Friday, January 13, 2023

Pear-Parsnip Bread / Whole 30 Update

Good morning! I hope this finds you well and swimming head-above-water in the wreckage of bomb cyclones, blizzards, tornadoes, or whatever other pineapple express pummeling your part of the world presently endures. It's so crazy and sad and terrifying. My hometown, Aptos, has been devastated, along with its neighbors. Here in Minneapolis, we are okay, other than rough narrow roads and some occasional mishaps associated with too-heavy snow and ice on roofs. The roof of the arts auditorium at the U of M partially collapsed and some wall bricks came down with it. While parked in the driveway, my friend's car was assaulted by an ice sheet that broke off the roof of her adjacent house. 

I am safe and warm with no pending insurance claims. I've been writing more, and sharing my writing more, and continue with the Whole 30. 

*** We interrupt this broadcast with an important update on Whole 30 Take 3. I'm on day 13, but have not been 100% every day, mostly on account of social occasions. Even not super strict, it's powerful and interesting. There is a tremendous reduction in daily aches and pains. Sometimes I still notice the usual things - my left shoulder, right elbow and wrist, both hips, sciatica - but I think the elimination of inflammatory foods takes the edge off. Like a morphine drip, but with more chewing and cooking. And no hospital co-pay. I do think the impacts this time around are less stark though, and I imagine that's because I'm eight years older than last time. In my (mid)forties, physiological changes are generally more delayed than they were in my thirties. Like after skiing, I get super sore muscles two days later instead of one. And I'll leave it at that. ***

Today I made this loaf for my family, who are not Whole30ing. It's a riff on a recent favorite: Yossy Arefi's Vegan Zucchini Bread Recipe on NYTimes Cooking. (Subscription required for link to work - sorry or maybe you're welcome for sharing it here for free?)

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Pretty good looking, right? Instead of zucchini, which I didn't have, I measured out two cups of mostly grated parsnip and pear, and a leftover nub of carrot. Inspired by another, older favorite of mine: Smitten Kitchen's Pear Bread. The. Best. Anyway root veggies and pears are more fragrant than zucchini! My house smells like cinnamon and fall. I veered a bit as follows: reduced sugar, used one kind instead of two, and threw in whole wheat flour along with white. Note that the gram measurements are from NYT, and I used them because I like using kitchen scales and I don't like cleaning measuring cups, and maybe we are simpatico.

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Structurally, as far as eggless baking goes, this is the holy grail. The rise is amazing (dome never sinks), the crumb is like a perfect pumpkin muffin, and the sugared top gives it a lovely contrasting crunch. I would pay at least five dollars for this at a bakery, maybe even six if they served it with a generous side of salt-sprinkled butter. I hope you make it. Chocolate chips would of course be an exciting addition but I skipped those today in an effort to convince my children that not all muffins and quick breads have chocolate chips in them.

Pear-Parsnip Bread
Makes one standard 8.5 X 4.5" loaf

3/4 cup / 150 grams brown sugar
2/3 cup / 160 milliliters soy milk or other milk of choice
1/2 cup / 120 milliliters neutral oil
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar*
2 cups/225 grams coarsely grated parsnip, underripe pear, carrot, or mix
2 cups/260 grams all-purpose flour (I used 60 grams whole wheat + 200 grams bread flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon table salt
To finish: one more tablespoon brown sugar*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease your loaf pan generously. If it's a pesky one, line it with parchment.

In a large bowl, mix soy milk with apple cider vinegar and set aside.

In another bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.

Add 3/4 cup brown sugar, oil, and grated parsnip/pear/carrot to the soy milk and mix. Add dry ingredients into wet and stir until just combined, no floury streaks. Pour into loaf pan and sprinkle with one tablespoon brown sugar.

Bake for 50-55 minutes, until golden brown and knife inserted in center comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes.

* Arefi uses 1 tablespoon lemon juice, for which I subbed the apple cider vinegar here. But I've used the lemon juice with the zucchini and it's nice. Arefi also uses turbinado sugar at the end, which I've done previously but I found the brown sugar sufficiently delivered on crispy crust front.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Vegan Pumpkin Muffins and Happy New Year!

Happy 2023! I hope you welcomed in the new year with loved ones and that sweet spot of hedonism - celebratory but not sleepless, hungover, or puffy. (Increasingly elusive as the years pass...)

My New Year's Eve (aka "My Birthday") was mostly fantastic: filled with food, kicked off with a decadent, boozy brunch with five of the best women friends a person could ask for, culminated at a perfectly chaotic family-friendly fondue party with neighbors, and sandwiched in between - lest we otherwise starve! - my little family enjoyed its "last pizza of 2022" at Pizzeria Lola. Unfortunately, we concluded the night with an anaphylaxis-induced ER visit. Everyone is okay! My middle child has a severe peanut allergy, however, and is 16-months in to the miracle that is oral immunotherapy. For the most part, it's been smooth sailing and we take it for granted that he can handle his daily dose of two peanuts. There are many rules though - for good reason, we've been reminded! - and on a festive fondue-infused child-centered party-hopping night, strict compliance went the way of last year's resolutions. We messed up, and it mattered. He had his first v. scary, serious peanut reaction ever, and epinephrine is a medical marvel, and he's fine. THANK. GOD.

And now I'm doing the Whole 30 again and craving one of these pumpkin muffins. It's snowing cats and dogs out there; this winter is drowning us. I don't recall a whiter December in the twenty-and-change since I moved here. My nerves are still wobbly after the peanut incident plus a few other close calls of late (a 2.5-hour icy highway journey from St. Cloud to Minneapolis, a slip-and-fall involving hundred-year-old stairs and a cast iron radiator with evidently lacerative edges). So, as the inches accumulate on our roads, I worry about school buses in ditches. The drivers in Minneapolis are top notch, but still. A chai tea latte and a pumpkin muffin might be cozy on a dreary day like the one we're braving.

I am staying the W30 course though because my body needs it. There will still be sugar in February. In the meantime, perhaps you will enjoy a pumpkin muffin yourself. And perhaps it will alleviate any panic tendencies to which you are prone. In which case, I'm sorry and you're welcome. xo

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A word on the recipe: these really are my favorite muffins from one of my favorite oldie-but-goodie cookbooks and I probably make these more often than any other baked good. You will love them. In the pictures some of them are topped with Trader Joe's pumpkin-spiced pumpkin seeds (seasonal - crazy good).

The Best (Vegan) Pumpkin Muffins
Adapted from Vegan with a Vengeance
Yield: 18 muffins (or 12 muffins + small loaf)

2 2/3 cups all-purpose or pastry flour (400 grams by weight - I sometimes do half whole wheat flour here)
1 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie or baking spice
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
14-oz can of pumpkin puree
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup soy milk (or any milk)
3/4 cup neutral oil
3 tablespoons molasses
1 1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional but highly recommended)

Preheat oven to 400. Generously grease twelve-muffin tin and a small loaf pan if you've got one.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and spices. In a separate large bowl, stir together pumpkin, soy milk, oil, molasses, and both sugars, until thoroughly combined. Add dry ingredients, one cup at a time, into wet and mix until there are no more rogue patches of flour.

Fill muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick or knife inserted in center comes out clean. For loaf, test at around 30-35 minutes.