I should probably mention that Leslie is a Vegan, so that meant that any recipes she wanted tested would be dairy-free, meat-free, egg-free, and so on. Not my usual fare, but I have read Leslie's blog, 'Cause I Eats Me Spinach, and have often thought that many of the dishes look and sound delicious. So, when Leslie posted the request I volunteered to try one or two of the recipes. I offered to try either Oven baked Carrot or Sweet Potatoe Fries, or "Chicken" and Dumplings. Leslie took me up on the offer and sent me the recipes for both dishes. So, last week I gathered all the ingredients I would need and printed copies of her recipes, and dived into my first Vegan dinner.
Back in early July my daughter's best friend, Leslie, posted this message on her Facebook page...
"My aunt is putting together a family cookbook and wants 4 recipes from me. I'm pretty sure I know which ones I want to submit, but I need to make sure the recipes are clear and repeatable. Anyone willing to be a recipe tester for me?"
Other than having trouble getting my hands on the "chicken", all the ingredients were easy to find. Carrots, vegetable broth, garlic, flour, spices. I decided to use frozen spinach in my dish, rather than kale or mustard greens. I know I like spinach and I wasn't sure about the others. :) The chicken I finally found in the refrigerator section in the specialty foods section of a local grocery store.
The main dish was very easy to put together. Leslie's directions are precise, clear and easy to understand. I kept the printed copy of the recipe nearby and referred to it as I put everything together.
The carrot fries were even easier to put together. I have done a similar dish with zucchini in the past and was excited to try the carrot version.
I brought everything to the table, and set it in front of the hubby. Bless his heart, he will eat anything I cook at least once. He has often told me I don't have to make a particular dish ever again, but he always gives it a try. He was a bit apprehensive but dug in.
We were both very pleasantly surprised! The soup was rich and flavorful. The dumplings were soft yet hearty. I cleaned my bowl and looked over to see that the hubby had cleaned his too. Next thing I knew, he was standing by the island, eating "seconds" straight from the pot! Even Patches liked the "chicken"! As for the carrot fries...fabulous! Baking brought out the sweetness of the carrots and the spice blend I used added just enough flavor without overpowering the carrots natural taste.
So, if you would like to give a Vegan dish a try, make it this one! I don't think you will be disappointed. Thanks Leslie! It was fun making this and a delicious surprise eating it! :)
"Chicken" & Dumplings
1 packet fake chicken product of choice (Morningstar Farms' Chicken-Style Strips, available in the freezer section of just about every grocery store anywhere these days, is perfect for this)
2 to 5 cloves garlic, minced (depending on how much you love garlic; I typically use 4)
1 large carrot, cut into half-rounds
2 handfuls coarsely chopped kale, mustard greens, or collard greens (optional - I love the added color and nutritional value the greens give to the soup)
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 tbsp olive oil, or vegan non-hydrogenated butter substitute (Earth Balance is incredible)
4 cups vegetable broth of choice - the richer in flavor, the better!
1 to 2 tbsp animal-product-free Chicken Seasoning OR a combination of rubbed sage, oregano, thyme, black pepper, and basil
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup flour (I use whole wheat, but I think just about any flour would do)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp olive oil, or room temperature vegan non-hydrogenated butter substitute
1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsweetened plain soymilk, rice milk, almond milk, or vegetable broth
1. Brown the fake chicken in a medium-sized skillet with a little olive oil. Set aside.
2. Mix your dumplings: In a bowl, combine all dumpling ingredients and mix until a slightly wet dough is formed. Set aside.
3. In a medium-sized stock pot, heat the olive oil/vegan butter sub over medium heat for just 1 minute. Add the minced garlic and carrot and cook 2 minutes, stirring often to keep the garlic from burning.
4. Add the 1/4 cup of flour and combine with the olive oil/vegan butter sub to make a paste, or roux. Add a little of the veggie broth to help incorporate the flour, if needed, until your roux is a nice, smooth paste.
5. Add the rest of the veggie broth and the seasonings and stir to fully combine. Also add the kale/greens at this point, if you are using them. Bring the soup to a boil, stir in the pre-browned fake chicken, and then make the dumplings by dropping small spoonfuls of the dough into the boiling liquid. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and cook for about 15 minutes, until the dumplings have cooked and the soup is nice and thick.
Oven-Baked Carrot or Sweet Potato Fries
Serves 4 as a side-dish
8 large carrots or 4 medium-to-large sweet potatoes, washed and peeled
2 tbsp olive oil
1~2 tsp sea salt
1~2 tsp chipotle chili powder, Garam Masala, or any spice or combination of spices you like, really.
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the olive oil, salt, and any spices. Set aside to let the flavors mingle.
3. Chop the carrots or sweet potatoes into large fry-sized pieces. I like "steak fry"-esque wedges for both kinds. These fries - especially the carrot variety - will shrink as they roast in the oven, so you might want to cut them bigger than you think you should. I usually cut a large carrot in half along its length, then cut the thicker upper part into quarters and the narrower part in half.
4. Add the carrot/sweet potato pieces to the bowl and toss to coat evenly with the oil, salt, etc. Spread the pieces on a lightly greased baking sheet so that they aren't touching one another.
5. Let cook in the oven for about 15 minutes. Stir them around a bit, put them back in the oven, and let cook for another 10~15 minutes, until the fries are soft and lightly caramelized. Serve by themselves or with something to dip them in!