Vegetarian pot pie (plus a GF vegan version)

I could have sworn I’d already posted this recipe, but when I went to look for it I came up empty handed. The photo is from the classic version. The GF version was gobbled up before I could snap a pic.

This recipe has been my go-to comfort food for most of my adult life, and the recipe most of the other people I’ve cooked for have been the most impressed with. My kids love it. And my daughter has said to me, in all seriousness, “I just don’t really like food.”

Pie is one of the losses I’ve been mourning since I started the elimination diet — pot pie doubly so, because it is chock full of things I’m not supposed to eat. So I decided to get bold and see what I could do to make it compatible with my stomach. Did I succeed? Somewhat. I was in a fair amount of pain the day after I made it, but that could just be that I had seconds.

Everyone had seconds. Even my daughter, the food hater.

And it was so worth it.

Below is the original recipe, plus the tweaks I made to render it compatible with my digestive system.

 

Vegetarian pot pie
(GF/vegan/low FODMAP modifications in parentheses)

Pie crust for an 8-inch pie*
2 cups all-purpose flour (GF 1:1 flour)
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening (adding 1-2 extra tablespoons to GF dough improves the texture)
4-5 tablespoons cold water

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Using a pastry cutter or food processor, cut the shortening into the flour and salt until the mixture looks like bread crumbs. Add the water a tablespoon at a time and toss with a fork until the dough starts to come together; only add as much water as you need to get the dough to hold in a ball. Separate into two balls of nearly equal size. (GF dough: Place balls in the refrigerator until ready to shape. Skip the next paragraph and move straight on to the pie filling.)

Sprinkle flour on your rolling surface; I like to use a glass cutting board, chilled in hot/humid weather. Roll out the slightly larger dough ball into a circle 1 1/2 to 2 inches larger than your pie plate. Loosely roll the dough around your rolling pin, then transfer to the pie plate, making sure to leave an overhang for crimping. Roll out the second crust; roll around your rolling pin and set aside.

Pie filling
2 cans, drained well, or 3 cups mixed vegetables of your choice**
4 tablespoons butter (vegan butter)
4 tablespoons flour (GF 1:1 flour)
1 cup vegetable broth (low FODMAP concentrate recipe follows; I used 1 cup of water to 1 tablespoon concentrate for this dish)
1 cup milk (vegan half and half)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon celery salt — use less if your broth is really salty
2 teaspoons dill weed
Black pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook until the mixture is bubbly and foamy. Stir in the celery salt and dill weed. Add the liquids a half a cup at a time, stirring well and allowing the mixture to thicken after each addition. Add black pepper to taste; keep in mind, though, that pepper gets hotter the longer it cooks, so you may want to skimp on it now and add more right before serving.

Stir in your vegetables; mix well and bring to a simmer. Cook for a few minutes, until the sauce is thickened and all the vegetables well coated. If you are using fresh or frozen vegetables, you may need to modify your cooking time to ensure that all pieces cook through. Cut fresh vegetables into uniform pieces of one inch or smaller; if using fresh vegetables with a long cook time, such as potatoes, stick with pieces no larger than 1/2 inch. If using fresh vegetables, or large/dense frozen veggies such as broccoli, squash, or beans, simmer them in the sauce until softened before transferring to the pie shell.

To prepare the GF pie shell (skip this paragraph if using a regular pie shell): Remove half of the pie dough from the refrigerator, flatten it into a disk, and place it in the bottom of your pie plate. Using your knuckles, gently flatten the dough into the pie plate and up the sides, trying to make it as even and smooth as possible. Don’t worry about leaving an overhang for crimping; this isn’t that kind of pie. Shape the other half of the dough into a cylinder roughly 2 inches in diameter (cookie sized) and, using a sharp knife, slice into 1/4-inch slices. Pour the vegetable mixture into the shell, then top with the dough slices. (Skip the next paragraph.)

Pour the vegetable mixture into the prepared pie shell; place the second crust on top. Crimp the edges of the top and bottom crust using your fingertips or a fork. Cut slits in the top.

Place your pie pan on a baking sheet and bake for 35 minutes at 425 degrees or until the crust is golden brown and the sauce is bubbly. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5-10 minutes or until the sauce is thickened.

*My pie plate is 9 inches, so I usually add a couple extra tablespoons each of flour and shortening to compensate when making a traditional pie shell. Since the GF shell requires no crimping, I only added extra shortening, not extra flour.

**I usually use canned mixed vegetables in this, but it also works with fresh or frozen. Canned is just faster, and my family is impatient. I do recommend going with the low-sodium varieties if using canned vegetables, though.

 

Low FODMAP vegetable stock concentrate
(My recipe is based on this one, modified to accommodate my food allergies and the contents of my fridge. I think so long as you keep the proportions similar and pay attention to how the flavors combine, you can tweak this to suit your tastes.)

25 baby carrots (roughly 3 large whole carrots)
1 stalk celery
center of one leek stalk, white portion and leathery green leaves trimmed away
1/2 red bell pepper (you can use more, but I don’t like bell pepper that much)
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried parsley
3 tablespoons salt

Roughly chop all vegetables (except baby carrots, if using) and combine in the food processor bowl. Pulse the vegetables together until a paste is formed, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the herbs and pulse until well combined. Add the salt and pulse until well mixed. Scrape down the bowl and pulse a few seconds more, then transfer to a freezer-safe container. The salt keeps the mixture from freezing solid, so you could scoop out what you need. I store mine in a covered silicone ice cube tray for convenience.

To use: 1 tablespoon concentrate plus two cups hot water equal two cups broth.

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A naptime story for Kai

Take a deep breath. Close your eyes.

We’re in a park, lying on a blanket beneath a tree. We just finished a picnic lunch. What did we eat? We had cheese sandwiches and chips and…strawberry shortcake? No? How about apple pie? Okay, cookies then. Cookies and ice-cold milk. We had a picnic lunch of sandwiches and chips and cookies, and now we’re lying on the blanket resting.

What do you smell?

I smell beautiful flowers. And trees. We’re in the shade of some of those trees, on our blanket. I smell warm earth, cool green grass, clean air. Do you smell that? It smells so lovely. I smell sweet cookies on your breath.

What do you feel?

I feel the soft blanket we’re laying on, spread across thick green grass. How comfy it is, laying here. I feel you, snuggled up against me. I feel how comfortably full we are from our picnic lunch. I feel a warm, gentle breeze.

At this point, I blow gently on his hair. It makes him smile.

What do you hear?

I hear birds singing in the trees above us. Far off, I hear children playing. I hear the wind ruffling the leaves. I hear the water in the lake lapping at the shore. I hear fish splashing at the surface. Is there a turtle in there, as well? I believe there is.

What do you see?

The sky is bright blue with fat, puffy clouds; it’s so bright that almost hurts to look at it. The trees sway gently in the breeze. I see the blue blanket beneath us, spread out on the green grass. I see the light glimmering on the water. I see flowers — pink and orange and purple and yellow. I see you closing your eyes against that bright sky, dozing off.

We have nowhere to be. We have nothing to do. Nobody’s waiting on us. We can lay here as long as we want, smelling the flowers and listening to the waves and feeling the breeze in our hair. We are in no hurry. We are warm, and fed, and comfortable, and nothing hurts. Mommy is here. Mommy will keep you safe.

Just rest for a while. When you get up, we’ll play.

Keep it silly, stupid

The snark is strong with my firstborn.

As is a deep-seated hatred of homework. But let’s be real — nobody likes homework, do they? Aside from the occasional fun assignment, anyway. (I thoroughly enjoyed any and all creative writing assignments, and even some term papers when I got to choose the topic. But writing’s always been my thing.) Still, she’s in first grade now, and has had daily homework since pre-K. (Which is a blog rant for another day.) Plus speech practice, because she’s still in speech. Too much homework too often to endure head-to-head battles over it, in other words.

It’s not just homework, either. Whereas most kids her age love to be read to, she stopped loving story time early on — somewhere around 4 months, I’d say. Every once in a blue moon she’ll bring me a book, but usually she’d rather watch YouTube. I’ve gone through the stages of grief on that one and finally, quietly, resigned the battle. Perhaps my son will be a book lover, but my daughter isn’t — I’ll just have to live with that.

(I sometimes read Harold and the Purple Crayon and The Lorax and The Poky Little Puppy all by myself. I still like them, darn it.)

Every day, we do this: I pick her up at school and ask about her day. She tells me about recess. Sometimes PE. We arrive home from school, where I review her conduct grade plus any notes from her teacher while she eats the lunch she didn’t eat at lunch. (Um…okay.) I also review her notes from speech, and sign everything that needs signing. I put it all back in the backpack except her homework, which I put in a little pile.

“Okay,” I tell her. “Let’s get your homework out of the way.”

Commence yelling, screaming, pleading, bargaining, and general bitching.

“C’mon — it’s not much. Let’s knock it out so you can play the rest of the day,” I say gently.

More fussing.

We proceed to bicker back and forth for 20 minutes. Over 5 minutes of homework. These sessions usually end with me saying something stupid like “YOU WILL SIT HERE AND DO THIS HOMEWORK AND YOU ARE NOT BUDGING FROM THAT CHAIR UNTIL IT IS DONE.”

“But what if I have to pee? What if the house catches fire? What if I don’t finish before bedtime?” says my little lawyer-to-be.

Every. damned. day.

Five minutes of homework.

At this rate, I’m not sure I’ll live long enough to get her to do her homework in high school.

It doesn’t help that her speech practice is so…boring. We’ve been working on TS sounds since last year. Same exercises, same words — we’re both over it. They’ve introduced a daily calendar of practice suggestions this year, to try to shake things up a bit, but it’s still saying words with TS in them several times. Fruits fruits fruits fruits. Bats bats bats bats. Kites kites kites kites. Yawn yawn yawn yawn.

The other day, the practice suggestion was to pick three words and say each in a phrase 10 times apiece. We’d done this exercise for a few days running, actually; while the sheet differentiates the location of the target sound (at the beginning, middle, or end of the word), we just have the one list of about 12 words because, well, there aren’t many words that start with TS, are there? Anya, understandably, was giving me the full foot-dragging treatment: moans and groans and sloppy pronunciation, punctuated with plenty of outbursts along the lines of “This is stupid! I don’t want to do this!”

And, really, how excited can you get about saying “flying kites” ten times, for the third day in a row?

Then inspiration struck. Rather than “cooked carrots,” which was the phrase I was going to suggest next, I went with “I hate carrots.”

She does. With a passion. Her eyes lit up.

“I hate carroTS!” she shouted, with relish. “I hate carroTS! I hate carroTS! I HATE CARROTS!” Every TS — indeed, every syllable — perfectly, crisply enunciated. I had to stop her after 10 iterations; she was prepared to keep going.

“I have no pants,” I prompted.

“I have no panTS! I have no panTS! I have NO PANTS! I! Have! No! PAAAAANTS!” she giggled.

I felt the key to end our homework battles settling into my palm. That night, at bedtime, I selected some of our sillier books. Dragons Love Tacos is a favorite. The Pigeon Needs a Bath is another. (We battle over bath time now, too.) That night, she thoroughly enjoyed our story time. And read the books back to me — her idea, not mine.

I’d forgotten that kids thrive on goofiness. Keep it silly, stupid.

 

Like a girl

Expensive makeup. Hair color. Pink cords. A faux leather motorcycle jacket. A range of skirts and flowy floral tops, the likes of which my closet hasn’t seen since I was in my 20s. These are just some of the things I’ve purchased in recent weeks.

I admit that my wardrobe needs an overhaul — I’m still rocking my baby weight/nursing-friendly duds, even though I’m dropping weight and nursing less these days. And now that Kai is maturing, I’m able to dress a little nicer; I’ve been in tees-and-yogawear mode for the better part of the past 7 years, so it’s a nice change of pace.

The upgrade doesn’t stop with the clothes, though. I keep experimenting with my hair, trying to find some style that suits me and isn’t too labor intensive. I wear more makeup now than I’ve worn since I was 13 and felt that full-face makeup was mandatory. I wear jewelry every day, and will wear more when Kai is older. (Dangly earrings, I miss you.) I shower daily, wash my face twice a day, and faithfully remove my makeup and apply moisturizer and sunscreen. I shave every day, even if I’m not wearing shorts.

I work from home. Some days the only time I leave the house is to take Anya to school and pick her up. Today, with both kids sick, my forays outdoors have been limited to taking the trash out. So why am I putting all this effort into my appearance?

Perhaps because I do work from home; I used to rail against being judged by my appearance, but now I feel unseen and that’s not sitting well either. Perhaps it’s a way to honor this new phase in my life; I am out of the survival mode that is parenting infants, and have the time and energy to care what I look like. It’s more than that, though: In my impending cronehood, I’ve reached a level of self-acceptance great enough to admit I kind of like girling up.

Twenty years ago, I was ashamed to admit I liked girly stuff. To be told you did something like a girl was one of life’s greater insults, and in my mind that extended to everything I am; I am a girl, so everything I do is done like a girl. Ergo, I suck. So I shunned pink and frills and elaborate grooming routines; I prided myself on taking less time to get ready than my boyfriends, for preferring action flicks to rom-coms, for playing video games and reading comics. As I aged, I began to veer back towards the girly side…until I realized that my very gender was hampering my career advancement. So I adopted a work “uniform” of sorts, stopped wearing makeup, and focused on my professional output. (None of which helped, btw. The only thing that worked was getting the hell out of that company.)

When I became a mother, girlification was not only difficult to fit in to my schedule, but also a waste of time. Why fix your hair when your kid’s just going to spit up in it? Why put on a nice outfit when you’re going to get peed on (or worse) and have to change in an hour or so? So I pared down to basic hygiene and traded dress clothes for knit pants. Where I’d once had three distinct groups of clothes — one for work, one for workouts, and one for sleep — after giving birth I had one wardrobe that I wore everywhere, all the time.

But I gave birth to a girly girl. At 4 months, she was able to communicate to me that she disliked my new haircut. (I donated to Locks of Love twice in the first year of her life, taking my hair from waist length to chin length. She hated the second haircut more than the first.) From the time she was a baby — I’m talking 4 months here — she let me know she preferred it when I dressed up and wore makeup and jewelry. So I slowly began incorporating makeup and hair styling into my mornings. I started wearing earrings again, once she was past the grabby stage. Then rings and necklaces. I dressed up a bit more for holidays, and sometimes on a random Tuesday. I felt that these things were a waste of time, but they made her smile, so what harm?

Now I do it for me. Because it makes me feel better to look nice, even if no one sees me but my family. Because as the mother of a fierce, funny, intelligent, compassionate daughter, I’ve re-evaluated my view on being a girl; I’ve come to realize that the people who use “like a girl” as an insult are threatened by girls. Because as a mother, I’ve experienced one of the most amazing things human beings are capable of doing — I’ve carried children inside my body, gave birth to them, and nourished them with my own milk. Now I spend my days with these little people who used to be as much a part of me as my heart and lungs. It is a humbling, awe-inspiring experience.

It’s an honor to do something like a girl.

And while I’ll never really get the fascination with rom-coms, I do rather like pink.

Vegan mashed sweet potatoes and carrots

I’ve been on an elimination diet since the beginning of August. I’ve been following, roughly, the low FODMAP diet, and have also eliminated a few foods that I suspect are troublesome, in an effort to get my body back to some sort of baseline. So I’ve been eating the same 6-10 foods over and over for a month.

It’s also hot as Hades in my house. Our air is broken, and a series of repair guys have been unable to fix it. So even if I could eat food, it is way too hot too cook. Tonight, having eaten all the soup in the house, and having also removed salads from my diet for the time being, I decided to revisit my beloved mashed sweet potatoes and carrots. I’m ready for fall. And at least this fall dish doesn’t heat up the house.

This version of the recipe uses more sugar than my original, and no applesauce. I haven’t figured out if apples are a safe food in terms of my digestive system, so I’m eating them sparingly. The extra sugar is because my body’s been in near-starvation mode for a month; if I don’t insert a little fat and sugar into my diet on occasion, I get light-headed and cranky. Feel free to dial back the sweet for your own potatoes.

I still miss food, but this takes a little of the sting out of my restrictive diet. And yes, peas are still the best accompaniment to the sweet potatoes. Aren’t they pretty together?

 

Vegan mashed sweet potatoes and carrots

Serves 4-8

2 medium/large sweet potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cups baby carrots
2 tablespoons vegan butter
1 1/2 teaspoon Penzey’s Pie Spice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup brown sugar
salt to taste

Boil the sweet potatoes and carrots in salted water until tender, 20-30 minutes. (Stopping before the carrots are mush gives you a little texture to the finished dish.) Using a slotted spoon, remove the boiled vegetables to a mixing bowl; reserve the cooking liquid. Mash with butter, pie spice, and brown sugar — I prefer to use a hand mixer, but a potato masher would work just as well. Drizzle with a little of the reserved cooking liquid and mix again; repeat as needed until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Serve with a sprinkle of brown sugar and salt, if desired.

And peas, of course.

140 days

January 9, 2019. That’s the date that my transition from perimenopause to menopause will be complete.

(Unless, of course, I have a period between now and then. But I’m not holding my breath there.)

Back in April, when I wrote this post, the big M was a hypothetical. But now I have my gynecologist’s rubber stamp on it: I am in menopause. I’m a bit young for it, sure, but my mother was 45 when she went through the change. The difference being my mom had a college student at the time; I have a first grader, and a 3-year-old whom I still nurse. I may not be a young mother, but I am still very much in mother mode.

It feels very weird to be breastfeeding while my reproductive system is shutting down.

My main reaction, now that my suspicions have been confirmed, is still relief. At least I won’t suffer from endometriosis anymore. This past weekend, we took a little trip, and I left the pads in my suitcase even though I was almost positive I would not need them. Now I can take them out; Anya’s years from having periods (though not that many), and I won’t be requiring them any more. No more monthly mood swings, excruciating pain, period math, ruined clothing, cycle tracking, birth control. That part of my life is nearly over, forever.

But I’ll also never have another baby. Never again feel little kicks in my belly. Never again hold my newborn child. All those firsts are gone for good. When I take down the babyproofing this time, it stays down forever. The only babies I’ll rock now are my grandchildren, should I be so lucky to meet them. I loved being pregnant (okay — for the most part). Now I’ll never be pregnant again.

I feel a little ridiculous for even thinking this way. If I were to get pregnant right now, I would be 45 when the baby was born. Which would make me 63 when he or she turned 18 — not quite paying for college tuition from my retirement, but damned close. And then there’s all the rest. Right now we have one of each, and one child per parent. With three, we’d be outnumbered. Space is tight now — add another kid and we’d be sardined. We’d have to move, and buy a 7-seat vehicle; regular ones would no longer hold us all. We’re just now getting back on our feet financially after my two maternity leaves plus the year I worked part-time after Anya was born; having another baby would set us back again, and this time I wouldn’t even have the short-term disability insurance income.

I got rid of all the baby stuff, all my maternity clothes. I was ready to be done. But now I am done, and I’m sad. As my best friend put it, there’s deciding it’s over and there’s having the decision made for you. It’s so much harder when it’s not your choice.

I always knew early menopause was a possibility. It’s why I chose to put having babies first, and married R afterwards. You can get married any old time, but I knew my childbearing years could be nearing the end. And, as it turns out, I was right.

I’ll adapt to this new phase, of course. I already have two beautiful children, a successful business, two half-written novels, and a bunch of other interests I want to pursue. Plus two aging parents, and health issues of my own. It’s time to accept the family I have and move on.

But I think a part of me will always wonder what it would have been like to have a third child.

Carrot soup

As mentioned last week, I made some soup with the carrots left over from my veggie roast. By the time the veggies were in my belly, the soup was ready. I merely mushed up the carrots and stuck the soup in the fridge for the next day. No additional prep, and very little extra cleanup. That’s my kind of meal.

This recipe makes one main dish meal (approximately a cup and a half of soup) or two side dishes. You can double the ingredients for a larger batch, but stick with 3 tablespoons of oil and 3 cups of water; more than that would make it too oily/soupy.

Fun fact: I actually hate carrots. Not as much as I hate, say, broccoli, but they are certainly not my fave. And I love this soup. So if you hate carrots, you might want to give this a try.

 

Carrot soup

1/2 package (roughly 1.5 cups) baby carrots, rinsed
2 tablespoons olive oil
pinch ginger*
1 teaspoon parsley, dried
1/2 teaspoon thyme, dried
1 veggie bouillon cube (GF, vegan if that’s your thing — Edward & Sons makes a good one)
2 cups water

*When I say pinch, I mean a seriously small amount. Imagine Barbie’s soup spoon. That small. A little goes a long way. You want the flavor, but not necessarily the heat.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Dissolve the bouillon cube in the water; set aside. Add the carrots, ginger, parsley, and thyme and saute 5 minutes or until fragrant. Add the veggie bouillon and stir well. Simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes, or until carrots are tender. Remove from heat and, using a blender (immersion or otherwise), process until smooth.

Note: My carrots took a really long (in the neighborhood of 30 minutes) time to soften up. Thus, I had very little liquid left by the time I was at the puree stage. I like a thick, creamy soup, and I’m the only one who will eat this stuff anyway, so I left it like that. If you want a thinner soup, or if you need more servings, you can always add more bouillon.