Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Vegan Banana Bread Pudding Crumb Cake that Happened by Accident (eat cake, ice foot, get better. . . a running nemesis strikes and honesty about the past catching up to you)

This is a happy accident cake. During our major snow storm this weekend, an incredible urge to bake using bananas overcame me. I have scads of recipes for banana this and banana that--mostly in bread or muffin form. Then there is my other favorite form: cake. I'm a little behind on my recipe "trying"'--that is, I cut recipes out, stuff them in a folder and wait for a moment when I'm not lassoing training a puppy, to try and file them into my very stuffed three-ring binders. Well. Whatever. I just remembered cutting a recipe out, banana something and crumbs were involved. It actually was supposed to be a coffee cake--you know, something you'd have for breakfast. Does this cake here look anything like a coffee cake? My eyes say no. But, my curiosity said, Well, there goes two perfectly over-ripened bananas into a cake that didn't quite come out a cake. . . until my first bite and I was like, whoa--what just happened here? DID I JUST ACCIDENTALLY CREATE A VEGAN BREAD PUDDING. (Which I will admit has been missing from my life since our pre-vegan days. No regrets, just some taste buds that have food pang memories working.) And there it is.  

My guess as to how this actually occurred, that is, bread pudding vs. cake-y, is that the lack of egg and the fact that I halved the original recipe, but only cut the banana by one--and not exactly half, left me with a runnier batter, thus baking up in such a manner as to refer to it lovingly as Bread Pudding--with a overly punched up crumbly topping. So. Worth. It.
I added a bit of nutmeg to the crumb topping. The original recipe didn't call for it, but to me, it seemed like it needed to be there.
Here's your crumb topping, all ready to go.
I stored my bananas in the fridge. They are actually at the "perfect" stage for this application: the "accidental" bread pudding. 

I had help while I was trying to make dinner AND bake. 
NO. This is NOT acceptable puppy behavior. But suddenly I turned around and there you have it. She is a monster. A much-loved monster. If she had thumbs, she'd be working at the sink.
Someone has realized they have "arms"! So much has happened with her. My entire phone photos are of her. Were I to (godforbid) lose it, someone would think it belonged to a dog and not a human. 

And now for a chapter I like to call: I hate being OVER fifty!

I am now in recovery mode from an ailment I have been in denial about for months: plantar fasciitis. It started with a sort of Hmm, what's that on my heel-- and progressed to sharp--fall on your knees heel pain. Until I had to stop and scream for help one night when I tried to get up from the chair and nearly keeled over and Dr. Thyme said, My God! Go see a doctor about that! There were tears and teeth gnashing. I was in complete and utter denial. But the pain was getting worse. And so yes. I have acquired an ACUTE case of plantar fasciitis, prescribed three weeks of physical therapy and then. . . well, I am hoping for running by May. Or else there's some sort of 'procedure' that has been known to work. And I have read every single piece of literature I can on the symptom, cause and case histories of this, this--this THING. I am completely sidelined from running for now. This has an enormous detrimental affect on my normally cheery outlook on life. 

How much sidelining of running can one woman endure in a lifetime before she STOPS running. There is no such thing as NOT running. Just ask a runner.

I run. I'd NEVER had heel pain prior to a) turning fifty and b) breaking my ankle--which happens to be the same foot my heel pain originated. What in the world is happening here?! Yes, I have high arches. Yes. I ran for most of my life. Yes, I just ran a race in November. 

And now. I am relegated to the "gym". The elliptical machine only. Or swimming. 

Why do doctors always say, Or Swimming. Like we all have some Olympic-Sized pool right across the way--or in the backyard, for crying out loud. It has been my personal experience (since discovering the right side of my body is taking the left side of my body hostage), that it is always included in the statement of "alternative forms of cardio": You could bike. . . or swim. Hello?! 

Apparently, this whole PF thing is epidemic--seems like EVERYBODY has PF nowadays. Everybody over fifty--and especially athletic runner-types. 

My PT is going o....kay. I won't say I love it. It reminds me of the time I could be running. Then I discovered that I carry my emotions on my face  sleeve, and that my PT person said he noticed I may have been having a "bad morning" the other day. Understatement I'd say. That was a kind way of saying, OKAY runner-high addict, NO endorphins for YOU, now pick these marbles up with your toes! Gaaaaaaa! 

I don't understand it. I just know it hurts. I wear a boot in the evenings to keep my foot from flopping around. Again with The Boot. I. Hate. The. Boot. I ice, stretch, go to PT and come home and try to refrain from climbing the walls. 

**There is one good thing here coming out of all of this, I am now on a weight loss program--one involving a professional working alongside me as I tackle the "no running/healing of PF", build more muscle.  

I typically shun such talk of "weight loss". I'm a recovering eating disorder. I still have an eating disorder. (You are never really rid of an eating disorder, it just manifests into something else.) But overall, my general relationship with food has been "cordial". I don't partake in the things I did in my twenties or even thirties. 

 Sooo. . . Am I overweight? No. But am I at the weight I'd like to be--perhaps five or eight pounds lighter? No. So time to act. . . responsibly: tackle getting a bit slimmer without heading off a cliff. I know I can do it. I've done it before. But the running was in the picture then. This time, and for my foot/heel--my motivation in doing so is different. Less body weight on my heel means, maybe--a faster healing time for My Heel. But my sister (the one who knows me better than anyone else on the planet said it best: DO NOT LET THIS BECOME AN EXCUSE TO GET OVERLY OBSESSED ABOUT  YOUR WEIGHT.) And she said it like that, in all caps, sort of yelling at me, but in a caring-I'm-your-sister-I-remember-what-happened-to-you way. I love her for that. And let's be honest--no matter one's age--as I've stated, it's always with you--the thing about the weight. I will enter into this time on a gentle path with a clear mind on how much I will do and when to do it. . . until the searing pain--like someone pounding a spike through it!--shooting through the bottom of my heal subsides.

**Here I am "outing" myself on my eating disorder on a page dedicated to Bread Pudding. There's irony in that somewhere.

I've enlisted the help of a personal trainer--for a short side-by-side time. (Because they can be a bit pricey.) But given I haven't used gym machines in like a decade, I thought it might be helpful vs. killing myself on a pulley weight "pretending" to know how the hip abductor thingy operates. Up to this point, I'd not really been focused too much on the muscle toning side of aging/training. I thought my yoga would take care of that. But really, what I've learned is that as I age, so does the muscle and tendons carrying my skeleton around. Adding weight bearing in addition to the cardio/yoga all makes for a better outcome. So says all the literature and whatnot. 

If you get this ugly Plantar Fasciitis, and there's a good chance you WILL, please know, you are not alone. Just 'Google' it. You will be astounded.
And let's consider the life with two eighty pound dogs at the end of the leash. I need to keep myself in shape if not for the simple fact that if I don't, I'll end up face down in a snow bank.
Finally finished a throw I was crocheting. Got lots more time for crochet right now--along side the knitting, too! It's taken three years to finish. I love it. Very cozy to curl up in at the end of the day (ice pack on my foot). 

Vegan Banana Bread Pudding Crumb Cake
(Adapted from Teaspoons Cafe, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Crumb Topping

1/4 cup Earth Balance Butter, cubed
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Bread Pudding Cake

1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup spelt flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 tablespoon ground flaxseed mixed with 2 tablespoons water (for one egg)
2 really ripe bananas (see photo)
1/4 cup Earth Balance Butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8" square cake pan with non-stick stuff. Prepare the crumb topping--place the flour and brown sugar in a medium bowl, and add the cubes of butter and incorporate together with the back of a fork or your hands (I prefer using my hands), until a crumbly mixture appears. Set this aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the vegan butter and sugar and mix until creamy. Next, prepare your bananas--mashing them well with a fork, then adding to the sugar mixture then mixing. Add remaining ingredients and mix on low speed (the batter will be wet and still have lumps of banana in it, which is okay). Pour batter in pan, sprinkle the crumb mixture over it, and bake for 35-40 minutes, until the top is golden and a toothpick poked into the center of the cake comes out clean (a few crumbs are fine). Remove from oven and allow cake to cool for about thirty minutes. This is a cake that is really good warm. But we found nothing wrong with it straight from the fridge the next day! Store in fridge, covered for up to two days. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Pistachio Cardamom Shortbread Cookies (perfectly "crumbly". . . for this winter slump)

Sometimes a really good cookie can rescue me from a really bad day. We woke to bitterly cold winds, temperatures in the single digits--and only expected to climb to the teens--and a layer of new snow on the ground. (At least we don't have a hundred inches of snow, things could be so much worse)--I shouldn't complain. Then there was a rambunctious puppy under foot whose only desire in this world involves chasing, running, and gnawing. Little can be done to keep her "down" and quiet other than wearing her out with games of indoor hide and seek and little short trips outside. I was desperate for a break and thought she would find her chew-bone more exciting than my leg, arm, kneecap or hip--so I began pulling together the ingredients for this amazing shortbread cookie. I love, LOVE, love these.
I whipped these up in no time, before my second cup of coffee, even! They were almost too easy. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Vegan Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies with Extra Chocolate Chips (and a smidgen of hazelnut flour I had left over from a "flour-buying" spree: Love. These.)

I took our food pantry completely apart one afternoon. I re-sorted, re-arranged and basically brought some sanity into the kitchen. In my journey to creating a much neater, more organized life, I discovered I had amassed four different flours (aside from your basic all-purpose and bread flour). So really, I had like eight flours on hand (plus two gigantic bags of slivered almonds!) Why? I remember having this really crazy notion in November (when we all have visions of a "Jimmy Stewart" kind of holiday): "Wouldn't it be great to make ALL kinds of cookies this Christmas with ALL kinds of different flours!?" That'd really UP my cookie baking game!. . . And then the really busy time of December and reality of life/puppy raising set in and here I was in January staring at four bags of flours I had no idea what to do with. The hazelnut flour spoke to me the most. I was NOT going to let this bag perish. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

It's Been too Quiet. . . But I Like it That Way (knitting/sewing over food right now and a Frankie moment)

It's difficult blogging during these winter months. So much of what keeps my attention lately has little to do with food, but more to do with keeping busy, not focusing too much on the news and generally taking a hibernation approach to life. This weekend DH and I ventured out "quickly" on a short jaunt that ended up taking up half the day and him saying to me when we got home, "This shopping stuff is exhausting and sucks the life right out of me." Really? Welcome to my world, sweetie. Someone must run the household. Someone else must go to work. I really try not to drag him along when there is shopping to be done, but this go around, he actually wanted to see a gadget "in person" at the Big Electronics store, so I indulged his wish and out the door we went. We wear hats, glasses and plenty of hideaway outer wear to keep most people from approaching us. We wish a sign could dangle from around our necks reading, Caution: Introverts Entering, No Interaction Required! Amazon is our most favorite place to shop, if truth be told. But that requires a delivery person to bound up to our door and creates another whole set of anxiety (aside from the Jehovah people--omg, don't get me started). But I am completely off track in what I was originally going to talk about.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Vegan Spice Cookies with Chocolate and Zesty Citrus Glaze (How the "Problem" of Christmas Gets Solved)

The miracle of Christmas for me isn't what you might imagine it would be. The real miracle is that I make it through the C-R-A-Z-Y. This is my second round of cookie baking. The first round of cookie-palooza went out in boxes and packages. I love doing this and it sort of makes me happy--for a bit. Then there is the second needed push I have for that little extra that I set aside for just us--and when I find it, I know it. I found it in this cookie. For what it's worth, I am thrilled I took a little extra time to "find" just the perfect, newest cookie recipe to try. Thrilled because this cookie--filled with warm cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg and then chocolate!, and citrus--met all my criteria for a superb trifecta of delicious and solved the problem of blah-Christmas-cookie-baking doldrums. (And kept me from going nuts chasing a five month old Pyrenees puppy out from under the Christmas tree for the one hundredth time. . .Gahhhh!)  

Friday, December 5, 2014

Vegan Chicken Noodle Soup with Extra Noodles: Hold the Chicken (Windy City for Windy Sisters and. . . Calling Major Tom)

I was fortunate to have not gotten ill on my short trip back home to visit my sister. At least I have that to be thankful for. Who knew you could get the flu AND have the flu shot, too? Why go through the trouble fear and doubt of getting the damn shot if a month and a half later, you're so sick you can barely muster enough strength to roll yourself over in bed. Why?! I'll take my chances! 

So Sunday afternoon, after calling my doc in the morning and demanding asking for some antibiotics, something--anything!, I took every bit of my zapped energy and got the ingredients on the counter, and into the soup pot, simmering. (Because who else is going to cook for us: Frankie?! as DH and I were both feeling the effects of this 'flu-creep" beginning to take its toll.)

My veganized Chicken Noodle Soup sort of came together based upon what I could reach without falling over. So there's a little bit of everything in here. But without it all: the seasonings, garlic, onions, cabbage, mushrooms and barley, I don't think you'd have much of a soup. And when you think about it, the "old school" chicken noodle soup I remember didn't really have too much in it other than LOTS of noodles and a wee-bit of chicken. So. Here's where the beans came in. Then the barley. Then the turmeric added a beautiful, earthy and almost curry-ish-ness to the soup without it turning into curry. The turmeric color added to the soup made it even more delicious in appearance. It's a keeper in terms of soups. We both loved it and better yet, this recipe makes enough for the next night, too. Because seriously, I wasn't cooking much in this condition.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Vegan Jelly Donut Muffins with Multi-Grain Goodness (baking through "Ovenly" while puppy-dancing. . . finally ran a 5k race and I didn't fall: Yay!)

The other day, DH and I were discussing our earliest food memories. Mine centered around my grandmother's homemade grape jelly. DH said one of his were these huge cinnamon twist doughnuts from a local bakery where he grew up. Then I added, Oh yeah, well, we had doughnuts, too--my favorite always had jelly inside and pink icing. Then there was the debate of whether or not having a food memory not tied to a homemade item constituted a food memory. Then we both sat there fighting off the urge to once again abandon all rational thought and have doughnuts for dinner. 
*I seem to have a running theme here lately with the doughnut obsession. I know not where it comes from, I just know that it is. 
After our conversation about doughnuts had run its course, I finally decided to bake something along the lines of said food stuffs, and turned to adapting a recipe for Jelly Doughnut Muffins from Ovenly. (Oh how I wish all cookbooks were this crave-worthy--more in a second on this.) I had some adjustments to make to go vegan with these, plus I wanted to up the health factor a bit--so I subbed in some spelt flour (my all-time favorite multi-grain baking flour hands down--except it usually does better for me when combined with AP flour), and omitted the eggs. . . obviously. Muffins are one of the most forgiving baking items you could manage. As I soon discovered once again during one of my "some-timers" moments.


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