I have been vegan for a very short time (little over a year vegetarian, and vegan for half that time), and it has been quite the journey. I grew up surrounded by food, with my grandmother always cooking in the kitchen. But when I decided to not eat meat, dairy or eggs anymore, I had to learn to look at food differently, as everything I had ever known cooking wise, was sorta thrown out the window. So I researched and spent alot of time on the web, learning about vegan cooking, and how you can use plant based ingredients to replace the dairy ones most of us grew up with, and loved. Who would have known cashews can do so much! They are like the miracle food in vegan cooking and baking! :-)
Aside from discovering alot of new wonderful foods, I also wanted to try and recreate those foods that I grew up with, and that reminded me of family and good times in the kitchen. My childhood memories encompassed endless soups from Borscht, to perogies (all types), to cheese filled crepes. Those comfort foods that make one feel happy and cozy.
Although I grew up in a Polish household, which entailed alot of meat dishes, we also ate alot of non meat dishes that I have been able to recreate very successfully with a few substitutions, which includes potato & cheese perogies. So giving up dairy does not mean having to give up your favourite foods at all!
As I get older, I am getting more sentimental about food. Plus, since everyone in my family has passed, I'm finding that making food from my childhood is a good way of remembering them, in a happy way. Food is memories. I just wish I had paid closer attention to how they prepared certain things! But thankfully, my recreations are pretty close to the original, so for the most part, I'm happy with the results.
Monika's Potato and “Pub Cheddar” Perogies
1 lb white potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
1/3 c. Pub Cheddar (Zengarry Cashew Cheese)
1 large onion, diced
2 Tbsp. Earth Balance butter
2- 4 Tbsp. Almond milk (or whatever nut milk you like)
1 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
Salt & pepper to taste
Dough: (recipe adapted from the “What’s for Dinner?” cookbook – by Ken Kostick)
2-3 c. of All-Purpose Flour
½ tsp salt
1 c. warm water
¼ c. canola oil (corn or vegetable is fine as well)
Directions for Filling:
In a sauté pan, heat some olive oil (about 4 Tbsp) and then add the chopped onions. Saute on low heat for about half an hour, stirring often, until onions become soft and caramel in colour. They get sweeter the longer you cook them, but be careful to not burn them. You want to brown them slowly on low heat and not rush them.
While the onions are sautéing, peel and cube the potatoes, place in a pot, cover with cold water and add about 2 tsp salt. Bring to a boil and cook until tender. Drain, and add the cooked potatoes to a large mixing bowl (I used my stand mixer to mix everything up, but you could easily use a hand mixer as well). Add the milk and butter and beat until well combined. Add more milk if needed, but you don’t want it too wet, just well combined and silky. Once the potatoes are well mixed and smooth, add the Pub Cheddar and nutritional yeast to the mix and beat in gently until well combined. Then add ¼ c. of the carmelized onion* mixture to the bowl, and season with salt and pepper. Mix gently until incorporated and mixture is smooth (ie, no lumps). Taste again to make sure the seasoning is right. Add more onions if desired, but I tried to not add too much as I wanted the cheese to be the star. If you are making just potato and onion perogies, feel free to add all the onion mixture. Your final product should be a very smooth, creamy and satiny filling. Let cool to room temperature if making that day, or cool, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight**.
The next day, when you are ready to make the perogies, let the potato and cheese filling mixture come to room temperature. If needed, microwave briefly to bring to room temp. Stir well and make sure filling is smooth and easy to handle.
While the filling is resting, make the dough.
Directions for Dough:
Once the filling is made and ready to go, prepare the dough by adding 2c. of flour and the salt to a large mixing bowl. Stir well (I used a fork) to combine and then make a well in the centre. Into the well, pour the water and oil and mix together with the fork until the flour has been incorporated and things are holding together. Have 1 c. of flour handy, as you will be adding this a little at a time (I usually only use about 1/2c. of flour more, but you may use more, depending on temperature and humidity in your kitchen). Drop the dough onto a floured surface, and begin to knead. Once you feel the dough starting to get sticky, add 1 Tbsp of flour. Again, knead gently until things get sticky again. Once you feel the dough sticking to the counter and your hands, add more flour (again, about 1 Tbsp). Knead again and keep repeating until you notice that your hands are clean (nothing is sticking to them), and your dough is smooth and silky. This can take anywhere from 8-10 minutes. Once your dough is ready, place back into your mixing bowl and cover well with plastic wrap. Let rest on the counter for about 30 min.
To Make the Perogies:
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Make the perogies while you are waiting for the water to come to a boil.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to about ¼ inch thickness (you want it thin, but not too thin). Add a bit more flour if your rolling pin sticks to the dough, or your dough sticks to the counter. Once the dough is rolled out, cut out about 2-inch circles, using an old can, cutter, or glass. Reroll leftover dough until its mostly used up. To fill, place the dough circle in the crevice of your hand (see picture), and add filling, pressing it in so there is abit of an edge around the filling. Carefully, pinch the dough around the filling with your thumb and index finger. I usually pinch about 3 times, to make sure the edge is sealed really well. The dough is soft and easy to work with, so as long as you don’t overfill, it should be easy to seal up. Once filled and sealed, place the perogie onto a floured cookie sheet, until you are ready to cook.
Once your water is boiling, add the perogies (do not over crowd the pot, so cook in batches) and stir gently so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. Once they float to the surface, they are done (but, I always test one to make sure. If you made your dough a little thicker, they may need a few more minutes). Once cooked, immediately remove from the water and place in a buttered dish. Make sure each perogie is covered in vegan butter, otherwise they will stick to one another. You can enjoy them this way (with abit of cashew sour cream, carmelized onions, or Maggi***), or you could pan fry them in abit of vegan butter, if you like a more crunchy perogie. Either way, they are comfort food at its best!
* If you have any carmelized onion left, save this for the finished perogies, and toss it in with the perogies before serving.
** My personal preference is to make the filling the day before, as I believe the taste improves upon sitting, but your choice!
***Maggi is a seasoning similar to soy sauce, and found in the condiment aisle of most supermarkets. I grew up with it and it always went on top of perogies. Adds a nice salty component.
If you would like to order your very own Pub Cheddar and try this recipe >>CLICK HERE!!<<
A bit more about Monika:
I am a wife and mum to two beautiful furbaby pups, Lucky and Missy. I live in Newcastle, ON with my husband James, our 2 dogs, and some feline roommates as well. While I have been vegan for just under a year, I have been a cook for most of my life, learning the ropes from my Polish mom and grandma. While I know longer cook many of those meat laden dishes I grew up with, I do try to recreate many of my childhood favourites, the vegan way! Since adopting a vegan lifestyle, I have discovered that vegan cooking is absolutely delicious, and you can re-create almost any dish using plant-based ingredients (e.g., a childhood staple - potato & cheese perogies!). My only regret is that I didn't become vegan sooner! While my husband is not vegan, he does support me 100%, and is my ultimate taste tester for new dishes. If he likes it, I know it has to be good!
For 2016, I hope to continue my vegan journey and share my love of vegan cooking and baking with all those non-vegans out there! I want to show people, one dish at a time, how good vegan food is, and hopefully encourage more people to try to eat meat and dairy free a few times a week. I also wish that more people will adopt a vegan lifestyle in 2016, and choose compassion and kindness first.