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Monday, April 30, 2012

Vegan Banana and Pumpkin Bread

Left: Vegan Chocolate Chip Banana Bread, Right: Vegan Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

Sometimes all a girl wants in life is a warm piece of bread and some tea. I have been experimenting with different kinds of baked goods, especially breads, since the holidays. I made chocolate chip pumpkin bread, mint chocolate bread and regular old chocolate. All yummy in their own way!

Recently I have been trying to perfect different vegan recipes, including chocolate chip banana bread (bananas and chocolate are the perfect combination in my opinion) and pumpkin bread. The finished product of each went through my critical taste test, and unfortunately the pumpkin one still needs some improvement. However the banana one was great! I will experiment with the pumpkin further, but this time around it came out very tough and chewy. The recipe that I used was from The Happy Herbivore Web site. I have made other great pumpkin breads in the past that included dairy, so my scientific assumption right now is that pumpkins and dairy work well together and the pumpkin is lonely without it.

For the chocolate chip banana bread I followed the About.com recipe. It is a very simple recipe and I was able to find all the organic ingredients that I needed at Trader Joe's. I also used vegan chocolate chips which were from Whole Foods. The great thing about making banana bread is that all of the bananas that I never got around to eating during the week can still be put to good use. Also, a sweet treat is waiting for me in the morning or as a desert at the end of the day. Although it does contain sugar and flour, there is a boost of potassium that makes indulging in this treat seem a little less guilt ridden.

Below is the recipe that I followed, however I replaced the walnuts with the chocolate chips because I'm a rebel. And if anyone has a vegan pumpkin bread recipe worth trying, let me know!

Makes 1 9"x5" loaf
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Ingredients:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cups white granulated sugar (I prefer unrefined cane sugar)
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 3/4 t. baking soda
  • 3/4 t. salt
  • 3/4 t. cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup plain soy milk or almond milk
  • 1 t. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups mashed banana, from about 4 large very ripe bananas
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 T. maple syrup
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • Walnuts (optional)
Preparation:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly oil a 9"x5" loaf pan and set aside.
2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugars, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the soy milk and cider vinegar and let stand for 2 minutes. Add the mashed banana, canola oil, maple syrup, and vanilla extract, whisking until well combined. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, mixing until just combined (do not overmix!). Fold in the walnuts if using and pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for about 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the center emerges clean. Allow the bread to cool on a wire cooling rack for 20 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Vacation Habits: The Appeal and the Downfall

View from The Ringling Mansion
All dressed up with somewhere to go

I recently took my very first trip to Florida! You may gasp if you'd like. I am aware that it is incredibly rare to find a 25 year old who has not ventured down to the sunshine state for a trip to Disney or spring break. I went with my boyfriend for a wedding in Sarasota, which took place at Ca' d'Zan, John Ringling's mansion (Yes, of the Ringling circus). Words cannot describe how perfect it was.

In preparation for this vacation I worked out every day and tried to stick to organic and clean eating even more than usual. I used this trip as a reward for really getting my eating and lifestyle habits in order. For the most part, it worked! I knew that I would indulge in fruity, sugary drinks by the pool and fried, cheesy food when I got there, and I did indeed. We ordered room service every morning, which included organic eggs to my surprise! We spent the afternoons drinking and indulged in exotic dinners. My boyfriend took advantage of the great seafood, while I tried different things such as truffle fries and fried black bean cakes. I ate and drank and lived guilt free, but by the end of the trip, I felt heavy. Not fat, but just physically heavy and more lethargic than usual.

This fact proved to me more than ever, that eating clean and organic is more than just a cool sounding fad, it is actually beneficial. So, rather than take my time getting back into my before-vacation habits, I jumped right back in.

The weekend after we returned we visited Garden of Eve's Chickapolooza, which focused on how to raise chickens. I snacked on Kale chips, which were to die for, rainbow chard salad and I grazed a buffet created with farm based ingredients. Afterward my boyfriend and I loaded up a wagon full of herb and vegetable plants and took them home to do some gardening. We now have two full green houses of food we are growing ourselves. The lettuce is almost ready to harvest and I plan on making the most delicious salad with it!
Chicken and tour guide at the Garden of Eve


I encourage you to try to incorporate organic and clean eating into your diet. A really great Web site to visit to get started is The Gracious Pantry. It will take some time to learn to read the fine print and the ingredients, but after a few weeks it will become second nature. I also urge you to plant your own food. All of our plants are in pots, since we have space constrictions and this allows us to take them with us, whenever we have to move. Besides being beneficial to your health, this will cut down on your grocery bill also!
A home grown vegetable and herb garden


Do you grow your own food? And if so, what is your favorite thing to grow?