Yesterday was full of February, cold and rainy with low-lying grey clouds. You know the feeling that spring is on every day’s coattail, yet that sharp chill in the air that lets you know winter is not quite done. The days are longer and my fall/winter habits are a bit unbalanced as daylight still lingers at five. Cook now or wait, I ask myself around four everyday, and soon enough E is trekking through the door or my mother is calling me on her drive home, both of them asking me what’s for dinner.
I love it when my mother calls, 60 miles away, interested in what I have cooking in the kitchen. As if she’s dropping by for dinner. It reminds me of my conversations with Granma, and how she’d routinely call me and ask, “Ki, what’s for dinner.” She’d soon enough tell me, “Let Mama tell you what to do,” and give me the home cook’s version of pulling together dinner. They weren’t really recipes. They were those pull together, time-perfected meals that we learn to cook for our families. You know, the family favorites, the go-to meals, the comfort meals that are as unique to our families as our own fingerprints. In a sense, that is what they are. Family food fingerprints. Recipes that we have invented, shaped, and perfected for our family—picky eaters, foodies, and all.
I miss Granma something terrible, but when I cook for my family, as she cooked for us and other families, for she was a maid, I am reminded of her gene pool that I share. It urges me to put so much love and passion into my food that my mother can taste it driving home sixty miles away, and it drives my son and husband to lick and spoon scrap their bowls, respectively. (The little lady is to prim and proper for that.) I know they can taste my love for them, and they are trying to soak up and drown themselves in every last bit.
Anyway, days like yesterday I welcome the rain. The kids and me are usually cozied up under blankets homechooling. Midday I begin to look forward to the evening downtime with E, eating something warm, soothing, and hearty. For E, that translates to beef. Though, I am not vegan or vegetarian, I have not eaten red meat or pork in almost a decade. And I don’t plan on eating or cooking it anytime soon. In fact, I find that as a family, we are naturally moving towards a vegan diet more than anything else. Our meals involving meat and eggs, we’ve been dairy free for almost a decade too, can be counted on one hand any given week.
So, to satisfy E’s cravings for beef, and give the little ones a taste of beef, I cooked up this homey, comfort meal. Perfect for blistery February weeknights. It is an easy vegan recipe that can be cooked and served fairly quickly. It is also perfect for those going vegan, flirting with veganism, or trying to eat healthier. I'd also go out on a limb and say that this is a great company dinner, or pot luck meal. Few people can resist a hearty sweet and savory stew.
I hope you’ll try it and enjoy! And if so, drop me a line and let me know how it goes.
Vegan Apple Pot Roast
Vegan Roast Meat (I used Trader Joes meatless strips)
Carrots, 6-7 whole,
Red, Orange, and Yellow Bell Peppers
Celery Stalks, 2-3, including leaves
Honey crisp Apples, 2-3
Baby Bella Mushrooms, whole
Broth, 2 cans
Apple Juice concentrate, 1 12 oz. can
Tomato Paste, 6-8 oz.
Soy Sauce, to taste
Herbs, to taste
-Thyme, Rosemary, Marjoram, Bay leaves, Sage
A-1 Steak Sauce
- Wash, peel, and chop vegetables into 1-2 inch biased cuts. In a large Dutch oven or stockpot, heat the oil under medium high and begin to brown the carrots. While the carrots are browning, add the herbs to the pot to ‘bloom.’ When the carrots are golden brown on the edges, add the celery (saving the celery leaves to last) and bell peppers. Once the celery and peppers are softened, add the mushrooms and brown.
- Add the tomato paste and cook with the vegetables until the paste loosens, about 2-3 minutes. Add in the ‘meat’ strips and lightly brown in the paste and vegetable mixture.
- Add in two cans of broth, apple juice concentrate and cook on medium heat, uncovered. Add in the celery leaves you set aside in step one.
- Season: After the sauce has had a chance to boil and concentrate down (maybe about 8-10 minutes), season with soy sauce, steak sauce, salt, pepper and herbs. This is a personal choice that is dependent on your preferred flavor profile. If you prefer a sweeter stew, add more steak sauce, beginning with two teaspoons and adding more to taste. If you prefer a more savory sauce, add in two teaspoons of soy sauce and add more to taste. If you want to skirt the middle, add a bit of both and slowly add more to adjust until you are happy. The more steak sauce and tomato paste you add the sweeter the sauce, the less and more soy sauce, the more savory.
- While the pot is ‘stewing,’ core, peel, and chop the apples into one-inch cubes. Add to pot and simmer on medium low, covered until vegetables are cooked to your preferred tenderness. I cooked mine for about 30 minutes, and the carrots were not cooked completely through the way I prefer, which is rather soft. My family liked the al dente bite of the carrots and the rest of the vegetables were spot on.
I served this over a bed of Jasmine Rice with a side of Southern Skillet cornbread. It would be just as hearty and delicious alone, or over another choice of grains (brown rice, quinoa, etc.). We tend to eat cornbread with everything, but this would also be good with French bread, dinner rolls, or whatever bread you like to dip into sauce.
I found that the combination of sweet crusty cornbread complimented the hearty flavors of the stew.
*Vegan Cornbread Recipe coming soon.
This pot roast has a flavor profile very similar to teriyaki or sweet and sour flavored sauces. It is quite sweet and tangy, with savory hints to mellow it out. The addition of the apples heighten the sweetness and can be left out to lower the level of sweetness, but make no mistake, this is surely a roast that will satisfy those with a sweet tooth.