Why a vegan orange cranberry bread was stuck in my head, I’m not sure. I never baked one. In fact, my family grew up on canned cranberry jelly, and oranges never made it into cakes in our house. Orange cranberry bread, vegan or otherwise, never crossed my mother’s radar. So, I took what lessons I’ve learned from my 2020 vegan baking test kitchen and came up with an instant favorite in my growing quick bread repertoire – vegan orange cranberry bread with fresh cranberries.
Vegan orange cranberry bread recipe tips
This pandemic year I’ve tried a number of different approaches to vegan quick breads. For this vegan orange cranberry bread I am giving you the 3 secrets I’ve discovered for a truly mouth-watering experience:
Fresh juice and zest
Vegan orange cranberry bread best ingredients
1. Choosing fresh, frozen or dried cranberries
This year I bought two lbs. of cranberries at a great in season price. I’ve never felt savvy with cranberries, and the dried ones have too much added sugar for my liking. I had no idea what I was going to do with the cranberries once I got them home, but I couldn’t pass up on a grocery bargain.
Use fresh cranberries for a vegan orange cranberry bread bursting with flavor.
You can’t just eat cranberries. Well, you can technically. They are too tart for the average palate to eat alone, which is why the dried versions have so much sugar added to them. Many people like baking with the dried, because then you don’t have to add extra sugar to compensate for the tartness. It’s also convenient to keep ingredients like dried cranberries in the baking closet.
Since going vegan three years ago, I feel so much healthier with my plant-based choices and less junk in my diet. Trust me, I know from experience that just because you eat vegan does not mean you eat healthy. So I pay ever closer attention to plant-based choices.
I also want my plant-based baking to be as healthy as possible. And there's not a whole lot out there that can beat the power that cranberries pack. Fresh cranberries are bursting with antioxidants, and their remarkable tangy flavor makes a New Englander proud. I like taking the extra step with fresh fruit. Frozen cranberries work well, too, as long as they have nothing added to them. Don't thaw them before baking.
2. Oranges instead of orange juice
The orange cranberry bread recipe calls for ¾ cup of orange juice, and I had just finished drinking the last bit in the OJ carton. But the two oranges in the fridge gave me exactly ¾ cup of juice, and the needed amount of orange zest. Logically you’d think, hey, if these fresh cranberries are so tart, why add orange zest, too? Don’t think, just add it. We’re talking about the balancing of some bold flavors here. As for the orange juice, I squeezed as much of the pulp out as well. Texture and zest, oh yes.
Whenever you bake, you want to add something acidic. In other recipes I may use a couple of tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice, and that’s plenty. We can use a lot more orange juice here because it has natural sugars.
3. Tofu and cornstarch for light texture
Adding tofu to quick breads has been a huge revelation for me. I’ve tried a variety of egg replacements, with flaxseed and water as my go-to substitute or apple sauce, They both work, but the result is not always as fluffy as I hope. So, finding this combination of tofu and cornstarch creates a pound cake-like texture in your quick breads. Yum!
Previous to this recipe, I had been testing a variety of egg substitutes. You can buy blends at the store that are labeled egg replacements, but I prefer to know a few basics so as not to become reliable on yet another premade product.
I’ve noticed some bakers insist that only silken tofu is acceptable for baking. I say that’s hogwash. The basic difference between the firm qualities of tofu is the water content. If you are concerned with limiting your water content in a recipe, use the firmest tofu you can find. It makes little difference since once it goes in the blender, as it will become smooth.
Tofu is processed, of course. Even so, the health benefits of tofu make this a magical ingredient to add to the quick bread. The reports from tofu medical studies have been better than most Westerners expected or even hoped. Below is an excerpt from a WebMD report that lists some of the more surprising health benefits:
Coronary heart disease. Plant estrogens may help make it less likely that you'll get heart trouble. That's because they improve how well your endothelium works. That's the tissue that lines your blood vessels and the inside of your heart.
Cholesterol levels. Research shows that if you eat 10 ounces of tofu a day, it can lower your levels of LDL “bad” cholesterol by 5%.
Osteoporosis. When estrogen levels go down after menopause, women can lose bone mass. Plant estrogens in tofu can make up for that drop-off. Tofu is also rich in calcium and vitamin D, which is good for bone health, too.
Prostate cancer. If you have this disease, eating tofu may keep your prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels low. This means the cancer grows more slowly or not at all
Below please enjoy my newest addition to my quick bread recipe card box, vegan orange cranberry bread. I almost stopped after blending the liquid ingredients and tofu, since it reminded me of one of my original favorite smoothies – check out my vegan orange protein smoothie for a fund tofu drink, too!
Here is my new favorite festive treat. Sprinkle sugar on top, or make an icing out of powdered sugar, vegan butter and soy milk for an extra decadent treat.
1 medium loaf pan
1 large bowl
measuring spoons and cups
¾cup/180 ml orange juiceabout 2 oranges
1Tbsp.orange zestabout 2 oranges
4oz./ 120 g tofuany firmness
2tsp.pure vanilla extract
2cups/ 25 g flour of your choiceall-purpose or gluten-free (don’t use whole wheat)
2 ½Tbsp/ 25 g cornstarch
1 ½tspbaking powder
1 ¼cupssugaryour choice, or any substitute: coconut sugar, date syrup, maple syrup, xylitol, etc.
1/2 cupcoconut oilor your choice of vegan block butter, 1 stick, melted
2Tbsp.oilI use olive or coconut
Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Line a 4.5 x 8.5 in. loaf pan with a strip of baking parchment, or grease so baked loaf does not stick.
In a small bowl, mix fresh cranberries with 2 tsp. flour until they are well coated. Set aside.
Spin tofu, orange juice and vanilla extract in a blender or processor until smooth.
Place flour, baking powder, baking soda, cornstarch, salt and sugar in a large bowl and whisk to combine. *NOTE: if you use liquid sweetener, blend it with the liquid ingredients first.
Add melted butter, oil and orange zest to the flour mixture and stir until everything is coated.
Gradually cut the wet ingredients into the dry to form a batter. Fold in the cranberries.
Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for about 75 minutes until a thin knife inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean. I like to tent, loosely cover, the top of the cake with tin foil in the last 20-30 minutes of baking so it doesn’t get too dark on top.
Leave the cake to cool in the pan for 20 minutes. You can then carefully turn it out onto a wire rack and let it cool completely before slicing.
Pumpkin bread was not a known recipe in my family growing up. The only quick bread that ever made it to the oven was banana bread, with no additions, no variations. My introduction to pumpkin bread – and its simplicity to bake – came in junior high school home economics class (yep, I’m that old). We not only learned how to bake a quick pumpkin bread, but we also baked it inside the pumpkin puree can that we had brought to school for the lesson.
Pumpkin bread in a can
That was pretty cool, to bring home a pumpkin bread that looked like a can, made all by myself. We had been instructed to bring extra empty cans if possible, as one batch would fit in two or three cans. My mom was amazed, and I had a new love for experimental baking. And pumpkin bread.
There are plenty of places around the web that will show you how to bake in a can, even decorate the cans as gifts. If you want to turn quick breads into DIY Christmas gifts, here’s a good example of how to do it. (WARNING: not a vegan recipe in the link, just an example of DIY baking with cans!)
Balancing healthy and tasty in your pumpkin bread
I’m about the taste, and I’m here to give you my favorite recipe that I’ve developed over time. It calls for oil, which, yes I know, is not the healthiest choice. Yet as one of my favorite chefs Derek Sarno of Wicked Healthy Foodfame says, “If you don’t think it’s healthy, don’t eat it and go make something else. But if you want to taste something that reminds me of my childhood, then this is the way to do it.”
With that, I've gone back to adding oil to my quick breads, and most often it will be coconut oil. You can use applesauce as a replacement if you want to be strict. But I love the lighter texture that you can get with the oil. If you want to go oil-free, just make sure you mix the batter as little as possible.
Baking pumpkin bread is a sweet smelling treat
The aroma of pumpkin bread baking makes the whole house feel toasty. When I was younger I preferred no added options in my quick breads. As I've grown older, I know how nutrient-packed huts and raisins are, so I like to include them – and they are a nice combination with the pumpkin and spices. This time I broke away from my traditional chopped walnuts and added chopped pecans. The pecans have a rich flavor similar to brown sugar – without the added processed sugar.
3Tbsp.orange juice, nut milk or wateradd sparingly if wet ingredients are too thick
1cupoat flourmake with rolled oats in blender/processor
1/2cupalmond meal or flournuts in the blender works
1 1/2 tsp.baking powder
1/4 cupchopped pecans or walnuts(optional)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a loaf pan, or line with parchment paper. Blend all the wet ingredients together until smooth, in a blender or food processor. The consistency should be thick, almost like pudding. If it’s too thick, add the orange juice slowly and sparingly to make it manageable, but not runny.Put all the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl. I run mine through a sifter so I won’t come across chunks of flour or baking soda in the final baked pumpkin bread. Alternatively, you can use a whisking tool to mix the dry ingredients and break up any small clumps.Slowly fold the wet ingredients into the dry, a portion at a time until everything is moist. Do not over mix, as it will make the baked bread come out gummy.. Mix in the nuts and/or raisins. Bake for about 65 mins, or until a knife is inserted and comes out clean. Cool on a rack or heat-safe surface.*A gluten-free flour blend is a nice option here. Regular white or unbleached flour is fine - personally, I’d stay away from whole wheat flour, as it is hard for many to digest.**Or make your own blend: 1 tsp ground cinnamon, ½ tsp ginger powder, ¼ tsp ground cloves, ¼ tsp nutmeg, ¼ tsp allspice. ***Add pecan or walnut halves and pieces to the top before baking. Tent the pan with tin foil for the first 40 minutes so the evans do not burn.
For treats or holiday gifts, pumpkin bread that everyone will love
I can never wait, and always dig in about 5 minutes after it’s out of the oven. Of course, it crumbles all over the place. I suggest letting it cool for an hour or so, letting the pumpkin bread set before cutting. The best is to cut it the next day, when the bread has had a chance to settle.
One thing to note about offering vegan baked goods to non-vegans: they do not always appreciate the effort. Yet this pumpkin bread is so filled with flavor that no one is going to miss the eggs. In addition, you can use nut milk for the water and liquid, but somehow I feel the orange juice is the secret here.
When my mom taught me how to make a big fruit salad for the first course at Thanksgiving, she pulled a carton of orange juice out of the refrigerator. With one finger tapping the side of the carton, she said, “Here, a few splashes of this is the key to a sweet fruit salad.”
I remembered her words as I started to bake. As it turns out, a few splashes of orange juice works great in pumpkin bread, too.
General Tso’s tofu is one of my favorite dishes served in North American Chinese restaurants. Often I see it made with deep-fried tofu chunks, broccoli and a sugary sweet sauce. Because I have a complicated relationship with sugar, I make my own sauce. My new version below is oil-free and low in salt. I made a few replacements, and the result is festive! It’s still sweet, but the sugar substitutes are much easier on the body’s blood sugar levels. It’s my new take on General Tso’s tofu.
I call it Holiday Tsofu.
Comfort food and General Tso’s tofu
It’s Nov. 5, Friday morning of Election 2020 week. As I sit here, looking down at my late breakfast – or early lunch, depending on your view – I note that I’ve slipped into a bit of anxious thinking about the election 2020 that only a big bowl of comfort food can soothe. I’m about to dig into my comfort leftovers, my new holiday dish. I coined it, “Holiday Tsofu.”
How Holiday Tsofu emerged from General Tso’s Tofu
I’ve been cooking and baking this week to ward off the waves of nervous fidgeting that fluctuate with bursts of dance. One moment in the news I’m seeing the promising and growing lead of a voice of reason, the next I see zany claims of a desperado. It was my AVF partner Susanne that suggested some comfort food with a tasty sauce.
When my friend Susanne told me that her elderly mother in Denmark was following the US election closely, it gave me new pause – pause to realize either we are that important globally, or this has been the Best. Soap Opera. Ever.
As comedian Jimmy Kimmel asks, can’t we catch a break and have just one boring day?
To be honest, I did not think I would invest this much time and thought into the election. And I’ll be the first to admit that spending this much time trolling the news feed is not so healthy. Yet no one will deny, in years and decades to come, that this was a most remarkable time in US history.
So caring about good nutrition is part of, not just my therapy, my maintenance.
I love it when something creative blossoms out of stressful weeks. Let me tell you about how the Holiday Tsofu came about.
While chatting with Susanne, gossiping about the election (yes, confessions help, too) I started wondering what to cook for dinner. She sent me a link to her favorite General Tso’s tofu recipe. I took it into the kitchen.
In his recipe post, Andrew Olson of the One Ingredient Chef points out the dubious history of how the name of the dish came about. Personally, I’m solely interested in its comfort value. I was not daunted, either, by the fact that this recipe is a far cry from one ingredient.
Ingredients are easy to interchange. I’ll tell you what I did. I opened the fridge and started pulling candidates out.
The pre-cut cauliflower florets and block of tofu in the refrigerator would go well together. A half of a large red bell pepper would offer a dash of color. The scallion on the counter would work nicely in place of green onions.
In the beginning of my post above I mention blood sugar levels. I want to address how important it is for all of us to be aware of how much sugar and salt we ingest, no matter what our age. Unless you are a strict plant-based whole foods eater, chances are you consume a lot of sugar and sodium unwittingly.
Because so many prepared foods are loaded with salt and sugar, we can avoid some of these pitfalls simply by creating our recipes from scratch and making substitutions.
I always at least halve the salt called for in a recipe, or leave it out altogether.
Many people, for example, think it’s a lot easier to buy bottled General Tso dressing. Bottled dressings often have high fructose syrup or some other refined sugar (and not necessarily vegan) as well as high quantities of salt. You have better control of all that, quickly and conveniently with staples in your own cupboard.
Holiday Tsofu (General Tso's tofu with cauliflower)
Holiday Tsofu is my variation on General Tso's tofu, using cauliflower and red peppers, It's a tasty and festive dish for the holidays that you can serve as an appetizer or main dish with your favorite rice.
Course: Main Course
Keyword: Tofu, Vegan
Author: Michaela Kennedy
2Tbsprice flour or other gluten-free flour
⅛tbspblack pepper or pepper mix
¼tbspchili powder or cayenne (optional)
1smallred bell pepper or ½ large
1 smallor ½ large shallot (or your choice of onion)
¼cuplow-salt soy sauce(60ml)
¼cuprice vinegar (in case your seasoned vinegar has sugar in it, cut back on your sweetener to balance it out)(60ml)
2Tbspmaple or date syrup
Toasted sesame seeds for garnish (I like to grind them)
Chopped cilantro or parsley for garnish (optional)
Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C). I’m going out this weekend to buy an air fryer, which would be great with this recipe.
Drain and press out excess water from the tofu. Then break it up into bite-sized pieces.
Mix up the dry coating ingredients in a shallow bowl, Roll the tofu chunks in the coating and place in a baking pan lined with parchment paper.* Bake for a half hour, or until the chunks are golden brown.
When the tofu is done, prepare the vegetables. Sauté the cauliflower in a pan with a little bit of water. Add the chopped onion and chopped red pepper. Add the sauce and mix it all up, and sauté for 2-3 more minutes. Then mix in the tofu chunks until everything is well blended.
Top with toasted sesame seeds and serve with your favorite rice - I prefer white jasmine or basmati, as my body does not digest brown rice well.
Susanne told me this General Tso's tofu works great in her air fryer, and I’m excited to try it out for myself. But baking is fine. I’ve tried an oil spray or drizzling a tiny bit, but I’ll tell you, I feel so much better when I skip the oil completely.
A smoothie diet has become my go-to remedy when I have not been eating well or want to do an effective detox. If one thing this Covid-19 lockdown has shown me, is how I rely on my daily smoothie to steer me towards wholesome food choices the rest of the day. I don't know about you, but when I got laid off back in March 2020 due to the pandemic, I started baking. I baked, I ate, and I did not make my daily smoothie that I used to take to work every morning. Combine that with some sofa lounging and there I was five weeks later and 10 lbs. heavier. Now I'm not a fan of using the d-word, but if a smoothie diet – or even simply drinking a smoothie as a meal replacement – can melt away the excess weight, I'm all for it.
Sharing the smoothie diet plan
So now it's summer, I'm back to work, and I've let go of the excess weight, thanks to the smoothie diet plan. I've also changed the way I drink smoothies, so I can receive optimum goodness without the sugar spike. Why, you may ask, would anyone have a sugar spike in a smoothie that you don't add sugar to?
If you let your blender do all the work that your mouth would normally do to break down food, it stands to reason that you are flooding your body with calories it can't assimilate all at the same time. This revelation does not mean that a smoothie diet is bad. Dr. Michael Gregor explains how smoothies work in the body in the video below:
Here are a few of the main points that Dr. Gregor makes in the video:
Juices are the only reason that you have a higher blood sugar spike, so we don't want to drink fruit juice, right? We're on whole foods so you know if you just drink juice you throw away all the fiber.
“But smoothies, right, you blend it all together so you have a whole food, right? But the reason they have a higher sugar spike in your bloodstream drinking a smoothie than just actually eating all the fruit, like in a bowl, is not because of the the liquid versus solid. It's the speed of consumption. If you have a big bowl of fruit and you had a green smoothie like well the kale and all that, right? How long it would take you – like awhile – to chew it to get through that
But a smoothie, you pop a straw in, I mean you can suck it down like 60 seconds. That's the only difference. So you just sip your smoothie. Like, how long would it take me to eat the fruit I just made, 20 minutes? Okay well I will sip this smoothie over the next 20 minutes and that's what you do, and then the same blood sugar. You actually absorb more nutrition because you can never chew that good and you're blending up all the stuff, breaking all those cell walls, getting all that wonderful nutrition into your body.
Judging by all the fiber products on the market, we know that fiber is important in our diets. Dr. Gregor explains that when we simply drink juice, we miss out on the polyphenol phytonutrients, the most important components of plant foods. By most estimates, up to 80 percent of these polyphenols are actually attached to the fiber. So, when we juice a carrot or other vegetable or fruit, we throw away the pulp. We away all those polyphenol phytonutrients that are attached to the fiber.
Dr Gregor goes on to say:
If they're attached to the fiber, what good are they to us? Ah, they're good bacteria. When that fiber gets down to our gut, our gut bacteria in our colon eat the fiber and release the polyphenols that get absorbed into our system, circulates through our body, gets up to our brain, helps our eyesight, all those sorts of other things.
And so, you're missing out on all that nutrition that's attached to the fiber when you throw it away. Now if you juice your carrot and then take the pulp, put it back in the juice fine make carrot cake, something, just don't throw it away.
Smoothie diet basics
Knowing how important whole foods are, I hardly ever drink juice anymore. I do love smoothies, nevertheless, so I throw my favorite plant-based goodies into the blender. Many smoothie recipes suggest adding some juice or nut milk. But following the advice above i don't want to overwhelm my smoothie diet with unnecessary ingredients, so I always choose water as the liquid base. This is my personal choice. I'd rather eat nuts than drink them with out the fiber goodness.
Here is my basic outline for smoothies:
2-3 helpings of greens – a scoop of your favorite greens powder and greens other than leafy may be included, such as cucumbers and celery.
1-2 helpings of fruit – I usually add berries and one more, like mango, banana or dates
water – add a cup, more or less to your own liking, or water + ice.
herbs – a thumbnail of ginger, a tsp. of cinnamon, a pinch of fennel seeds, or try different favorites for flavor.
flaxseeds – a staple for vegans, throwing it in the smoothie diet is an easy way to get your daily tablespoon of flaxseed nutrition.
Join us in the smoothie diet challenge!
Are you looking for a quick solution to start feeling better and dropping excess weight? If you're looking for a complete life transformation over the next three weeks, then you’re in the right place! Whether you need to lose the last 5-10 lbs or you want to get rid of 40lbs or more, this will work for you. This diet is extremely flexible so even though this program is 21 days you can continue using it for as along as you want to lose as much weight as you want!
Fermented foods are strong allies in our goals to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Fermented foods – and I’m not talking the alcoholic drink type – are bursting with probiotics that help feed a healthy digestive tract. Yet the probiotics that flourish in the fermentation process are delicate, and have a long road to travel from the barrel to our stomachs. We want to protect that journey as much as we can, so these living bacteria may live on in our guts.
Just walk away from the fermented drinks
Quick-witted companies these days are producing ‘probiotic-rich’ fermented drinks, non-dairy yogurts, and other single-serve, on-the-run so-called healthy boosts (more like profit boosts). The advertising for kombucha, nut yogurts and other fermented treats are attractive. Hate to break it to you, but all the sugar added to these convenient treats nullify the benefits that come from fermented foods and fermented drinks.
If you still want to buy these products, at least check the ingredients and watch for refined sugar. Sugar in a refined form is simply not helpful for good body maintenance (and it may not even be vegan).
Want a quick probiotic drink? Put a tablespoon of unfiltered apple cider vinegar into water, a smoothie, or other beverage. Well, okay, it may not be exactly probiotic. But ACV does contain good bacteria that can contribute to gut health. Do this one to three times a day and you’ll feel the benefits. Don't overdo it, though, in case your body is sensitive.
My introduction to the health benefits of fermented foods
When I lived in Japan, my friends delighted in teaching me how to cook Japanese style. They all had their own particular family ways to make miso soup, and I practiced diligently. The number one common and crucial factor I remembered from all of those lessons is:
never boil the miso.
You do not want to kill all the good bacteria, my friends would say. At that time, an aha moment about fermented foods came to me that, I believe, many of us here in the West have overlooked. We’ve been boiling, frying and roasting the probiotics out of our foods.
Growing up at my house and at every house I ate, vegetables were boiled to mush. If they were still crisp, back they went onto the stove. Sauerkraut came out of cans – already an assault on healthy microbes – and then thrown into a pot with a chopped up apple to cut the bitter edge of the fermented cabbage. If any bacteria survived the can, they were doomed to be boiled alive.
The ignorance I grew up with in regards to a healthy diet was breathtaking.
I learned a valuable lesson about preserving the integrity of food from my Japanese cooking buddies. I ate a lot of kimchi, Korean spicy pickled cabbage, while there, too. After returning to the States, I reintroduced sauerkraut – pretty much kimchi without the hot pepper – to my diet in a healthier, more robust way: no more boiling.
I can laugh nowadays about the food beliefs I was raised with. Boiled was the only cabbage recipe in the house. The closest I got to raw was the coleslaw from KFC, which was loaded with sugar. I still remember the first time I ate a cold salad of shredded raw cabbage with a dressing. Fermentation moves this delicious, versatile vegetable from a healthy food to a super-nutrient boost.
Buy or make your own fermented foods
Personally, I can't be bothered taking probiotics in pill form. I want to know I'm eating live goodness. If you buy fermented foods like sauerkraut, the brands found in the produce refrigerated section will be fresher and filled with many more gut-pleasing microbes than in jars or cans. Making your own is easy, and here is a simple recipe for you.
Dave and Steve from The Happy Pear demonstrate a quick and easy basic recipe for any fermented vegetable of your choice. The lactic acid process explained in the video is a recipe with simply salt and water – no animals involved.
In The Happy Pear’s video, the pickled veggies start at 02:22
Photo source:Fermented vegetable jar by Kim Daniels on Unsplash