Cherry Chocolate Vegan Beer Bread

There are 3 things I do when I’m having an off day.  The first is to go for a long bicycle ride; it clears my mind and allows me to sort through all of my thoughts.  The second is to cook up something healthy and hearty; it relaxes me.  And the third is to call my best friend…for no other particular reason but for the fact that she makes me laugh and forget about whatever was bogging me down.

That girl is hilarious.  From time to time, one of these days shows up and is all like “oh heyyy what’s up?  I’m here to ruin the next 24 hours for you.”  And so in the past year I have really learned to take these small simple steps in order to wake up the next morning guaranteed to be like BAM. NEW DAY. LET’S DO THIS.

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A few months ago we went to Sacramento Capitol Beer Fest.  They had rows and rows of tables offering cold craft beers to sample as far as the eye could see.  Nestled right in between the capitol and the golden Tower Bridge, it was quite the epic day.  I tried a local beer called Ruhstaller and me likey…so when I spotted one of their craft coffee porter collaborations with Old Soul at Cost Plus, I had to have it. They grow their hops right off 80! Support local growers! Sweet!

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Instead of drink it lazily by the pool, which looking back now seems like it would have been equally rewarding, I decided instead to cook something with it.  Enter, whole grain beer bread.

Father’s Day is coming up, and I’d say this loaf of bread is a bit like my father, hard and rigid on the exterior, but a total softy in on the inside.  Don’t kill me for revealing your secrets, Pops. It’s got a subtle sweetness…but the type of beer you use largely determines the flavor.  Depending on what type of beer you mix it with, vary the ingredients accordingly (ie. I used a dark coffee porter and added cinnamon, chocolate chips, dried cherries, and oats to the crust..if you’re using a fruitier beer you could mix in cranberries or orange zest….or if you’re using a pale beer you could add garlic and cheese to make it savory).  This recipe is very standard and can really be customized depending on how you want it to turn out.  And if Keystone lite is more your jam you could add in some garbage from your waste basket.  Just kiddin’, mama didn’t raise no beer snob.

 Beer bread is so easy because you don’t have to use yeast and knead the daylights out of it.  The beer and the sugar does the work for you! Yay for chemistry!

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See them mixing?  Science, you are so cool. The fermentation of the sugar by the little yeasty fungus gives off gas bubbles, and the air pockets that form as a result allow the dough to rise when it cooks.  Because the beer is carbonated, this step has already been taken care of for you.   Thanks, beer, I love you.  Have you thanked your beer yet, today?

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This bread is soooo good sliced right out of the oven, it should be illegal. But I am so very glad it is not. Hell, who am I kidding, I’d eat it anyway.

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Chocolate Cherry Vegan Beer Bread

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour (I have not tried using gluten free flour yet!) & 1 cup white flour
  • 2 T sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 12 oz beer (could also be soda/GF beer/non-alcoholic beer but the alcohol cooks off, anyway)
  • oil for greasing pan (I used coconut)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (optional, I added this because I used a coffee porter)
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup dried cherries
  • a pinch of rolled old fashioned oats for the crust
  1. Begin by heating your oven to 375 degrees and greasing a small 9″ standard 1-lb loaf pan.
  2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt (and cinnamon or other herbs you might be using).
  3. Pour beer into flour mixture and mix.  Put your back into it and it will quickly begin to form a pasty dough.  Do not overmix!
  4. Add in cherries and chocolate and transfer the dough into the greased loaf pan.
  5. Sprinkle loaf with oats and bake for 50 minutes.  Good toppings include earth balance vegan butter, coconut oil, peanut butter, jam, or honey. The beer flavor will mellow out as the bread cools so don’t think the taste is that strong at first bite.  Enjoy!

 

I’ve been listening to Sharon Van Etten’s new album a lot lately.  It’s called Are We There and it’s every bit as insightful as it is soulful.  A few of the songs are really filled with a lot of feeling, and I have fallen in love with one in particular.  It’s called Every Time the Sun Comes Up and is the last song on the album.  I would love to see her at a live show, sometime. I had these slow bluesy beats going and the smell of fresh baked bread throughout my house. How can a day end badly with these two ingredients in the recipe? Answer: ’tis impossible 🙂

Quinoa Pilaf with Creamy Cilantro Dressing

Quinoa…you sneaky little seed you.  It took me a long while and many failed attempts to learn how to pronounce you.  Why oh why do you have to be spelled the way you are? There happens to be a quinoa salad we serve at my work and you can’t guess how many people with good intentions just fail miserably when trying to order.  Let me shave off a few moments of utter confusion for you.  It’s pronounced like-a this:

“keen-wah.”

Now you, too, can appear hoity-toity in front of someone who works at a deli.

Despite its strange pronunciation, it’s one of my favorite go-to meal basics.  Quinoa is amazing for so many reasons!

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I like to refer to quinoa as the (sub favorite actor/actress here) of the nutritional world.  Although it is plant based and a seed, it can imitate animal based proteins and play the main role in a meal.  This is due to the fact that quinoa actually has a pretty hefty amount of protein.  It can sub in for rice, pasta, cous cous, you name it.

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In my recipe, this delectable south american grain is smothered in a creamy avocado cilantro dressing; the tanginess of the lime and cilantro really mix well with the sweetness of the cranberries.  The red cabbage and sunflower seeds also give each bite a nice crunch.

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I always eat my quinoa on top of a bed of greens.  Nommmmms.  P-to-tha-S: This picture is total deception. I used WAY more dressing when I actually ate my salad….Don’t judge me.

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Quinoa Pilaf with Creamy Cilantro Dressing

For the quinoa:

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups vegetable broth or water
  • 1/2 cup cranberries
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup diced red cabbage (about 1/4 head of cabbage)
  • 2 carrots

For the dressing:

  • 3 T oil (I used avocado oil but canola or olive would work as well)
  • 2 T rice vinegar
  • 1 T water
  • 3/4 cup diced fresh cilantro
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 tsp agave syrup (or honey)
  • 1/8 tsp chili powder (I used 1/4 tsp but that’s only because I prefer my food to burn my lips off, adjust according to your own taste)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • juice from 1/2 lime
  • salt/pepper to taste
  1. Start by getting the quinoa cooking!  In a large saucepan, combine the dry quinoa with the broth or water.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 15-20 minutes.  When quinoa is done, you will see the white germ sprout and you will be able to fluff with a fork.
  2. Cover quinoa and LET SIT for 15 minutes.  This allows the extra moisture to be absorbed so your quinoa doesn’t come up runny. Yucky.
  3. Chop red cabbage into very tiny pieces and shred the carrots using a cheese grater.
  4. Mix with cranberries and sunflower seeds and when quinoa is dry and fluffy enough (wow are we at the groomers now?) combine all dry ingredients, including fresh veggies, together.
  5. For the dressin’ fixens’, combine all ingredients in a food processor.  The cilantro may take a while to ground finely, so be patient and keep whizzing that button around.  If you lack a food processor, it is possible to really finely chop the cilantro and mix all ingredients until combined.  The consistency will be chunky instead of creamy, though.  I have not tried this method but I can imagine the results would be alright.  Food processors are the bees knees, though. Just sayin.’  A vita mix or even nutri bullet would also potentially fill in.

Sometimes, I just have to play Janis. No other reason. Just got to.  This song comes off one of my all time favorite records.  I had this cheap piece-a junk record player and my dad gave me a copy of Cheap Thrills with Janis and Big Brother and the Holding Company. Oh man I played that record over and over and over again.  Janis is one of the main reasons I really starting paying attention to and listening to good music. Music with soul. Music that made me feel really, really good.  Or sad. Whatever, it didn’t matter.  It made me feel something.  And I liked that.  Turtle Blues is a total classic.  Getz plays the piano so smooth and the guitar solo just keeps picken along even as it overpowers everything else happening in the song.  And of course, Janis is just fundamentally badass and her voice…have you ever heard something like that? Me neither.

Turtle Blues by Janis and Big Brother and the Holding Company

Raspberry Crumb Squares

When I was just a wee one in elementary school, as I watched all the other kids at lunch peel away the plastic and devour their delicious processed Lunchables, I sat in the corner and unwrapped a soggy tuna sandwich.  Every. Single. Day.  The whole wheat bread would shake hands and mingle with the mayo-ridden tuna fish and it would shape shift into this ball of mush rolled into tin foil that would stink up my entire lunch box.  Although only mildly scarred from the whole experience…I was always green with envy as I saw my classmates eating the square pepperoni pizzas that the cafeterias served.  Now that I’m older and wiser (sort of), I feel forever indebted to my mother.

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She instilled in me that home cooking is healthier cooking, and I have never forgotten that simple truth.

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….My poor future children.  Not only will they have long scraggly hair that I will refuse to cut and be forced to take drum, guitar, AND piano lessons, but they too will be munching on soggy sandwiches at lunch.  What goes around comes around, kay?

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Don’t feel too bad for them, look at this dessert that they’ll potentially be eating.  That’s right. They’ll be long-haired, musically talented, AND obese well fed.

I win.

I am very excited to share this recipe with you because my mom is the one who introduced me to it!  She is so sweet; when I first switched my diet several years ago she took a recipe and modified it to make it vegan for my 22nd birthday.  I have taken it a step further to make it gluten free as well!  It’s sweet, crunchy, and oozing with rich bright raspberry jam.  Plus, adding nuts (optional) to the recipe will amp up the protein value!

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The most difficult part of this recipe is letting it cool before cutting it!  You really have to wait it out because otherwise it will just be one big gooey mess, which, let’s face it, isn’t a terrible thing as long as it tastes good, but if you’re going for bars you have to let them cool completely.  Check your facebook, stalk your ex on instagram, pick your nose, do whatever for the next 30-45 minutes because these babies need ample time to set.

This dish also works well if you want to pour it over ice cream while it’s still hot. You can sub the gluten free flour for all purpose flour…whole wheat pastry flour may work as well.  You can also try using chia instead of flax seed but as chia tends to not assimilate as well, it could throw off the texture.  Who knows…experiment!

Raspberry Crumb Squares

  • 1  1/4 cups gluten-free all purpose flour (or all purpose flour…I have not tried whole wheat but you could definitely give it your best effort!)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, plus a little more for greasing the baking pan with
  • 1 T ground flax seed + 3 T water + another 1/2 tsp ground flax seed
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 2 cups old fashioned rolled oats (gluten free if necessary)
  • 1 cup raspberry jam (you could also try apricot/strawberry/blackberry)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9-in square baking dish with some coconut oil.
  2. Sift the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, 1/2 tsp ground flax seed, and salt together in a bowl.  Set aside.
  3. In another small bowl, mix together 1 T ground flax seed and 3 T water.  Let sit for at least 5 minutes until mixture becomes a little gooey.
  4. Cream together the brown sugar and coconut oil in a separate bowl or electric mixer.  If the coconut oil is pretty much a solid, heat it up in the microwave for a bit until it becomes softer…you want it to be just like the consistency of butter/margarine.  Work with me here, we’re trying to avoid clogging up your arteries.
  5. Beat the flax and water mixture, along with the vanilla and almond extracts, into the sugar and oil.  Then add in the flour mixture and stir until smooth.
  6. Stir in 1 3/4 cup of the oats and mix well.
  7. Spread 2/3 of this batter into the bottom of the greased pan.
  8. Spread the jam onto the top with a spatula or the back of the spoon.  See, spooning is always a good time.
  9. Now add the rest of the oats (should be about 1/4 cup) into the rest of the batter and stir until thoroughly combined.  Crumble this over the jam and place in the oven for about 35 minutes.
  10. Take pan out of oven, annnnnnd LET IT COOL!  Wait at least 30-45 minutes.
  11. When completely cooled, cut into squares.  Warning, these squares will be a little flimsy but I promise the taste is out of this universe. If lazy or impatient or both, you can always spoon the mixture while its warm over some dairy free (I like coconut milk or cashew cream) ice cream. Much yum.

 

 

I’ve got a nice little song for you called Electric Eyes by Metaform.  The lyrics are divine, the beat is rhythmic and groovy, and it sets the mood for a long drive.  Which I had to endure this past week as I drove down to LA and back. I am moving to LA in a couple weeks and could not be more excited!!

Cheesy Vegan Tofu Scramble

When people find out I don’t eat meat, the most common question I get asked is “how do you get your protein?”  Once people discover that I pretty much don’t eat dairy either, the next question is asked with the same suspicious voice that detectives probably use to interrogate criminals, “but…how do you live without cheese?”

The answer is ever-changing, because I like to switch it up.

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Variety is the spice of life, no?

I usually mess with a lot of tofu, tempeh, beans, and quinoa.

Most of the time I prepare this low-fat protein source by marinating it and putting it into a stir fry…I’m sure I’ll post that recipe at some point because it’s so easy and a go-to mid-week meal I often resort to.  However, this traditional breakfast recipe is one that you can actually eat for any meal.  One of the many advantages a tofu scramble has over a regular ole egg scramble is that the tofu will keep for several days but would anyone enjoy leftover eggs 2 days after a Sunday morning breakfast?!

…If you answered Yes to this question you are a total weirdo and we can’t be friends.

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Just kidding, I always win the weirdo award. My refrigerator is frequently overflowing with mysterious concoctions that are perpetually on the brink of edible/might poison you to death.

But don’t piss in my cheerios. That’s the way I like it.

This is a simple and yet sophisticated dish made with tofu, vegetables, and, as customary with my recipes, a hefty amount of spices and seasoning.  Tofu comes from soybeans and is an excellent way to meat your non-meat (see what I did there?) protein necessities, as well as sneak in calcium, vitamin E, and a bunch of anti oxidant isoflavones. For all you tofu n00bz, I will explain how to prepare this strange block of hippy bean curd. I may not be as cool as Lennon but all I am saying is give tofu a chance.

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Cheesy Vegan Tofu Scramble

  • 1 package organic firm tofu
  • 3 T low-sodium soy sauce or gluten-free tamari
  • 3 T tahini paste
  • 1 8 oz package (or about a cup and a half) cremini or button mushrooms
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 5 green onion stalks/scallions
  • 4 T olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp nutritional yeast *optional*
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • salt/pepper
  1. First, young grasshopper, you will prepare that tofu.  You have to press the tofu to remove the excess moisture before cooking it, so adhere to my strange rules or else. Remove block from packaging and place on a paper towel on a plate.  Put another plate on top (this is seriously how I do it).  Place something heavy on top like a couple of cans and let it drain for 10-20 minutes.  The paper towel should be wet at the end.
  2. While the tofu is doin its thang’, slice mushrooms thinly, dice up the red pepper, and dice the green onions.
  3. Once the tofu is pressed, heat up 2 T oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add in the mushrooms and saute until tender and mushrooms begin to let off moisture.  When they begin to sizzle, add in the pepper and onions and let them cook for another couple minutes.
  4. Once veggies are tender, place them in a bowl and set aside.
  5. Crank up the stovetop to medium high and heat up the remaining 2 T oil in the same saucepan.  Crumble the tofu into the oil with your hands and let it sit and cook for 3-4 minutes.
  6. Add in the soy sauce/tamari, tahini paste, and all the spices. Stir the veggies back into the saucepan and stir up the entire scramble, cooking it for a few minutes more until the tofu begins to brown very slightly.
  7. *Although I put nutritional yeast in the ingredient column as optional, I love this stuff and always cook with it.  It’s worth buying some in the bulk bin section of your grocery store and this is what imparts the cheesy flavor to this “egg” dish.  Add in the salt and pepper as you like.
  8. Garnish with more green onions, and add in some hot sauce too if you fancy it spicier!  I do, I do!
  9. This dish goes great with potatoes, toast, and avocado.  Mimosa also optional. Take my word(s) for it.

 

I love cooking breakfast after a long bicycle ride, especially when the weather is as beautiful as it has been lately.  I loved cooking this up and getting my day going while dancing around to this happy energetic and rhythmic jam. I just heard Wye Oak’s new album and this song, “Shriek” is definitely killing it. I have never seen them live but I have a pretty good idea that they would rock my knee socks off.  Here is “Shriek” by an indie rock folk duo from Baltimore, MD.