From time to time I stick with several plant milk recipes, depending on the season and the ingredients that are available and of course on my appetite. So lately, after about two months of using almost exclusively pumpkin seed milk (during winter we consume a lot of pumpkins and I didn’t want to waste the pumpkin seeds), I’ve become almost obsessed with homemade oat milk. This obsession started one morning that I was about to enjoy my usual morning vegan latte when I realized that there was no milk in the fridge, I had not soaked almonds to make almond milk and the time (6.30 in the morning) was totally inappropriate to visit the nearest organic food store and buy something. What I needed that time was a quick and easy recipe for a plant-based milk that could also work for my coffee.
Luckily, homemade oat milk, along with homemade coconut milk, are cheap and easy to make – it only takes few minutes and minimal effort- and they both have an amazing flavor. Rolled oats is something I always keep in my cupboards, so in less than ten minutes I blended a cup of rolled oats with water, I strained the oat milk and I prepared an espresso, in order to make my precious vegan latte.
One of the things that I really like with oat milk is that it has a neutral flavor, slightly sweet taste, much better than the commercial oat milk varieties and a relatively dense consistency with makes it very satisfying. Moreover, when I simmer it a little bit to make my latte, it becomes thicker, giving to my coffee a nice creaminess without the additional fat and the calories found in the coffee-creamers or the coconut milk.
The remaining pulp in the strainer can be added in our breakfast bowl or it can be incorporated into the dough for a homemade bread, as it is rich in vitamins and minerals, just as oat milk is.
1 cup rolled oats (opt for gluten-free if you prefer)
3 cups water at room temperature
1 tsp natural vanilla extract
1 tbsp brown sugar or the sweetener of your choice
1. Put the oats in the blender together with the water and blend at medium speed for 2-3 minutes, depending on your blender.
2. Lay a sieve with cheesecloth and strain. Squeeze the cloth to drain most of the liquid.
3. If you want you can add sweetener of your choice and flavor with natural vanilla extract. Store in sterile glass bottle in the refrigerator. You can keep it for up to three days.
Carobs are well-known as some of the nutrient-rich gifts nature gave to us and fortunately carob trees are found everywhere in Greece. The great thing about carobs is their unique flavor which slightly reminds me of a naturally made caramel while carob products, namely the carob powder (or carob flour) and the carob syrup can be used in various vegan recipes.
One of the healthiest sweet recipes with which I am stuck this year are these raw vegan carob and walnut energy bars. Basically in the mornings I like to wrap one bar in parchment paper and put it in my bag before going to work. Around 11 am, ie the cravings time, this vegan bar is the most tasty, healthy and hearty solution that I could have. Moreover the walnuts and the flaxseeds they contain fulfill my daily requirement in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, while raisins and raw carob powder make them wonderfully sweet and fruity.
1 cup (150 g) raisins
1 cup (100 g) rolled oats (or rolled buckwheat)
1/2 cup (55g) ground flaxseed
1/4 cup (40 g) carob powder
1/2 cup raw walnuts (60 g), divided (¼ + ¼)
1-2 tbsp water (if necessary)
1. Soak the raisins in water for fifteen minutes and drain well.
2. Put the raisins in the food processor and process for 2-3 minutes until mashed. Add the oats, flaxseeds, ¼ cup walnuts and the carob powder and keep processing. If your mixture is not consistent enough, add a spoonful of water and process for one more minute.
3. Lay a medium-sized (21x11x6), rectangular cake tin with parchment paper. Transfer the mixture in the tin, press with your hands to the bottom and flatten the surface. Finely chop the remaining walnuts, sprinkle them on top and press them a little bit to stick. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours.
4. Remove the mixture from the tin and cut vertically. My cake tin is 21 cm long so I made three centimeters long cuts, ending up with seven bars. Keep them in an airtight container in the fridge.
After becoming vegan, I did a small research to discover vegan foods rich in probiotics. Hopefully, I realized that many of the foods that I like to eat are good sources of probiotics and the only thing I had to do was to consume them through my diet. So I stopped worrying and I just added more olives, pickles, tempeh, plant-based kefir and yogurt to my meals. Additionally, a healthy vegan food rich in probiotics, which can be easily and economically prepared at home is the sauerkraut. All you need to make it is a fresh cabbage, sea salt and a one or two glass jars. Let’s get started!
What’s the sauerkraut?
It is raw, shredded cabbage (suitable even in a raw vegan diet) that has been fermented under certain conditions, thus retaining all its nutrients. The fermentation also results in the development of healthy microorganisms in the cabbage, known as probiotics. During fermentation cabbage acquires a yellowish color, an intense but, in the same time, pleasant odor reminiscent of freshly cut vegetables bathed in the ocean and a tangy, appetizing flavor, with a variable intensity, which is analogous to the length of the fermentation. The texture normally remains crispy.
The biology behind sauerkraut…
For those who believe that each and every microbe is bad, this may not sound tempting, but the sauerkraut, like any other fermentation product we consume, is made thanks to the millions invisible microorganisms that are present normally or are transferred in the medium that we want to ferment. Specifically the sauerkraut is produced by the process of lactic fermentation. During this process, the bacteria that perform the lactic fermentation, consume the sugars in the cabbage, producing subsequently lactic acid, the chemical molecule that gives the cabbage its characteristic sour taste. Luckily, the good bacteria exist naturally on the cabbage leaves so you don’t have to order spores or anything. For this reason, the cabbage should not be washed, in order to keep our tiny friends by our side! The only thing we have to do is to remove the first 2-3 outer leaves to keep out dust as well as undesired microbes that may be present on the outer surface.
What a cabbage!
In the market we will find cabbages in different types and sizes. I usually choose a white, firm, medium size cabbage. The weight of such a cabbage ranges from 1300-1600 grams. To check if it’s fresh I look at the base of the stem, where it has been cut. Freshly cut cabbage will have almost white stalk. Since cabbage should not be washed, I usually choose organic for this preparation.
One of the decisive factors for the success of our recipe is salt, both qualitatively and quantitatively. If possible, choose natural sea salt without additives. The more natural conditions we create for our invisible friends the better they will work!
Salt is essential as it pulls water out of the cabbage, so as to create a natural brine in which the cabbage is packed in and the fermentation process takes place. Moreover the salt acts as a preservative in the sense that, if inserted in the correct ratio, it inhibits the growth of undesired microorganisms while allowing the proliferation of those bacteria (mainly of the genus Lactobacillus) needed to do the fermentation. Here the key is the correct ratio. If more salt is added, the beneficial microorganisms will not be able to proliferate and they will not complete the fermentation while if less salt is added we run the risk of having unwanted microorganisms in our preparation.
According to the bibliography and my experiments I have found that by using 2% salt I succeed guaranteed results. But what does 2% salt means? That for every 100 grams of cabbage we need 2 grams of salt. Therefore, for a 1500 grams cabbage we need 30 grams of salt. If you do not have scale, keep in mind that 1 heaped teaspoon of salt is equivalent to about 5 grams and 1 heaped tablespoon is equivalent to 15 grams. So 2 tablespoons must be enough for a medium cabbage weighing 1500 grams.
The right conditions
Our tiny assistants do not have much different temperament than us. So for example when it is too cold they prefer to sleep rather than work while excessive heat and sunlight can make their behavior unpredictable. Actually they love to live and work at room temperature, ie around 23 oC, without being exposed to direct sunlight.
The best time of the year to make sauerkraut, with the desired characteristics (in Greece), begins in autumn and it lasts until early spring, when temperatures remain mild. In our country, the high temperatures that prevail from May to October will accelerate overly the fermentation which makes the control of the process difficult. For this reason I prefer to make sauerkraut from November to March.
Apart from temperature, the competition between microorganisms is something we should consider as, when a microbe is grown in a medium, it tends to prevent the development of another. This can be good actually as, by encouraging the proliferation of the desired microorganisms, then it is very difficult for others, unwanted microorganisms to invade. On the other hand, you need to pay special attention at the beginning of the process, to ensure that only the good bacteria found in cabbage will be present throughout the fermentation.
To ensure this, you have to wash your hands thoroughly as well as the equipment you are going to use and wipe with a clean, cotton towel before start. Moreover you have to wash and sterilize the pot or jar in which the fermentation process is going to take place.
1 medium size fresh cabbage
1 large bowl
1 large or several small glass jars or containers
1. Remove the first 2-3 outer leaves from the cabbage and cut into four pieces. With a sharp knife remove the internal stalk and chop the cabbage finely to achieve a better result.
2. Weigh the cabbage and add 2 grams of salt for each 100 grams of cabbage. Remember that 1 tsp weighs about 5 grams. and 1 tbsp 15 grams. My cabbage was about 1500 g (after removing the outer leaves and the stalk) and so I added 30g of salt.
3. In a large bowl mix the cabbage with the salt and start to rub and knead it with your hands so as to break the cellular walls and to release the juices present in the inside. It is a good gym as I figured that it takes about 15 minutes of intense muscular activity to soften the cabbage enough and pull out its juices.
4. Transfer the cabbage in glass, sterilized jars and press with your hands as much as you can. Be careful not to entirely fill the jars, but leave a margin of 3-4 cm if you have a large jar or 2-3 cm if you have smaller jars.
5. Cover the cabbage with the liquid left in the bowl. The cabbage must be fully covered with the brine. If the liquid from your cabbage is not enough, dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt in a cup of water (240 ml) and add it in the jar until the cabbage is fully immersed. And of course leave a margin of at least 3-4 cm from the mouth of your jar (otherwise the brine will overflow during fermentation and mess everything around there).
6. Cover the jars with sterilized lids and leave on a shelve, at 20-25 oC.
7. After four days (not earlier because the first days you want anaerobic conditions) open the jar and taste. If you want your sauerkraut like the store-bought, you should leave it for at least one week or more to ferment, depending on the temperature.
Because each of us is so beautifully unique, the best way to find out when your homemade sauerkraut is ready for you, is to taste it every day, starting from the day 4. When it becomes sour enough for you, put it in the refrigerator to slow down further fermentation. Personally I like it mildly sour and so I usually let it ferment for 8-10 days (depending on the temperature). When it’s ready I put it in the refrigerator where it can be stored for quite long.
Before you start keep in mind:
1. To wash, clean, sterilize everything, except from the cabbage.
2. To adjust salinity to 2% and the temperature 20 to 25 ° C.
3. To make sure that the cabbage is packed in the liquid brine.
4. To follow the instructions so that nothing can go wrong!