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 🙂

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.

Toasted Coconut Banana Pancakes

Sunday breakfast.

Am I right, or am I right?

Sometimes you wake up and you’re like, Eggs, let’s do this. Or usually in my case, lethargic bowl of cereal, come to me.  Other mornings you rise and it’s like Woah…pancakes, how on god’s green earth did I survive the past 5 weekdays without your carbohydrate fluffiness in or around my mouth?

I don’t know, either. This breakfast gives Jack Johnson’s hit “Banana Pancakes” a run for its money.  It’s easy. It’s delicious. It’s pretty. No really, see below.

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Eh, eh eh? There has been plenty, plenty of times where I really want pancakes in a bad, bad way but let’s face it sometimes we just don’t feel like whipping out every bowl from the kitchen and going to town. Perhaps the reason being we stayed up too late the night before.  Saturday night, I’m looking at you.

Sometimes we want something easy peasy. This recipe is made in the blender! You just toss the ingredients in and whirl it up. Throw in stuff like a smoothie…AND OUT POPS PANCAKES. Pretty fancy if ya ask me. Sweet bananas, wholesome oats, a little honey and some crunchy coconut to round it all out…these flapjacks are the perfect way to kick off my favorite day of the week! Bonus: they are also free of sugar, wheat, and any dairy.

If you’ve never replaced an egg with chia or flax seeds while baking, it’s the bees knees.  And it’s been a staple in my kitchen for a long time now. Knock out the cholesterol that would normally inundate pancakes by replacing the egg with ground flax/whole chia seeds and swapping out coconut oil for butter.  Chia seeds are chock full of fiber and omega 3 fatty acids while coconut oil boasts high levels of antioxidants and lauric acid (which has beneficial effects on cholesterol levels).  Can you say healthy saturated fats? What a paradox. Toasting the coconut probably takes the most skill in this recipe, but even that requires just a few stirs and some good old fashioned patience. You can do it. Pancakes, come to me.

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Toasted Coconut Banana Pancakes

  • 2 cups old fashioned rolled oats (gluten free, if desired) or 2 cups oat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups toasted shredded coconut (directions below)
  • 2 cups vanilla almond milk (or any non dairy beverage)
  • 1 large ripe banana
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 heaping T honey or agave nectar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 T chia seed for the “egg” (flax seed will work too, directions below)
  • 3 T water
  • coconut oil for cooking
  1. Start by throwing shredded coconut on a baking sheet at about 350 degrees until it begins to brown. Try to spread it out as evenly as possible. Stir frequently so none of the shreds burn, I would say the overall process takes about 10-15 minutes. Set aside half of the toasted coconut for the topping of the pancakes and place the other half in the blender. Do not blend yet.
  2. Put the oats into a food processor and grind until you make oat flour.  You can also purchase oat flour in the store if you are lazy void of a food processor.  But you should probably invest in one.  Soon.  They’re amazing. Add the 2 cups of flour to the blender. Again, hold off on blending just yet.
  3. To make the “egg,” just combine 1 T of chia/flax seed with 3 T of water.  Let it sit for 5 minutes until it coagulates and becomes gooey or gummy; this will be your binder instead of egg! Add egg to blender.
  4. Then add all other ingredients except coconut oil to the blender and blend it up.
  5. You may have to add more milk or water if the batter is too thick. Use your own judgement here because unfortunately I’ve got a busy schedule this week and am not able to peer over your shoulder with one eyebrow raised.
  6. Heat up coconut oil in a large skillet. Pour a medium sized spoonful of blender batter onto skillet and fry up until bubbles begin to appear.  Then flip and fry the other side.  Side Note: Don’t go Mount St. Helens-ing on me when the first pancake turns out looking a little jacked up. The first one always behaves strangely….be patient and the other ones will come out round and all swell-lookin’. Promise.
  7. Top with the rest of the toasted coconut, some organic maple syrup, and even some almond butter if you’re feelin’ crazay.

 

If I’ve got these delicious pancakes toasting on the griddle, coffee brewing, my bike shoes laced up, and this song playing on a Sunday morning…it’s guaranteed to be a good day.

I am really becoming fond of gypsy jazz. A very special friend of mine made me a mix with a bunch of music…& here is one of the songs that has been on repeat. Lively, but surprisingly soothing, this song is called B-612 by The Gonzalo Bergara Quartet.  I love making Sunday breakfast to music like this. Oh, happy days 🙂