A: Do you want to go on a hike?
A: Okay, we will go up here around my house
L: Okay, sounds good.
A: We are not going to go around my house anymore. We’re going up to Haleakala. Do you still want to come?
L: For sure.
A: Okay, wear layers and bring water.
That was a paraphrased conversation between me and my wonderful friend who lives on Maui. Originally, we were going to hike near her house in upcountry Maui, but last minute, plans changed and it turned into a group hike up on Haleakala.
If you’re not familiar with the islands, Haleakala (means House of the Sun) is Maui’s massive, sleeping volcano. At the summit, you are transported to another world. You might think you were suddenly on Mars, from the vibrant orange-red rock and dirt that surrounds the very top of the crater. When you look out, you cannot see the ocean. You cannot see the rest of Maui. There are the fluffiest, puffiest, most pillowy white clouds as far as the eye can see. The only plant you’re likely to find is the silversword if you can even spot that at the summit.
Cut to me, about to embark on a nearly 8 mile hike, with an elevation loss and gain of about 1,000 ft and seemingly endless switchbacks. Completely out of shape from thyroid surgery. Dressed as best as I could based on what I packed from Los Angeles, but still not properly, as the weather up there can change at any moment, and does, without hesitation.
But if you know me well, you know that there wasn’t even a fraction of a second that I doubted I would go.
It was cold at the top and the sky bounced between sun and overcast cloud and away we went.
Down we went on Halemau’u Trail to Hōlua Cabin, where most of the party would be staying for the night. There are three cabins in the crater, all very primitive. There are no supplies provided and no potable water, you must hike in and out with everything you need. Since I would not be staying overnight, my burden was light.
The trail consists of fairly loose volcanic rock. The flora and sweeping views of the valleys are magnificent and provide reasons to stop. To marvel, photograph, have a drink and catch your breath if needed.
Onward we went, from one breathtaking and beautiful moment to the next, until we reached the cabin and took a break to snack, hang out, and for my friend, her husband and myself, recoup our energy for the journey back.
It’s difficult to put into words what completing this hike meant to me. It wasn’t without its struggles. I did not breeze through it, especially the climb out, but I held my own, well, considering the shape I was in. I took fewer rest breaks hiking out than I did going in–likely because the ice cold rain was motivating me. The endorphin reward at the end had me higher than I’ve ever been on any drug, in the most relaxed way.
Other than the stunning visuals, kind company and cuban red bananas I was eating along the way, the best thing about this hike was that I had no muscle soreness the next day. None. The only parts of me that were sore were where I had developed blisters on my feet from wearing the wrong shoes. When I flew back to LA, I immediately purchased a pair of decent hiking boots.
I am so grateful the plans of that day changed and evolved into this adventure. I will keep it close to my heart forever and ever, or, for as long as I have heart to keep things close to.
It reminded me of how it felt to truly live. To feel my body working, along side others. To take everything in. Your breath, the views, the smells, the animals, the people who are sharing the experience with you….even the icy sting of the rain on your face and the raw blisters forming on the sides of your toes. This is life, this is living. After feeling like I could die on an operating table, this was the best thing that the universe and my friends could have prescribed me.
And now on to our recipe, which would be the perfect dinner, after a long hike in and out of one of the Earth’s volcanoes, sticking up out the of the water, out in the vast Pacific Ocean.
Hawaiian Chik’n Pot Pie with Coconut Milk, Molokai Sweet Potato, Taro and Ginger (100% Vegan)
Adapted from Curry Chicken Pot Pie by Carla Hall
3 tablespoons coconut oil
2 medium Maui sweet onions, regular sweet onions or yellow onions, diced
1 medium or two small Molokai sweet potatoes, purple sweet potato or Okinawa sweet potato. If you can’t find any of those, you can use an orange or white sweet potato as well
1 medium taro root, peeled and diced *wear gloves when you handle raw taro. It irritates my skin and that’s a common reaction for some—if you’re not sure how you’ll react, wear gloves!
1 carrot, diced or cut into half moons
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1/3 c unbleached, all-purpose flour
4 c No chicken broth (Imagine brand, Edward & Sons, Better than Bouillon) OR vegetable stock
1 can full-fat coconut milk,13.5 oz can
1 package Beyond Meat, Grilled Chik’n Strips or Lightly Seasoned chicken Strips (These are 100% vegan) Gardein Scallopini will also work. If you hate those or don’t have access, you can also use homemade chik’n style seitan or store bought seitan, steamed tempeh, or firm/extra firm sautéed or grilled tofu. Make sure to press and cook the tofu before putting into the pot pie, or it will fall apart. I recommend using Beyond Meat, as it will yield the best tasting result. It’s Alton Brown approved! 🙂
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
*1 tbsp non-dairy milk for brushing crust
For the crust, use a store bought puff pastry. I love Aussie brand, which is vegan and widely available. There are several other vegan brands of puff pastry out there, just check the ingredients.
You can also use your favorite homemade pie crust or store-bought pie crust.
Preheat oven to 375°F.
In a heavy bottom sauté pan, skillet or dutch oven, heat coconut oil over medium heat, add onions, sweet potatoes, taro, carrot, garlic, and ginger. Sauté until softened, about 5-10 minutes. Add flour to coat the vegetables. Gradually pour the broth over the vegetable mixture and bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Stir in the coconut milk, and Beyond Meat strips. Season with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Remove from heat and set aside.
* If for any reason your mixture is not thickening, make a cornstarch slurry by combining 1 tbsp of cornstarch with 1 tbsp of liquid. You can add up to 4 tbsp of slurry, but start with one. This wasn’t necessary for me, the flour was sufficient in thickening the filling. Only use this method if needed.
For the pastry:
If using frozen puff pastry, let it thaw before you get started. Lightly flour a work surface and roll out your first sheet of puff pastry large enough to fit into the bottom of your pie plate. Use at least a 10″ deep pie plate. You can also use other glass bakeware, like a small casserole dish. Don’t use a shallow pie plate unless you plan on making multiple pies (which you can totally do) and in that case you made need an extra box of puff pastry.
Once you lay in the bottom crust, pour in the filling. Use the second sheet of puff pastry to cover the top of the pie crimping or using a fork to press down the edges and cutting away any excess pastry.
Use a sharp knife to cut some vents in the top of your pot pie. Brush the crust with a bit of non-dairy milk, like So Delicious Brand unsweetened coconut milk beverage (my go-to on dairy milk of choice, don’t get it confused the culinary coconut milk that went into the pie filling—they are different).
Place the pie in the oven and bake at 375°F for 15-20 min until the crust is golden.
If you don’t want runny filling, wait for the pie to cool before slicing. Slicing into hot pie usually makes for a messy plate, but it will still be delicious. I usually eat one hot slice with the filling going everywhere and then eat leftovers at room temp or straight from the fridge.
This pie will feed 6-8 depending on how big you decide on portions.
It’s creamy and rich, but not overwhelming. It’s very close to a traditional pot pie, but with a plant based, Hawaiian twist. Each bite is a warm, savory, mouthwatering dream with little bursts of delicate sweetness thanks to the sweet potato, which also adds beautiful explosions of color. This is a true stick-to-ribs type of meal, good for chilly nights and hungry tummies. The coconut milk and puff pastry add just the right amount of decadence, with the vegetables bringing in tons of wonderful flavor and healthy nutrients. The complexity and nuttiness of the taro will have you wanting to use it in place of potatoes more often, I promise! Beyond Meat stands in for a animal based protein and is convincingly chicken-like. The garlic, ginger and onions only enhance the flavor of the pie, rounding out and bringing together the tropical flavors of Hawaii.