving to Iowa City in 2010, we’ve met many people who were not eating any meat or other animal products, such as milk or eggs.
Dietitian Carol Throckmorton and the Vegan Community of Eastern Iowa that she organized had plantlucks almost every month pre-COVID where we could try wonderful vegan recipes. At the Unitarian Universalist Society, Throckmorton expanded my reasons for wanting to eat a more plant-based diet.
Her three-point justification was simple and seemed to make sense to me: (1) health, (2) environment, and (3) animal welfare.
PART 2 – Kim’s Story
Some years after we married, Lula informed me that cooking and kitchen help were a part of my "vows," and I learned I could no longer just say, “I need some more sweet tea with lemon” – then move like I was going to get up and wait for her to say, “Oh, let me get it.” Thus, ending my growing-up experience as a male in the South.
My mother was a wonderful southern cook, and I loved her chicken pot pie. My father was an accountant and a wannabe farmer. We had a huge garden with fresh or home-canned vegetables most of the time, along with fresh chicken and fresh eggs.
It was around 1970 that I called my mother for her pot pie recipe. She read it to me over the phone (no texting or email back then). I made it and we all liked it.
At least that’s how I remember it. Lula’s edict had sunk in, and I was determined to become a man-of-the-kitchen!
Fast-forward some 40 years. Lula had been slowly moving away from eating meat for assorted reasons.
About the same time, I saw an article in the USA WEEKEND magazine under CookSmart by cookbook author Pam Anderson. It was titled: “Fast, yummy veggie pot pie – an easy but hearty meal.”
I read it, cut it out, and dug through our old recipe box to find my mother’s chicken pot pie recipe. I decided to combine the two recipes into a vegan, veggie pot pie. And that’s how this recipe came to be.
To be honest, we are not "perfect vegans," but we whole-heartedly embrace a plant-based diet and do not eat meat or dairy products.
A friend once asked me, “You guys still eating sticks ‘n’ twigs?” I didn’t strike back, but here is what I would say now. There is nothing further from the truth.
Once you put together a fabulous Asian sauce onto fried tofu cubes, grains, and top with salad (called Buddha or Dragon Bowl), you’ll melt into eating bliss. You can also use seitan, jackfruit or tempeh along with your favorite BBQ sauce. There are infinite ways to flavor food without meat.
If you think being a vegan is bland, you’re driving down the wrong road. And now in today’s food environment, there are tons of vegan options, including many in fast-food places.
Vegan Veggie Pot Pie (or Chicken-less Pot Pie)
By Kim Palmer
Yields 6 to 8 servings
4 C chopped green veggies: 3 C of chopped cabbage plus 1 C other vegetables (or all cabbage)
3 large carrots, cut lengthwise, then sliced thinly
3 C of red potatoes, cut into small to medium chunks
½ C frozen peas
¼ C pimentos (or ½ C chopped red pepper)
1 large onion, chopped
¼ pound cremini mushrooms (baby bella or your choice), chopped
1 stalk celery, trimmed and chopped
¼ C oil or Earth Balance plant margarine
3 C vegetable broth
¾ C non-dairy milk (recommended: soy)
½ C all-purpose flour
Make 2 containers of seasonings, each with the following ingredients:
1 tsp. each salt and pepper (to taste and depends on how salty your broth is)
½ tsp. each sage, marjoram, thyme, and poultry seasoning
Crust of your choice (use recipe below or purchase frozen vegan pie crust)
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
2. Toss the cabbage, carrots, potatoes, peas and pimentos (or red peppers) into an oiled 9x13” pan.
3. Lightly coat the veggies with oil. Mix in one of the season containers. (Save the other half of the seasonings for the gravy).
4. Place the pan on the lowest oven rack and cook the veggies about 25-30 minutes. Stir every 10 minutes; check to be sure the veggies are tender.
5. While the veggies are cooking, heat ¼ C oil of choice or plant margarine in a large fry pan. Sauté the onions, mushrooms and celery with the remaining herb mix, cooking until vegetables are slightly tender (a few minutes).
6. Thoroughly whisk the broth, plant milk and flour together and then, while the pan is very hot, add mixture all at once (I know – that is not what your mother taught you...). Continue to stir with onions, mushrooms and celery until it comes to a simmer and thickens. Taste; add more seasoning as desired.
7. Pour the gravy over the cooked veggies in the 9x13” pan; put your crust on top.
8. Bake on the center rack for 20-30 minutes at 425 degrees F until the crust is brown and it’s all piping-hot.
This recipe is good as leftovers and freezes well.
2 C all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
⅔ C plant-based shortening
6-8 Tbsp. cold water
1. Mix flour and salt with a whisk. Cut in shortening until mixture is evenly crumbled. Add the water, one tablespoon at a time, mixing after each addition until the dough just cleans the bowl.
2. Divide into two flattened circles. Roll out on floured surface (or between two sheets of parchment paper) until about ¼-inch thick. I like to cut into circles and cover the top of the baking dish with slightly overlapping pieces. Or you can roll out one large crust to cover the top of the baking dish.
Lula Palmer has a degree in science education. She worked for the Department of Defense for 20 years in environmental protection and training. Kim Palmer was a math major and has a master's in educational administration. After teaching math for a few years, he also worked for the DOD, managing education and training programs. .
For questions or comments regarding the Vegan Community of Eastern Iowa, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.veganeasterniowa.org. Everyone is welcome to join the VCEI on Facebook or MeetUp.
This article originally appeared on Iowa City Press-Citizen: One way to get meat off your table is with this veggie pot pie recipe