Fully Loaded Baked Falafel Pita (vegan) and Anti-Racism for White People (Post 2)

Fully Loaded Baked Falafel Pita Recipe
Fully Loaded Baked Falafel Pita

Cranberry Orange Pecan Cake (vegan)

I’m sitting in my living room like a lump, listening to a Brazilian rock band and watching Mike exercise (I’m pretty sure I’m getting healthier by proxy). Byrd is snuggled beside me, a tiny fellow lump. I’m about to grade papers (I promise), but the sum total of my work today has been coining a new nickname for Byrd: Sweet Potato. It’s a cross between sweetheart and couch potato. Get it?

So it’s been a lazy day. I ate oatmeal on toast and then some sausages, caramelized onions, and sauerkraut for dinner. Mike and I discussed Jean Luc Picard. We finished watching Miracle on 34th Street. Byrd chewed on her toy for awhile. That’s about the sum total of our productivity.

It’s about time for some relaxation, though. I like to say that teachers don’t really get a “weekend” for 10 months out of the year; we’re hard at work or on call 24/7. Work and home start to blend together — you lesson plan at school and grade papers at home or vice versa, answering student and parent queries all the while. You squeeze in the other bits and pieces of your life wherever they fit (and sometimes leave them by the wayside altogether — I won’t mention how long my carpet sometimes goes unvacuumed).

Also, I work at a project based school, which means students learn through authentic application projects. I’m wholeheartedly invested in this model, but it does mean that I’m always knee-deep in projects to grade.

I would never complain — I have the best job in the world (did I tell you about the lamb that was at school last week? Did I mention the Winter Wonderland where students caroled and drank hot chocolate? Did I tell you about how my students are actually excited to receive new projects?) But I definitely appreciate a break now and then.

This break has been appreciated to the fullest. Honestly, this is my first day of lounging around in an otherwise caffeinated week. I’ve been getting housework done and prepping for the holidays. And Monday, I attended a baked goods swap (my first ever, if you can believe it) with the Charlotte Food Bloggers.

The Charlotte Food Bloggers are an incredibly varied group of people. We have mommy bloggers, vegan bloggers, healthy living bloggers, restaurant reviewers, and straight up food bloggers. I decided I wanted to make a dessert everyone could enjoy and that meant (gulp) baking vegan.

Vegan baking may conjure up ideas of dry or oily frankendesserts, but it really shouldn’t. This cake, for instance, was as delicious as any non-vegan cake I’ve ever tasted. It was, if I do say so myself (and I did already, on Willow Bird Baking’s Facebook page), pretty slammin’! It even passed the Mike test, and he’s quite the carnivore.

The festive combination of orange zest and cranberries brightened up the moist cake, which was generously slathered with some dairy-free “cream cheese” frosting. Whether you’re vegan or not, give this one a try.

fun with the charlotte food bloggers (instagram courtesy of taylor mathis)

Vegan Cranberry Orange Pecan Cake

Recipe by: Adapted from the veganized version by The Tolerant Vegan, originally from Midwest Living
Yield: 9 servings

This cake is fantastic! It’s a moist, delicious “butter” cake full of festive cranberries, orange zest, and toasted pecans. The whole thing is slathered with dairy-free cream cheese frosting that, unlike some other vegan frostings I’ve tried, is a great consistency for spreading. Whether you’re a vegan or not, you’ll love every bite of this cake.

Cake Ingredients:
3/8 cup Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread
3/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
5/8 cup vanilla almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
1 cup cranberries, fresh or frozen, chopped
1/4 cup toasted pecans, chopped (plus more for sprinkling)
1 tablespoon orange zest

Frosting Ingredients:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons dairy-free cream cheese, softened (I used Trader Joe’s This is Not a Tub of Cream Cheese)
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread, softened
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare an 8-inch square baking pan by greasing it with Earth Balance and flouring it. Place a parchment paper square in the bottom, and grease and flour the paper as well. (Note: You can double this recipe and make it in a 9 x 13-inch pan).

In a large bowl, cream together the Earth Balance and sugar for 2-3 minutes until fluffy. Mix in the applesauce, almond milk, and vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, whisk together the baking powder, baking soda, sea salt and flour. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until fully combined.

Mix in the vinegar. Fold in the cranberries, pecans, and orange zest. Pour the batter into your prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out with just a few moist crumbs. Allow the cake to cool completely before you frost it.

To make the frosting, place confectioners’ sugar, dairy-free cream cheese, Earth Balance, and vanilla extract in a bowl and mix until combined and fluffy. Spread the frosting on the cake, sprinkle with toasted pecans, and serve.

P.S. I just learned about orange pomanders this year and have enjoyed making them. Just poke some whole cloves into a few oranges. You can make any design you like. They smell lovely and are a fun little Christmas craft.

P.S. 2 – See Taylor’s visual recap of the CFB baked goods swap here. Lots of pretty food!

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Vegan Pumpkin Nut Bread

Babies have an uncanny ability to make you silly. We’ve all experienced the strange, instantaneous transformation: you’re walking along, the picture of respectability, when you spot bright eyes and baby CHEEKS! It’s always the cheeks that really push you over the edge. Suddenly, you’re cooing, peekabooing, vroooooming airplane spoons . . . anything for a smile, or best of all, a baby giggle!

My friend Amelia knows all too well what one will do for a baby. Her little Rowan (now 6 months old) wasn’t tolerating dairy very well, so mama had to give it up! No tall glasses of milk, no cheesy pizzas, no gooey lasagnas — and worst of all, hubby was still able to chow down! I’m going to be honest (with apologies to vegans out there): I would not be a fan of a dairy-free lifestyle. I enjoy meat, but I’d be much quicker to give it up than my beloved cheese, butter, and milk! Amelia’s a champ, though; with nary a complaint, she’s gone almost completely dairy-free for months. She deserves a mommy medal, but perhaps she’d settle for a loaf of vegan pumpkin bread?

I first spotted this beauty on Joy the Baker awhile back, when Joy admitted to sometimes searching for vegan recipes just because she’s out of butter or eggs. I love the honesty, not to mention the resourcefulness. A girl after my own heart. Gotta have sweets and gotta avoid the mid-recipe grocery store run.

This pumpkin bread was nice and moist, with a deep caramel-esque flavor from the brown sugar and maple. I added oats for more heartiness. One loaf went to Amelia, and Mike and I kept one for breakfasting. We defiled our loaf by slathering it with butter (more apologies to the vegans!), but it’d be delicious spread with cream cheese (oh wait! sorry vegans!), peanut butter, pumpkin, maple syrup, vegan margarine, mud . . . it’s just good! Just spread it with something creamy and suited to your dietary leanings, and consume!

I will say that it wasn’t as grand, in my tastebuds’ opinions, as regular old pumpkin quick bread. I think I prefer a brighter pumpkin spice flavor to the depth of the maple and brown sugar combo in this recipe. Nevertheless, if you’re out of eggs, following a vegan lifestyle, or simply avoiding dairy for a cute little imp of a babe, this is a nice, hearty option. We have the last bit of our loaf sitting in our freezer waiting for Saturday morning breakfast!

Vegan Pumpkin Walnut Bread

Recipe by: Joy the Baker, slightly adapted by Willow Bird Baking
Yields: 2 loaves

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (or whole wheat flour, or use only all-purpose flour)
2 cups light brown sugar, packed
1/3 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree, or just under two cups
1 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup water
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup oats

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place a rack in the center of the oven. Grease and flour two loaf pans and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flours, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices.

In a medium bowl, carefully whisk together pumpkin puree, oil, maple syrup and water. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and use a spatula to fold all of the ingredients together. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl well, finding any stray flour bits to mix in. Fold in most of the chopped walnuts and oats, reserving some to sprinkle on top of the batter once in the pan.

Divide the dough between the two greased pans and sprinkle with a few walnut pieces. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven. Let rest in the pans for 20 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack.

Serve warm. To freeze, double wrap in plastic wrap and then wrap in foil.


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