Twisted Cornmeal Breadsticks with Fennel & Coarse Salt

Days off are usually pretty rewarding. Today has been spent in my jammies wandering around the apartment completing tasks on my to-do list. One of those tasks was to make breadsticks.

Making Bread 02December Photo Project 2012: Day #6

I haven’t made many batches of breadsticks. This particular recipe stood out though and seemed like a nice accompaniment to the carrot-parsnip soup we are having for dinner tonight. I adapted the recipe from a very old issue of Cooking Light magazine. It was nearly vegan to begin with, so my changes are minimal.

Twisted Cornmeal Breadsticks with Fennel & Coarse Salt

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm, unsweetened, non-dairy milk (I used soy)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt

1. In a glass measuring cup, whisk together milk, sugar, and yeast. Set aside until frothy, about 5 minutes. Stir in olive oil.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine flours, cornmeal, and salt. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry. Using the dough hook, knead on medium speed for about 8 minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic.

3. Put the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a towel or plastic wrap, and set in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in volume. This should take about 1-1 1/2 hours. Meanwhile, line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

4. Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 24 equal portions. Cover with a damp towel to prevent the dough from drying out. Roll each portion of dough into an 8-inch rope. Take two ropes and twist them together, pinching each end to seal well. Place breadsticks on prepared baking sheets. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap while you finish with the remaining dough.

Breadsticks 02

5. Once all breadsticks have been shaped, cover lightly with plastic and set back in the warm, draft-free place for 30 minutes.

6. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Brush the water gently over the tops of the breadsticks and sprinkle with the fennel seed and salt mixture. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until lightly browned and puffy. Transfer to a wire rack to cool before serving.

Breadsticks 04

Sadly, by the time these finished baking, all daylight was lost. But, you can still see how pretty they are with the twisted shape. I loved the addition of fennel seeds on top. Now we are justing waiting for the soup to finish!

Tips for an Eco-Friendly Holiday, Plus Gift Ideas

Are you feeling the rush of the holidays yet? Celebrations here are usually cozy, peaceful, and chaos free – which is so nice!!! Shopping for gifts is easy since they are either homemade, purchased from Etsy, or done online. We don’t rise at 2AM for mad holiday sales! When I watched clips of Black Friday nonsense on the news last month, it saddened me. People trampling each other, punching each other, and yelling at each other just to get the last crappy-ass $1.99 bath towel from Wal-Mart? Seriously?

xmas lights!

I’m here to help you avoid those nasty incidents! Plus, give you some swell gift ideas for the people you love. It might be too late for some of you, but for those still scrambling for ideas, read on!

First up, here are my top tips for having an eco-friendly holiday. 

1. Why buy big rolls of wrapping paper when other solutions are waiting for you? Wrap small gifts in pages from old calendars and magazines, or use wallpaper remnants. It’s free and colorful. Plus, your paper will be unique! Wrap larger gifts in paper bags from the grocery store. Cut the bag to size and decorate with your fine art skills. You could even use canvas shopping bags for larger gifts – two gifts in one! Baskets and tins work for “wrapping” gifts too.

2. Repurpose old greeting cards by turning them into gift tags. Simply cut to the size you want, fold in half, and you are set! Adhere to gifts with tape, or hole punch the gift card and attach to gifts with colorful yarn or ribbon.

3. Support small, local businesses whenever possible. The folks who own these shops work hard and often carry merchandise made closer to home, which means less fuel/packaging wasted shipping products via big semi trucks, boats, and airplanes.

4. Think about the animals. While your family members might not be vegan/vegetarian, it doesn’t mean you can’t give them gifts that gently encourage compassion for the animals. For example, know someone who loves to cook or bake? Give them a vegan cookbook! There are a million to choose from!

5. Bring your best plant-based dishes to holiday gatherings. We all know that lots of people think veganism means icky, tasteless food. Prove ‘em wrong!! When my parents visited Tim and I this summer, we fed them so much vegan food and they enjoyed it! Spread a positive message about vegan food and maybe people will ask you for a recipe or two. And then people will ask them for that recipe, and so on until the entire world is vegan!  We can dream a little, right? Here is a good place to start your recipe search.

6. Use LED lights to decorate your tree and home. They use less energy, last longer, and produce less heat. Save some money on your electric bill!

7. Skip buying a tree this year and give some love to a houseplant instead! Tim and I put a tiny string of lights on a houseplant each year and pile gifts around its base. It’s fun!

Tree Lights 01

8. Donate your old coats, gloves, hats, and clothing (still usable, of course) to those in need. Also, give to food banks. Everybody deserves warm clothes and a hot meal during this time of year.

And now, here is my little gift guide for easing your shopping dilemmas!

1. I love Etsy. You can find gifts for everybody on your list while supporting small businesses at the same time. My favorite shops on Etsy right now:

Catherine Reece - Super cute handmade pottery with designs that will melt your heart! This piece is my favorite.
DressGreen – Awesome body care products that smell wonderful. Vegan items are labeled. Try the shampoo bars!
JAQS Studio - The best, most pretty handmade cloth napkins in large and small sizes. Well-priced too! Perfect gift for foodies!
DaisyWares – My favorite lip balm, plus jewelry too!
Lee Arthaus – My favorite art prints in the whole wide world!! There are so many sweet designs!!!! I want them all.
Lulu Bug Jewelry – The necklaces are adorable. Look at this owl one!

2. Vegan Cuts is an online marketplace full of vegan goods, from food, to clothing, to shoes, to jewelry, to body care and everything in between! This site has amazing deals!!

3. Not to be biased, but Herbivore Clothing Company has a lot of great merchandise!! We just assembled our Staff Picks Gift Guide 2012 and there is surely something on our list for someone on your list. Check out what we love most!

herb.jump.final.1

4. No matter what people say, gift cards are not lame! Give the gift of free food, clothes, books, or whatever to people you love/like or people you wish loved/liked you. Instant success!

5. Make your own gifts! Vegan Food Gifts by Joni Marie Newman is a great place to get ideas. Are you a baker? Give people an array of yummy treats! Are you a photographer? Make a book filled with photographs of your adventures during the year. Are you an artist? Create a personalized painting, sculpture, or drawing! Are you a musician? Make a CD (do people still use CDs?) of your work to share with loved ones. Are you a writer? Compile a collection of your best work into a book. Are you a yoga teacher? Offer a free class to a friend! Are you a knitter/sewer? Make a scarf, placemats, socks, or pillow covers! See where this is going?

5. Donate money to a compassionate organization. Farm Sanctuary, charity: water, Food Not Bombs, and Women for Women are jumping off points.

6. Give somebody a houseplant! You can’t go wrong because plants help provide air, and good company. They brighten up any room and live for your love and care (literally). They will even help you wash dishes… Well, not really…

Kitchen 01

So there you have it – my ultimate guide to an eco-friendly, creatively gifted holiday season!

Stayed tuned because I will be sharing a recipe for Twisted Fennel and Coarse Salt Breadsticks!!!