Boy, do I miss baking. I mean, take a look back at posts in this blog and you will see that they were overwhelmingly focused on food and especially on baking. I love to eat food so I also love to create it and, since becoming vegan, baking has brought me the most joy of all. Cupcakes, birthday cakes, scones, pastries, cookies, chocolate confections...you name it, I've baked it. My bookshelf is groaning with all of the titles any respectable vegan baker needs to own: The Joy of Vegan Baking, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, Vegan Cookies Invade your Cookie Jar, The 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes, BabyCakes: Vegan, (Mostly) Gluten-Free, and (Mostly) Sugar-Free Recipes from New York's Most Talked-About Bakery, My Sweet Vegan....and that's just the titles devoted solely to baking and desserts!
So, given my new drive to lose some weight, now that I have sworn off such temptations, how do I channel my energies? I am not sufficiently selfless to be happy making a batch of cupcakes and not partaking of one or two and I know that if I whip up a tray of scones, I will simply have to indulge - if only for quality control purposes, you understand?!?!
However, while pondering this dilemma during an unusually tedious moment at work, I hit upon the solution: more baking for doggies. Yes, Darwin and Humphrey - my two 'recycled pups' - are thriving on a vegan diet of Natural Balance, fresh vegetables and fruits and homebaked treats. The occasional shipment of Boston Baked Bonz also helps to make their day super-special! I first moved the boys away from a conventional meat-based diet because it was more consistent with my own values: if I refused to eat the flesh of tortured animals, why would I feed it to my own animal companions? I spent some time researching the subject and, when I learned specifically what goes in to the commercially available dog food, I never looked back. The 4-Ds sealed it for me: dead, dying, diseased and downer animals are what ends up in your can of (name the brand of your choice) dog food. Cancerous tumors, parts of heads, feet, viscera of all kinds are earmarked for Fido's dinner...yes, probably even ears, yum!
So I settled on Natural Balance ('vegetarian formula' which is actually vegan) because it's a good formula and is widely available. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the boys love it! Personally, I would prefer to support V-Dog as it's an out-and-proud vegan food but am leery of opting for a brand I cannot get locally - being sufficiently organized to purchase the boys' food online in a timely manner is not something I feel completely confident about, so until an East Coast store picks it up, I guess I'll stick with NB.
But getting back on track...although my decision was initially based on my own ethics, I am very encouraged to see how the diet's affecting the pups. Darwin, the beagle boy, came to us via a municipal pound and is around 11 or 12 years of age. Like us all, he has his 'creaky days' but in general he has abundant energy. On off-leash walks he is frequently mistaken for a puppy - his bounding gait, wide grin, lolling tongue and fierce tail-wagging reinforce his youthful appearance and 'Hello Pretty Puppy!' is the greeting most often overheard from his 'new friends'. Humphrey, the dachs/minpin mix, is considerably younger so has been vegan for proportionally more of his life. He is superby fit with not an ounce of fat on him, has the brightest eyes and glossiest coat of any dog I've ever known, and he can run, jump and play for hours. I think he also holds the local record for the High Speed Tail Wag (2009).
In short, both dogs really are thriving. Snacks are now composed of carrots, celery, strawberries, melon, cucumber slices, fresh blueberries, apple wedges and the like. And it's amazing to see just how well they will behave to get their chops around a humble chunk of freshly peeled carrot! I guess the sweetness delights them and the dramatic crunch which sprays orange splinters around the room must be pretty satisfying too. According to their veterinarian they are both very healthy - albeit Darwin could stand to lose a pound or two - so I think we're on the right track.
Vegan dog cookies, however, are always welcome, so today - to quell my desire to Bake Something - I whipped up a batch of Peanut Butter-Brown Sugar treats from a new cookbook I got 'from Darwin and Humphrey' for Christmas. This one:
Nope, it's not vegan, but it was a snap to veganize the recipe and it goes like this...
Here's what you need:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 tbsp baking soda
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup nondairy milk (I used coconut milk)
1 flax 'egg' (1 tbsp ground flax seeds whisked with 3 tbsp water until thick and foamy)
veg stock for basting
Here's what you do:
1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
2.In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flours, baking soda and the sugar.
3. Mix the non-dairy milk with the peanut butter so that it disperses easily (I popped it in the microwave for a minute or so to soften the peanut butter)
4. In a separate bowl, whisk the flax seed with the water until foamy.
5. Add the flax 'egg' and the milk/peanut butter to the dry ingredients and mix until you get a stiff dough. If you need to add a splash more milk, it's ok.
6. Flour your work surface and roll out the dough to about 1/2 inch thick.
Transfer to a baking sheet lined with baking parchment and then use a pizza wheel to cut into cubes.
7. Bake for 10 mins, then remove and turn oven down to 375 degrees.
8. Brush the cookies liberally with the veg stock and put back into the oven for another 15 mins.
9. Baste the cookies again and then bake for another 15 mins. Repeat until the cookies are completely baked through. Mine needed about 45-50 mins total, but I think my oven's not calibrated correctly so yours might take less time.
Once they're cooled, this is what you'll get:
A stack o' cookies...
And perhaps your own versions of these too:
Humphrey doing a powerful 'leave it'.
Darwin: "Can I just eat already???????
Happy Baking and stay vegan, friends!