Vegan Blueberry-Walnut Zucchini Bread

One of my favorite things to make is zucchini bread. Not just because it is yummy, but because in the summer I have these green veggies popping up all over my back yard and I can’t use them up fast enough unless I bake with them! Another reason I love making it is because you can add whatever else you want to it and the bread will still turn out wonderfully. So a few years ago when I first starting baking, I found a recipe online for blueberry zucchini bread. Who doesn’t love blueberries!? (That would be communists and The Grinch–before his heart grew 3 sizes) Click here for the original recipe from allrecipes.com and check out my modifications below.

Since my husband and I have changed our eating habits to an almost entirely vegan diet, I’ve found ways to modify recipes to eliminate animal products. Now, don’t get me wrong, this treat is in no way automatically “healthy” just because it doesn’t have eggs. It still contains lots of sugar which is bad for your body if you eat 5 zillion tons of it like I happily used to do! But at least you avoid the cholesterol and animal products, and in this version you actually get some healthy omega-3 oils and fiber from the flax that you wouldn’t otherwise have. So, still eat this treat sparingly, as with all sugar, but enjoy it a little more knowing that it’s been modified in a good way. I followed the recipe at the link above except for these things:

  • As an egg replacer, I used flax goop. Yep, that’s what it’s called. Replace eggs by mixing flax meal (ground flax seed) with water. You will fake one egg by mixing  2 Tbsp of flax meal and 3 Tbsp of water, allowing it to soak together just for a minute or so and add to your ingredients wherever the eggs are called for. (In this recipe that’s 6 Tbsp flax meal/9Tbsp water =3 eggs)
  • I substituted half of the all-purpose flour for whole-wheat flour. (That gives it a nice balance between fluffy bread and whole grains) and I use organic, unbleached versions in all my baking.
  • I love a little crunch to my bread so I added about 1/2 cup of walnut pieces to the batter, then finely chopped a few more walnuts and sprinkled them on top of the loaves to give them a pretty, crunchy topping.
  • I didn’t have enough fresh blueberries for the recipe so I used some fresh, some frozen, but I did let the frozen berries thaw out before using them. They worked great and add a little extra moisture to the bread.
  • If baking mini-loaves, 45 minutes at 350 seems to be just right in my oven. If I use a regular loaf pan I usually have to bake it an extra 10 minutes to get it all the way done in the middle. The edges will be a little brown, and perfectly tasty.

Enjoy your vegan treat! Try zucchini bread with all kinds of delicious fruits such as banana or pineapple, too!

Carrot Ginger Juice

This morning I tried out a new juice in my beautiful, hoss of a machine, the Vitamix. I took it straight from the Vitamix cookbook, but then changed it a bit. Here it is:

  • 1 cup water
  • 18 baby carrots
  • 1 tsp lemon juice concentrate (from the little plastic lemon)
  • 1 cup ice

I blended this on high for about a minute but I could see it was very pulpy (and I love me some pulp so if I am saying that you know I’m serious!) so I stirred it, added a little extra ice and blended it for almost another minute. It came out beautifully orange! (duh!) and it was very watery except that the foam/some of the pulp rose to the top. It was a bit too much so I skimmed the foamy pulpy part off the top and added a dash of powdered ginger, then blended again.

The result was very refreshing and easy to drink. I did notice that the longer I let the juice sit, the more I noticed the pulp. Todd calls it “grit” and he has some serious texture issues when it comes to food, so he was not a big fan. I say drink it right away while it’s cold and watery…and you’ll get all kinds of yummy fiber and beta-carotene for your day! Your heart will thank you!

Cheers to your good health!

Green Goodness is For Real!

Many of you who know me personally have already heard me talk ad nauseum about our new household gadget, the Vitamix. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised because after finally deciding to purchase one after talking about it for over a year, my husband and I thought for sure we would die from having to wait the prescribed 7-10 days for shipping. However I placed the order and within 3 days, the enormous Vitamix box was on my front porch!

I was like a kid on Christmas morning, tearing open that big hoss of a box. Once you get through the box and the packing material to reveal the treasure inside, you can’t help but stand back for a minute and stare. The thing is a beast. It’s massive, heavy, and constructed like a tank. In fact, I’m not entirely sure it isn’t a tank. But anyhooo…

We’ve been happily juicing entire fruits all weekend and creating sugar-free sorbets and all that yumminess. But the big event for a Vitamix owner and for anyone who is into plant-based nutrition, is conquering The Green Smoothie.

What is The Green Smoothie, you ask? Well it’s more of an umbrella term that is used for a wide variety of blended whole-food drinks that consist of a ridiculously large amount of fresh leafy greens (kale, spinach, etc…) combined with various combinations of fruit. Now, that doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, except for the following:

-Green, leafy vegetables are among the most incredible things God ever put on this planet. Their high nutritional values and easily digestible structure make them naturally disease-fighting, nutrient-dense little leafy lovelies. Everyone should be eating them. LOTS of them. But that’s the thing…eating LOTS of these veggies can feel a little cumbersome sometimes, especially if you eat a mostly plant-based diet anyway…you start to feel a little bit bovine, chewing all that cud 24/7. So what if you could get the same nutrition (including more antioxidants!) by drinking your leafy greens? Sounds great but also a little gross, right? There is a solution…

Enter The Green Smoothie. It allows you to combine these super-veggies that would normally not make such a delicious drink, with whole, natural fruits that do make delicious drinks. And the leafy greens literally get hidden inside the smoothie. Well, their color certainly doesn’t, but their taste definitely does. Today I created my first green smoothie, and I got the idea from another site (sorry, I can’t recall which one and there are a lot of sites with this particular concoction, so my apologies for not being able to credit the author on this one) and the person referred to it as an “Orange Creamsicle Green Smoothie.” You’ll know why when you taste it.

First I added 2 quartered navel oranges (these smelled awesome!) I had peeled the skin off but left the pith (the white part) because it contains nutrients and fiber that you’d normally miss eating the orange. The pith has a bitter taste, but when you blend it up in a Vitamix, you get the good stuff and you never know its there!  Then I added 2 giant handfuls of fresh organic spinach leaves (about 4 cups), 2 whole bananas (peeled) and about 3 cups of ice.

The Vitamix shredded all this up in about 90 seconds like it was nothing! I was left with this emerald-green beauty…but would it taste like Popeye’s spinach or would I, as many before me have claimed, not even be able to taste the greens?

WOW. Turns out that the claims were true. I took a big sip, half expecting to want to spit it out, but found myself enjoying the creamy orange-banana flavor of this mysterious Green Smoothie. I cannot wait for Todd to get home so he can become a convert too. I’m even taking some of the smoothie to book club tonight so the gals can sample its wonderfulness. 

I just drank my salad and several servings of fresh fruit, people!  And I LOVED it!

Mexican Lasagna Recipe

Apologies  to anyone who is actually Mexican: I made this dish up myself, and I just named it that because it uses some of the ingredients that I use in other “Mexican” dishes. So I am super non-ethnic, gimme a break. If you’ve ever been to my house for dinner more than once, or if you’ve been sick or had a baby and I brought you a meal, chances are you’ve had this. I get a lot of requests for the recipe, so here it is:

Ingredients:

3 whole wheat tortillas, each cut in half

1 lb ground beef or turkey

1 pkg taco seasoning

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 can corn, rinsed and drained

1 jar Ortega taco sauce (I use the mild red kind)

Shredded cheddar cheese, however much you like

Optional topping: sliced black olives, jalapenos, & sour cream (yeah right, like sour cream is optional. What are you, a Communist?)

Directions:

-Spray a 9×13 glass dish, preheat oven to 350 degrees

-Brown the ground beef/turkey and prepare with taco seasoning just like if you were making tacos

-Pour a little bit of the taco sauce into the bottom of the pan to coat

-Lay 3 tortilla halves across the bottom of the pan (these will be your lasagna “noodles”)

-Layer half of the meat, half of the beans, and half of the corn on top of tortillas. Spread out evenly.

-Pour about 1/3 of the jar of taco sauce over these layers, spreading out. (use more or less as you like…I don’t like mine to come out too soggy, so I might use a bit less)

-Cover the entire thing with shredded cheddar, repeat layering again with remaining ingredients. Be sure to get some of the taco sauce down around the sides of the tortillas so they won’t be too dry and bland. (You probably will have some of the taco sauce left in the jar when you’re finished, you can just refrigerate and use it for other stuff later-it makes yummy sauce for a southwestern breakfast burrito later!)

-On top layer, you may want to garnish with sliced black olives or jalapenos. I always do!

-Bake about 25 minutes or until cheese is all bubbly and a bit crispy around the edges. Plop some sour cream on it and enjoy, using some Scoops or other crunchy corn tortilla chips to help you clean your plate. YUM!

*This can easily be made into a vegetarian meal by omitting the meat, adding more beans, and seasoning the beans with the taco seasoning or plain cumin.

THE Bread Recipe

A new hobby I picked up last year was baking homemade bread. Now it started out as one of those things I just wanted to learn how to do…  so, like everything, I researched it to death and figured out how to do it. After a few failed attempts, I perfected a delicious loaf and I have been obsessed ever since. I’ve now learned to bake several types of bread and I love them all, but here’s the recipe for the definitive crowd favorite: Honey Oat Soft Wheat

This recipe makes two standard loaves  with about 16 slices each. Enjoy!

3 cups organic whole wheat flour
3 cups organic unbleached flour
2 tsp salt
4 tsp active dry yeast
4 tsp vital wheat gluten
2 cups warm water (about 105 degrees-you gotta get this part right)
4 Tbsp canola oil
2 -3 Tbsp local raw honey

Mix dry ingredients above in a large bowl with a stiff spoon. Add above wet ingredients and mix thoroughly. Use your hands to get all the ingredients mixed well together in the bowl. Dough will be warm and shaggy at first. Keep mixing until dough forms a loose ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Flour a large flat surface (I use my counter top after it has been cleaned and dried well) and turn dough out onto the floured surface. Knead well for about 8 minutes. Let dough rest while you clean out the bowl you used to mix it in. Dry thoroughly, then put a few drops of canola oil into the bowl and spread around. Put dough into this bowl and turn a few times so all sides are coated with a light bit of oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and lay a towel on top. Place in a warm area (on top of the oven or kitchen table will do) and let rise for about 2 hours.

When dough has risen (test it by poking lightly with 2 fingers…you should see imprints in the dough) punch it down to remove excess air, then turn in out onto the floured surface again and knead lightly for a minute or two. Cut dough in half and shape into two evenly sized loaves. [Optional: make shallow slashes on top of each loaf for decorative purposes, in a criss-cross pattern. Use a silicone brush to spread a bit more honey on the top of the loaf, then sprinkle with dry oats. This will make your bread beautiful when it is finished. Be careful not to use too much honey here, as it can scorch and leave a burnt topping on your lovely loaf!]

Place each loaf of dough in a greased loaf pan and cover again with plastic wrap and a towel. Allow dough to rise for another hour or so, then it will be ready to bake.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for about 2 minutes at this temperature. When finished, turn loaves out onto a cooling rack and allow them to cool completely before slicing. Use a serrated knife to slice carefully. Voila! You have delicious bread for dinner, sandwiches, etc.. Store in an air-tight container (I use a Lock & Lock rectangular container for mine.)

Remember, this bread has no artificial ingredients or preservatives (isn’t that awesome?!) so that means it does not have a long shelf life. But as delicious as it is, it probably wont stick around long anyway!

I hope you like it as much as my family does!