So we’re kind of easing our way into The Grand Soup Experiment. After getting two toddler thumbs down on my first attempts, I decided it was time to try the best gateway drug to soup: pot pies. If the kiddos aren’t sold on the concept of a hearty liquid meal, why not hide it behind a layer of bread? Our working family recipe is a slight variation of one I found in the Winter 2003-2004 issue of Veggie Life magazine. And it follows what has become one of my top rules for preparing meals for toddlers: don’t spend any significant amount of time preparing a recipe for your kids that you don’t like yourself.
Here’s the recipe.
For the crust:
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cold vegan butter (we use Earth Balance)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
6 tablespoons soy milk
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter until it is in pea-sized pieces. Stir in the thyme and soy milk. Use the back of a spoon to knead the dough until it forms a ball. Pull off a piece of dough (about 1/3 of the ball) and place it on a sheet of plastic wrap. Place another sheet of wrap on top of the dough and use a rolling pin to flatten the dough to about 1/2 to 1/4 inch thick. With the top sheet still in place, place the bowl you are using for the pot pie upside down on top of the dough and press down (turning back and forth a bit) to cut out a circle the exact size of the opening in your bowl. Remove the top sheet of plastic wrap, poke the circle a few times with a fork to make tiny holes, peel off the circle, and place it on a new sheet of plastic wrap. Repeat, reusing the extra dough as you go and layering the crusts between sheets of plastic wrap, until you’ve cut enough tops for all of your bowls. I make smaller tops for the ramekins I use for the kids and larger tops for the grown-up pies. If you have a bit of extra dough, roll it out and cut out shapes with cookie cutters for some extra “crackers” for the kids. These are handy for when the pot pies are still cooling but the kiddos’ bellies are rumbling. Put the crusts and crackers in the refrigerator (sandwiched between layers of plastic wrap, including one on top) until you are ready to cook them.
For the filling:
3 cups vegetable stock
1 cup textured vegetable protein (TVP)
1 bag (4 cups) frozen mixed veggies (your favorite mix)
1 1/2 cups soy milk
8 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
In a large saucepan, bring the stock to a boil. Stir in the TVP and the veggies. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Give the mixture another stir to combine the ingredients, cover, remove from heat, and let stand for 5 minutes. In a medium bowl, stir together the soy milk, cornstarch, and garlic powder. Stir this mixture into the veggie mixture and bring it to a boil, continually stirring until the mixture thickens up. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Divide the stew between the pot pie bowls. Top each pie with the pre-cut crusts. Note that the crusts will sit just inside the edges of the bowls and not lay over the sides. This is the technique that I’ve found works best after getting frustrated with the sinking middles and overly crispy edges that inevitably result from draping the crusts over the tops of the pies. Place the pies on a cookie sheet (or two) and place the “crackers” directly on the (nonstick) sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn off the heat and leave the pies in for 5 more minutes. (The crackers can come out when you turn off the oven.) The filling will bubble up around the edges of the pies. Remove the pies from the oven and let them cool for 5 minutes before enjoying them, a bit longer for the kids (that filling gets hot!).
The above recipes yielded three medium sized pies for the grown ups, and two ramekin sized pies and three “crackers” for the kids, with a bit of filling to spare, but it really all depends on the size of your bowls (both depth and diameter), so it might take a bit of trial and error.
Everyone in our family seems to have his or her own technique for digging in. Yours truly delights in methodically working my way across the pie, scooping up a little bit of crust to eat with each bite. My other half destroys the whole thing and then relishes in scarfing it all down in big scoops. Xavier enjoyed digging for “buried treasure” underneath the crust (joyfully announcing his finds) and Quinn made a big hole in the middle and worked his way out.
The final verdict? Xavier loved the acorn shaped crackers, but despite the fact that he was “finding” many of his favorite vegetables under that mysterious crust, he hoped we wouldn’t notice that he wasn’t actually eating any of them. We did. After some initial befuddlement over exactly what this was, once Quinn realized it involved eating bread and creamy veggies with a spoon, he was all over it. In fact, he quickly scarfed it down, declared “All done!” and then brought the ramekin up to for a closer look just to be sure. So it was a total score with the little guy and a total failure with the big one. Hey, these days 50/50 ain’t bad.