Vegan For Dummies

Inspired by my recent tasting at a local vegetarian restaurant I decided to attempt some vegan baking. I’ve been working on this post for several months because to be honest everything I made tasted awful!

There’s more to being a vegan than just not eating meat. Going vegan also means no eggs, milk or butter. Not even honey to sweeten things up. No animal products whatsoever, which poses a challenge from a baking standpoint.

Finding an egg substitute was the first order of business. Initially I used an egg replacer which consisted of potato starch and tapioca flour, along with some chemical preservatives. Yuck! The ingredients were a bit of a turn-off. Plus it seemed very un-vegan to use a product that was so processed.

I decided to try a more natural route. With a little more research I found several options. Agar agar was one but way too expensive. And since I know it’s not going to become a pantry staple I decided to go with a more wallet friendly option, ground flax seeds. Ground flax seeds combined with water act as an egg would in most recipes.

So with that decided I moved on to the milk. This was an easy swap. Almond milk, soy milk or even coconut milk would all work. I chose the almond since it seemed the closest consistency to whole milk. The butter was also an easy trade. Vegetable oil or coconut oil are both perfect choices.

Next, the sweet component. I wanted our cupcakes to be low on sugar content so even though granulated sugar passes the vegan test I played around with other sweeteners. First maple syrup, then applesauce. Both created weird textures in the finished product. Then I tried bananas and ended up with some seriously chewy cupcakes. They were good but way too dense. Sticking with the fruit theme I pureed some frozen blueberries and mixed that with a bit of sugar. I think I hit on the perfect combination.

This might not be the best vegan cupcake recipe in the world but it was pretty good for a virgin vegan. And my kids ate blueberries and flax seeds without complaint!

Very Vegan Muffins

Ingredients

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (all-purpose fine too)

¼ cup cocoa powder, unsweetened

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

Pinch of salt

1 Tbsp. ground flax seeds

3 Tbsp. warm water

1/3 cup vegetable oil

½ cup almond milk, or soy

2 Tbsp. granulated sugar

1 cup frozen blueberries, pureed

1 tsp vanilla extract

Method

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a mini muffin tin with paper liners. (Makes about 18 mini cupcakes or six large muffins.

Combine flax seeds with the water and set aside for at least five minutes.

Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl add the oil, milk, flax seed mixture, sugar, blueberries and vanilla extract and whisk until well combined.

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Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir together. The batter will be on the thick side. If it is too thick simply add a little bit more milk.

Spoon cupcake batter into muffin tins.

IMG_2184Bake in oven for about 10-12 minutes for mini muffins, and 18-20 for large muffins. The muffins are done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Let cool completely on a wire rack. Muffins can be stored in airtight containers for several days.

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 7): “I wish you didn’t tell us this was vegan”

Liam (age 5): “Too chocolately”

Dylan (age 5): “I like these!”

barkTHINS – snacking chocolate – Product Review

This week at House of Bedlam we got to review one of my favorite things – chocolate! It’s a tough job but someone has to do it…

What are barkTHINS?

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barkTHINS snacking chocolates are a handcrafted new twist on traditional chunky chocolate bark. Super thin slivers of rich, fair trade dark chocolate combined with delicious salty or sweet add-ins. The company uses only Fair Trade Certified chocolate, which guarantees the cocoa bean farmers who they purchase from are getting a fair price, following good agricultural practices, and investing in their farms and communities. All of the ingredients are also in compliance with the Non-GMO Project Standard, ensuring the highest possible standards for GMO avoidance.

So Many Choices!

barkTHINS come in seven flavors:

Dark Chocolate Almond with Sea Salt

Dark Chocolate Pretzel with Sea Salt

Dark Chocolate Mint with Sea Salt

Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Seed with Sea Salt

Blueberry Quinoa with Agave

Dark Chocolate Toasted Coconut with Almonds

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Pretzel with Sea Salt

It was tough to choose out of the many different combinations but we settled on Dark Chocolate Mint and Blueberry Quinoa for our tasting.

blueberry-bag Mint-bag

The Tasting

Usually when I ask my kids to try something they suspect it’s a new vegetable and are not always receptive. I’m sure they thought I had somehow mixed broccoli into this chocolate but they certainly didn’t mind trying it. This was not a hard sell, they loved both flavors.

And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 7): “I think the mint is deeeelicious”

Dylan (age 5): “Oh so yummy” “I like the mint better A LOT”

Liam (age 5): “I like ‘em both but mint a tiny tiny bit better”

Dark Chocolate Mint was the clear favorite…   And all three requested I put a piece in their lunchboxes this week!

Where do I buy barkTHINS?

You can buy this product at most major supermarkets – Check out barkTHINS.com for a store near you. Or become a member of the barkFAN community and follow on social media: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest.

Nibbles & Noshes

Changing your family’s eating habits in a world filled with processed food is not easy. Where do you even begin? I say start small and take one step at a time. Trying to completely overhaul your family’s diet at once is near impossible. Why not just start with the snacks?

We here at the House of Bedlam spend the majority of our waking hours at ice skating rinks. Which means we encounter lots of vending machines and snack bars with wonderful assortments of decadent treats. Did you know vending machines speak in high pitch voices that only children can hear? The voices are saying “drive your parents crazy until they give you some change!” This has not been scientifically proven – YET…

That vending machine full of colorful chips and candy is hard to compete with. To be honest, I have a hard time walking by without gazing into the glass to see what the choices are. If I gave in every time they asked, my kids would gladly live on vending machine fare. I try and stick to the 80/20 plan and have healthy snack alternatives for the times I don’t cave in.

One of my go to snacks is granola and I’ve come up with a recipe that satisfies their sweet tooth and need for something crunchy. Our secret is to add in steel cut oats for an extra crunch.

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This recipe can be tailored with your family’s favorite nuts or dried fruits. Make a huge batch and have some on hand when that vending machine starts talking to your kids!

The Crunchiest Granola Ever

Ingredients

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

2 Tbsp. honey

¼ cup maple syrup

1 tsp cinnamon

Pinch of salt

1 ¼ cups Old-fashioned oats (not instant)

¾ cup steel cut oats

1 egg white (optional)

¼ cup dried cranberries (optional)

¼ cup raisins (optional)

– Recipe by Elaine Studdert

Method

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the oil, honey, maple syrup, cinnamon and salt. Add both oats and stir until coated.

IMG_2061Add the egg white and stir until well combined. The egg binds the granola in large clusters which is great for snacking. Just omit if you want the granola to be more like cereal.

Spread the oat mixture on the baking sheet in a single layer, spreading it with a fork to leave clusters. Do not press down.

IMG_2064Bake for 40-45 minutes until browned. The granola will be soft when you remove it from the oven but will crisp as it cools. After granola is cooled break into chunks and mix in the cranberries and raisins.

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Store in airtight container for up to two weeks. If it lasts that long…

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 7): “I like the flavor”

Liam (age 5): “Tastes like cereal”

Dylan (age 5): “Too crunchy”

 

For my local readers:

Upcoming talks w/Jen Dorf, Integrative Holistic Health Coach

Tues 3/3 Central School 7:30pm

Thurs. 3/12 Athleta in Scarsdale 6:30pm

How To Make Meal Time Connections With Your Family:

Do you feel overwhelmed by the thought of getting a meal on the table while juggling numerous activities with the kids?  Have you fantasized about enjoying a meal together as a family around the dining room table rather than at the counter or in the car?  Imagine the entire family sharing the mealtime duties so you can all enjoy one another with no distractions. Kids yearn for the family meal and studies show that there is a lower incidence of eating disorders and alcohol/drug abuse when families dine together on a regular basis.  Many of us have never learned how to make this happen! Join Jen Dorf as she shares simple and fun tips to connect with your kids at meal time.  Quick and easy recipes to satisfy the pickiest of eaters, and age appropriate duties will have the entire family engaged at mealtime happy to participate in the process.  You and your family will enjoy each other around the table more regularly.

To learn more visit: Jen Dorf Wellness

Snow Day Circuits

Spending a snow day with three high-energy kids is a lot like circuit training at the gym. Our typical snow day workout goes like this:

Wake-up to a quick warm-up of milk and cartoons. Then it’s time to fuel up before heading out to shovel. Breakfast is important because getting on snow pants is a workout in itself. At best a 20 minute exercise, at worst a 45 minute drenching cardio segment. After driveway is cleared, it’s back inside for some hockey practice. No relaxing, maybe a quick water break to rehydrate. Once someone gets hit with a stick it’s time to move on to another activity. From the basement we rotate to the kitchen station for a little upper body work. A recipe involving dough is my preferred mode since there’s lots of kneading and rolling involved. And if we make the dough from scratch it means we can get in some dough punching after it rises. Bonus!

After kitchen time and a quick lunch we clear up and prepare for another cardio burst. With the lure of hot chocolate or a pack of Pokemon cards it’s back into snow pants for a brisk walk to town. Getting them back home needs another incentive. Promises of ice cream or a yummy dessert usually does the trick to motivate them to pick up the pace.

Back home the dough punching or rolling usually turns into “brother punching”. To cool things off we get in some mental exercise with a board game or two. This is the toughest part of the workout – but we are heading into the home stretch. After our last burst of energy we settle in for some screen time. While the boys zone out to TV or video games I can get dinner on table. Our last activity? A much anticipated dinner of serious carbo-loading and off to bed. And hopefully to school the next day!

Leftover Deep Dish Pizza (a perfect snow day recipe)                

Ingredients

For the dough:

½ cup warm water, about 105 degrees

½ packet active dry yeast

1 tsp sugar

¾ cup room temperature water

3 Tbsp. olive oil

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting

1 ½ tsp salt

For the toppings:

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1/2 cup tomato or pasta sauce

1 cup roasted sweet potato cubes (optional)

1 cup chopped leftover meatballs (optional)

1 cup shredded mozzarella

½ cup grated parmesan cheese

Method

Mix warm water, yeast and sugar in a measuring cup. Let stand and dissolve until yeast starts to bubble and swell, about 5 minutes. Add room temperature water and oil, stir to combine.

In a large mixing bowl whisk together the flour and salt. Slowly add the liquid ingredients and mix until a ball is formed. This can be done in a food processor as well. Dough will be very sticky and might need a little bit more flour but add in small amounts. Dust work surface with flour and knead dough to form a smooth round ball. Add a few sprinkles of flour as needed.

Place dough in a large bowl coated with oil and cover with plastic wrap.

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Let rise for at least 2 hours until doubled in size.

IMG_1985Punch dough down and divide in half, reserving one for another snowy day. Simply wrap the extra dough in plastic and refrigerate or freeze. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Lightly oil a round cake pan, 9” diameter. Press the dough to fit evenly into the pan building up a lip around the edge of the pan. Let the dough rest a few minutes if it is snapping back. Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork several times and then bake for about 5 minutes until dough is set.

IMG_1987Remove from oven and gently press down any bubbles that have formed.

Brush crust with the olive oil and add toppings. First layer the sauce and about half of the mozzarella.

IMG_1994Then toppings of your choice.

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Top with remaining mozzarella cheese and grated parmesan.

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Return to oven and bake until crust is lightly browned and cheese is bubbly, about 30 minutes.

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IMG_2001And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 7): “Wow, work of art”

Dylan (age 5): “That rised!”

Liam (age 5): “You gotta love cheese!”

Snow days are never easy but if you have this to look forward to they’re not so bad!

 (recipe for pizza dough adapted from The Cook’s Illustrated)

Offense or Defense

In sports, players all have their positions. It’s the same in life. We all have roles to play. Some we learn and some we just fall into based on our natural talents.

Super Bowl Sunday at our house is no exception, it’s a team effort. The boys all get on the couch, Liam and Dylan on one cushion and Matthew, as the more experienced player, commands his own cushion or the big brown chair. I am official chef and coordinator of meal time. Brian is the coach and keeper of the remote. As game time approaches, all players enthusiastically get in their respective positions. When it comes time to eat, the boys perform as well as any professional athlete. And the older they get the more seasoned they become, which translates to huge grocery bills!

It’s tradition to serve chicken wings on Super Bowl Sunday, and this is not the day to make a new play, so I stick to the game book. This year I’m trying an Asian twist. Let’s see what my team thinks…

Miso Glazed Chicken Wings

Ingredients

3 Tbsp yellow miso

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbsp fresh ginger, about 1” grated

2 Tbsp sugar

¼ cup vegetable oil

2 Tbsp sesame oil

¼ cup rice wine vinegar

2 Tbsp soy sauce

3-4 lbs chicken wings, split at joints, tips removed

Method

In a large mixing bowl whisk together the first eight ingredients.

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Toss chicken wings into miso marinade and toss well to coat. Refrigerate overnight or for up to two hours.

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Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and place a baking rack on top.

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Place the wings on the baking rack. Roast in oven until caramelized and chicken is cooked through, about 45 minutes depending on the size of the chicken wings.

Serve immediately or during halftime show.

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 7): “Awesome – did you soak these in something?”

Liam (age 5): “Love these chickens”

Dylan (age 5): “These rock!”

Score!