Week Two: Dietary & Lifestyle Restrictions
We love eating all the vegan food we can, but it’s good to learn how to cook for those who may have allergies or intolerances — and challenge ourselves in the process.
This week’s theme is near and dear to my heart. My sister is terribly allergic to most nuts (except almonds), so I’ve become quite attuned to their presence in everything I eat! Watching her have to whip out the Benadryl or her EpiPen — and visiting her in the emergency room on one scary occasion — has made me hyper-aware of how sneakily pervasive nuts can be. She can also be sensitive to cross-contamination, so I’m pretty careful to stow the peanut butter and the cashews (a particularly bad trigger) whenever she comes to town.
So this week, my eats will be nut-free — and occasionally gluten-free, too. I know (and have baked for!) a few celiacs, and it can be tough! But it’s also totally doable with a little research and a few key ingredients.
During most of this week, I’m going to be focusing on one superstar nut-free, gluten-free ingredient: oats! Just be sure to purchase certified gluten-free oats if you’re cooking for someone with severe celiac disease so you don’t make them sick due to cross-contamination.
So let’s start the week with something fun: strawberry milk! Oat milk is one of the cheapest and easiest non-dairy milks to make, and it’s especially great for baking. (There’s a whole section in the America’s Test Kitchen vegan cookbook about why; basically, the extra sugars in oat milk (compared to nut milks) help baked good brown.) And its creamy, almost sweet flavor makes it a great base for a super-simple, visually pleasing pale pink drink. (Mine is very pale, simply because I didn’t have a ton of strawberries on hand! I’ll likely make it again with more strawberries and get a much more vibrant pink drink.
The method couldn’t be simpler; you just blend oats, water, a couple dates (for sweetness), a little vanilla, and a pinch of salt together, then strain out any remaining solids using a nut milk bag or cheesecloth. I also recommend briefly soaking and then washing your oats before making the milk. I know it sounds finicky, but giving them a few baths and swirling and draining the water until it runs almost clear helps to reduce the one occasional unpleasant aspect of oat milk: a bit of sliminess. Moving on!
So, why strawberries? I just happened to have them in the fridge. :) I made strawberry shortcakes for a crazy-amazing vegan wing night (!) and had some berries leftover, and I figured they’d make a fun addition.
Strawberry Oat Milk
- 1 cup rolled oats, soaked for 15 minutes and then rinsed
- 2 Medjool dates, pitted and soaked for 15 minutes (you can soak them with the oats)
- 4 cups water
- 10 strawberries, tops removed (Try giving them to your pup as a treat!)
- 1 tsp vanilla (optional; or use seeds from 1/2 a vanilla bean)
- Pinch salt (optional)
Blend all ingredients for 2-3 minutes on high (ideally in a high-powered blender), then strain using a nut milk bag. Chill and enjoy… or save to use in a baking recipe for an infusion of strawberry flavor!
* Keep in mind that oat milk tends to separate in the fridge no matter how vigorously you blend and strain it, so give it a shake before drinking or using!
* Also note that this is more a method than a recipe! The proportions don’t really matter. Less water will make a creamier milk (or even a coffee creamer!); more strawberries will make it pinker and more strongly flavored. This recipe isn’t terribly sweet, so you may want to add a little agave nectar or maple syrup if you like things sweeter. Just don’t do what I once did and accidentally leave in your date pits, or you’ll get a bitter-tasting surprise!
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