When I was five I started cooking with my grandmother and mother. Cooking and baking became a large part of my life from that point on. I was very lucky to understand the importance of good food; I used local food as much as possible and frequented organic farms when I had the chance. For years I baked Challah every Shabbat (Friday) and for the past 40+ years make 4000 holiday cookies...every year. I was always a cook and an eater, becoming a chef didn't fit into my plans until later.
For as long as I can remember I have cooked, canned, and baked for myself and my friends. A stop at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh's Culinary Program afforded me the official title of Certified Chef followed by a few years as the Giant Eagle Market District as a demo chef. This morphed into a personal chef opportunity which unfortunately skidded to a halt before it began. Cooking as a profession was on hold for the last 6 years due to my husband being in
an accident a few years ago and a bout of breast cancer for me in 2012.
Over the past 6 years I have become a vegan- or what I like to call vegan-ish. I do not eat meat or dairy but I do eat fish. In 2009 I noticed my cholesterol had consistently risen over the last 10 years. At that rate I would soon be a candidate for cholesterol lowering drugs. Nope! I did not want to take anything that wasn’t completely necessary.
A friend told me about how she went vegan- as a result her cholesterol went down 35 points. It was clear this is what I needed to do. By the next week- poof!-I was vegan. I stopped eating meat, cheese, all dairy, eggs and animal fat. Quickly after my transformation, I became obsessed with vegan baking since I am first and foremost a baker. I began to bake all kinds of vegan cookies, brownies, and other goodies. A year after beginning my vegan journey (even with all the goodies!) my cholesterol had dropped 65 points.
Everything was looking good until I was diagnosed with breast cancer. In 2014 after my chemo, radiation, and surgeries, I'd gone back to my Veganish diet. I got a blood test and my cholesterol was higher than when I'd started being a Vegan. Talk about depressing! Sometimes chemo can increase cholesterol so I buckled down and became an even stricter Vegan. Six months after having been really, really good, my cholesterol had gone down to about where I'd started. Still unhappy, I spoke with my doctor and she suggested I eliminate cream (which I'd not had for years) decrease sweets and alcohol and increase fiber. Fewer sweets? Damn.
My husband suggested I stop eating chocolate. Talk about kicking a woman when she's down! My hubby expects ME to give up chocolate? I gave him the “you’re crazy” look and headed to the kitchen. I was committed to making myself a Veganish chocolate snack that was high in fiber, healthy, satisfying AND tasty. This was the beginning of Barb's Bars.
The bars have changed a bit since then- it’s less about the need for my chocolate fix and more about nutrition as a whole. After working on a few different types of bars and giving them to my family and friends we realized that they were delicious, satisfying, and pretty good for you too. I started baking Barb’s Bars professionally in the spring of 2015 and never looked back.
Here’s to thinking outside the box, never making compromises and fueling whatever you do that makes you a badass.
Hugs and Chocolate,
Vegan "Donut" Muffin
Vegan "Donut" Muffin with
Strawberry Rhubarb Compote
I am constantly perusing recipes on my phone. If I find something interesting I place it on my desktop, or if it looks really good, I print it and 95% of the time try it. Because of the internet, my ridiculous collection of cookbooks has been reduced to three shelves instead of six, with a promise to never buy any more COOKBOOKS! That didn't last long when I saw used cookbooks by Alice Medrich on chocolates and desserts. I mean honestly, the most expensive of the four was under $7 and was in Excellent condition. Then there was the Julia child and Jack Peppin cookbook for $1 at a church sale. That is not really buying a cookbook, it is a donation. I delude myself often!!
My latest recipe find was Donut Muffins from the King Arthur website. I dislike muffins-if I want cake I will eat cake- but Iove donuts but don't eat them because they don't "agree with me." That is such a funny saying, like the donut is pro life and I am pro choice, it doesn't agree with me so I won't eat it. No, it repeats on me, yet another funny expression, as if all day it reminds me I ate a donut. Well that is actually exactly what it does! I digress, I made this muffin immediately because if it tastes like a donut...nirvana!
I made the recipe as is, almost, I added a strawberry rhubarb layer (it is RHUBARB season) and it was incredible. It tasted like a DONUT! So knowing the recipe works, the next step was to make it vegan! I have had many many failures trying this transition but have gotten to the point where I know what will work and what will not.. I have become fearless with flaxseed meal. I immediately substituted 1 T of flaxseed for each egg with 3 T of water. The butter was changed out for Vegan Smart Balance.
So here is the recipe.