PART 1 – Lula’s story
Growing up in Georgia in the 1950s and early 60s with a working mother says a lot about the early influences on my eating habits.
Meat was the star of the plate, be it steak, pot roast, pork chops, ham or chicken, and it took center stage in our meal planning. In addition, there were frozen or canned vegetables such as peas, green beans or corn, which saved housewives time.
Our favorite starch was mashed potatoes or rice. Salads were a canned pear or pineapple slice with cottage cheese or jelly with canned fruit cocktail. And then there was spam, frozen chicken pot pies, and dinners on TV. We washed it all down with copious amounts of sweet tea.
Our son still pokes fun at some of our earlier meals, like pigs in a blanket with wieners wrapped in Pillsbury cookie dough. What’s in these sausages anyway? And are you from Vienna – really?
Another favorite was laying diced steaks on a sheet of foil, topping with sliced potatoes and carrots, and seasoning with a dollop of Lipton Dried Onion Soup Mix. Form and seal tents from the foil. Cook in the oven and no pans to wash!
It’s difficult to change things that are so important to your life, like food and cooking. The foods you eat and the way they were prepared are all encased in your memories of home and loved ones.
So you must have a clear reason and way to make a change. And it is not necessary to do everything 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 started together. Cooking and planning together can make a big difference in your success.
At first we gave up red meat. Cows are so harmful to the environment, especially when they are raised on crowded forage farms where waste disposal often pollutes rivers and streams.
Our son and his wife are great cooks. They made us change our eating habits and try new recipes. When we moved to Iowa City in 2010, we met many people who didn’t eat meat or other animal products like milk or eggs.
Nutritionist Carol Throckmorton and the Vegan Community of Eastern Iowa she organizes held Plantlucks almost every month before COVID, where we could try wonderful vegan recipes. At the Unitarian Universalist Society, Throckmorton expanded on my reasons for wanting to be more plant-based.
Their three-point justification was simple and made sense to me: (1) health, (2) environment, and (3) animal welfare.
PART 2 – Kim’s story
A few years after we got married, Lula shared with me that cooking and helping out in the kitchen were part of my “vows,” and I learned I couldn’t just say, “I need some more sweet lemon tea” — and then move like that how I wanted to get up and wait for her to say, “Oh, let me get it.” So ended my growing up experience as a southern man.
My mom was a wonderful Southern cook and I loved her chicken pot pie. My father was an accountant and wannabe farmer. We had a huge garden of fresh or homemade vegetables most of the time, along with fresh chicken and fresh eggs.
It was around 1970 when I called my mom about her pot pie recipe. She read it to me over the phone (no texting or email at the time). I did it and we all liked it.
At least that’s how I remember it. Lula’s decree had sunk, and I was determined to be a man of the kitchen!
Fast forward about 40 years. Lula had slowly moved away from eating meat for a variety of reasons.
Around the same time, I saw an article in USA WEEKEND magazine under CookSmart by cookbook author Pam Anderson. It was captioned, “Quick, Tasty Vegetarian Pot Pie – A Simple But Hearty Meal.”
I read it, cut it out, and rummaged through our old recipe box to find my mom’s chicken pot pie recipe. I decided to combine the two recipes into a vegan, vegetarian pot pie. And that’s how this recipe came about.
To be honest, we’re not “perfect vegans,” but we do eat a total plant-based diet, with no meat or dairy.
A friend once asked me, “Are you guys still eating sticks and twigs?” I didn’t hit back, but here’s what I would say now. Nothing is further from the truth.
Once you’ve concocted a fabulous Asian sauce on fried cubes of tofu, seeds and lettuce (dubbed the Buddha Bowl or Dragon Bowl) you will melt away in bliss. You can also use seitan, jackfruit or tempeh along with your favorite BBQ sauce. There are endless ways to flavor non-meat dishes.
If you think being vegan is boring, you’re going the wrong way. And now, in today’s food environment, vegan options abound, including many in fast-food restaurants.
Vegan Veggie Pot Pie (or Pot Pie without Chicken)
By Kim Palmer
Makes 6 to 8 servings
- 4 C chopped green veg: 3 C chopped cabbage plus 1 C other veg (or whole cabbage)
- 3 large carrots, cut lengthways, then thinly sliced
- 3 C red potatoes, cut into small to medium chunks
- ½ C frozen peas
- ¼ C allspice (or ½ C chopped red pepper)
- 1 large onion, chopped
- ¼ pound cremini mushrooms (Baby Bella or your choice), chopped
- 1 stick of celery, trimmed and chopped
- ¼ C oil or Earth Balance vegetable margarine
- 3 C vegetable broth
- ¾ C plant milk (recommended: soy)
- ½ C all-purpose flour
Make 2 containers of spices, each with the following ingredients:
- 1 teaspoon. salt and pepper each (to taste and depending on how salty your broth is)
- ½ tsp. each with sage, marjoram, thyme and poultry spice
- Your choice of crust (use recipe below or buy frozen vegan pie crust)
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
2. Add cabbage, carrots, potatoes, peas, and allspice (or red peppers) to an oiled 9×13-inch skillet.
3. Brush the vegetables lightly with oil. Mix in one of the seasonal containers. (Reserve the other half of the spices for the sauce).
4. Place the pan on the bottom rack of the oven and cook the vegetables for about 25-30 minutes. Stir every 10 minutes; Check if the vegetables are tender.
5. While the vegetables are cooking, heat ¼ C oil of your choice or add margarine to a large skillet. Sauté the onions, mushrooms and celery with the remaining herb mixture and cook until the vegetables are slightly tender (a few minutes).
6. Whisk the broth, non-dairy milk, and flour together thoroughly, then while the pan is very hot, add the mixture all at once (I know – your mom didn’t teach you that…). Continue to stir in the onions, mushrooms, and celery until simmering and thickened. Taste; add more spices if you like.
7. Pour the sauce over the cooked vegetables in the 9×13 inch pan; Place your crust on top.
8. Bake on the middle shelf at 425 degrees F for 20-30 minutes until crust is brown and piping hot.
This recipe makes good leftovers and freezes well.
- 2 C all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon. Salt
- ⅔ C vegetable-based fat
- 6-8 tbsp. cold water
1. Mix the flour and salt with a whisk. Cut in the fat until the mixture is evenly crumbled. Add the water one spoon at a time, stirring after each addition until the batter just clears the bowl.
2. Divide into two flattened circles. Roll out on a floured surface (or between two sheets of parchment paper) to about ¼ inch thick. I like to cut into circles and line the top of the casserole dish with slightly overlapping pieces. Or you can roll out a large crust to cover the top of the casserole dish.
Lula Palmer has a degree in Science Education. She worked for the Department of Defense for 20 years in environmental protection and education. Kim Palmer studied Mathematics and has a Masters in Education Administration. After teaching mathematics for a number of years, he also worked for the DOD, directing education and training programs. .
If you have any questions or comments about the Vegan Community of Eastern Iowa, email email@example.com or visit www.veganeasterniowa.org. Everyone is welcome to join the VCEI on Facebook or MeetUp.