Where’s the Vegan Yarn?

Hemp, Modal, and Cotton Blend Yarn

Why vegan yarns?  I have just one word for you and that word is ‘mulesing’.  I don’t think I will ever buy wool again after finding this word on a PETA site and innocently looking it up.  Nope, no wool for me.

One of the things that I like about Portland is that when I walked into my local yarn shop and asked for vegan yarn–no wool, cashmere, silk, merino, alpaca, mink top coat blend, or angora–the shop owner didn’t even hesitate, and, pointed me to a section of vegetable fiber yarns.  The prices ranged from $8-$18 for yarns made of bamboo, hemp, modal [rayon made form birch tree cellulose], cotton, and linen.  The bamboo yarn was incredibly, unbelievably soft but the linen was at the far end of stiff and scratchy. One problem was that the skeins were the size and gauge of  baby yarn.  The knitting needles that were recommended started at 2 and went only as high as 5.  I prefer a nice size 9 needle so this was disappointing.  Another issue was the limited number of skeins in the same dye lot.  Since the skeins are so small, it would take a lot of yarn to make a sweater and there was no guarantee that I could get enough from the same dye lot.  It seemed that the best solutions were 1] find a supplier with larger size yarn gauges, 2] find a cheap polyester, rayon, acrylic yarn that doesn’t become frizzy and ruin hundreds of hours of hard work,  and 3] learn to use several colors to make the best use of small dye lots.  I purchased two skeins of a hemp, modal, cotton blend and decided to finally learn how to carry color.  Since this was a vegan project I decided to make a row of bunnies as my test swatch.  You can also check out my project description on the knitting website Ravelry at http://www.ravelry.com/projects/shellbackgirl/vegan-yarn-test-swatch


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Molasses Apple Sauce Cake

I attended an Animal Law Conference and one of the presentations was on the vegan diet and the unique nutritional needs of a vegan.  I immediately bought a stronger dosage of B12 and a bottle of black strap molasses.  Black strap molasses has iron, calcium, potassium, and a flavor that takes getting used to.  I tried it in coffee, coconut milk, and on cecina [see my recipe for this garbanzo flour cake].  Then I decided to make an energy bar or cake for my lunches this week!

9″ cast iron pan that is well-seasoned [cooking acidic foods like applesauce in cast iron also increases the iron content in the cake]

16 0z can of unsweetened apple sauce

1 large pear – diced

3 tablespoons molasses

2 cups raw oats

1 heaping tablespoon of flax meal mixed with 3 tablespoons of water to replace egg

1/4 cup golden flax seeds

1 cup hulled sunflower seeds

Combine all and pour into an oiled 9″ cast iron pan.  Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about a half hour.  The dark color of the molasses will make it hard to see a golden surface so I tapped the surface of the cake until it made the hollow noise you hear when a loaf of bread is done.

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Tuscan Garbonzo Flour Cake or Cecina

I was so happy to find this recipe using only garbonzo bean flour, olive oil, and salt.  After buying a large quantity of unusual flours for gluten-free bread, I am still looking for inventive ways to use these flours.   This cake can be savory with ragu poured over it or sprinkled with red pepper flakes and vegan Parmesan [as seen above].  If the cake is made with less salt, it can be served with molasses [just in case you are adding the iron, calcium and potassium-rich black strap molasses to your diet].  Lastly, if you use a thinner layer of batter the result will be a flat bread while this recipe produces a soft-centered cake that reminds me of polenta.

2 cups garbanzo bean flour

3 cups water

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons sea salt

9″ cast iron pan that is well-seasoned

Pre-heat oven to 500 degrees.  Allow pan to heat in oven for 5 minutes.  Use a blender to make a smooth batter.  Pour batter into the oiled pan and bake at 500 degrees for 12-14 minutes.  Then open the oven door a bit and allow the cecina to cook for 6 minutes more.  The surface should be golden.  Allow to cool for ten minutes before slicing.

If you pour less batter, be sure to keep an eye on the flat bread and adjust your cooking times.

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Roasted Cauliflower Instead of Vegan “Junk Food”

Roasted Cauliflower

I realized that one of the pitfalls of being vegan is that it is so easy to become a “junk food vegan”.  I was baking vegan cupcakes instead of roasting vegetables and eating bread instead of beans.  I realized the error of my ways and looked for new, healthy recipes.  I came across a great recipe for roasted cauliflower.  I really like this dish, especially with a coconut oil-based vegan butter.

Take one large cauliflower and place it in a casserole dish.  (I sliced mine up a little but that isn’t necessary.)  Paint the surface of the cauliflower with olive oil and add seasoning.  I used salt, pepper, paprika, tumeric, and onion powder.  Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour and serve with a vegan “butter”.

Seasoned Cauliflower Ready To Go Into The Oven

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Hummus Made With Garbanzo Bean Flour

Hummus Made With Garbanzo Bean Flour

Once I started making gluten-free baked goods, I started to wonder what else I could do with all of the unusual flours filling my shelves.  This recipe uses garbanzo flour rather than whole beans.  The result is incredibly smooth.  Please note that when this hummus is stored overnight in the refrigerator, some of the water separates out and will need to be stirred before serving.

1/4 cup olive oil

1-2 tablespoons of minced garlic

Combine the oil and garlic in a pan.  Sautee until the garlic is lightly browned.  Add:

2 and 1/4 cups water

3/4 cup garbanzo flour

1 lemon’s juice and zest

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Stir these together over medium heat.  Hummus will begin to thicken.  Stir constantly.

Pour into a bowl to cool.  Stir again before serving.

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Vegan Gluten-Free Cupcakes That Are Good For Orangutans!

Vegan Gluten-Free Orange Zest Cupcakes With Coconut Oil Frosting

This recipe replaces palm oil with coconut oil because of the negative environmental impact of the palm oil industry.  The palm oil plantations in Indonesia are threatening and destroying orangutan habitats.  See the following article in The Guardian for a story about fires set to clear an area for palm oil which is a prime orangutan habitat. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/jun/29/fires-indonesia-orangutan  

“Environmentalists claim that satellite images show a huge surge in forest blazes across the Tripa peat swamp in order to create palm oil plantations, including areas that have not been permitted for clearing.  Tripa is home to a tight-knit enclave of around 200 critically endangered orangutans. However, this number has plummeted from an estimated population of 3,000.”  The Guardian 29 June 2012.


2 cups of brown rice

1 cup garbanzo bean flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 and 1/2 cups liquid [water, orange juice or other fruit juice]

1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

2 teaspoons flavored extract [vanilla, almond, orange, etc]

1 and 1/2 cups liquid sweetener [agave, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, pear juice concentrate]

1 heaping teaspoon of dry flavors [cinnamon, cardamon, lemon or orange zest, et cetera]

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line cupcake pan with 17 cups.  [I know it’s an unusual number.]
  3. Mix dry ingredients in one bowl and liquid ingredients in another.  Whisk dry ingredients into the liquids.
  4. Fill cups almost to the top because the batter does not rise very much.  Bake for about 15 minutes until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean.
  5. Note:  The ingredients in bold are the ones I used in my test batch.

BASIC COCONUT OIL FROSTING [in warm weather keep cupcakes refrigerated after frosting]

1 cup coconut oil

6 cups organic powdered cane sugar [Read labels and find powdered cane sugar that was not filtered through animal by-products/bones]

pinch of sea salt

1/4 cup liquid sweetener [agave, fruit juice concentrate]

1 tablespoon extract [vanilla, orange, almond, etc.]

  1. Put the coconut oil and HALF of the powdered sugar in a standing mixer with a paddle attachment.  Beat until soft.
  2. Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl.  With mixer on a low speed, add contents of the bowl to mixer.
  3. For a fluffy consistency, you may need to put the mixer on high speed for 2-3 minutes.  Add powdered sugar or hot water as needed for correct texture.
  4. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes or store in a refrigerator for a week.  If stored, it may be necessary to soften the frosting with a double boiler and then whip until fluffy.
  5. The ingredients in bold are the choices I made for my test batch.
  6. This frosting melts easily in warm weather.  Store cupcakes in refrigerator.

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Vegan Transition

Here are some of the changes I have made in an effort to “go vegan”.

Purses, belts, and shoes = no leather [Watch out for suede in odd places!  I bought a pair of rubber-soled, fabric shoes from Toms which I thought were animal-free.  When I got them home I took a close look at the insoles which turned out to be suede.  Check online to see which patterns are vegan-friendly.]

Jewelry = no coral, pearls, mother of pearl, abalone

Clothes = no wool, silk, angora, alpaca, merino, cashmere,

Toiletries and Cosmetics = no lanolin, beeswax, sea sponges [loufa are from a vegetable, though], or other animal by products.  I have started changing my make up to vegan and recently bought vegan lipstick and foundation.  I am very happy with the feel and color of the products, but, the price left me feeling like I had shopped in a department store rather than a health food store!  $16 lipstick and $29 foundation.

Foods = no meat, seafood, eggs, milk, whey, casein, white sugar [due to bones in processing], lecithin [unless plant-based], honey, butter, yogurt, jello, pudding, butter, cheese, albumin,

Important additions:  supplements to insure appropriate iron and healthy teeth [Vitamins K2, D3, A,  olive oil and coconut oil.  The high rate of cavities among vegans is a concern for me].  It’s important to check on the sources of supplements to be sure the product is plant-based.

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