DIY Vegan Mixes to Keep on Hand | VeganMoFo 2018 Day Seventeen

Week Three: Budget Week
This week, we’re going to prove once and for all that veganism is affordable!

Yesterday I got onto my [cruelty-free and vegan] soap box to talk about the privilege inherent in calling a vegan diet inexpensive. I certainly think it’s possible for many people to be vegan on a budget, and there are plenty of cookbooks and blogs that share inexpensive vegan recipes. In fact, I’ll be sharing a list of those resources later this week. But today, let’s talk about one tool you can keep in your pantry to save both time and money: DIY mixes!

Perhaps unsurprisingly — given how often I’ve blogged about this book in the past — Miyoko Schinner’s The Homemade Vegan Pantry is my go-to source for mixes to make at home and keep on hand. My favorite is the classic biscuit and pancake mix (p. 158), a mix of flour, ground flax, sugar, salt, and baking powder that you can use for simple baked goods like waffles, pancakes, and biscuits. It’s super easy to mix up a big batch so you’re always ready to whip up waffles on a whim!

I only tried the well-crafted macaroni and cheese mix (p. 151) for the first time this summer, and I’ll admit that it wasn’t exactly love at first bite. The mix relies on ground cashew, nutritional yeast, and other spices, which you then cook up with some non-dairy milk for a ridiculously fast mac and cheese. The first time I tried it, I was disappointed: The sauce wasn’t creamy at all, and it was pretty bland. But that’s easily fixed: Now, when I make up the sauce, I reduce the amount of milk, add in a couple tablespoons of Earth Balance, and add a little more seasoning to taste.

Another great (print) resource for DIY mixes is Joni Marie Newman’s Vegan Food Gifts. I recipe tested for this book a million years ago, and I love its whole concept and aesthetic. While some of the recipes are intended to be made and gifted as a finished produce (chocolate bark, mini quick breads, granola, etc.), the book also includes plenty of DIY-style, just-add-water mixes: cheesy potato soup, cranberry muffins, pancakes, red beans and rice… there are tons!

I recognize that touting these mixes as money-saving options and then saying you need to buy a cookbook to get the recipes is a little counter-productive! The good news: You can find plenty of similar mixes online. Here is a non-exhaustive list.

  • Vegan mac and cheese powder (mix). This DIY mix from It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken is both nut-free and uses pretty standard pantry ingredients! (I bet you could leave out the lemon pepper with no ill effects.)
  • DIY spice blends. Rather than shelling out on small pre-made spice blends, make your own! The cheapest place I’ve found to buy spices (i.e. the individual ingredients for these blends) is at my local Asian market, but your mileage may vary.
  • DIY vegan hot chocolate mix. This recipe from The Full Helping uses either regular cocoa powder or cacao powder. While I have no desire for summer to end, I must admit I’m looking forward to hot chocolate weather…
  • Classic pancake and biscuit mix. Well, hey — here’s Miyoko’s recipe, shared on Vegan Yack Attack with permission from the publisher! You’re in luck! :)
  • DIY popcorn seasonings. Rather than splash out for an overpriced plastic bag of flavored vegan popcorn, why not pop your own kernels and top them with a homemade seasoning blend?! The list I’ve linked to here has plenty of options. I keep jars of homemade Dorito-flavored seasoning and sour cream and onion seasoning in the pantry.

What other DIY mixes do you like?

Simple Vanilla Oat Milk

As someone who’s slouching towards minimalism, the holidays pose a unique stress in my life. What to do with so many gifts? As much as I might want to request only experiences or (dare I say it?) cash as gifts, there’s a certain joy in the giving and receiving of tangible things, carefully chosen by a loved one. So I try to pre-empt the discomfort of bringing less-than-necessary new objects into my life by making my needs and occasional wants known. Case in point: last Christmas, I asked for nut milk bags and/or cheesecloths (#stereotypicalvegan) for my vegan cheese-making adventures.

Ask and ye shall receive. Receive I did — not just one, not two, but three varieties of cheesecloth and nut milk bags. Happily, they were all different, serving unique purposes in my kitchen. Did you know that you can use cheesecloth to strain cold-brew coffee? You can! We did! But while the cheesecloth was in regular kitchen rotation, my poor nut milk bag remained neglected. Honestly, I was a little apprehensive about making my own milks. I don’t have a fancy Vitamix or Blendtec; my run-of-the-mill blender has been known to require gentle coaching to perform the simplest of tasks. Even making smoothies with frozen bananas is an adventure! I expected the worst if I tried to blend something more resistant.

Vanilla Oat Milk

But then a friend mentioned how much she loves being able to whip up a batch of cashew milk whenever she’s running low. Sure, she has a Vitamix, but still! And then Steven received Miyoko Schinner’s The Homemade Vegan Pantry for his birthday, and my desire to start making my own staples finally transformed into action.

So, today, I’m sharing the easiest of easy homemade non-dairy milk recipes. To make oat milk, the only equipment you need is a blender and a nut milk bag. Unlike nuts, oats require very little soaking, so you can make a batch in nearly no time. And if you, like me, lack a fancy-pants blender, you’ll still be able to have creamy, delicious non-dairy milk without a trip to the grocery store.

Vanilla Oat Milk

Vanilla Oat Milk
Makes two cups

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • Seeds scraped from 1/2 a vanilla bean

Add the dry oats to the blender and pulse for 20-30 seconds, or until they’re in small pieces. Add the water and let soak for about 10 minutes, giving the oats a stir now and then if you think of it. Blend for 2-3 minutes, or until you don’t see any pieces. (Give your blender a little rest in between minutes if it’s not particularly strong.)

Place a nut milk bag over a large measuring bowl or mason jar and pour the oat milk through the bag. Use your hands to gently squeeze out the milk, but most of it should strain very quickly. Set the bag aside. Pour the milk back into the blender and add the maple syrup and vanilla. Blend for 10-15 seconds, pour back into jar, and refrigerate.

Oat milk will last about a week in your fridge.

Note: You can use vanilla extract instead of vanilla beans if you don’t have them or don’t want the visual effect of the seeds in your milk; I just didn’t want to add alcohol to mine.

Vanilla Oat Milk