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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Pumpkin Banana Bread (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Refined Sugar-Free)

There is no better natural scent than freshly baked goods made right in your kitchen, can I get an amen? When I lived with my dad, he would always say, "whenever we put the house on the market and have showings, please make your chocolate chip cookies so that the aroma fills the house!" It is the best excuse to make delicious baked goods every time you desire to blanket your house with a yummy scent. Each time I have made this pumpkin banana bread (three times, to be exact), I would say to myself, "man, I wish there was such a thing as 'Insta-Smell' so I could share the tantalizing scent of pumpkin spice, vanilla and banana filling up my house!" It's one of the simple pleasures in life that I just can't get enough of. 

I went through a few trials of this recipe before scoring a winner. The first time, it lacked pumpkin flavor so it was essentially just banana bread. The second time, it failed to bake all the way through so it was too moist. But alas, the gluten-free vegan baking gods blessed me with my third concoction! It all came together and I couldn't have been more excited, squealing like a school girl and all. I took some over to my friend Karissa's house for her to try and she raved about it. She said, "you made this?!?" That spoke volumes coming from someone who understands just how hard it is to get gluten-free vegan baking right. I wish I could explain in words how scrumptious this pumpkin banana bread is, but it's pretty tough to do, so why don't ya just make it already? Best of all, it's really easy to make. The hardest and longest part is waiting for it to bake and cool. It would be a hit at a party, to bring for Thanksgiving or as a gift. It couldn't be more fitting for fall!

Speaking of scents, over the years, I have become very sensitive to candles made of paraffin wax and perfumes. But not all kinds, just the kind that contain artificial ingredients and harmful chemicals that have been linked to cancer, allergic reactions and hormone disruption, among others. Yankee candles give me the worst headaches along with commercial perfumes, like one of my old favorites, Hypnotic Poison from Christian Dior. After all, it does have poison in its name. I can no longer wear those perfumes or burn those candles, but I'm glad, because they contain unhealthy ingredients that may be harmful to my health in the long-run. I so wish there was a non-toxic fragrance out that smelled just like Hypnotic Poison, maybe re-named Hypnotic Potion. ;-) Anyone else have this sensitivity?

Soy candles made with 100% pure essential oils are the perfect alternative to paraffin wax candles. It's no surprise that I don't have any headaches when burning soy candles (without any synthetic fragrance, that is - some soy candles still contain synthetic fragrances so be sure to look at the ingredient list). Here are a few of my favorite non-toxic candle companies, if you're curious: Birthed by Earth, the Pure Aromatherapy line from Green Space Candles (the Chai Chai scent is my favorite!) and Meow Meow Tweet. There's an abundance of vegan soy 100% essential oil candles on Etsy, too!

One important side note... many companies (candle, perfume/cosmetic, cleaning supplies, etc.) lump numerous hazardous chemicals under the word "fragrance" and are not required to disclose each ingredient. According to The Environmental Working Group, "fragrance secrecy is legal due to a giant loophole in the Federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1973, which requires companies to list cosmetics ingredients on the product labels but explicitly exempts fragrance." Additionally, The Food and Drug Administration does not have to pre-approve cosmetic ingredients and assess the safety of those ingredients before they hit the market, with the exception of color additives. Be careful out there, y'all. Essential information that we deserve to know is kept from us. Research and question everything. go whip up a loaf of pumpkin banana bread that no one will believe is gluten-free and vegan!

Bottom left-to-right: 2 flax eggs; mashed banana w/a fork in the peel (lazy girl style); dry & wet ingredients
Right middle-to-top: dry & wet ingredients mixed together; bread mix ready to be baked
Top/middle left: final product!

Pumpkin Banana Bread
Yield: 1 loaf (using a 9x5 inch loaf pan)

• 1 1/4 cups Bob's Red Mill All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour *can also be found at Whole Foods and Sprouts
• 3/4 cup coconut sugar
• 1/3 cup pumpkin purée (I used canned organic pumpkin)
• 1/2 cup unrefined coconut oil
• 2 very ripe medium-sized bananas, peeled and mashed (approx. 1 cup mashed)
• 2 flax eggs (2 Tbs ground flaxseed + 6 Tbs water mixed together)
• 1 Tbs pumpkin pie spice
• 1 tsp baking soda
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• 1/4 tsp fine sea salt

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan with coconut oil.
2. In a small bowl, combine the flax egg ingredients (2 Tbs ground flaxseed + 6 Tbs water) and mix together. Set aside to thicken for 10 minutes, then stir again.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients together and whisk well. Add in the rest of the wet ingredients one at a time to the same bowl. Mix wet & dry ingredients together until just combined (don't over mix). It's okay that there are lumps of banana.
4. Transfer the mix to the oiled loaf pan and bake for 45-55 minutes (mine baked for 55 minutes although 50 minutes would've been fine, too). Insert a toothpick or knife in the center of the bread at 45 minutes. If it comes out clean, remove from the oven; if it doesn't come out clean, bake for another 5 minutes and keep checking it in 5-minute intervals until the toothpick or knife comes out clean. It shouldn't take longer than an hour. You don't want it to be dry!
5. Let the bread cool in the loaf pan for 15 minutes. Transfer the bread from the loaf pan to a wire rack or a plate to cool for another 45 minutes to an hour. I know it's hard to wait (I know I can't unless I have to dart out to go somewhere!), but it's even better when it cools completely to room temperature, about 2 hours. Either way, it'll knock your socks off! :-)

"Humanity's true moral test, its fundamental test... consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals." Milan Kundera


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