As I look at this recipe—Spring Vegetables with Herbed Cornmeal Dumplings—I’m astounded at how much my cooking has evolved in just twelve years. In 2002 I published the original version of this recipe in my third book, CookSmart, which featured a six- to seven- pound-roasting hen, and a sauce calling for both butter and cream. 

The first thing to go was the chicken. Nearly four years ago David and I made a commitment to eat less meat. I wasn’t opposed to eating chicken with my dumplings, it’s just that I wanted an meatless option, so I updated the recipe, adding potatoes for bulk and increasing the vegetables. The butter and cream remained. 

Now that we’re watching our cholesterol, it was time to revisit this vegetable and dumpling dish.  I had planned to substitute a combination of coconut oil and olive oil for the butter for sure, but that’s as far as I wanted to go. The cream (or evaporated milk, which I had started using in this dish) would have to stay. 

But then I checked out the zero cholesterol count on the carton of coconut creamer we’ve started using in our coffee and tea and I thought, “Why not give this a try?” After all, there’s no hint of coconut flavor, the taste is  rich and creamy, and the color white. 

Both coconut oil and coconut creamer worked beautifully in this dish. I went a step further, subbing whole-wheat pastry flour for all-purpose as thickener in the sauce and the cake flour in the dumplings. This flour may figure in round four of this dish, but for now, I didn’t like the drab beige hue of the sauce and the dense chewy texture of the dumplings. 

Spring Vegetables with Herbed Cornmeal Dumplings
Serves 6

2 tablespoons each: coconut oil and olive oil, divided
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons dried tarragon
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 1/2 cups coconut creamer
3 tablespoons dry sherry
Salt and ground black pepper
1 pound new potatoes, sliced 1/2-inch thick
2 medium carrots, sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 leek, trimmed, quartered lengthwise, and cut into 1/2-inch thick pieces
1/2 package (8 to 10 ounces) sliced mushrooms
1 cup frozen green peas

Herbed Cornmeal Dumplings
1 cup coconut creamer
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup each: thin-sliced scallion greens and chopped fresh parsley leaves

Heat coconut oil and 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat in a large saucepan. Whisk in flour and tarragon to make a paste. Mix broth and creamer and whisk in all at once; vigorously at first and then frequently, until sauce simmers and thickens to sauce consistency; cover to keep warm.
Place potatoes, carrots, leeks, and mushrooms, along with 1/2 cup of water, remaining 1 tablespoon of oil, and a generous sprinkling of salt in a large (11- to 12-inch) deep sauté pan or large Dutch oven; cover and turn burner on high and bring to boil. Steam vegetables until just tender, about 5 minutes. Remove lid and sauté a couple of minutes longer. Add sauce and green peas to pan.
For the dumplings, meanwhile heat milk and remaining coconut oil in a small saucepan until steamy. Mix flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, scallions and cilantro in a medium bowl with a fork. Stir in milk mixture to form smooth, firm dough. Pinch off ping-ping balls size pieces of dough and drop onto vegetable. Return vegetables to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, cover and cook until dumplings, about 5 minutes longer. Adjust seasonings, including salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.