Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Veg Baker, J.D. Honor!

I am very excited to announce that I just learned that Veg Baker, J.D. was just listed as one of the top blogs to check out by Dog Health Problems and it is currently the featured blog! Thank you, I'm honored!

I checked out their website, and they have a lot of great information. I am including them in my links, but their main page is here: I hope you'll check them out! Thank you again; it's truly a privilege!

Sick Day Solution

I am home from work today, sick with a freak cold. Well, I think it's a cold, but one of my colleagues diagnosed me, probably more accurately, with a case of hubris. Greg often gives me grief for having a "weak constitution," but frankly, I think that is patently false. Sure, my stomach felt like it was going to explode during the bar exam, but heck, that's not sickness, just a sign I care, right? And yes, I can't read in cars or trains because I apparently never outgrew motion sickness.

But consider these facts: I haven't had a cold in over two years. This summer, after continuous contact with a co-worker who ended up having swine flu, I didn't even get a sniffle. Heck, I've never even gotten a flu shot, and whenever I've worked in offices where everyone but me got a flu shot, everyone got sick - except for me.

So, um, after rereading that last paragraph, yes, the karma police definitely decided my number was up, and they are giving it to me good. And they are giving it to me with an extra dose of ugh, because Greg is out of town for business, which means I can't even get any of that awesome husband pampering which he rocks out when I'm sick. I am pleased to report, though, that I have two fluffy RNs who have decided the best way to care for Mommy is with snuggling. I can get behind that.

As I'm laying in bed, I can't help but daydream about a snack that would make me feel better, and then the answer became clear: the healing power of a warm loaf of freshly baked bread. Of course, this loaf of bread is only going to be a daydream until I feel better, but I'm convinced the next time someone is sick that I can cure what ails them with some fresh bread, and maybe some homemade soup for dipping the bread.

I found the base for this recipe at Spoof (, and it definitely supplied me with what I needed to mess around and make me happy. The one big thing you're probably wondering about? Agave nectar. This has popped up in some of my recipes, and I'm happy to shout its praises. In the vegan community, agave nectar is considered a wonderful replacement for honey; it has the same sweetness as honey, but since it is plant-sourced, you can completely avoid the arguments over whether honey is okay for vegans to eat. In addition, though, agave nectar is an excellent sweetener to use for diabetics. For reasons I don't quite understand, agave nectar does not cause blood sugar to spike, which is an obvious concern for diabetics. In addition, since it comes from a natural source, you don't have to worry about any potential chemical issues from sugar replacements that are created in factories and labs. You can keep it in the pantry so it's ready to use, and I go to it again and again. If you give it a shot, leave me a comment and let me know if you like it!

"Honey" Whole Wheat Bread
Yields: one loaf

2 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast
1 tsp. sugar
1 c. warm water (should feel warmish hot when you touch it, but you should be able to bear touching it for 10 seconds without scalding yourself)
1 1/4 tsp. salt
2 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. flour
1/4 c. agave nectar
1/4 c. vegetable, corn, or canola oil
1/4 c. soy milk
1/4 c. ground flax seeds

1) Proof the yeast: mix the yeast, sugar, and water together and let sit for 10 minutes.
2) In a separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Once the yeast is proofed, mix it in until mostly combined (will likely be very tacky).
3) On a floured surface, knead the ingredients 5-7 minutes. The mixture will feel smooth but the dough will resist a bit when you poke it. That's how you know it's done. At any rate, I wouldn't knead the dough for more than 7 minutes.
4) Place the dough in an greased (I spray with cooking spray) bowl and cover with a towel. Let rise for an hour. The dough should roughly double in size.
5) After an hour, knead the dough once or twice, then placed in a greased (again, I use cooking spray) loaf pan, spreading the dough into a loaf in the pan. Cover again and let rise for about an hour.
6) Bake for 40-60 minutes in a 350 degree oven. You will know the bread is ready because if you "knock" the middle of it, it will sound hollow (be careful - the bread is HOT).
7) Remove from pan and EAT! Cut with a serrated knife, otherwise the bread will fall apart. Lacking a decent knife? Then let it cool all the way and then cut it.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Two Posts in One Day for Charity

I've decided to go crazy and post two entries today (this is post number two, so please make sure you read my post on pumpkin bread, which immediately follows!).

I thought two posts was appropriate because this entry does not have a recipe that follows. I decided to buck my rules, though, because this second post is for a good cause: Misericordia.

If you love to bake, are looking for a different way to give back this holiday season, and you live in the Chicago area, please consider volunteering at Misericordia's Hearts and Flour Bakery.

Misericordia is a great organization that runs an incredible number of programs to help developmentally disabled individuals of all ages and abilities. One way they do so is through the Hearts and Flour Bakery, which produces amazing goodies, baked by both volunteers and Misericordia beneficiaries, sold at Chicago area Farmers' Markets. You may have tasted their goodies and been so preoccupied with the yumminess you were eating, you didn't even know you were supporting a good cause!

Hearts and Flour is very busy during the holidays, and they are currently looking for volunteers who can come (and you don't even have to make a continuous commitment) to come volunteer in a three-hour shift during 9AM-9PM, with flexible days and times. If you are interested, please contact them with more information. I am thinking about doing it, and I hope you will consider it, too!

General information on the bakery is here:
Information on volunteering opportunities (including with the bakery; scroll down to "Holiday Bakery") are here:

Pumpkin Puree = Thoughtful Present

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! And to everyone who braved Black Friday, I hope you've recovered, too!

Now that Thanksgiving and Black Friday have come and gone, many people are making two realizations. One, they have many presents to get without much time to do it. Two, they have random leftover canned pumpkin or pumpkin puree and they have no clue what to do with it.

Why not kill two birds with one stone and make pumpkin bread as a holiday gift? I made pumpkin bread for the first time a few years ago based on a Greg request. I poked around on the internet, found a winner recipe on (which I promptly futzed around with), and I've faithfully made it every year since. Pumpkin bread is something that is always appreciated, very tasty and appropriate with the season, and for some reason, it seems to be overlooked as a pastry item that people bake. I love whipping up this stuff; you can make it in big loaves or lots of little loaves, and you can mix in all kinds of things, like chocolate, raisins, coconut, or nuts, to make it your own, or just leave it as is. It also freezes like a dream and is super easy to ship.

One problem with my old recipe, though - although dairy-free because I use applesauce (which makes it very low fat, too!), my recipe had eggs. I had some thoughts for veganizing the recipe, and then I ran across the pumpkin muffin recipe in Vegan with a Vengeance. I borrowed some tips from that recipe, combined them with the old recipe, and bam - a new vegan treat that still is low in fat!

Pumpkin Bread
Yields: 1 regular loaf

1 1/4 c. raw sugar
1 c. canned or pureed pumpkin
1/2 c. soy milk
1/2 c. applesauce
2 Tbsp. molasses
1 3/4 c. flour (all-purpose or whole wheat or a mixture)
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. allspice

1) Combine sugar, pumpkin, soy milk, applesauce, and molasses. Let sit for about a minute so sugar crystals dissolve.
2) Slowly add remaining ingredients until batter just comes together.
3) If desired, stir in mix-ins: chocolate chips, nuts, raisins, dried fruit, flaxseed, or coconut would be great.
4) Pour batter into a greased loaf pan. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 20 minutes, and then turn down temperature and bake an additional 25 minutes at 375 degrees.
5) Cool in pan for 10 minutes; remove loaf from pan and cool completely on wire rack.