January 14, 2015

OATrageous Oatmeals


I suspect when most people think of oats they imagine a bowl of steaming oatmeal, a few oatmeal cookies or maybe a muffin. When Kathy Hester, author of OATrageous Oatmeals, thinks of oats, she conjures up an entire cuisine. The book contains a mind-boggling assortment of oatmeal creations from DIY staples, to fantastic breakfasts, to soups, stews and other savories, to desserts, to drinks, to body care to dog biscuits. I never realized there were so many things you could make with oats.

I admit when I first saw the cookbook, I was skeptical about making anything beyond my familiar oatmeal repertoire of breakfasts and desserts, but the photos and descriptions were so intriguing they inspired me to get more creative.

butternut squash maple walnut scones

I started with the familiar, though, and made a batch of butternut squash maple walnut scones, which were surprisingly flaky and delicious, considering they have no added oil. I made them with Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Baking Mix, and had to adjust the recipe a bit to get the right balance of wet to dry, but was very happy with the end result.

creamy cashew-oat cream cheese

Next I tried the recipe for creamy cashew-oat cream cheese. I've made a number of plant-based cream cheese recipes in the past, and was curious to see how this one would compare. Tastewise, it was spot on for rich, cream cheese flavor, but I thought the texture was bordering on odd, with a slightly gluey feel.  On the plus side, it didn't need to be fermented like my favorite cream cheese recipe, to develop the flavor.


It made a nice spread for an unusual GF nut and seed bread I had just baked, but I don't think it will replace my other recipe, because of the texture. Pretty good, though.

chickpea veggie soup

Making soup with steel cut oats wasn't something I'd previously ever considered, but the chickpea veggie soup looked and sounded so good, I couldn't resist. The oats gave the soup a nice texture and body, and the flavor was excellent. This is definitely a recipe I would turn to again. There has been so much negative publicity recently about arsenic in rice, and warnings to limit the amount of rice consumed, that it's nice to find another grain to add to my repertoire. Thanks to Kathy Hester for such creative use of oats!

pepperoni crumbles

Truthfully, I've been vegan for so long that I can't really remember what pepperoni tastes like — nor did I eat much pepperoni before I was vegan, so I may not be the best judge of whether the pepperoni crumbles tastes like its namesake. But, I couldn't resist making a plant-based meat from steel-cut oats. The final result was, "interesting" as my husband said, and was a good addition to the biscuits and gravy that I'll tell you about soon. I rarely buy "fake" meat — I don't crave it, and usually don't like the ingredients list — so if I want a meat-like food for a recipe, I'd much rather use something like this. It was tasty and chewy, and it makes me want to do some additional experimenting subbing oats for wheat in certain plant-based recipes I used to make in the very distant past.


I had a problem with the recipe instructions, and asked my husband for his interpretation of the directions, which was the same as mine. I guess I didn't make the right choice in how to proceed because I ended up with a messy situation involving scraping the crumbles off shredding parchment paper. I'm sure I won't be the only person making this mistake. In the end, I rescued most of the crumbles, and they turned out OK, but it wasn't a straightforward procedure.

Southern-style biscuits

I have a confession to make. I've never had biscuits and gravy. I never thought much about it until fairly recently, though I realize it's long been a classic food in the South. Since it's so popular now for plant-based eaters to veganize traditional meat and dairy-based foods, and since there are so many blogs, cookbooks and vegan restaurants specializing in 'comfort foods,' biscuits and gravy finally creeped onto my radar. Seeing that OATrageous Oats contained all the recipes I would need to create my first plate of biscuits and gravy, I figured, "why not?"

First came the Southern-style biscuits. I followed the directions to substitute GF flour for the wheat flour, and although I measured carefully, my batter was much too wet to use as directed. I had to add a lot more flour to get a manageable dough. Next, I followed the directions that the biscuits should be finished baking when the bottoms were brown. The bottoms of my biscuits never turned brown, and I finally removed them from the oven fearing they would dry out before they darkened. I'm assuming my problems are related to the GF option I used, though the directions said to substitute GF flour in the same proportions.


Once I had my biscuits and pepperoni (there is also a recipe for sausage crumbles, if you'd prefer), I made a batch of DIY golden gravy mix. The mix is added to boiling water and cooked for five to 10 minutes — mine took at least 10). According to the recipe, 1-1/2 cups of water plus 1/4 cup of mix is one serving, though I used half that amount and it looked like a lot for me to eat. The gravy was tasty, but I think next time I make it I'll use soup stock and maybe add some mushroom powder.


Once I had all the pieces, I put together my first plate of biscuits and gravy with pepperoni crumbles subbing for sausage crumbles. The gravy was a little greener than I'd expected, and there seemed to be so much of it that I only used about half of what I'd made. I found my first few bites underwhelming. But then it started to grow on me, and I had an idea.

Sometimes more is better...

I poured the rest of the gravy onto my plate and dug in with gusto. Not too bad! I found myself gobbling it up. I'm going to make some for my husband tonight, partly to see what he thinks, and partly because I want more.

I've only touched the surface of the recipes available in OATrageous Oats. Although I do think there are some problems with recipe directions and GF conversions, overall the book is one of the most unique vegan cookbooks you will see. It opens up new possibilities for using a healthy whole grain that's been the victim of overlooked potential. The breakfasts, dinner dishes, desserts, etc. are so creative and gorgeous, you can't help but be inspired to try them. There are so many great ideas — for example, since reading through the book, I've been adding raw oats to my morning smoothie, finding it satisfies my appetite for hours. Not only is the book bursting with creative recipes (pumpkin coffeecake oatmeal, hummingbird cake oatmeal, chocolate hazelnut granola, mushroom ginger congee, oat, gnocchi, eggplant pizza sliders, oat dosa, Indian oats upma, oat-chata, oatmeal cookie scrub, etc.), it contains wonderful photography by Kate Lewis. AND, the book lies flat when open!

You can't go wrong adding a copy of OATrageous Oats by Kathy Hester to your bookshelf. If you'd like to try one of the recipes, here's are some links:

Amazon Look Inside the Book (several recipes incl. sausage crumbles)
Chickpea Veggie soup
Steel-cut oat bean chili

Update 1/19/15:  I made the gravy again using low-sodium soup stock instead of water, and I added the mix at the beginning of the cooking time instead of waiting for the stock to boil. I enjoyed the resulting gravy much more than the water version. (I should also mention that when I made the dry diy gravy mix, I used half the salt called for because I don't like my food to taste too salty. This could certainly affect the finished product's flavor, but I'd rather taste veggies than salt.)

22 comments:

  1. Glad to see you're back with a new post and what a post. Great review of a cookbook I haven't even heard about. Oatmeal is totally underrated, I've only branched out into more savory options but nothing like this. :-)

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    1. Thanks! Oatmeal has endless potential, as I've just discovered. There are so many unexpected ways to cook with it — even the breakfast ides are mind boggling. :)

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  2. That sounds like a fantastic book, Andrea. I think back in the days there was even a commercial vegan cream cheese made with oats. I don't remember the brand though.I love cooking with outs and this book seems to offer so many new possibilities! I've also experienced the gluey texture before, I think it was in an ice cream made with oats. It was so weird.

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    1. I used to buy a soft serve ice cream from our food co-op called oatscream. It didn't even have added sweeteners but it was so good. I loved it. Then the soft serve machine broke and was never replaced. :(

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  3. You're back!!! I had wondered if you'd hung up your blogging hat for good. I was delighted to see a post from you in my feed.

    I'm amazed at the variety of recipes that can be made with oats. Sounds intriguing!

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    1. Thanks! Blogging takes so much time (as you know) and things were just too complicated with house disasters, sales, weddings, etc. We'll see if I can get back into it again. As for oats — Kathy has opened up a new world of possibilities!

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  4. I am so glad to see posts from you again! I missed your thoughtful articles. And of course you have me wanting this book now more than ever.

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    1. Thank you! The book is certainly unique — you probably won't find recipes like these elsewhere. I never knew there were so many possible ways to use oats.

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  5. I checked out this book from the library and am eager to try so many of the recipes. Could you share what you learned from making the crumbles to make it easier next time? I had some trouble understanding the cream cheese recipe -- directions say to strain the blended oat-cashew mixture into a bowl and then strain back into a blender. Do you discard any liquid after straining or is the purpose just to put everything through a strainer? Usually I strain liquid off of things, not into containers for use, so I am confused by these instructions. Thanks if you can clarify.

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    1. I wish the directions were more clear. I believe you are straining out (eliminating) the solids. The clue is straining into a bowl with a pour spout so you can easily pour the liquid through the strainer again into the blender. I think. The directions should tell you what to discard.

      The crumbles are to be spread onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. The directions don't say how thick to spread. Then you cover with a second sheet and press to distribute the oats evenly. Then bake. The directions imply to leave the top sheet on, but when I did that, it stuck badly to the mixture and created so much moisture that the parchment shredded. Maybe try using just the bottom sheet if you make the crumbles.

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    2. I might see if I can ask her on her web site as I don't understand how eliminating solids could lead to a product with cream cheese consistency.Will also try your tip for the pepperoni crumbles and let you know how it turns out. The recipes in the book are truly innovative so I'm eager to try them!

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    3. I think it's a good idea to ask. The recipe says to strain the blended oat mixture into a bowl with a pour spout and then strain again into the blender, so I was assuming that meant to pour the liquid again through the strainer and remove any solids left behind. Maybe the leftover solids would increase the glueyness factor. In any case, the final mixture did have the correct cream cheese solidity. Let me know what you find out.

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  6. Forgot to add that I appreciate you pointing out that steel cut oats work well in place of rice in some dishes. I added some leftover steel cut oats to a cauliflower fried "rice" I'd made too salty and it was perfect! I also make steel cuts oats in a snap by boiling for 2 minutes, removing from heat, and covering the pan with a lid overnight. They're done sooner than that, but they keep just fine overnight on the stove, and reheat in a couple of minutes.

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    1. Thanks for the cooking tip!

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  7. So nice to see you blogging again!

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  8. Long time no read! This cookbook looks interesting, I think I will ask the library to bring it in. I really want to try those pepperoni crumbles, but hopefully mine won't stick to the paper!

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    1. I recommend not putting a sheet of paper on top. :) Lots of interesting recipes to try — the soup was great!

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  9. I can attest that the problems you had with the biscuits were not due to the GF ingredients you used. I made them as written this past week - wheat flour and all - and I had the same issues. The dough was far too wet; I ended up adding at least another cup of flour to create a manageable dough. My finished biscuits didn't really get all that brown, either. That said, they were tasty and my boyfriend and I both really liked them!

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    1. Thanks for sharing this with me. At first I was just going to make drop biscuits since that was what the consistency of the batter seemed to be suited for, but then I added more flour (oat and GF) to get a proper biscuit dough. We enjoyed the biscuits though they seemed a little floury to me. Maybe they were were a bit over-baked because I was waiting for the bottoms to brown.

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  10. That's a nice review. I usually use oats for a number of things. Ever since I started to make savoury oats with veggies for breakfast, I've re-discovered oats on a whole new level.
    And yes I am sad about the whole arsenic thing in rice, I love rice so much. doh!

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    1. Thank you. I've always resisted savory oats but I've changed my mind about how and where to use oats — so many possibilities. The arsenic thing is really sad — we used to consume so many rice products besides for just regular rice. Rice noodles, rice syrup, rice cakes all have arsenic. So many people depend on rice. I wonder what they will find next in our food supply.

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