Rustic Pumpkin Seed Bread

Well, the rainy season has officially arrived. This was the scene on my street last week:

And this is the scene on my street this week (intentionally out of focus to emphasize the extreme dreariness):

I won’t complain. I spent several hours in my kitchen yesterday baking bread, mixing granola, and formulating cookie recipes to feed the hungry treat monster who lives with me. Not too long ago I mentioned that I had a wonderful bread recipe to share and after testing it once more yesterday, I am finally ready to post about it – Rustic Pumpkin Seed Bread:

[This is, admittedly, an older photo of the same bread. I was too lazy to photograph my finished loaf yesterday - or, uh, too busy devouring thick slices spread with homemade strawberry jam!]

This loaf is really simple to make because you don’t need a bread pan. You just shape the dough into a round (or oval) and bake it on a cookie sheet. It’s rustic because of  whole grains, pumpkin seeds, and the addition of molasses. The end result is a crusty exterior and a soft, chewy interior with pumpkin seeds flecked throughout. Thanks to the molasses and pumpkin seeds, you get a nice dose of iron! Try it with your favorite bowl of soup for the perfect dreary day meal.

*If your home is colder this time of year, try turning your oven on at the lowest setting for a minute or two. Turn off the oven and let your dough rise inside for the perfect draft-free, cozy environment!

Rustic Pumpkin Seed Bread

Makes 1 loaf

1 cup warm water
4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup oat bran
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 cup warm water
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
Additional pumpkin seeds for sprinkling, if desired (about 1/4 cup)

  1. In a glass measuring cup, whisk together 1 cup water, yeast, and sugar. Set aside until frothy, about 5-10 minutes.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or large mixing bowl if you plan to knead by hand) stir together flours, salt, oat bran, and pumpkin seeds.
  3. Make a well in the center of your dry ingredients and pour in the yeast mixture. Stir in the additional 1 cup of water, oil, and molasses.
  4. Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon until a dough comes together. When it gets too difficult to stir, knead it with the dough hook on medium speed (or by hand on a well floured surface) for about 6-10 minutes. The dough should be slightly sticky, but easy enough to handle.
  5. Oil the bowl you mixed the dough in, shape the dough into a ball, and turn to coat with the oil. Cover the bowl and set in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1- 1.5 hours.
  6. Once the dough has risen, line a cookie sheet with parchment and dust generously with cornmeal. Punch the dough down, and shape into a round or oval loaf. Press the additional pumpkin seeds onto the top of the loaf (or roll the entire loaf in a variety of seeds for more texture). Place the dough onto the prepared baking sheet and let rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes – 1 hour.
  7. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees once the dough has doubled in size (make sure to take out your dough if it is rising in there!).
  8. Bake the bread for 30-35 minutes or until it is dark golden on top and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely before slicing.

Enjoy your rustic bread with a nice bowl of piping hot soup, like this Potato Rosemary Soup from Vegan Soul Kitchen!

Backpacking Essentials Part II: Components of a Pack

It’s time for Part II of my Backpacking Essentials series! Today’s post is all about what to pack for overnight (or longer) wilderness excursions. It can be very overwhelming trying to decide what gear, accessories, and clothing to take on a backpacking trip. Nobody wants to lug around a heavy pack, especially if climbing steeper terrain or hiking 6+ miles each day is on the agenda.

When Tim and I first started backpacking together our packs were significantly heavier. Over the years were have learned a lot and lightened our loads considerably, which makes for much more enjoyable hiking. As a petite woman barely reaching 5’2″, I like to keep my total pack weight between 12-15 pounds. This allows for more mobility, comfort, and endurance. Here are my pack essentials for a 2-3 day backpacking trip:

  • Inflatable sleeping mat (Therm-a-Rest has an incredible variety)
  • Compressible pillow (I have the smallest size)
  • Sleeping bag (ours is homemade, very lightweight, and sleeps 2, so Tim and I can share it)
  • Rain jacket and rain pants
  • Extra socks (made from synthetic fibers, never cotton – cotton takes forever to dry and won’t keep your feet as warm)
  • Long underwear top and bottoms
  • Hat and gloves (depending on the season and altitude of the hike)
  • Headlamp
  • First aid kit (band-aids, antibiotic ointment, aspirin, safety pins, cotton swabs, etc.)
  • Toiletries kit (small tin of toothpaste, toothbrush, tiny bottle of biodegradable soap, lip balm, sunscreen, insect repellent, toilet paper, and a quick-drying hand towel)
  • Deck of cards (occupies time when you are lounging in your tent – Tim and I have made up so many silly card games!)
  • Camera (the heaviest item in my pack)
  • Pack liner (essentially a large plastic bag that goes into my pack first and keeps all of the contents dry)
  • Pack cover
  • Water bladder
  • Food, split with Tim

Since Tim and I always hike together, we have the luxury of splitting our gear to fairly distribute the weight. Here is what Tim usually carries in his homemade backpack (ends up being around 18 pounds):

  • Tent poles and stakes
  • Tent body, rain fly, and ground cloth (we have a tent we made ourselves and one we bought – we love both and choose which one to use depending on the season)
  • Backpacking stove (we have had ours for over 10 years and it still works well)
  • Fuel bottle for stove
  • Cook set, sporks (yes, sporks!), and cups
  • Pocket knife
  • Inflatable sleeping mat
  • Compressible pillow
  • Headlamp
  • Water bladder
  • Rain jacket and pants
  • Extra socks
  • Long underwear top and bottoms
  • Hat and gloves
  • Map and trail directions
  • Food, split with me
  • Pack liner
  • Pack cover

I can completely understand how the cost of gear might seem overwhelming. Tim and I have owned our gear for over ten years so the initial investment has been paid off several times over. Here are some tips to consider:

  1. Take your time when deciding which gear to buy. Read consumer reviews to get a better idea of how certain gear performs.
  2. Visit a local outdoor shop and check out gear you are interested in – ask questions!
  3. Take advantage of used gear sales, outlet stores, or friends who may be parting with gear that still has some use.
  4. Try renting some gear and test it in the wilderness to see if you like it.
  5. Don’t feel pressured to buy the most expensive, most popular gear. Buy what suits your own needs.
  6. Try making your own gear, if possible! It is less expensive, challenging, and fun.
  7. Borrow gear from friends/family if you can’t afford to purchase certain items.

Once you have your gear selected, you need to pack it wisely to ensure comfort and mobility. Filling a backpack requires some patience and practice. It is best to start by laying your gear out on the floor. Place the items that you won’t use right away in the bottom of your pack and end with the gear you will need quick access to. Also keep in mind that heavier gear placed in the bottom of your pack will balance your load better. I usually put my sleeping bag, sleeping mat, and pillow at the bottom and follow with long underwear, spare clothing, food, rain gear, and camera. Other essentials are stowed in the lid and side pockets of my pack.

Tim packs his gear in a similar manner. The best part about multi-day trips is that as the food supply diminishes, so does the weight of your pack! So… Eat up!

Hopefully this post will help get you out on the trail and snoring under the stars (or rainbows!) in no time!

Part III of this series will focus on clothing and footwear, so stay tuned!

Coastal Exploration

On Sunday, Tim and I went to the central Oregon coast for a bit of exploration and photographic opportunities. It was a chilly day, but beautiful nonetheless. We packed sandwiches and cupcakes to keep us nourished and then cruised along the beach taking pictures and admiring all the sea creatures visible at low tide. We even saw a massive heap of lazy seals sleeping on some high rocks, inevitably waiting for the tide to come back in so they could immerse themselves in the cold ocean.

Love the coast.

I’ll be back later this week with a delicious, hearty bread recipe – perfect for dunking in soup!


Mini Mac-n-Peas Pies

The weather in Portland has been quite beautiful lately. The days are filled with plenty of sunshine, blue skies, and streets lined with golden leaves. In order to induce fall weather, I have been sipping mugs of tea in the evening and layering the blankets on my bed. It seems to be working because today was cloudy, rainy, and COLD! It’s about time. I love this time of year for many reasons: cozy knee-high socks, foggy mornings, the sound of rain on my roof, increased energy for baking, and warming, delicious meals are a few examples.

The meal above was created in celebration of finally getting our car repaired. We are keeping our fingers crossed that our finicky 2002 Prius stays out of trouble for a while. Seriously, hybrids are wonderful for fuel efficiency and compactness, but when a part malfunctions, you better think about playing the lottery…

Let’s get back to our lunch! Last week I received two logs of Cheddar Teese Sauce from Chicago Soy Dairy. Since Tim and I rarely buy cheese alternatives, it’s somewhat of a luxury to have some in our refrigerator. I created a quick lunch that was both filling and comforting: Mini Mac-n-Peas Pies. They were the perfect accompaniment for watching episodes of Daria (LOVE this show). The idea behind these lil’ pies was to take the traditional bread crumb topping on baked macaroni and cheese recipes and turn it into the crust for a pie. So essentially, the bread crumb topping is on the bottom! This recipe serves two but you could easily double (or triple and make into a standard-sized pie) the recipe if you are serving a larger group of hungry vegans.

Mini Mac-n-Peas Pies

Serves 2

For the crust:

1 cup dry bread crumbs (use gluten-free bread or crackers to make this recipe gluten-free)
3 Tablespoons melted Earth Balance (or vegan butter of choice, or 2 Tablespoons oil of choice)

For the pasta:

1 cup dry pasta shells (I used brown rice pasta)
1/2 cup frozen green peas, thawed
1/2 tube Teese Cheddar Cheese Sauce
1 Tablespoon stoneground mustard (or mustard of choice)
Paprika for sprinkling
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a small bowl, mix together the melted butter (or oil) and the bread crumbs using your fingers. The mixture is ready when it holds together if you press a clump between your fingers.
3. Distribute the mixture evenly between two 4-inch mini pie pans (about a 1/2 cup per pie pan) and press it firmly onto the bottom and up the sides.
4. Place the pie pans on a baking sheet and bake them for 6-8 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Don’t turn off the oven.
5. While the crusts are cooling, fill a saucepan with lightly salted water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cook your pasta according to package directions. Just make sure it is al dente since you will be baking it later.
6. Drain the pasta and return it to the saucepan. Squeeze about half a tube of the cheese sauce into the saucepan with the pasta. Stir well to distribute and then add in the peas. Stir once more to evenly distribute the peas with the pasta.
7. Divide the pasta mixture between the two pie pans, sprinkle generously with paprika, and salt and pepper as desired.
8. Bake the mini pies for 12-15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before devouring with your dining companion(s).

*If you don’t have access to Teese or other commercial vegan cheese sauces, you can use any cheese sauce you prefer for this recipe.
*Try replacing the peas with broccoli, roasted red peppers, or other veggie of choice.
*Sprinkle the tops with homemade cheesy crumbles (I grind equal parts cashews and nutritional yeast in my spice grinder).