When you’re eating plant-based and you are invited to eat with friends, you have a perfect opportunity to (1.) introduce others to how awesome and delicious plant-based cooking can be and (2.) make sure you have something to eat!

Since the pandemic began, lots of things have changed. As a teacher, I never imagined that our school year would end on March 13th. I never imagined that my habit of using Walmart’s Grocery Pickup service would pretty much become mandatory. I never imagined that our church would close its doors.

But all of those things – and more – have happened. We have a new normal and right now, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight for a very long time.

Our life group (what we all grew up calling “Sunday School”) isn’t a huge group – which is a little odd given the size of our church and the size of other Life Groups. But we love our little group. It is small and intimate and Michael and I felt welcomed there the first day we walked into the room. We missed meeting with this group every Sunday after the pandemic stay-at-home order. After a few weeks, it became obvious that we weren’t reopening anything for quite a while and that’s when we started having our Sunday morning Zoom meetings. Elizabeth’s 10th grade Life Group met on Sunday afternoons on Zoom and Christopher’s college class (The Collaborative) met the same way. It was a very different reality, but we were all just grateful to see the faces of friends and to have something of a routine re-established.

When our governor announced that people could start gathering in small groups, we were really happy. Our group decided that we would meet on Wednesdays every other week in someone’s home. As Southern Baptists, we also decided that no church meeting is complete without food, so it was decided that we would have a potluck dinner each time.

The first meeting, we only did desserts, so my contribution was a no-brainer. I made vegan brownies. Just sub out the eggs with an egg replacer. I like this egg replacer:

https://amzn.to/3dUWPU8

This is the best egg replacer I’ve used in baking. It’s like $7 for the bag, but it’s the equivalent of 34 eggs! You just mix a tablespoon of the egg replacer with 2 tablespoons of water. It has worked for me in brownies, cakes, cookies, and casseroles.

The next time we were to meet, I made Vegan Chorizo Stuffed Mushrooms. They were delicious! Unfortunately we had a small family incident which, at the last minute, prevented us from attending. Read between the lines: One of our kids had a typical teenage meltdown and we decided not to leave the other one to deal with said meltdown. Anyway, we all ended up eating A LOT of mushrooms.

So this time, we were determined to go. The hosts announced that they were cooking pulled pork and asked us all to bring side dishes and desserts. Ordinarily, pulled pork makes me think of my Beefy Baked Beans or Warm Bacon Potato Salad. But, at the moment, we are living a “Where’s the Beef?” lifestyle and bacon is also off the list.

So I decided that I would make a dessert. I didn’t want to make brownies again, so I decided – rebel that I am – that I would create an entirely new recipe for the dinner. Even more rebellious, I decided to ban myself from going to the grocery store and to only use what I had on hand.

One of the first things I saw as I investigated our kitchen was a 3-pound bag of honeycrisp apples. Okay. Apple Crisp. I’ve never made an Apple Crisp before, but I have made baked apples with a crispy oat topping. That would do as the base of this dish.

I also saw a gigantic box of Quaker Instant Oatmeal packets that Michael bought at Sam’s at the beginning of the stay-at-home order. I decided to use some of those because I had used it in my baked apples recipe and it worked great.

I am a lazy baker. I hate peeling things. I usually make my mashed potatoes with Yukon gold potatoes because their skins are thin enough that I don’t even peel them. I just cut them up, boil them, and mash them with their skins on.

So I didn’t peel these apples. They are going to bake for an hour, so the skins are going to be very soft and basically melt in your mouth.

Equipment you’ll need:

  • 2 big bowls (one for the topping, one for the filling)
  • pastry cutter
  • chef’s knife
  • wooden spoon
  • 9X13 pan

And away we go!

Vegan Apple Crisp

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9X13 baking dish with baking spray OR butter the bottom and sides.

Crumble:

  • 6 packets of Quaker Maple and Brown Sugar instant oatmeal
  • 1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup of firmly-packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) of plant butter, cold and cut into small cubes

In a large bowl, open and pour in oatmeal packets. Add flour, brown sugar, and salt and stir or toss to combine. Add cold butter and use a pastry cutter to work the butter into the dry ingredients. Use the pastry cutter in a downward, twisting motion. Repeat until mixture is the size of peas. Place the bowl into the refrigerator to keep the mixture cold.

Filling:

  • 3-pound bag of honeycrisp apples
  • 1/2 cup of sugar (I used coconut sugar)
  • 2 teaspoons of cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Cut the core out of each apple. Cut apple into chunks – about the size of dice. Place into a large bowl and continue to cut up all the apples. Add sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and lemon juice. Stir to combine. Pour evenly into the prepared baking dish.

Remove crumble topping from the refrigerator and stir gently before pouring on top of the apple filling. Spread out evenly.

Bake for 1 hour.

Well Duh #1: You can use any kind of apple you like. I just had honeycrisps on hand. If you choose a Granny Smith apple – or really any other kind of apple – you will likely want to add more sugar. Honeycrisps are known for their sweetness.

Well Duh #2: You do not need any fancy equipment to core your apples. Apple corers are certainly available, but totally unnecessary. Here’s all you do.

Apple + Chef’s Knife
Slice a thick piece from one side.
Lay apple cut side down and slice another thick piece from one side.
Roll apple onto the side you just cut and cut another thick piece.
Lay the apple flat and cut one more piece from the core.
Lay all pieces skin-side up and slice into pieces as shown.
Cut each slice into dice-sized pieces.

Well Duh #3: Don’t throw away the core just yet!

Cut it into chunks.
Feed half the chunks to one pretty doggo.
Feed the other half to this crunchy floofer who’s in need of a haircut.

Well Duh #4: I used coconut sugar, which gave my filling a darker color. If you use white sugar – or another light-colored sweetener – your filling will be lighter – and more the color of traditional apple pie filling.

Well Duh #5: If your crisp topping starts to look too brown, cover it with aluminum foil and continue to bake. The filling needs the time to cook completely.

Well Duh #6: I like a 50/50 crisp-to-filling ratio. I really love that buttery, crispy crumble!

Well Duh #7 :I’ve had several readers and friends ask what made us decide to become plant-based eaters. We totally did it for Michael’s health, but here is the book that was partially the reason why we chose plant-based over other eating plans. If you’re even slightly interested, you should read this book! It’s called Forks Over Knives: The Plant-Based Way to Health.

This was loved at the potluck! I was relieved – especially since it was a new recipe. I mean, you never know! Most of the ladies in the group know that we’re eating plant-based right now, so several of them asked how I made the topping without butter. I was happy to tell them that I used plant butter. And even thought we couldn’t eat the pulled pork, there were plenty of sides that we could enjoy. I think it’s important to remember when you choose a lifestyle that differs from most of your friends that YOU chose it. They didn’t. So you can’t expect anyone to change what they’re doing to suit you. Bring something you can eat.

And plan to stop by Burger King for an Impossible Whopper on the way home!

There was also enough apple crisp to bring home so each member of the family could try it, too. They really enjoyed this! When I make it again, it will be just for us and I won’t be going anywhere with it, so I plan to serve it with a non-dairy vanilla ice cream. I can already taste it!

Who says plant-based eating has to be boring?