Whole Grain Bread

love making my own bread.  Kneading the dough is so relaxing.  I made 6+ loaves weekly for my large family for years until we moved to Ohio….where my bread failed suddenly and miserably!  Think bricks.  I tried and tried to make it happen and finally gave up.  Years later I discovered why. The water where we live is extremely hard.  It is also possible that the flour I purchased was an all-purpose flour, rather than hard wheat flour, which will also cause loaves to be rather flat. Thankfully, I recently learned that adding some lemon juice to the dough fixes this problem.  I made sure to buy hard whole wheat flour this time, too.  Hallelujah!  Fresh bread again!  My family has decreased in size as the kids have gradually grown up, so I don’t make 6 loaves a week anymore.  I have to admit….it’s a WHOLE lot easier to only knead 2-4 loaves at a time!

  Homemade Whole Grain Bread

Yields 2 loaves, 8″ x 4″ (see note below)

  • 6 c. hard whole wheat flour (hard white whole wheat is even better for a sweeter loaf)
  • ½ c. dry oatmeal
  • 1 T. salt
  • 4 ½ tsp active yeast * (or 2 pkts)
  • 1-2 T. olive oil
  • ¼ c. honey or maple syrup
  • 2 ¼ c. water
  • ½-1 T. lemon juice (optional, only for if your water is quite hard)

Mix 2 c. of flour with salt in large bowl.  Set aside 1½ c. flour in a small bowl for kneading into the dough later (you probably will not use all of this flour.)  Set aside remaining 2½  c. of flour and oatmeal in yet another bowl.

In a saucepan, heat water, honey or maple syrup, oil, and lemon juice, if using, to 105-110 degrees.  Remove from heat and sprinkle yeast into the water.  Stir briefly and let rest 5 minutes, or until a little bubbly.  Pour yeast mixture into the bowl with the flour and salt.  Beat with a wooden spoon, or a whisk, until smooth and for about 1 minute longer to develop the gluten.  Let rest for 5 minutes (if using a spoon, just leave it in there.)  After that, add the remaining flour and oatmeal, mixing well.  The dough should look shaggy.  If it seems too wet still, add a handful of flour from your small bowl of kneading flour.  Dust the counter or kneading area with some of the kneading flour.  Turn out dough onto this and knead** in the remaining flour (give or take, depending on the weather and how dry the milled flour actually is this time and how accurately you measured the flours and water.)  More can be added if the dough seems extremely sticky.  Knead for 10 minutes, gradually adding a little more flour to the counter under the dough, until dough is elastic and springy.  It will slightly push back as you knead it.  If you add too much flour as you knead, the bread will come out hard; if too little is added, it will come out doughy and won’t bake well.

Let the dough sit while you wash the large mixing bowl out and spray or wipe it with olive oil.  Give the dough another knead or two and see if it bounces right back at you.  This will tell you that you kneaded it enough.  Better not enough kneading than too much!  Place the dough inside the bowl, flipping it over so that the top is coated with oil, or you can spray the dough with the oil.  Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap, and place in a warm (not hot!), draft-free area.  Let rise until double in size.

Oil your 8”x4” bread pans.  Punch the dough down and knead 2-3 times.  Divide the dough into 2 parts.  Form into loaves.  If there is any seam, place it bottom side down in the pan.  Slit the loaves lengthwise and spray or use pastry brush lightly coat with olive oil.  Let rise until double in size – about 1” above the pan. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown.  The finished loaves will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.  Loosen the sides of the bread with a non-metal spatula and tip them out onto a cooling rack.

The bread slices best when it is 12-24 hours old, leaving smoother slices and less crumbs.  It can be sliced, bagged, and frozen for later use.  It keeps bagged on the counter about a week.

*If using fast or instant rise yeast, you will mix the yeast into the first mixture of flour and salt.  Heat the oil, honey, and water to 120-130 degrees.  You do not have to proof the yeast, or wait for it to dissolve in water.   Beat liquids into the dry ingredients and continue with recipe.

** Knead bread by folding the far side of the dough toward you and push down and away with the heels of your hands.  Then spin it ¼ a turn and fold over again.  Keep doing this for 10 minutes.  You can scrape excess dough off of your fingers that clings at the start and knead that into the dough as you go.  As you near the completion, you will add less and less flour to the surface beneath the dough – just enough to keep it from sticking to the counter and you.  It will change texture and turn from a slight messy shaggy heap into a ball, and finally into a tighter ball of smooth, elastic dough, which will spring back at you as you knead it.  This will be at about the 10 minute mark.  Try not to over-knead the bread.  If you have under-kneaded it, you can knead it a bit longer after you prep the rising bowl.

Note:  If you find that this doesn’t rise as high as you would like, you can double the recipe and put it into 3 loaf pans.  This makes a higher loaf.

Ginger Lemon Tea

My sons were “kind” enough to share their cold bug with me.  One of them hates taking any remedies of any sort and the other one doesn’t mind them, but rarely remembers to take what I tell him he should.  I, on the other hand, start dosing wildly right and left with all manner of healthy things trying to knock the stuffing out of the virus!  Vitamin C in massive doses, oregano oil, echinacea…and now this tea.  I’m not sure which thing did the trick, but I’m almost well with far fewer symptoms than either of the boys who got sick days before me. Continue reading

Why I Choose to Use Honey and Still Call Myself a “Vegan”

This topic can be a hotly debated ~ something which I will not engage in on this blog.  This post is just to explain why I, personally, choose honey while calling myself a vegan.  Any comments that are confrontational will not be approved.  Sorry.  My blog, my rules.  🙂

I gave up animal products gradually for health and, eventually, allergy reasons.  I didn’t do it to save the planet, or save the animals (both of which I love very much.) Therefore, my decision to use honey tends toward the health benefits it gives, as has my departure from animal products.

Labels that we give ourselves can get sticky over the years as the parameters morph with people’s opinions of what those labels mean.  I do not eat meat, dairy, or eggs.  I do, however, wear leather shoes (again, for health reasons, since it allows for the feet to breathe and plastics do not) and eat honey.  You see, many years ago, when “vegan” first became a term, I understood that it meant not eating meat, dairy, and eggs.  No one put an absolute definition in the dictionary.  So, I “became a vegan.”  Then more people jumped on the bandwagon.  The parameters began to change somehow.  (I really don’t understand how that happens.)  People became angry if you called yourself a vegan and still ate honey, or wore leather, but nobody created a new word to cover what vegan used to cover!  I suppose I could say I’m a plant-based eater, but that is a mouthful.  It’s easier to just say vegan and not bother to explain details.  Most people really don’t care anyway.

Now – the health benefits.  These I have seen for myself.  I know it kills bacteria, because in my younger days I stirred some into a large container of plain yogurt to sweeten it.  It was great the first day, but when I came back the next, it was a runny liquid mess.  It had killed all of the bacteria in the yogurt!  So I know the anti-bacterial effects.  Next, raw honey has been used on a gum infection in my family with a great healing effect when nothing else was working, not even prescription washes.  When people say it’s anti-bacterial, I believe it.

Here are a couple of links that speak to honey’s benefits:

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF02033065?LI=true

http://www.aces.edu/urban/metronews/vol8no2/HealthHoney.html

There.  I hope that clears up why I use it in my blog.  Feel free to substitute something that meets your personal ethics, or join me in using it.

Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce

Here’s a quick, simple recipe for your veggie “chicken”-style faux meats, like Gardein filets or soy curls made into chicky strips.  Or use it for a salad dressing, if you dare!  It isn’t a low-fat sauce, but it’s nice for a special treat.  I even think plain pretzels dipped in it might be pretty tasty!

I didn’t capture a picture of it.  I’m sorry.  It was gobbled up too fast last night!

Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce

  • 1 part spicy brown mustard
  • 2 parts honey (perhaps another liquid sweetener would work as well, such as maple syrup or agave)
  • 3 parts Veganaise (mayo substitute)

Whisk all ingredients together and serve with faux chicken strips, chunks, etc., or use as a salad dressing or spread for a sandwich.

Banana Chocolate Chip Cake

I told you we had a lot of birthdays right about now!  This is a favorite cake in my family.  They often request it for special occasions.  This time I happened to make it with spelt flour, but King Arthur’s white whole wheat (or Trader Joe’s) works marvelously well, too.

In the beginning this recipe was a muffin recipe from a book called A-Z Muffins that I borrowed from a library.  It wasn’t vegan and it wasn’t particularly healthy, either, with loads of oil.  After I turned it into a vegan creation with more healthful ingredients, I made it as muffins, but decided that it made a wonderful dense cake instead.  (Quicker and less clean-up, don’t you know….Does anybody like washing muffin tins?)

{I’m still learning R’s camera and didn’t increase the shutter speed, making this a little blurry.  I also tried to capture an artful picture of a piece of cake on a plate, but the piece I put on there was somehow a little smushed and didn’t look pretty at all.  So, you get a shot from a piece still in the pan.  Realism…at it’s…finest?}

Usually, we don’t serve banana chocolate chip cake with frosting (only on birthdays) because it is just so moist and marvelous on its own.  Plus it has all those chocolate chips…mmmm.  You see, my family has learned a crazy habit ~ from me ~ of putting milk on the cake in a bowl and eating it that way.  (Didn’t you ever hear Bill Cosby’s comic routine about cake for breakfast?  Flour, eggs, milk…all healthy ingredients, right?  {or so I thought at the time}  Yes…yes, that is how it all began one morning when as a teenager I ran out of cereal and nobody was there to stop me from eating cake in my bowl instead.)  Thus, we don’t usually need the frosting.  My poor son-in-law just shakes his head and quietly eats his on a plate with a glass of soy milk beside it.  😀

Banana Chocolate Chip Cake

  • 4 c. white whole wheat or spelt flour
  • 4 tsp. baking powder, sieved to remove lumps
  • 2 tsp. baking soda, sieved to remove lumps
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 T. Ener-G egg replacer
  • 1 c. chocolate chips
  • 1/2 c. chopped pecans
  • 7 medium-sized, very ripe bananas (with speckles…or turning brown, if you must)
  • 1 c. honey
  • 2/3 c. applesauce (or 1/2 c. melted coconut oil, or combo of the two)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat the oven to 375°.  Spray 9″x13″ pan with oil.

Whisk dry ingredients in large bowl.  Mash bananas with a pastry blender or potato masher in a medium-sized bowl.  Mix in the remaining wet ingredients with the banana.  Add banana mixture into the dry ingredients and fold together until there are no dry spots.  Scrape into prepared pan and smooth out batter.

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean (look out for chocolate chips!)  Cool on rack.  (I have never tried to turn this out of the pan to place on a platter.  I have only served it directly out of the pan.  I suggest parchment paper in the bottom if wish to remove it from the pan.  I also think 8″ round pans would work better for that purpose.)

My daughter, K, with her birthday cake.  Only 2 candles?!  What’s up with that?  😀

Vegan Chocolate Cake

There is nothing like the end of May and the first half of June in our family for needing to bake birthday cakes!  (Not sure how we ended up so many of them in a row, but it does nothing for my weight.  Well, at least nothing good.)  This year poor hubby got an awful version of a gluten-free cake that I tried for his birthday in May.  We won’t be trying that one again.

For R’s birthday celebration last night, I took my tried-and-true chocolate cake recipe and tried it with 100% whole spelt flour.  It worked amazingly well!  (It is not gluten-free, but if you are avoiding wheat it works.)  If anything, it was lighter than my usual wheat version.  I like that!  (And there are leftovers for tonight ~ his actual birthday.)

I just frosted it using my Betty Crocker recipe with vegan ingredients (Earth Balance “butter” and non-dairy milk.)  Oh, and sprinkles are a must for R’s cakes.  😀

Vegan Chocolate Cake

  • 3 c. flour (I have always used King Arthur’s or Trader Joe’s white whole wheat, but now I know that 100% whole spelt flour also works well.)
  • 2 tsp. baking soda (sieved to remove lumps)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 6 T. cocoa powder, sifted if possible
  • 1 1/3 c. honey
  • 1/2 c. applesauce
  • 1/4 c. extra light olive oil (flavorless)
  • 2 T. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 c. water
  • 2 tsp. coffee substitute powder (Roma, Cafix, Pero, etc.) ~ optional

Preheat oven to 350°.  Spray 9″ x 13″ pan with oil, or if you don’t want to cut and serve the cake directly from the pan in my lazy way, cut parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan and spray the paper and the sides of the pan.

Whisk in large bowl all of the dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl, whisk all of the wet ingredients.  Scrape the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry and whisk until there are little bubbles forming in the batter.  Scrape into prepared pan.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick poked in the middle of the cake comes out clean.  Cool on cake rack for 10-15 minutes before attempting to remove from pan.

Optional pans:  I have made this with round 8-9″ pans in the past.  I decreased the time and watched it closely near the end, checking it with a toothpick.

If you wish to make just an 8″ x 8″ square smaller cake, cut the ingredients in half.

 

Mounds Bars…er…Bark?

Necessity isn’t the mother of invention….laziness is!  Or at least it seriously has a role to play!  Think about it ~ who has the most to “gain” from inventing an easier way to do something?  (Deep down inside I am a very laid-back, lazy person.  It has only been because I am also a people-pleaser that I have become something different, because it is what is expected of me.)

On the day I set out to make a vegan version of a Mounds Bar, I did my internet recipe research to see what everybody else had done.  Oh, my mouth was watering!  I wanted one of these.  I played with the ingredients list and melted my chocolate chips.  I got everything ready and tasted the coconut filling.  Yes, it all tasted good, even if it wasn’t exactly like the recipes I’d found online.

My cute little mini-muffin liners (purchased on impulse who knows when from who knows where) were all separated and the plan was to make little layers from the chocolate and coconut mixtures.  And then I looked at the clock.  I looked everything I had laid out.  I thought about how long this was going to take and what a mess I was likely to make.  (And how long it would take to write about.)  There had to be a better way.

On a whim, I stirred half of the lovely coconut mixture into the melted chocolate.  Not enough.  I dumped in the rest of it and stirred madly.  I got a little spoon and tasted.  Hmmm.  Not bad.  I started filling all of the cute little muffin cups that were in an 8″x8″ pan (alas, no mini-muffin pan.)  At the end there was extra chocolate-coconut stuff, so I filled the papers to the very top.  There was still left-over melted candy.  I had a few more tiny muffin papers, but this time I put them on a cookie sheet so that they weren’t as squished as the others were.  Maybe the end product would look prettier.  I didn’t fill these to the top, either, to see if that was more aesthetically pleasing.  (Actually, buying some nice candy molds is highly recommended for this sort of thing, but I’ve never been able to justify the space they will take in my cupboards.)  When they were complete, there still was extra melted gooey yumminess left.

I cast about in my mind.  I could just eat what was left with a spoon….No, probably not a good idea.  I mentally peeked into my baking cupboard remembering there were no full-sized muffin papers in there.  What to do…what to do.  A light bulb went off.  I pulled out a piece of waxed paper, scooted the smaller candies over to one end of the cookie sheet, and spread the waxed paper across the other end.  I poured the remaining candy out, but it was so thick that it just stayed in a pile.  Spreading it out worked very well.  I made it pretty thin so that it can be broken once it’s chilled.

During a taste-testing session, my teens declared all of them delicious!  My favorite was the bark version.  R’s was the thick fudgy version.  J’s?  You guess it ~ ALL of them.  😀  The next day I served them to the whole family and everybody liked them.  We decided the muffin papers were a nuisance to peel, so molds are now on my to-buy list.

Mounds Bars…er…Bark?

  • 3 c. vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 2 c. unsweetened finely shredded coconut
  • 1/3 c. virgin coconut oil (decrease to 1/4 c. or less to make into bark)
  • 1/2 c. honey or other liquid sweetener
  • dash of salt
  • splash or two of vanilla

Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler (or in a metal bowl set on top of a saucepan ~ this is what I actually use.)  Mix the remaining ingredients together*.  Decide you are much too lazy to form cute little Mounds bars or any such thing.  Once the chocolate chips are melted completely, mix the coconut mixture into the chocolate and stir (*or if you know ahead of time you will skip the fancy stuff, throw all the ingredients into the melted chocolate without pre-mixing it.)  Drop into molds, muffin papers, or spread out on waxed paper.  Chill.  Break into bark, pop out of molds, or peel out of papers.  Eat.  Smile.  🙂

General Tso’s Sauce

What do you do when you can’t find an inexpensive bottle or two of General Tso’s Sauce for your supper plans?  Well, either you go without, or spend the big bucks, right?  *BEEP*  Wrong answer.  ;D  You go to the website of your favorite brand of sauce and look at the ingredients list…and then use it to approximate amounts to create your own!  Or…at least…that’s what I did last night.  It was either that or use the veggies I had already purchased to make a very mundane stir fry instead.

My only fear came when I tasted the sauce.  MAN!!…was it salty!!!  But since I had never actually tasted the purchased sauce straight out of the bottle, I really didn’t have anything to go by.  My tofu had nothing flavoring it except the coconut oil in which I sauteed it and my veggies had no salt on them.  I took the risk.  I poured it over the tofu to marinate since it was finished first.  Once the veggies finished cooking I tossed it all together.

SUCCESS!  Best tasting General Tso’s yet!  Now that I realize just how much sweetener goes into it, I think that I will have to play around to make it more savory and less sweet just for health’s sake.  But for wow factor, this is the way to go.  😀

For comparison, here is the ingredients list from Iron Chef’s General Tso’s Sauce:  Sugar, soy sauce, water, vinegar, food starch, tomato paste, fresh garlic, dried garlic, red peppers, soybean oil, dried minced onion.

I made some substitutions and added some minced ginger.  I made a triple batch of this for my crew (and the teens were circling the empty serving dishes whining wishing for more.)  That’s why the measurements sometimes seem a bit odd.  It’s tough to split 1/2 tsp. into thirds!  Just for the sake of those of you who like to make large batches as I do, I’ll put the large batch’s measurements in parentheses after each ingredient.

General Tso’s Sauce

  • 1/4 c. evaporated cane juice crystals (or sugar) (3/4 c.)
  • 1-1 1/2 tsp. honey (1/4 c.)
  • 1/4 c. Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (3/4 c.)
  • 1/4 c. + 2-3 T. water (1 1/4 c.)
  • 1 T. fresh organic lemon juice (3 T. – 1 small lemon)
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch (2 T.)
  • 4 tsp. organic tomato paste (4 T.)
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced (6 cloves; 4 T.)
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder (3/4 tsp.)
  • 1/8 tsp. (rounded measure) dried red pepper flakes (1/2 tsp.)
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp. toasted sesame oil (1 tsp.)
  • 1/4 tsp. dried minced onion (3/4 tsp.)
  • scant 1 tsp. fresh ginger, minced (scant 1 T.)

Measure 2-3 T. water, mix in the cornstarch, and set it aside.  Place all other ingredients in a saucepan (making sure the tomato paste is thoroughly “dissolved”) and heat to just boiling.  Add the cornstarch mixture, stirring constantly until it loses it slightly milky color and begins to thicken.  Remove from heat and set aside until stir fry is complete and ready for sauce.

Makes approximately 1-1 1/4 c. of sauce.