Does every meal I make turn out a celebration of wonderful vegan options? No! In fact, I’ve been having a week. Recipes aren’t turning out or I’m forgetting important ingredients (a cake fiasco post is forthcoming): it’s enough to drive a person back to eating canned chili beans which just so happen to be on the menu tonight with baked potatoes and steamed broccoli. I need a break.
My week of ruined recipes started with an attempt at making tempeh with potatoes and cabbage. I didn’t start out wanting to make this. I first intended to make a tempeh recipe from my Macrobiotic cookbook but then Julianna Hever posted a health benefits of cabbage photo (which I can’t find again) so I decided to try sweet and sour cabbage with tempeh and fried rice-substitute the rice with barley. Then a blizzard hit and sweet and sour cabbage didn’t sound comfort foody enough so I perused my cookbooks and found the afore mentioned recipe in 1000 Vegan Recipes by Robin Robertson. The dish was supposed to be reminiscent of Hungarian goulash and I thought that sounded like it would bring comfort while I was buried under 2 feet of snow.
I gathered my ingredients, found I didn’t have Hungarian sweet paprika, and subbed Spanish paprika. I cooked the dish according to instructions and, after 30 minutes, my potatoes hadn’t cooked. At all. They remained raw. What happened? Did I not cut them small enough? Had I used some kind of mutant potato that refused to cook? I stirred my meal and let it cook another ten minutes. No softening of the potatoes. Another ten minutes and nothing. Meanwhile, the carrots and cabbage were cooking into mush. I threw in the towel, turned off the fire, clapped a lid on the pan to keep the heat in, and made myself a sandwich.
I left my meal to cool, hoping the potatoes would soften and found they did so. Now what? The meal didn’t taste bad. There weren’t a ton of flavor layers in it but it wasn’t unpleasant and, while I only had a few dollars of ingredients in it, I hate wasting food. What could I do with it beyond scraping it out of the pan into the trash? I wasn’t sure but I decided to save it and come at it another day. Once I had it in a refrigerator dish, I had the thought that it looked like filling for something. What, I wasn’t sure but I decided to let that thought mull.
A couple of days later, I had it. Runzas. I hadn’t had a Runza in years. For one, they’re made with ground beef and, two, I don’t think the restaurant exists outside the state of Nebraska. My meal already had cabbage and the tempeh had cooked up soft enough it could almost substitute for ground beef. All I needed was a dough recipe.
I found one, veganized it, and put my Runzas together. They didn’t look too bad when I pulled them out of the oven: while the dough seams had separated in places I didn’t have any filling explosions. The recipe I’d veganized wanted me to make 16 squares with 3/4 of the dough. I was using all the dough so decided to separate it in half and make large hand pies with half the dough and smaller hand pies with the other half to see which I preferred. I chose one of each and was ready to see whether I’d salvaged my tempeh meal or not.
I think I did. The larger pie had (of course) a large dough to filling ratio. The dough baked up a bit sweet so, with the larger pie, the filling needed more spice. If I’d planned on making Runzas from the beginning, I’d have used smoked paprika and cumin. With the smaller pie, the taste contrast wasn’t as strong.
All in all, I think I did manage to salvage this meal. I ended up making enough Runzas to freeze for work lunches; something that makes me happy because it saves me money in the long run. Still, they weren’t amazing so my vegan Runzas still need work.
The dough doesn’t though. The dough is fabulous. While I was eating my cabbage stuffed hand pie, I couldn’t help thinking the filling should be dark chocolate, cherry, and a touch of cayenne. An idea for the next blizzard.
Need a recipe for vegan runza dough? This the original recipe I found: my veganized version is below.
Vegan Runza Dough
3 cups whole wheat flour
3 cups all-purpose flour
4 1/2 tsp yeast (or 2 packets)
1/3 cup sugar
1 stick Earth Balance
2 flax eggs
2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- Mix together 2 TBSP flax meal (I use Bob’s Red Mill Organic Golden Flax Meal) and 6 TBSP water. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine 3 cups flour, yeast, sugar, and salt.
- In a saucepan, melt the butter. Add the 2 cups milk and heat to lukewarm (105 degrees). Pour the liquid into the dry mixture. Beat with a mixer until a soft dough forms.
- Add the flax eggs and the remaining flour. Mix with a dough hook or knead by hand (great to vent frustration!) until all the flour is incorporated. The dough will be a bit sticky.
- Let rest for 20 minutes.
- Divide dough in half and roll out onto a floured surface. Cut into squares. Spoon filling onto the center of each square and fold the dough around the filling, pinching the edges to seal.
- Place on the cookie sheets and let raise in a warm place for 25 minutes.
- Bake at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes. The large squares did best at 30 minutes-the smaller ones were done after 25.
- Let cool and enjoy.