By my count, Grant and I have been eating semi-vegan for about seven months. For us, this means our meals at home are plant-based (lots of lentils and beans), but G will occasionally order seafood when we’re out. I still eat eggs and yogurt pretty regularly and order whatever the hell I want at a restaurant.
We’re doing this to address Grant’s allergies, but for a few other reasons, as well: high-quality, responsibly sourced meat is expensive. We’re talking now about reintroducing poultry upon occasion (I miss my roasted chicken now that it’s cold outside), but saving money by getting protein from plant sources has been great. It’s also been fun experimenting with new vegan recipes (this creamy pasta, vegan queso, and my daal have all been hits). I’ve had a few fails, but nothing inedible. A slightly crunchy bean can’t make you sick like a slightly raw chicken breast can!
The biggest hurdle has been vegan baking. Grant has been allergic to dairy since babyhood, so I’ve long-since conquered dairy-free baking. But cutting out eggs (a childhood allergy of his that’s reemerged in adulthood) has been so difficult. Eggs are integral in so many baked goods. They add structure, lift, and moisture. At most health food stores, you can find vegan egg substitutes, but I tend stay away from single-use products like that. I don’t mind buying cashew or coconut milk because those alternatives have a bunch of purposes: oatmeal, creamy sauces, Oreo dipping.
After some trial and error, I’ve settled on my go-to vegan egg substitute for baking: flaxseed meal! It’s relatively inexpensive, multipurpose (I often add it to smoothies and oatmeal), and full of nutrition. Win-win.
To make a “flax egg,” you combine one tablespoon of flaxseed meal with two tablespoons water, and let it sit for a few minutes. The water hydrates the meal, and it thickens and gels. Word on the street is that this substitute works best for sturdy baked goods, like quick breads. I wouldn’t try and use this in a delicate cookie.
My greatest vegan baking success to date is this pumpkin banana bread. It’s moist, well-spiced, and totally vegan; it’s delicious warm with (vegan) butter (this is our favorite) and cold out of the fridge. It also froze and defrosted well!
Pumpkin banana bread with chocolate chips
Makes one 9×13 pan (leftovers freeze well!)
3 c all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp Kosher salt
½ tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
¾ tsp ginger
½ tsp cloves
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 c granulated sugar
½ c brown sugar
⅔ c vegetable oil
1/2 c applesauce
2 flax eggs (2 tbsp of flaxmeal + 4 tbsp of water, combine and let sit for ~10 mins)
1 c pumpkin puree
1 c mashed banana
1 c vegan chocolate chips (the regular chocolate chips at Trader Joe’s and Costco are vegan)
Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9×13 pan.
Combine flour through spices with a whisk in a medium bowl.
In a large bowl, mix sugars, oil, applesauce, and flax eggs until well-combined. Add pumpkin and banana and mix again.
Add flour mixture to liquids bowl and carefully combine with spatula (do not overmix).
Fold in chocolate chips.
Pour into 9×13 pan, and bake for 25-35 minutes, until only a few crumbs stick during the toothpick test.
Notes: The applesauce also adds some moisture that an egg would have.
I chose to bake this in a 9×13, rather than loaf pans, so that it would have less height. Eggs help a baked good to keep structure, and a 9×13 sheet cake needs less height and structure than a loaf.
Photo of the vegan chocolate chips from Costco, in case you need help 😜
Recipe adapted from this great one. I did once make it according to that exact recipe (subbing chocolate chips for pecans), and it was very delicious.