|Heather Andre has enjoyed cooking all her life. She was one of those children who spent a lot of time in the kitchen learning baking skills.
(Photos: Aaron Carpenter/Sentinel-Tribune)
At age 16 she made the decision to become a vegetarian, "and I've been vegan for about nine years."
While most everyone knows vegetarian means "no meat," the term vegan is less widely understood. Andre, co-owner of Squeaker's Vegetarian Cafe and Health Food Store on North Main Street in Bowling Green, defines a vegan diet simply as being free of all animal products. Thus, someone who is vegan would not only refrain from eating meat but would eliminate items like milk and eggs from their diet, for example.
If that sounds like it would present insurmountable challenges to a cook, Andre begs to differ.
She offers a recipe she herself developed, for Chic-Kett and veggie pot pie, as an example.
"It is one of our most popular dishes at Squeaker's. It's not on the regular menu, but it is a 'special' and when we serve that it is very popular."
Other items on the menu with plenty of fans include Not Your Mama's Meatloaf, veggie tofu lasagna, Squeaker's homemade pesto pizza, and the restaurant's all-fruit organic smoothies and soy shakes.
"The reason why I developed Squeaker's is I'm an animal-rights activist; we don't use anything that came from an animal. And to have good vegan food available to myself and other vegans and vegetarians, when normally it is not available here - not available anywhere," the obvious solution turned out to be opening her own restaurant.
Opening day was Feb. 14, 2001, "so we'll have a eighth-year anniversary coming up."
Andre said Squeaker's has "a very regular clientele" but since Bowling Green, as a university town, also boasts a sizeable transient population, "every semester we have a new influx of people interested in eating healthy."
Almost everything in the cafe is organic, which means it is free of synthetic pesticides, herbicides and growth hormones. Obviously, the entire menu is cholesterol-free since cholesterol comes from animal products. That means it's healthier eating for everyone.
"You don't have to be vegetarian to eat here and it sometimes seems to be an issue," Andre admitted.
Speaking for herself, "I pretty much eat like anyone else. I supplement my protein with soy protein and nuts. Plus, I do take some supplements. As a vegan, it is necessary."
The main reason to try a dish like the Chic-Kett pot pie is simply because it tastes good. It's also hearty and very filling, with great appeal as temperatures will soon begin to drop.
"People do order these for take-out. They go over very nicely at Thanksgiving and other holidays" as a replacement for the ubiquitous turkey or ham.
All ingredients in the pot pie are available for sale at Squeaker's and possibly health food stores in Toledo, but items like the Chic-Kett log would not be found at a regular grocery. Andre described it as a wheat-gluten soy protein blend that resembles the taste and texture of chicken.
The gravies she uses on the pot pie at the restaurant - Hain or Road's End Organics brands -are "a blend of spices, cornstarch, cane juice and many seasonings that will mimic the taste of chicken gravy." But for cooks who want to create their own gravy, Andre offers an appropriate recipe below.
Mashed potatoes and gravy, baked sweet potatoes and corn muffins are Andre's favorite accompaniments for the pie.
"Topping the pot pie with gravy is optional, but if you serve it with mashed potatoes, you've got the gravy right there."
Chic-Kett and veggie pot pie
1/2 cup-plus of onion, diced
1/2 cup-plus of celery, diced
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. garlic
1 tsp. poultry seasoning, to taste
1 Chik-Kett log, thawed and diced
2 (16-oz.) bags frozen mixed vegetables, or use fresh
2-3 medium potatoes or yams, pre-boiled
2 1/2 cups 'Imagine' no-chicken broth
1/4 cup flour
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
4 frozen pie crusts or made from scratch crusts
2 packets 'Hain' or 'Road's End Organics' gravy*
Saute onion, celery and spices. Put in large bowl. Add Chic-Kett, mixed vegetable and potatoes; mix. Put this mixture intwo two pie crusts.
Whisk together 1 cup no-chicken broth, the flour and cornstarch. Pour this mixture over two pies. Add remaining broth to each pie. Bake, uncovered, at 325 degrees F. for approximately one hour. Let sit approximately 15 minutes before serving.
Top pot pies with gravy when ready to serve.
This recipe is vegan and almost all organic.
*For those who wish to make their own gravy, rather than purchase the Hain or Road's End Organics brand gravies recommended by Andre, she suggests the following recipe:
1/3 cup white unbleached flour
1/3 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1/4 cup oil or margarine
2 cups water
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
Salt and pepper
Toast the flour over medium low heat until you can start to smell it. Stir in the yeast, then add oil. Cook a few minutes until bubbly, then add water and cook, whisking until it thickens and bubbles.
Add soy sauce, and add salt and pepper to taste.
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