In the dead of winter, with the holidays over and New Year’s Resolutions to lose weight, get in shape, etc. looming over us, the idea of having to make an abrupt switch from heavy meals and abundant sweet treats to salad can seem a bit daunting. As much as I love salad and try to have one most days of the week, even I’m not dying to have one when the high is below freezing. When it’s cold out, we still want warm food!
Well, good news: You absolutely can enjoy comfort foods prepared vegan and even low-fat. This recipe is an example of one that I absolutely love going to when it’s cold out and all I want to do is stay inside and putter in the kitchen in my fuzzy pajama pants. Hmm, I feel a month of cooking this and similar coming on…
If you’re making the seitan yourself, this is really two recipes in one; my basic seitan recipe is here and linked below. While this is the more economical way to prepare this meal, if the time requirement or being new to vegan cooking are potential stumbling blocks for you, then by all means, substitute a product like Tofurky lightly seasoned chick’n or Gardein chick’n strips. Both of these are pretty easy to find in regular supermarkets and even WalMart; look for the Tofurky in the fridge section with the tofu, vegan cheese, etc. and Gardein products in the frozen section.
The recipe below assumes that you are making your own batch of seitan. If you’re using one of the substitutes above, simply use one package in place of the seitan (thaw your Gardein if using).
Benefits of this recipe for vegan runners
1. All the protein and none of the cholesterol, saturated fat or meat.
Because, vegan meat substitute AND green peas!
While the Tofurky and Gardein products are a little higher in fat (my seitan recipe is essential fat-free), nothing in it or any of the other ingredients will clog your arteries.
Cholesterol is only found in animal foods and is not an essential nutrient (i.e. your body produces enough on its own for the physiological processes it’s needed for). Lucky for you, the vegan diet is 100 percent cholesterol free!
While the point about the meat seems obvious, the reason it’s actually a benefit may not be. See, animal flesh is much harder to digest than plant foods and will often rot in your gut in the time (days, not hours) it takes to go all the way through your system. Gross! And before that happens (also one of the reasons I started leaning toward vegetarianism before fully making the switch), it can bog you down and potentially wreck your training on the morning of a long run, hard workout or race. If you’re not sure, try going meatless for at least one Friday night during your training cycle (in preparation for your hard effort on Saturday) and see what a difference it makes.
2. Vitamin B-12
Never again be fooled by charlatans of the meat industry or their misinformed followers: you don’t need animal products or even injections to get enough B-12. B-12 is not an animal by-product, as claimed by some; it’s derived from a bacteria that happens to reside in the intestinal tracts of critters but can be cultivated elsewhere, as it is for the production of nutritional yeast. B-12 even resides in dirt, and in the olden days, before all our produce was more thoroughly washed before getting to market, the residual dirt on said produce actually provided enough B-12 to render animal consumption unnecessary – not that it ever was necessary.
(Info about commercial nutritional yeast production can be found here – and be good boys and girls and donate when they ask you to, since we all get way more out of it than the $3 or $5 that they ask for once a year!)
3. Iron (in the Tofurky and Gardein)
The Tofurky and Gardein products mentioned above provide, respectively, 10 percent and 8 percent of your daily iron per serving.
4. Immune support
A one-cup serving of the green peas provides 96 percent of your daily vitamin C. Onions and garlic are also a source of alliin, which converts to the immune-boosting compound allicin in the body. Since long runs and hard workouts tend to depress the immune system temporarily, these foods will help boost your defenses until your system returns to normal.
5. Vitamin A
A one-cup serving of the green peas provides 22 percent of your daily vitamin A requirement, and the cooked carrots provide an additional 32 percent. Yay for protecting your eyeballs so you can see where you’re going without a headlamp at 0:dark:30!
So with no further ado, the recipe. These are the ingredients I had on hand and yielded 3 dinner-sized servings, but if you have a family to feed and/or want to have leftovers, feel free to double it!
2 tbsp soy sauce
½ recipe basic seitan, sliced into ½ inch slabs
2 tbsp olive oil and/or Earth Balance (they’re great melted together in equal parts!)
4-5 ribs celery, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 16-oz package baby carrots (or use 1 lb. regular carrots, sliced lengthwise and cut to 2-inch chunks)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup vegetable broth
½ cup sauvignon blanc or other dry white wine (Chardonnay works but I’m not a fan…)
½ cup soy milk
¼ cup nutritional yeast
1 12-oz package frozen peas
2 tsp dried tarragon or basil (optional)
2 tbsp flour, for thickening
Salt and pepper to taste
1.5 cups flour (white whole wheat or other unbleached, high-protein flour is ideal)
1.5 cups plant milk
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1 tbsp dried parsley or other dried herbs (optional)
In a wide, shallow, non-stick saute pan, heat the soy sauce over medium heat. Working in batches as needed, cook the seitan chunks on either side until they have absorbed most of the soy sauce. (Add small amounts of water to the pan and stir to deglaze if soy sauce dries out and starts to stick.)
Skip this step if using the Tofurky or Gardein, as they are already seasoned and ready to use.
In a wide-bottomed saucepan or pot, heat olive oil and/or Earth balance over medium heat.
Once melted (or hot but not smoking), add celery, stir, loosely cover and cook until softened slightly, about 5 minutes. (Celery’s pretty fibrous and takes even longer than the carrots, which is why it’s going in first.)
Add garlic and carrots, stir, loosely cover and cook until carrots have softened slightly but are still crunchy in the middle, another 3-5 minutes.
Add vegetable broth and wine, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, add soy milk and nutritional yeast and dried herbs (if using) stir.
Add green peas and dried herbs (if using) and give them a quick stir.
Ladle about 1 cup of the cooking liquid into a bowl and whisk in 2 tbsp of flour until blended (with no clumps). Pour this mixture back into the pot and stir. Cook for 2-3 more minutes or until it appears to have thickened.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Add seitan chunks (or Tofurky or Gardein, if using), stir, cover and cook until heated through, about 3 more minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the dumpling mixture by placing the flour, salt, baking powder and dried herbs (if using) in a small mixing bowl. Stir in the milk until a thick batter forms. (Batter should be too thick for pancakes but too sticky and not thick enough to roll out and knead like biscuits.)
Once seitan is heated through, stir the mixture one more time and check for seasoning.
Drop the dumpling mixture, 1 tbsp at a time, onto the chick’n, peas and carrots. Place as evenly as possible across the top, with no dumplings overlapping.
Reduce heat to medium-low, tightly cover and cook for 10 minutes or until a fork placed in the center of a test dumpling comes out clean.
Stir the dumplings into the chick’n, peas and carrots and serve with the white wine used for cooking (optional).
Enjoy, and let me know in the comments how yours turned out!