Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pumpkin Sweet Bread

A co-worker of mine, who shares my love of all things pumpkin, brought in a recipe for a sweet bread. The recipe she brought in wasn't vegan, but she said she thought maybe I could veganize it. Once I looked at it, I, too, thought that veganizing it would be easy. And it was! This is the kind of recipe when applesauce serves as the perfect egg substitute. The recipe can be used to make a loaf of bread or muffins; I made these on Thanksgiving, when baking time was a consideration, so I opted for muffins. These are really sweet and moist and fluffy, but the batter could be stretched to make 13 or 14 muffins, because some of the muffins in my dozen had serious muffin top.

You'll need:
1/2 C canola oil
1 1/4 C sugar
1/2 C applesauce
1 C pumpkin
1/2 C water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
1/2 C whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, combine wet ingredients. In another bowl, sift together dry ingredients.
3. Combine wet and dry ingredients.
4. If you want to bake muffins, spoon batter into tins. Bake for 18-20 minutes.
5. If you want to bake a loaf of bread, pour batter into bread pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Holiday Mail for Heroes

Last year, a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to participate in her and her boyfriend's effort to collect Christmas cards for soldiers. Given my love of Christmas, I was thrilled to help them, and sent in countless cards.

This year, I want to do something similar. I'm not sure which program my friends used last year, but a Google search turned up the Red Cross's program Holiday Mail for Heroes among several results warning people of scams for this kind of thing. Trusting the legitimacy of the Red Cross, I'm going with their program this year.

I'm sharing this across my social media forums in the hopes that others will join me and make a similar gesture. Regardless of political affiliation or opinions about our current government or military engagements, the individual soldiers are still people, spending holidays away from the warmth and safety of their homes and families.

If you would like to participate, you can send your cards to:
Holiday Mail for Heroes
P.O. Box 5456
Capitol Heights, MD 20791-5456

All cards must be postmarked by Friday, December 9th. Cards postmarked after this day will be returned to sender. Please keep the following guidelines in mind:

  • Ensure that all cards are signed.

  • Use generic salutations such as “Dear Service Member.” Cards addressed to specific individuals can not be delivered through this program.

  • Only cards are being accepted. Do not send letters.

  • Do not include email or home addresses on the cards, as the program is not meant to foster pen pal relationships.

  • Do not include inserts of any kind, including photos, as these items will be removed during the reviewing process.

  • We encourage participants to mail as many cards as they are comfortable sending. If you are mailing a large quantity, please bundle the cards and place them in large mailing envelopes or use a flat rate box from the post office. Each card does not need its own envelope, as cards will be removed from all envelopes before distribution.

  • Please refrain from sending holiday cards with glitter. Many of these cards will be delivered to military and veterans medical facilities and the glitter could interfere with a patient's recovery
  • Pumpkin Pie

    Pumpkin pie is the quintessential Thanksgiving dessert, amirite? I tried my first vegan pumpkin pie last year. I can't remember what recipe I used, but I DO remember that it was a big flop. The pie wouldn't set. When Mama Pea, who has never once led me astray, posted a recipe for pumpkin pie, I thought I'd give it a go. And this pie turned out wonderfully! I punked out and used a Wholly Wholesome crust, but I don't care because it was delicious. My only advice is to watch the condensed milk super closely! The line between condensed milk and gelatinous blob is very fine... and you don't want to cross it.

    Ingredients (1 9-in. pie)
      For the Crust:
      • 1 1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
      • 1 t. baking powder
      • 1/2 t. salt
      • 1/4 c. vegan margarine (i.e. Earth Balance) or coconut oil
      • 1/4 c. maple syrup
      • 1 t. vanilla
      • 2-4 T. cold water
      For the Filling:
      • 1 c. non-dairy or organic milk, divided
      • 1/2 c. brown sugar
      • 3 T. cornstarch
      • 2 c. canned pumpkin
      • 1 T. ground flax
      • 1 t. molasses
      • 1 t. vanilla
      • 2 t. cinnamon
      • 1/2 t. salt
      • 1/2 t. ginger
      • 1/2 t. nutmeg
      • Garnish: non-dairy or organic whipped topping and pumpkin pie spice (optional)
      • For crust, in a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.
      • Cut in margarine or coconut oil until flour mixture is the texture of wet sand. You can also shortcut this process by using a food processor to blend your flour and fat together. Grandma didn’t. I do.
      • In a liquid measuring cup, combine maple syrup, vanilla and 2 tablespoons of water. Pour mixture into flour.
      • Stir until a dough starts to form. If the dough seems to dry, you can add another tablespoon or two of water.
      • Transfer dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and wrap up dough, pressing into a disc.
      • Put dough into the fridge to chill for at least an hour.
      • Meanwhile, make the filling by bringing 3/4 c. milk and brown sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat.
      • Once it has come to a boil, lower heat. Put cornstarch in a small bowl or in your liquid measuring cup. Add remaining milk and stir until completely smooth.
      • Add cornstarch mixture to the pot, stirring rapidly.
      • Bring the mixture back to a low boil until it is quite thick.
      • Remove from heat.
      • In a large bowl, combine pumpkin, ground flax, molasses, vanilla, cinnamon, salt, ginger and nutmeg.
      • Add sweetened, condensed milk and stir until completely incorporated.
      • Set aside.
      • When dough has chilled, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
      • Dust a bread board with flour and turn dough out onto board.
      • Roll dough out gently with a floured pin until it is about a quarter inch thick and about 12 inches in diameter.
      • Transfer your dough to the pie plate by rolling up the edge on your rolling pin and then unrolling your pin on top of your pie plate. Or you can invert your bread board completely on top of your pie plate.
      • Then press your dough into your plate and crimp the edge of your pie.
      • Using the tines of a fork, poke holes in the bottom of your pie crust.
      • Pour your prepared pumpkin filling into your pie shell and spread evenly to distribute.
      • Bake for 45-50 minutes, until pie is set. If you have a pie shield, you’ll want to place it over the crust after about 20 minutes. If you don’t have a pie shield, you can make one out of tin foil, but essentially this will keep your crust from getting too dark.
      • When the pie is cool, cover and refrigerate, preferably overnight.

      Friday, November 25, 2011

      Thanksgiving 2011

      Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. Growing up, I typically spent the day with my dad, and we'd go to either my grandmom's house or one of my aunt's houses. As much as I like eating lots of yummy food, seeing my family has always been my favorite part. Thanksgiving was one of the few days of the year when everyone got together - all six of my dad's siblings, all five of mine, and the dozens and dozens of our cousins.

      This year, however, I opted to stay in Baltimore with Mom. My (big) little brother came up (with the kittens), and it was really nice. While Thanksgivings are usually loud and crazy, the quiet change of pace was enjoyable. I liked spending the day with just my mom and my brother (and the crazy kittens).

      I created a feast. I thought I'd be able to eat everything on my plate, but I was seriously mistaken. That's okay, though, because I've got lots of yummy leftovers for the weekend! I made sweet and mashed potatoes, cornbread stuffing, pumpkin sweet bread, and a variety of veggies. A pretty deprived vegan Thanksgiving, right?

      The cornbread stuffing is a Mama Pea recipe. I used her Cowgirl Cornbread (from the book!) recipe as the basis for the stuffing and omitted the mushrooms. This dish was really savory and flavorful, and the dried cranberries added a nice tart, sweetness.

      Ingredients (6-8 servings)
      • 1/2 of a large onion, chopped
      • 1 c. portabella or crimini mushrooms, chopped
      • 1 t. minced garlic
      • 6 oz. package of Lightlife Smoky Tempeh Strips, prepared according to package directions or 1 batch homemade Tempeh Bacon, chopped into bite-size pieces
      • 5 sage leaves, chopped
      • 1 1/2 t. poultry seasoning
      • 6 c. cornbread (i.e. Cowgirl Cornbread), cut into 2-inch cubes
      • 1 c. dried cherries or cranberries (unsweetened, if possible)
      • 2-3 c. low sodium vegetable stock
      • salt and pepper to taste
      • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
      • Place a large skillet spritzed with oil or cooking spray over medium high heat. Add onion and mushroom and sauté 4 or 5 minutes or until softened and starting to brown.
      • Add chopped bacon to pan and continue to cook until heated through.
      • Add garlic, sage and poultry seasoning and continue to cook for an additional minute or until aromatic.
      • Cube your cornbread and place it in a large bowl.
      • Add cherries or cranberries to the cornbread.
      • Continue to add tempeh bacon mixture to the bowl.
      • Pour in vegetable stock a little at a time and stir until fully moistened. Add salt and pepper to taste.
      • Pour dressing into a 1-quart baking dish that has been lightly greased.
      • Bake for 30-35 minutes, until dressing is firm and browned.

      An excellent neck warmer.


      Ozzy in the recycling bin.

      How did you spend your Thanksgiving? What's your favorite part? And are you crazy enough to brave Black Friday shopping? I, obviously, am not. :)

      Tuesday, November 22, 2011

      Butternut Mac & Cheese

      The more I eat butternut squash, the more I love it. In fact... I fear in may be edging out sweet potatoes as one of my favorite foods. When I saw this ah-mazing recipe on Oh She Glows, I knew I had to try it. It was so delicious and yummy; it was tough convincing myself to not eat it alone for dinner. So I paired it with some sloppy joes from Veganomicon.

      Butternut Squash Mac ‘n Cheeze (Vegan with Gluten-free & Nut-Free options)

      Yield: 4 servings or 1.5 cups of cheeze sauce
      • 1 fresh butternut squash* (peeled and chopped) OR 1 cup canned butternut squash OR canned pumpkin
      • Extra virgin olive oil, S & P
      • 1 tbsp Earth Balance (or other non-dairy butter replacer)
      • 3/4 cup unsweetened & unflavoured almond milk (revised from 1 cup)
      • 1 tbsp arrowroot powder (or cornstarch)
      • 6 tbsp nutritional yeast, or more to taste
      • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
      • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
      • 1/2-3/4 tsp kosher salt (or to taste) & ground black pepper, to taste
      • 4 servings brown rice macaroni (8oz or half a 16oz package) makes 3 1/4 cup cooked
      • Mix-ins of choice (e.g., kale, spinach, broccoli, peas, pumpkin seeds, etc)

      1. Preheat oven to 425F. Line a casserole dish with tin foil. Mix chopped squash with EVOO, S & P. Roast for about 40 minutes, uncovered, or until tender.
      2. Meanwhile, prepare the cheeze sauce in a pot on the stove top. Add Earth balance over low-medium heat. In a bowl, whisk together milk and arrowroot powder (or cornstarch or flour) until clumps are gone. Add into pot and whisk. Stir in remaining ingredients (nutritional yeast, Dijon, garlic, S & P) and whisk over low heat until thickened (about 5-7 minutes or so).
      3. Cook your pasta according to package directions. The sauce makes enough to cover 4 servings of pasta.
      4. In a blender, blend the sauce with 1 cup of roasted squash (or if using canned, simply stir 1 cup into the pot).
      5. Add cooked, drained, and rinsed macaroni into pot, along with cheeze sauce & mix-ins. Heat and serve.

      Wednesday, November 9, 2011

      American Visionary Art Museum

      This past weekend was full of visitors! Mandi came to visit because she had to attend an art museum for her art class. When she initially asked, I begrudgingly obliged: art museums really aren't my thing, but of course I'd go with her. And then, by chance, I drove past the American Visionary Art Museum down between Locust Point and Federal Hill. After checking out the website, we both decided that place looked perfect!

      We got lunch at Sticky Rice beforehand, yum! That place has great food, but I wish they had better service. There was basically one girl, who appeared to be in training, waiting on six or seven tables, while two other employees just sat on their asses...

      Veggie Tempura Plate.
      The customers on either side of us were all about
      the veggie tempura, watching me and asking me multiple questions
      while eating. So weird. 

      Tofu Lettuce Wraps.
      Good, but mine are better. ;]

      Anyway. You can't take pictures inside the museum. I debated breaking the rules, but I think a security person there could read minds, because he followed me through several rooms. The exhibit was All Things Round and the art work was so neat! A lot of the art on display was created by people with either disabilities or mental illnesses. Two of my favorites were the Bra Ball (some 18,000 bras put together to form a massive ball of bras) and this really colorful, intricate piece made out of only paper plates. It was amazing. We took a few outside of the museum.

      Actually, we took two inside.
      So shoot us.
      We're just so beautiful.

      I love mosaics!
      Can you spot us?

      When we got back to the house, my brother was there! With his two kittens.

      Ozzy snacking on my fingers!

      Mandi and I ended up "cat-sitting" that night.

      Squirt, again. 

      And wow, was it crazy. They were all over the place, biting things (and people!) and jumping on everything they weren't supposed to. They also really enjoy chewing on my glasses, laptop, and hair. So cute, but so, so bad! I actually thought about giving them some Benadryl... I draw the line at fighting on my back at 3AM while I'm trying to sleep!

      You can't be mad when they're being all
      sorts of adorable, though.
      And, if you're thinking to yourself, "She's posting in the middle of the day. Is she home?" The answer is yes. As of last night, I decided I needed at least another day to recuperate. My wonderful and amazing friend Jen stopped by to drop off some goodies for me, and I ventured down to the living room for her visit. I know, I'm doing big things. Really, I just didn't want to expose her to the disaster I call my bedroom. Before bed last night, I took off my ace bandage because I wasn't sure how much it was helping.

      Big mistake. I'm really paying for it now, and I'm grateful I had already decided to stay home today. So it is now wrapped, elevated, and on ice. Praying it is well enough for work tomorrow. 

      My sweet little babies from school made this.
      I can almost envision them,"Sometimes we don't cooperate with you,
      sometimes we make  you crazy,
      and sometimes we even hit or spit on you,
      but we miss you."
      Jen got a card (with dogs on the front! The very cause of this
      predicament!) and made some of my favorite chickpea salad,
      This is amazing because I can't even stand
      long enough to make toast.
      Thank you SO much, Jen!

      Tuesday, November 8, 2011

      Who sustains serious injuries while at the dog park?

      "Gud mornin hooman, why iz yew in bed?"

      So, I'm laid up in bed today. Yesterday was unusually beautiful (sunny and 65 degrees in November? Yes, please) so I took advantage of the weather and went to the dog park with Dakota. Everything was going well - she made two friends who loved to rough house as much as she does. Then this ugly, annoying, pervert of a dog (and no, I'm not biased. It looked like a giant rat.) showed up and would not leave Dakota alone. Dakota loves just about everyone canine or human, but she WILL become aggressive if a dog is too much up in her lady parts or tries to hump her. It just doesn't fly with her, and I don't blame her. She kept barking at this dog, like, "Hey, back off perv, I don't like that." The dog was oblivious and so was his moronic owner, and Dakota was becoming increasingly agitated. So, I turned to shoo Dakota away from that dog, and as I turned back around, this beautiful, massive Rottweiler took off after a tennis ball and collided head-on in my shin. I'm talking 150 pounds of all muscle, hauling ass, connecting with my shin. I yelled a couple of expletives, and as soon as I was sure I could walk, we dipped out.

      Omni Mom is wonderful, and took me to the ER. Nothing is fractured or broken, but I have a huge, bruised lump, and the bruising runs up and my down my leg. I'm on crutches and laid up to try to prevent worsening bruising. Awesome...

      I wrapped this thing to death overnight...

      This probably wouldn't have happened if I hadn't been distracted by a poorly behaved dog. So, fellow dog owners, please understand that the dog park is not a babysitting service. You need to be cognizant of where your dog is and what s/he's doing at all times... or else next time, I might let Dakota tear into your dog.

      Tuesday, November 1, 2011

      A few things!

      Hey guys! I few things I wanted to share with you all:

      >> A few weeks ago, I was contacted by the manager at Great Sage, an amaaazing all-vegan restaurant in Clarksville. She asked me to guest blog, which was super flattering and awesome, and I happily obliged! Check out my post "You're a What?" and let me know what you think!

      >> My amazingly smart, innovative, dedicated friend Krista moved to New Orleans three years ago after she was invited to join Teach for America. After her time as a TFA teacher was up, she stayed in the area, teaching at the school she'd been at for the last two years. When I visited her in the spring, I had the chance to meet her students, and they were great! Unfortunately, the school is underfunded and doesn't have a ton of resources. Being the self-starter she is, Krista applied to participate in the Pepsi Refresh Project. Her project has been chosen, and she now has the opportunity to win $5K for her project. There are only five days to vote, so please check it out and cast your vote!

      Me & Krista in NOLA.

      >> Lastly, my brother, who works in construction, had a near-death experience today at work. He sent me a rattling text tonight, which prompted me to call him and grill/lecture him in the crazy-but-only-because-I-love-you-and-care way that only big sisters can. He is okay, but I'm still shaken. Thinking about how quickly everything happened, how far he is from me, how lucky we are that someone was able to save him, makes me think about how fleeting life is. So hug your loved ones whenever you can. Tell them you love them every day. You never know when they might be taken from you.

      Baby Niki & Baby-Baby Matthew :)