Vegan Oatmeal Cream Pies

Oatmeal Cream Pie Cookies

Yes, I admit that I ate a lot of crap in high school. While I certainly enjoyed a variety of snack cakes like Ding Dongs, Swiss Rolls, and Devil Squares, one of my all-time favorite crap-snacks were Little Debbie’s Oatmeal Creme Pies. My girlfriend, Beth, and I would eat those things by the box and, if memory serves me correct, we’d routinely down an entire box before our basketball games. Clearly not the best food choice for sustained energy, but I claim ignorance for my poor choices of yore.

Thinking back to those b-ball days made me a little nostalgic and I couldn’t resist looking through old photo albums. This one was taken during our senior year in a game against our biggest rival, Ontonagon. It was during the district tournament and we ended up barely losing 43-41 so it also happened to be the final game of our high school career.

Baraga Girls Vikettes versus Ontonagon

But back to evil Debbie. It’s not just the high sugar, saturated fat, and cholesterol that make Little Debbie’s Oatmeal Creme Pies so repulsive to me now, but look at all of the artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives that are in them (I’ve highlighted the horror of horrors, but notice I’m not even marking corn syrup, which could be debated):

Corn SyrupFlour Enriched BleachedBarley Malt,NiacinIron ReducedWheat FlourFolic Acid (Vitamin aB)Oat(s)Cottonseed Oil Partially Hydrogenated,Soybean(s) Oil Partially HydrogenatedRiboflavin (Vitamin B2)SugarThiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1)Vegetable(s) ShorteningAmmonium Bicarbonate,Baking SodaDextroseEmulsifier(s)Contains 22% or less LeaveningMilkMolassesPolysorbate 60,Raisin(s)SaltSorbitan MonostearateSoy Lecithin,WaterWheyMono and DiglyceridesCorn Starch, Caramel Color, CarrageenanCocoaCoconutColor(s),Egg(s)Egg(s) WhitesApple(s) EvaporatedMilk Non-Fat DryRed 40Sorbic Acid, Freshness Preserved BySpice(s)Yellow 5Flavor(s) Natural & Artificial,Sulfite Treated

So now I present you with a healthier recipe for oatmeal creme pies made of whole ingredients, yet taste “like they have a pound of butter in them” (exact words from the mouth of one of my co-workers) and will surely give Little Debbie a run for her money.

You first want to whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and powder in a medium bowl. Then cream the Earth Balance, sugar, and molasses in your stand mixer.

Keep beating until the mixture is light and fluffy like the photo below. Then add vanilla and beat again.

Put your Ener-G Egg Replacer in a bowl, add the water and beat with hand beaters until stiff peaks form.

Ener-G Egg Replacer

Add this mixture to the bowl and beat again.

Slowly add the flour mixture to the bowl while the machine is beating on low speed. After you’ve added all of the flour, you may need to turn up the speed of your mixer in order to allow the dough to fully combine like the photo below on the right.

Remove the bowl from the mixer, add in the oats, and stir by hand. Grab your cookie scoop and drop cookie dough balls on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and space them 2 inches apart.

Bake for 11 minutes at 350 degrees. They will flatten during baking, but still remain a bit puffy when done so you will need to press them flatter immediately after pulling them out of the oven.

Transfer them to a cooling rack until completely cool and then turn them over.

While the cookies are cooling, wash the bowl of your stand mixer and make your cream filling by putting all ingredients together in a bowl and mixing until creamy smooth.

Cream Cheese Filling

I made sure I had 24 bottoms turned over on the cooling rack and then spread the cream on top of each one. I laid them all out like this and didn’t put their top on until I had spread each cookie with cream. That way if I had lots of left-over cream I could add more to each cookie or, similarly, if I was running short on cream I could steal some from the already creamed cookies. When you’ve finished adding the cream, place the remaining 24 cookies on top.

Vegan Oatmeal Cream Pies

Makes 24 cookie pies

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) Earth Balance, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons Ener-G Egg Replacer
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats

Cream Filling

  • 8 ounces (1 container) vegan cream cheese (I used Tofutti), softened to room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) Earth Balance, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Prep: Preheat oven to 350 degrees and make sure that your Earth Balance and cream cheese are softened to room temperature. Also, line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cookie Dough: In a medium bowl whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. In the bowl of your electric stand mixer beat the Earth Balance, white and brown sugars, and molasses on high until creamy and fluffy. You will need to periodically scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla and beat again, until combined. Add the egg replacer and beat until creamy. Slowly add the flour mixture to the bowl while it’s beating on low speed. Increase the speed after adding all of the flour until well incorporated. Remove the bowl from the mixer, add in the oats, and stir by hand.

Bake: Using a cookie scoop, drop the cookie dough 2 inches apart on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake for 11 minutes and don’t be alarmed if they seem too soft because these are supposed to be very soft cookies (and they will thicken slightly as they cool.) Press the cookies flat with your hands or another flat surface and then transfer them to a cooling rack until they’re completely cool.

Cream Filling: In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat the cream cheese, Earth Balance, powdered sugar, and vanilla until smooth and creamy (about 3 minutes). Again, you’ll need to scrape down the sides of the bowl periodically so that everything is incorporated.

Completed Cookie: Spread the filling on the flat side of half the cookies. Place the remaining cookies on top to make a sandwich.

Oatmeal Cream Pie Cookies

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Roasted Sweet Potato Banana Amaranth Pudding Porridge

Roasted Sweet Potato Banana Amaranth Porridge

Amaranth? What the heck is that? My quick answer to that question is that amaranth is to the Aztecs as quinoa is to the Incans. For many years it was the staple grain in the Aztec diet and, like quinoa did for the Incans, powered their civilization.

I remember when i first started cooking quinoa over ten years ago and, seeing as I had never eaten it before, or even heard of it, I had no idea what to expect in terms of flavor. At the time I remember that it wasn’t a runaway hit with me. It wasn’t that it was unsavory… I just didn’t LOVE it immediately. I didn’t LOVE it the way I do now. I suppose this is often the case with new flavors where they can take some getting accustomed to; an adjustment period. I may feel the same about amaranth. It too has a strong, distinct flavor when eaten alone so pairing it with the intense flavor of roasted sweet potatoes and bananas was a great first introduction for me (I’ve only eaten it in cornbread before). In fact, I loved this dish so much that poor Alex didn’t even get a chance to try it. Oops!

Amaranth Size Comparison

You can see how tiny amaranth is compared to other grains and, even when fully cooked, the tiny little pearls are still quite small. In the bottom right of the photo below you can see the little amaranth pearls mixed in with the roasted potato puree. The amaranth beads in this dish vaguely remind me of the pearls in tapioca pudding. They have a similar texture but, as someone who doesn’t like tapioca pudding that much, they are a lot tastier (and much smaller).

Roasted Sweet Potato Banana Amaranth Porridge

Like quinoa, amaranth also has a very high nutritional profile. It’s a very good source of protein, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, and iron. And when eaten with the sweet potatoes and bananas in this dish that are loaded with vitamin B6, potassium, and vitamins A and K you have yourself a nutrient-packed power breakfast (or dessert, because you could totally eat this for dessert.)

Sorry to blather on about nutrition again, but I just can’t help myself as I’ve spent years studying how our bodies respond to food—our fuel. I find it so fascinating how food can be medicine when you eat certain things and stop eating others. But enough about that; here’s how to make this glorious, tastes-like-pumpkin-pie dish!

Olive Oil Sweet Potatoes

After peeling and chopping your sweet potato, put it in a bowl and drizzle extra virgin olive oil over it, add salt, and toss to coat each piece evenly.

(Somewhat bashfully, I will admit that because I was taking a photo while pouring the oil, I ended up adding waaaay more oil than I had intended. I probably used a 1/4 cup or more! Ooops!)

Place the chunks on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet and place in a 400 degree preheated oven for 15 minutes. Then take them out, toss them with a spoon, and put them in for another 15 minutes. Do this once more (45 minutes in total) until they’re cooked through and look like the photos below.

While you’re roasting your sweet potato, you can also roast your banana. However, instead of taking 45 minutes, the bananas only take 30 minutes to fully roast.

Take them out at the 15 minute mark and turn each slice over. The photo above on the right is what they looked like right when I took them out of the oven after 15 minutes of roasting.

Here, on the left, shows the bananas after I flipped them over, before putting them back in the oven, and the right shows them after the full 30 minutes.

Now place your roasted sweet potatoes and banana in a food processor, add the spices, and start to puree.

Add non-dairy milk to the mixture until the consistency is thick and creamy like the photo on the right. Also, I have to note that at this point I sampled a lot. This puree tasted like I was eating pumpkin pie filling. It was so flippin’ good! So don’t feel guilty if you can’t keep your spoon out of it either—it’s been known to happen.

While your potatoes and bananas are roasting in the oven, measure your amaranth and place it in a large saucepan with the water. Cover it with a lid and bring to a boil. Then turn down the heat so that it maintains a low boil for 20-25 minutes or until all water has been absorbed. Towards the end of cooking stir it a few times to prevent sticking or burning on the bottom of the pan.

Add the sweet potato banana puree to the amaranth and mix it until well incorporated. Serve in a bowl and feel free to add toasted coconut, maple syrup (it’s actually so sweet that you might find this completely unnecessary), or non-dairy milk if you like.

Roasted Sweet Potato Banana Amaranth Porridge

Roasted Sweet Potato Banana Amaranth Pudding Porridge

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 medium-small sweet potato, chopped into small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (or enough to coat all the sweet potatoes)
  • salt (to taste)
  • 1 banana, sliced
  • 1 cup dried amaranth
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (pre-grated is fine if that’s what you have on hand)
  • your choice of non-dairy milk, such as almond, rice, soy, flax, coconut, etc. (as needed)
  • splash of vanilla extract (optional)
  • maple syrup (optional)
  • toasted coconut (optional)

Roast: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place your sweet potato chunks in a bowl and add olive oil and salt. Toss until evenly coated. Spread them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Slice your banana into small pieces and place them in a single layer on another parchment-paper-lined baking sheet. Place both sheets in the oven. Roast for 15 minutes, turn them over, and place in the oven for another 15 minutes. At this point the bananas will be done, but the sweet potatoes need to go back in the oven for another final 15 minutes of cooking. In the end the bananas will have roasted for 30 minutes while the potatoes will have cooked for 45.

Cook Amaranth: While the potatoes and bananas are roasting, measure the amaranth and place it in a large saucepan with the 3 cups of water. Cover with a lid and bring it to a boil over high heat. Once it has come to a boil, turn down the heat so that it maintains a constant simmer for 20-25 minutes or until all water has been absorbed. I suggest checking on it after 20 minutes and stirring it to make sure that the amaranth does not burn or stick to the bottom of the pan.

Puree: When the sweet potatoes and bananas are done roasting, place them in a food processor (I was able to do this in my mini food processor), add all of the spices, and puree. Add your non-dairy beverage of choice a little bit at a time until you reach the consistency of a thick pudding.

Combine: Add the potato/banana pudding to the amaranth and mix until they’re thoroughly combined. Feel free to add any of the optional toppings you desire.

Roasted Sweet Potato Banana Amaranth Porridge

Red Lentil and Millet Stew with Lemon

Thick Red Lentil Stew

As a vegan, I am often asked for examples of staples in my diet. In an effort to eat healthier, they want to know what kind of dishes are regularly prepared in my household. So today I figured I’d share a one-pot wonder that is frequently in our rotation. In fact, it’s so frequent that it often makes a once-a-week appearance at dinner and then shows up as leftovers in my lunch the next day.

Red Lentil and Millet Stew with Lemon

This Red Lentil Stew has so much going for it. Aside from it being incredibly tasty (even kids love this one!), it’s also a nutrient powerhouse. The lentils and millet pack a ton of protein in this dish, and together they actually make a complete protein, offering all of the essential amino acids humans need. There are some other interesting dances going on between foods in this dish. Let me explain. Iron is more easily absorbed by your body when consumed with vitamin C. Lentils are loaded with iron, while lemons and onion are loaded with vitamin C. So not only do they taste incredibly good together, but by joining forces, they make your body perform better. It’s like we evolved to want to eat lentil and millet stew.

Red Lentil and Millet Soup with Lemon

I could go on about all of the amazing nutrients in lentils (phosophorus, copper, folate, fiber, thiamin, B6, manganese, zinc, magnesium, and the already-mentioned protein and iron) and millet (thiamin, niacin, manganese, phosophorus, more protein, fiber, and magnesium) but I won’t. I’ll stop here and get on with the recipe! 😛

Chopped Fresh Veggies

You first need to chop all of your veggies and then saute them in olive oil over medium-high heat until softened. Meanwhile, rinse your lentils and millet in a fine sieve under cold water. Pour the lentils into the veggie pot, add your water, and bring to a boil. Simmer the mixture on medium-low heat for 20-25 minutes and then add the fresh squeezed lemon juice and salt. It’s as easy as that!

Red Lentil and Millet Stew with Lemon

This recipe provides six healthy servings

Ingredients

  • 1 large yellow onion, finely diced
  • 2 ribs celery, finely diced
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup millet
  • 2 cups red lentils
  • 7 cups water (plus more if needed to thin it a bit)
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • salt (to taste)

Saute: Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a large (~6 quart) saucepan. When the oil is heated, add the onion and celery. Cook for 10 minutes until softened. Add the carrots and garlic, and cook for another 7 minutes.

Measure and Rinse: While the veggie are cooking, measure the millet and lentils then rinse them under cold water in a fine sieve. After the veggies are done, add the lentils and millet to the pot along with the 7 cups of water. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil, stirring once or twice. Once it’s reached a boil, stir again, turn down the heat so that it maintains a simmer, and cover slightly with a lid. Let it simmer for 20-25 minutes and stir a couple times during cooking.

Finishing Touches: After it’s finished cooking, add the lemon juice and salt. In my experience, I’ve added at least 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, if not more. The salt really helps to bring out the lemon flavor and marry the other flavors in the dish very well.

Note: This makes a very thick stew and if you want it more soup-like add another cup (or more) of water at the end until it reaches the consistency you desire.

Red Lentil and Millet Soup with Lemon

Fat Free (or low fat) Microwaved Plantain Chips

Microwaved Plantain Chips

I have an interesting relationship with my microwave. Perhaps you’d call it an unwanted dependence? For example, every morning I use it to quickly cook my oatmeal. When I’m on the ball and actually bring my lunch to work I use it to reheat my leftovers. Even in the evening I find myself using it to heat any number of foods, drinks, or dishes. However, I wish that I didn’t rely on it so much. It just doesn’t feel right to be “nuking” so much of the food I eat. I know…I know…it’s silly to have any concern as microwaves have been proven to be completely safe so I really shouldn’t worry about it. Plus, ever since hearing my two-year-old niece say “mic-or-ave” I’ve felt a bit more affectionate towards it. Seriously, I’ve listened to this recording of her dozens of times and still laugh. Every. Single. Time.

 

So when I recently learned that you can actually make crispy potato chips by slicing a raw potato and putting it in the microwave for a few minutes, I figured I’d give it a try. However, I wanted to try it with plantains, which happen to be my biggest chip obsession at the moment. I figured that if it works with potatoes, it’s likely to work similarly with plantains, right?

And besides popping plantains in the microwave for 5 minutes can’t possibly be worse for me than the deep fried ones I am buying at the store nearly every day. So, yes, Mr. Mic-or-ave, you win this time in the “lesser of two evils” battle.

Size of Sliced Plantain Chip

As you can see, I used my mandoline to get super thin and even slices, which is an important step in the process of making these. If you don’t have a mandoline, try to cut them as thin and evenly as possible.

I brushed each slice with a bit of olive oil and then sprinkled salt on top. You can omit one or both of these steps, but I actually think that the slightly dry plantain does well with a bit of both. Again, I have to remind myself that the bit of oil and salt I put on them is far less than what I’m consuming from the bags I buy at the store.

You want to place the slices in a single layer on a paper towel lined plate. Then brush each slice with oil, sprinkle with salt, and place them in the microwave on full power for 3 minutes. As the end of the 3 minutes approaches you’ll start to notice your kitchen smelling like sweet plantains and when the time is up, pull them out of the microwave, turn over each slice, and then place them in for another 3 minutes on half power. At this point you’ll have deliciously, crispy plantain chips! That’s all there is to it!

While I was experimenting with this, I purchased a bag of plantain chips at Whole Foods so that I could eat them all see how the two compare and the best comparison that I can make is that my homemade version are like eating Baked Lays, while the store-bought are like eating regular Lays. The microwaved version tastes decidedly healthier, but they still satisfy the need for a delicious, crunchy snack. The chip I’m holding is my homemade version, which is also the one on the left in the photo below. You can see the comparison to the deep fried version on the right. Not too shabby!

Plantain Chip Comparison

Ingredients

  • 1 (or more) plantains (the riper the plantain, the sweeter the chip)
  • olive oil (optional)
  • salt (optional)

Slice Plantain: Cut open your plantain by running a sharp knife along the long side of it. Try to cut only as deep as the peel. Pull the plantain out of it’s peel and then cut it into very thin and even slices.

Microwave: Place them in a single layer on a paper towel-lined plate. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Cook in the microwave on high power for 3 minutes. Pull the plate out of the microwave and turn over each slice before putting them back in the microwave for another 3 minutes on half power.

Microwaved Plantain Chips vs Deep Fried Plantain Chips