Vegan Scottish Oatcakes | VeganMoFo 2018 Day Twelve

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.

Sometimes simplicity is where it’s at. Take these oatcakes, for example. Made with oat bran, quick oats, boiling water, vegan butter, and a little salt, they require no hard-to-find ingredients. Oat bran is one of my favorite alternatives to straight oatmeal, offering a more Cream of Wheat-like, porridge-y experience, but I hadn’t thought to bake with it until I found this recipe. Unfortunately, when I set out to actually make the oatcakes, I realized I didn’t have nearly enough oat bran! I could’ve made some impromptu oat flour, but I was feeling lazy and didn’t want to drag out the food processer or the Vitamix. So instead I just added in some quick oats like this recipe does.

Even with this hodge-podge of a recipe, halved on the fly and cobbled together, I still managed to produce a small batch of crisp, gluten-free, fiber-rich crackers. Minimally flavored, they’re the perfect vessel for any topping:  fruit jam, a smear of your favorite spreadable vegan cheese… you name it.

Next time I make these, I’ll make sure I have ample oat bran on hand; these were a little bit crumbly, and I think the quick oats are to blame. Using 100% oat bran would probably help.

What’s your favorite super-simple cracker?

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Chickpea Nuggets made with Oat Flour | VeganMoFo 2018 Day Eleven

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.

Another day, another way to use oats. This one is a more novel usage than yesterday’s rather predictable oatmeal cookies: nuggets! More specifically, chickpea nuggets made with oat flour.

This super-simple recipe from the Kitchn relies on aquafaba to bind chickpeas and oat flour together,  then incorporates a simple toasted panko coating for a little crunch. I was wary at first; I’ve had plenty of nugget-making experiences where the coating just won’t stick or involves a complicated milk-bath-plus-flour-plus-roll-in-the-coating technique that leaves you with crummy fingers and soggy nuggets. But this method worked out great! Everything came together quickly and with no hassle at all. Plus, because they’re baked, the nuggets won’t fall apart in the frying pan.

A few reviewers remarked that the nuggets were a bit bland (presumably because this is a kid-focused recipe), so I opted to season mine with a big scoop of Italian seasoning that I’ve probably had for seven years. *insert embarrassed-face emoji here* If anything, my nuggets were a little over seasoned! But not in a bad way. I served them with some homemade baked sweet potato fries and a big pile of sautéed kale. An easy, healthy dinner.

This is a great recipe — there’s no vital wheat gluten involved, so if you use gluten-free oats and gluten-free panko or breadcrumbs, you can easily make these gluten-free. Of course, there’s a bit of a trade-off in texture compared to a more traditional seitan-based nugget — the insides are a little soft, though not unpleasantly so — but for a quick, kid-friendly recipe that uses minimal ingredients, I’d say it’s worth it. And if you’re thinking, “But I don’t have oat flour in my pantry,” don’t worry! You simply grind up rolled oats in your food processor or the dry attachment of a VitaMix. (Both I and my grocery store were out of rolled oats, so I used ground quick oats instead and they worked a treat.)

So, oat flour-based chickpea nuggets? A total win. What’s your most unexpected use of oats?

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Vegan Oatmeal Cookies | VeganMoFo 2018 Day Ten

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.

COOKIES! Oatmeal cookies! With chocolate chips!

On Saturday evening we headed up to our friends’ house for a joint housewarming and birthday party. The weather wasn’t great, with temperatures in the 60s and on and off drizzle, but our host Rachel provided us with plenty of fleece blankets while we sat out on the deck. And once we got inside, we could (try to) cuddle her pups for warmth (while gazing longingly at her aloof kitties).

Old girl Foxie snoozes alone.

If the best part of a gathering is getting to hang out with your friends’ pets, the second best is getting to share yummy vegan food! We had pasta salad, a Mediterranean quinoa salad, lots of veggie burgers and dogs, impromptu tater tots (!), chips, salsa, and pretzels. One of Rachel’s sweet (and non-vegan) friends made a super rich, super yummy vegan chocolate cake, and Steven brought a batch of oatmeal cookies as our contribution. I had a busy day, so I delegated the task of making a dessert to him, and he killed it! Just look at these perfectly uniform beauties.

Rarely do I have the patience to roll out dough balls of equal size, let alone press additional chocolate chips into the just-baked cookies. Yet Steven warmed to the opportunity. Flecks of coconut and chocolate chips make these a little fancier than your average oatmeal cookie, and partygoers devoured every last one of them.

Okay, so oatmeal cookies aren’t exactly pushing the boundaries of allergen-free food. But I’m gonna call it close enough. These cookies were too pretty not to share!

Strawberry Oat Milk | VeganMoFo 2018 Day Nine

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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Vegan Pannukakku: A MoFo Fail | VeganMoFo 2018 Day Eight

Week One: Inspiration Week
This week is all about using different things as your inspiration for great food.

Yesterday’s MoFo post took us to Estonia for dinner, and today we’re crossing the Baltic Sea for dessert in Finland! I’ve planned a quick two-day jaunt to Helsinki during my trip to Estonia next month, because why not? So it seemed fitting that I’d make something inspired by my upcoming travels during MoFo.

In my (admittedly brief) search for veganized Finnish dishes, I came across a few recipes for pannukkaku, a custardy, oven-baked cross between a cake and pancakes that you can top with fruit or jam. Sold! I debated between two very different recipes; one used silken tofu for a more eggy texture, while another used sparkling water to… provide rise? (The lack of explanation should’ve clued me in that something was amiss.) I ultimately chose the latter… and by “chose,” I mean it was the only link I had to hand when I got myself into the kitchen and ready to bake!

Alas, this recipe did not work out. In all fairness, it could be my fault; I halved it because four cups of flour just seemed excessive for an experiment, but I accidentally kept the full teaspoon of baking powder. I can probably blame the puffy rise — rather than the golden brown, custardy, crackly top shown in the recipe photo — on that gaffe. But I’m pretty sure a little extra baking powder wouldn’t have created such a dense, gummy, and downright unpleasant cake! (For what it’s worth, Steven actually thought it was just fine. Go figure.) It also took me far longer than the suggested 20 minutes of baking time — more like 40!

It doesn’t look terrible, but it also doesn’t look like a custardy, crepe-y pancake! Frankly, I should’ve known better. The recipe is not written particularly clearly, with no indication about pan size and only very basic instructions.

This failed pannukkaku will still get eaten, but not with much joy (at least, not on my part). Time to try that silken tofu-based recipe — I think that would create the custardy texture we’re after!

Estonian Mashed Potatoes and Shashlik | VeganMoFo 2018 Day Seven

Week One: Inspiration Week
This week is all about using different things as your inspiration for great food.

After three days of India-inspired eats, I’m moving north for my next source of inspiration! I’m about a month away from a weeklong solo trip to Estonia and Finland, and needless to say, I’m ready to eat all the vegan things in Tallinn and Helsinki. I’m particularly excited about my visit to Estonia; when Amey blogged about Tallinn last year, the destination rocketed up on my travel bucket list. And now I’m going!

In anticipation of my trip, I cooked up a few Estonian dishes from a blogger who knows her stuff: Sandra Vungi, writer of the aptly named Vegan Sandra blog and author of multiple cookbooks in both English and Estonian (including the fun-sounding Vegan Dinner Party cookbook). Sandra lives in south Estonia, and her recipes are often inspired by regional dishes she grew up with — giving me the perfect opportunity for me to try some veganized Estonian dishes!

In an effort to use up some produce before heading out of town for the long Labor Day weekend, I opted for Sandra’s barley mashed potatoes, shashlik, and a simple cucumber side salad.

I loved the idea of including pearl barley in mashed potatoes! What a great way to add texture and protein. And making these vegan Estonian mashed potatoes couldn’t be simpler: You add pearl barley, halved taters, and onions to a stockpot and boil them all together at the same time before mashing them. Sandra recommends topping them with fried onions and eggplant (and maybe some sunflower sour cream), but I didn’t have an eggplant on hand so I opted to keep things simple with just the fried onion. I did make the sour cream, but I think the flavor wasn’t quite right: Sandra recommends raw sunflower seeds, but I didn’t see any at the bulk section of Wegmans so I decided to try it with roasted seeds instead. And then, right after I printed out the price sticker for my haul, I found the raw seeds. D’oh. Still, I love the idea of using sunflower seeds instead of, say, cashews! Totally brilliant idea, especially if you have someone with a nut allergy in the family.

I paired the mashed potatoes with shashlik, a dish that’s totally new to me. Shashlik is typically meat-based, but Sandra uses soy cutlets instead, chopping them into strips after rehydrating them. I didn’t have any soy cutlets on hand but DID have a bag of soy curls, which seemed like a perfect substitution! After a good rehydrating, you squeeze them out really, really well, then sauté them with lots of onions and some simple flavorings (soy sauce and apple cider vinegar). I really liked this preparation — you could play with this soy curl vegan shashlik recipe to mimic other meaty dishes. I did find that the liquid mixture didn’t get absorbed evenly, so some of my curls were nice and flavorful while others were pretty plain. Next time I’ll be careful to add the liquids more equitably. (I apologize for the horrendous photo — I was hot and hungry and irritated, and the lighting was crappy, and I was impatient!)

If you’re thinking that this meal sounds awfully heavy for late summer, you’re right. In fact, I made this on a super hot, 95˚F day! D’oh. Thank goodness for central air conditioning… and for cool cucumbers from the farmers market. I couldn’t resist adding a little of my beloved Tajín to a chopped cuke for a simple summer side salad. Not so Estonian, but so delicious.

So, the verdict on my Estonian vegan dinner? Yum! I can’t wait to get to Tallinn and try more veganized Estonian food next month.

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Kala Chana Quinoa Sundal | VeganMoFo 2018 Day Six

Week One: Inspiration Week
This week is all about using different things as your inspiration for great food.

I didn’t actually intend to make nearly the entirety of this week’s MoFo posts India-themed. In fact, I have a post inspired by a wholly different country ready to go, but I keep pushing it back because I can’t stop making Indian food!

Thus, tonight’s dinner: sundal. Sundal is a South Indian recipe, though not one we tried during our visit. But Vaishali’s spin on the dish adds North Indian kala chana, or black chickpeas, and a bit of a fusion twist by mixing the kala chana with quinoa. (I recommend reading Vaishali’s blog post about the recipe for a really interesting deep-dive into the dish and the holiday where you’re likely to find it!) I don’t quite remember how I stumbled on the recipe, but it looked like just the thing for an early September dinner. I love big-batch recipes you can then use as leftovers for lunch!

I originally thought I’d use plain old chickpeas rather than the kala chana, but since I needed some other ingredients from the shop, I asked Steven to pick up dried kala chana at Global Foods, our local world cuisine market. Alas, I should’ve also asked him to find fresh curry leaves, but I totally forgot, so this dish is admittedly even less authentic than it should be! I omitted the zucchini and subbed carrots instead, and augmented the green peppers with some purple peppers from the farmers market. I used frozen grated coconut (which is a total beast to handle, let me tell you) and some rogue mint that sprouted in the herb garden. It was filling and quite healthful, but I think I need to make it with the curry leaves; most of the seasonings got lost and all I could really taste were the black chickpeas. Next time!

Vegan Semiya Payasam, or Vermicelli Pudding | VeganMoFo 2018 Day Five

Week One: Inspiration Week
This week is all about using different things as your inspiration for great food.

It was the penultimate night of our trip to India, and we were dining in the sky. Our group was in Munnar, a cool, rainy, cloudy town-on-a-hill surrounded by tea plantations. The drive up to Munnar in our 17-person van had been intense, with hairpin turns, sheer drops off cliffs, and rubble-strewn, broken roads that seemed impassable* to me, yet were somehow navigable thanks to our stalwart driver. We’d barely found our hotel — the Parakkat Nature Hotel — in the dark, but find it we did. By 8:00 we were gathered in the restaurant, the open plate-glass windows revealing nothing but inky black and admitting the chill night air. In the morning we’d gather there gain for breakfast, this time surrounded by fog and clouds, marveling at the sudden breaks that let through bright sunlight and painted the surrounding tea plantations a dappled gold.

Munnar by day.

Now it was dinnertime, though, and we’d stuffed our faces on chapati and parathas and gravies and noodles and a tandoori cauliflower dish that was perfection on a plate. Over at the other end of the table, I saw our dear, thoughtful hostess Jamuna conversing with a waiter. Then she turned to us.

“The chef can make payasam with coconut milk!” she announced. “The restaurant is closing soon but they can deliver it to your rooms. Who wants some?”

I was full, but Steven ordered a bowl, as did a few others. Pragathi explained that payasam was a milky pudding, often made with vermicelli noodles. This version, however, would be made with rice. A rice pudding was easy enough for me to visualize, but a noodle-based pudding? Not so much. I filed it away in my head as something to try later.

And so, back in the States, I turned to Vaishali and Richa for inspiration, using a mix of their two vegan semiya payasam recipes to try it for myself.  I used rice vermicelli noodles since I had them in the pantry and forewent the golden raisins (Because, ugh. Sorry, authenticity.). Flavored with cardamom, cloves, and vanilla and lightly sweetened, the payasam was a pleasant surprise.  Richa has you toast cashews in a little vegan butter first, reserving some of them for a yummy, rich topping. The noodles were a bit slippery and difficult to grasp with a spoon, but we didn’t mind. Steven ate his warm, but I chilled mine a bit first. Both options served us just fine.  This simple recipe is going on my dessert rotation for sure. My only modification? Adding a little cornstarch dissolved in cold water so that the pudding would thicken up a little more.

*A few weeks after we left, Munnar was absolutely ravaged by the horrific flooding in Kerala, with hundreds of people requiring rescue from the mountain after the roads became truly unsafe and literally impassable. Scary stuff.

Hot Breads Gaithersburg Restaurant Review | VeganMoFo 2018 Day Four

Week One: Inspiration Week
This week is all about using different things as your inspiration for great food.

Gaithersburg, Maryland, is not exactly what I’d call a vegan hotspot. Sure, we’ve got the standard veg-friendly chains (Chipotle, Cava Grill, Noodles & Co.), a few Mexican restaurants where you can cobble something together, a Chinese joint with a more than respectable vegan menu, and the Beyond Burger-slinging newcomer Barking Mad Café, but that’s about it. There are no 100% vegan joints, and we’ve got to head out of the city limits to experience most of my favorite veg-friendly establishments.

But! There’s a newcomer to the veg scene. (At least, it’s new to me.) A few months ago, Steven was browsing ye olde interweb when he stumbled across a review of a nearby restaurant.

“Have you ever heard of Hot Breads in the Kentlands?” he asked.

I had not. The Kentlands is a nearby planned community, with mixed-use buildings and a walkable town center and one of my favorite veg-friendly Thai joints, but I hadn’t heard of any place called Hot Breads.

“It looks like it’s got a ton of vegan Indian food,” he said, browsing the menu online. “And… wait, vegan cakes and pastries?!”

He had me at “vegan cakes.”  We tried Hot Breads and were delighted by it. The cakes were just OK, but the main meals? They were fantastic. So, with our newfound appreciation for authentic Indian food (and my promise to take Steven out to dinner for his 30th birthday a few weeks ago, a promise delayed because we were fostering a puppy who couldn’t be left alone for too long), we hit up Hot Breads again last week.

Both of us ordered a masala dosa. Despite the sunken appearance of the one on the right, they came out lovely and crispy, stuffed with a potato and pea filling and served alongside coconut chutney, a tomato-y sauce, and sambar. Steven also ordered chili idli. Look how cute these mini idli are!

Despite the cashier warning us that the chili idli would be very spicy, we both found them quite mild. The sauce was also quite sweet and almost ketchup-y. Steven didn’t care for it and I was neutral, although the flavor did get to be a bit much after a couple of bites.

Although the online menu doesn’t indicate which items are vegan, the cashier who took our order (it’s a fast-casual joint) was able to check with the chef to verify which items were OK. Pastry case items are labeled clearly. While I didn’t get a dessert this time, Steven got a strawberry cupcake to go and reported that it was quite tasty.

So, Hot Breads? A definite jewel in Gaithersburg’s veg-restaurant-scene crown! :D

Homemade Lime Soda | VeganMoFo 2018 Day Three

Week One: Inspiration Week
This week is all about using different things as your inspiration for great food.

Just like yesterday, today I’m drawing inspiration from India! No matter where we stopped for a meal — fancy hotel, unpretentious roadside eatery — the drinks menu almost always included lime soda. Served in tall, thin flared glasses, lime soda is way more than the sum of its parts. Lime-infused simple syrup melds with sparkling water to create a dreamy, super refreshing drink that we couldn’t stop ordering. Many restaurants offer both salty and sweet versions, but I couldn’t resist sweet every time.

Since returning from India, I’ve been craving lime soda, so obviously I had to make my own! We have a SodaStream, which made the sparkling water part pretty easy. I shook up some fresh lime juice with sugar for an extra-simple simple syrup, then added it to my water to taste. So easy and so refreshing! Next time I’m going to mix in some raspberry simple syrup I made a couple weeks back with some less-than-perfect berries. It would also make an amazingly simple cocktail with a little gin or vodka. The possibilities, as they say, are endless!

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