Bottomless Veggie Pot Pie

This pot pie recipe is one of my favorites!  Warm gravy and delicious crust make this an ultimate comfort food for me.  I call it “bottomless” because there is no bottom crust, only a top.  Of course, you can make a bottom crust if you like.  Just double the crust recipe and pre-bake the crust 5-10 minutes or so before adding the filling and the top crust.

Feel free to use whatever veggies you have on hand.  My go-to veggies are potatoes, carrots, onion, celery, lima beans, red lentils, broccoli, peas, and green beans.  Cubes of tofu wouldn’t be bad either, if you like tofu.  Chopped seitan would make this more similar to the chicken pot pie that we grew up with. 

Crust Ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup margarine (I use Earth Balance)
2 tablespoons non-dairy milk (I use rice or almond milk)

Filling Ingredients:
1 rounded cup each of chopped carrots, celery, and onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small potato, diced small (about 1 cup)
1/2 to 3/4 cup each of frozen peas, green beans, and broccoli
1/3 cup red lentils (or you can use tofu, seitan, or beans for protein)
1 cup vegetable broth
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried sage
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Start making the filling first.  Heat a tablespoon of oil over medium heat and saute the onions for 5 minutes.  Add in the carrots, celery, and garlic and saute another 5 minutes.  Add your frozen veggies, lentils, spices, and broth.  Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer about 6 minutes.

While the veggies are cooking, go ahead and make the crust.  Pulse the flour and salt in a food processor (you can use a wet or dry blade – they both work equally as well for me).  Cut the margarine into little cubes (slightly smaller than the size of a bullion cube) and drop into the flour.  You can also pinch off small bits at a time with your fingers and drop it in.  Pulse again until you have a corn-meal type texture.  Add in the milk and let the processor run until a dough ball forms.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Roll out the dough on clean surface that’s been dusted with flour (dust your rolling pin too).  Make sure it’s a large enough circle to cover your pie plate.  Now would be a good time to go ahead and grease a deep-dish 9″ pie plate too.

Back to the filling:  push the veggies to the side and tilt the pan so that the liquid runs to one side.  Pour in the 1/2 cup milk and add your 2 tablespoons of flour.  Whisk well and then stir everything around until you have a gravy-like consistency.

Pour your filling into the prepared pie plate and top with your rolled out dough.  It doesn’t have to look perfect, but if you’re serving it to guests, you can use a pie crust cutter around the edges.  Cut a few slits in the dough for steam to escape and bake for 25 minutes.

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Homemade Vegetable Broth

If you’re using a regular supply of veggies each week, there’s no reason you should ever have to buy vegetable broth at the store!  Making your own broth is simple and very economical considering you can get double the amount of broth from your veggie scraps as you can when you pay $3 for a 1-quart carton of vegetable-flavored water at the store.  Vegetable broth is great for soups, but you can also cook your beans and rice in it to add more flavor and it’s great in sauces, stuffings, and gravies too.  I even like to steam my leafy greens in veggie broth.

 Set aside a bag or Tupperware container at the beginning of the week and fill it with carrot peels (and the little nubs you cut off the top), onion skins/scraps, and celery leaves/scrap stalks.  You can also toss in other veggie scraps or limp veggies that you’re not going to use. If you just have a few mushrooms, green beans, asparagus stalks, onions, etc left over from a meal, toss those in too.  Just about anything will work except for beets (which will change the color of your broth drastically) and cruciferous veggies like broccoli and cauliflower, which tend to just fall apart and make the broth taste funky.  You can also use dried or fresh herbs like thyme or bay leaf.  Again, pretty much anything goes.

Keep your veggie scraps in an airtight container in the fridge, adding more each time you cook, until you have a descent amount (about 6 cups) and then you’re ready to make broth!

Here is my bare-minimum basic recipe, but feel free to add in what you have on hand:

4-6 cups onion, carrot, and celery peels/scraps/skins/ends/leaves (or wilted veggies that you were going to throw out – just make sure nothing is rotted or molded!)
2-3 garlic cloves, smashed
1-2 teaspoons dried thyme (or a small handful of fresh thyme)
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt

 Sauté everything in a large pot with a little oil, just for a few minutes, to release the flavors.  Pour on enough water to cover the veggies plus 2 inches more (I generally have enough to make a big soup pot full). Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for an hour and a half.  Let the broth cool with the lid off and the veggies still in it.  Set a strainer over a large container (big enough to hold all of the broth) and strain off the veggie scraps.  Press down on the veggies with the back of a spoon to squeeze out all of the juices.  At this point you can toss the veggies out for the deer to eat or dump them into a compost bin (or just throw them away).

 Pour cooled broth into ice cube trays or straight into freezer bags.  Keep in mind that if you freeze a whole bag of broth at once, it’s a little more work when you want to use it.  If you’re using the whole bag at one time, you can just cut the freezer bag away from the frozen broth with a pair of scissors and then melt the huge block down in a pot.  If you only want a little bit at a time, say a cup or so, then you might want to freeze the broth in ice cube trays and then transport the frozen cubes into freezer bags for storage.

2 cubes = 1/4 cup
4 cubes = 1/2 cup
8 cubes =1 cup