Fusion Challenge: Pumpkin Biscuits for Humans and Dogs

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Day 30: Fusion Challenge!

Oh boy, I am taking some LIBERTIES with this prompt.

Typically, “fusion” food combines elements of two (or more) culinary traditions — like curry burritos or Thai pineapple pizza (!). I’m all for merging the best of the best to create super-delicious meals with bold flavors. I even recipe tested for Joni Marie Newman’s fusion-inspired cookbook, Fusion Food in the Vegan Kitchen. But I’m looking at fusion food from a different lens today… the lens of “combining human and dog food.”


Backstory first. Working at The Humane Society of the United States means that I get to bring my dogs to work. We have a strong Pets in the Workplace policy, along with a committee that governs it. It’s a win for humans and dogs alike, in so many ways. But a few weeks ago, we learned that at least one office dog had bordatella, a highly contagious bacterial infection. On the advice of our staff veterinarians, the committee temporarily suspended the PIW policy. For two weeks, our canine companions stayed home, and we humans remembered what it’s like to work somewhere that doesn’t allow dogs. I missed the frequent excuses to get outside, the sound of the occasional bark from somewhere in the building, and the morning rituals when my coworkers (dogs and humans!) greet each other. Of course we all appreciated the caution that prompted the suspension, but it was no fun. And I wished I could explain to Moria and Luna that we weren’t abandoning them at home; they’d be able to return eventually.


My babies!

Tomorrow, though, the dogs are back! And I couldn’t be more excited. I knew I wanted to bake some dog treats to give out to any pup I see tomorrow, and then I thought… why not make some people treats, too? The ultimate fusion food!

(Am I stretching it? Eh. Too bad.)

Dog and People Biscuits

My strategy was to create a base dough that’s then separated in half and flavored for each species. The human variety has sugar and spices, while the dog variety has oats and extra molasses. Note that although you can definitely eat your canine companion’s biscuits, she shouldn’t eat yours — at least not if you include the nutmeg, which isn’t good for pups. And no, these aren’t the most exciting human biscuits, but I have a secret love for chewy, doughy, mildly flavored things I can snack on!

Ed. note: Okay, this is embarrassing. The human biscuits are… not great… the day after baking, so I can’t really recommend them. Instead, you can double the dog-biscuit ingredients and make a LOT of dog treats, or halve the first set of ingredients. I’m sorry!

Pumpkin Biscuits Two Ways
Makes many tiny biscuits

  • 1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, softened
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 1 1/2 T blackstrap molasses
  • 1 T cinnamon

For the human biscuits (not recommended)

  • 1 cup + 1 T all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp cloves

For the dog biscuits

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cup rolled oats

Combine the first set of ingredients in a large bowl, then split the dough and move one half into a new bowl. Preheat the oven to 350˚ and oil two cookie pans.

This second bowl will be your human-biscuit bowl. Add all the human-biscuit (HB) ingredients and mix until well-combined; it will take a few minutes to come together. Refrigerate this dough while you prepare the dog-biscuit (DB) dough. To do that, mix in all the DB ingredients. Refrigerate that dough while you roll out the HB dough.

Roll out he HB dough on a well-floured surface with a rolling pin. Using your favorite cookie cutters, cut the dough into shapes. Repeat the process with the DB dough. If your cookie cutters are vastly different sizes, try to group the small biscuits on a single sheet and the large biscuits on another sheet.

Bake small biscuits for about 15 minutes and larger ones for about 18. They’ll harden as they cool, so don’t worry if they’re soft when they come out of the oven.


And with that, I say goodbye to Mofo 2015! I’ve been a little burned out this past week, so honestly I’m not sorry it’s over! But I do like the prompts — Steven and I are already musing about ways to incorporate fun/surprise prompts into my blogging practice, and I have some good ideas. Stay tuned!

…and now I’m gonna go eat some roasted potatoes and Gardein tenders. Night, y’all!

Road Trippin’

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Day 29: What would you bring on a vegan road trip?

Ha! This prompt is, shall we say, apt. Like anyone who lives juuust too close to family to justify flying, my life involves a lot of road trips. Getting to my parents’ house in Rhode Island from our place in Maryland typically takes eight hours, give or take. (I prefer take.) We’ve had a few nightmarish trips that lasted 11+ hours — not so bad if you’re expecting an 11-hour trip, but pretty bad when your trip is dragging, you’re stuck in traffic, and you just want to collapse in bed because it’s 2:00 in the morning, damn it! Happily, Steven and I have figured out the optimal times to leave to avoid rush hour, so we’ve got Rhode Island road trippin’ down to a science. When we’re both going, we nearly always drive. If it’s just me, though, I’ll leave our single car in Maryland and take advantage of a Southwest sale (they can be as low as $59 each way!) to enjoy the easy-breezy one-hour flight. Or I’ll take the train, which is about six hours long but is a very pretty ride.

Basically, I have road trip cred. (And I haven’t even mentioned the zillions of other road trips I’ve taken, including a month-long trip around the country with my parents and two siblings!)

Now, an eight-hour road trip doesn’t require a ton of snacks, but let’s get real — snacks are as much to keep you busy as to satiate any growling stomachs. Often, I’ll bake a loaf of quick bread or a batch of muffins ahead of time, then supplement with a good variety of crunchy snacks… and water! Because you have to have water.

I’ve actually talked quite a bit about snacking while traveling in the past, because I like to keep my life full of travel-requiring adventures. Most of my tips are for packing snacks for a long journey by plane, but most of the same principles apply to road trips.

Take, for example, my pack o’ snacks from a trip to Italy a few years ago.

Maybe it’s a bit much for a single road trip, but for international travel? Totally appropriate. I packed even more food when I went to New Zealand this past April — because sometimes you need your “travel” snacks to do double duty as regular snacks, just in case you find yourself with an empty tummy in a vegan desert! My strategy is generally pretty simple: give yourself a good mix of sweet and savory, make sure to include truly healthy options, and love thy bars!

Team Burrito!

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Day 28: Tacos vs. Burritos. Where do you stand on this important issue?

This is too easy. I am wholeheartedly, always and forever, on #teamburrito. Sorry, tiny tacos.

My #1 reason for being pro-burrito is purely pragmatic: Burritos are easier and cleaner to eat! Consider the taco’s construction: It’s basically a tortilla folded in half, but left open on the top and sides. Whether you’re eating soft or hard tacos, so much of the taco filling is exposed that it inevitably comes out. Maybe you’re a weirdo who enjoys it, but I hate the feeling of drippy taco juices streaming out and onto my fingers. So much wasted flavor! So much mess! Plus, that open concept means that more of the filling’s surface is exposed to the outside air. More exposed surface area = more air passing over the filling = a filling that gets colder faster! You can keep your rapidly cooling, inevitably messy taco — I prefer the clean convenience and tightly wrapped warmth of a burrito. Its superior construction means you can add more filling, too, because you don’t have to worry about overstuffing it and having it start falling out the sides.

Not only does a burrito itself stay hotter longer than a taco, but the fact that you stuff all your ingredients in your burrito means that you don’t have to keep those disparate ingredients warm while you’re eating. With a taco, you usually make one at a time, so you’re on the hook to make sure all your ingredients are still warm and ready to go by the time you make the next one. Plus, think of all that wasted time making a new taco! You could be spending that time eating your single, delicious, hot burrito. And let’s get real — a single taco will never fill you up. You have to eat at least three, which means you have three chances for a catastrophic failure, and three times the amount of frustration. I don’t know about you, but frustration is not the feeling I want while I’m eating my dinner!

Now, it’s true that the secret to a compact, secure burrito is all in the wrapping, and it can take a few tries to get it right. But once you do, your burrito most likely won’t let you down! Practicing the art of burrito-wrapping is well-worth your time so you can avoid any unfortunate unraveling incidents.

Truth be told, I grew up eating tacos. But they were always more frustrating than they should have been — whether the hard shell broke in half at my first bite or the soft shell leaked, tacos always had some fatal flaw. I eventually found myself wrapping the bottoms of soft shells, creating a rudimentary proto-burrito in a desperate attempt to corral all the wayward fillings. These days, I forgo the frustration and skip straight to a trusty burrito.

I have zero burrito photos for you today, because we all know what a burrito looks like. I did eat a burrito bowl (a burrito’s inadequate cousin!) for lunch, but frankly it wasn’t very attractive. Refried beans are just not nice to look at.

So… are you #teamburrito or #teamtaco?!


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Day 27: Favorite herb or spice?

You’d think this prompt would inspire my typical “BUT I CAN’T CHOOSE A FAVORITE!” panic, but it doesn’t! Happily, one spice pushed its way forward without me even giving the question much thought: cumin! I love cumin because of its versatility. It pairs well with so many other spices, and it’s an essential component of lots of flavor profiles. Just imagine taco seasoning or a curry paste without cumin — it’s too crazy to contemplate (regional variants notwithstanding)! A quick search of my blog using the “cumin” keyword reveals lots of mentions throughout the years; I guess I chose wisely! For example, this red lentil soup wouldn’t be the same without cumin.

Sweet Potato & Red Lentil Soup

Hmm… I should’ve called that a stew, not a soup! It’s so thick. Delicious either way, though.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to figure out a way to incorporate cumin into tonight’s dinner!

Snow Drift/Pantry Challenge

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Day 26: It’s cold and rainy and there’s a snow drift outside your door! 

Wow, it’s cold and rainy and there’s a snow drift?! That’s some weather. Thanks, climate change! Truly, this prompt is really just a pantry challenge — and y’all know how I love a pantry challenge!

I had to set some ground rules for this prompt, though. Roots Market — one of my favorite local grocers — has been celebrating its “grand reopening” throughout the last week, and they’ve been running some great sales. I headed out to Clarksville to stop by and pick up some goodies, like Califia Farms almond milk (two for $7!) and a few Gardein items (buy one, get one free!), along with a pound of organic almonds (on sale for $5.99/lb!). But I didn’t think it would be fair to include anything I bought today, since I wouldn’t have been able to make it out of the house with that big ol’ cold/rain/snowdrift keeping me in. Instead, I used ingredients I already had to put together a super simple, super comforting kale and yellow split pea soup.

Kale and Yellow Split Pea Soup

Truthfully, I didn’t measure everything I put in this soup. If I were snowbound, I likely wouldn’t be worrying about keeping track of everything! And in a soup like this, the proportions don’t really matter; you can’t go wrong. This particular soup was nice and brothy, with lots of kale. Roughly, here’s what went in:

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 big bag of Tuscan kale (from TJ’s)
  • ~1 cup dried yellow split peas
  • ~6 cups water + concentrated veg broth
  • Lotsa spices (coriander, cumin, onion powder, turmeric)

This is exactly the type of thing I’d make on a snow day! I’d also whip up a loaf of crusty homemade bread — because what could be better than hot straight-out-of-the-oven bread when it’s cold outside?! Today, I used this recipe, because I wasn’t in the mood to knead the dough. I don’t have a Dutch oven, so I cooked it in a cast-iron skillet instead. And I didn’t include any herbs because I wanted a simpler bread. It was so simple and surprisingly good. Again, perfect for a snow day! (Or, y’know, a somewhat cool early fall day. Same thing?)

My Favorite Cuisine?!

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Day 25: Share your favorite cuisine.

Hmph! Today’s prompt is tough; I’m hard-pressed to think of a cuisine I don’t like! My thought process is going something like this:

“I really love Indian food. Dal, curry, naan… is there anything BAD about Indian food?! Nope. I could eat it forever. Oh, but what about Thai? Man. Those flavors are seriously some of my favorite. And I love noodles. Although I also love guacamole. Mmm… Mexican. Really anything from Viva Vegan! is good…”

Can I just say that my favorite cuisine is “anything delicious” and be done with it? Sigh. I’m so boring and indecisive. Really, though, my favorite genre of food is hearty, homey, comfort food. And for me, that’s a blanket term that encompasses quite a few individual ethnic cuisines. For example, I don’t really think of mashed potatoes as comfort food, like a lot of Americans do. But a big ol’ yellow split pea dal? Oh yes, sign me up. And there’s nothing like risotto for a warm-your-belly meal that seems much more complex than it really is.

Butternut Squash Risotto with Sage and Toasted Hazelnuts

Comfort food can be sweet, too — like apple crisp, which reminds me of my mom, or angel cake, which reminds me of my grandma. (Although angel food cake has yet to be veganized, it’s coming! Go aquafaba!)

So maybe this is a cop-out, but hey — my favorite cuisine is comfort food and I ain’t ashamed of it.

Jane Goes Vegan

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Day 24: What [insert well known person] would eat if they were vegan. 

Oh, this is a prompt that I just love! There are so many directions to take it: current pop culture figure who’s super-duper not vegan, politico who you’d like to imagine as vegan, historical figure who would probably have been vegan if s/he were alive today… so many fun thought-experiments! I briefly toyed with the idea of focusing on a distant relative of mine, John Greenleaf Whittier. He was a Quaker poet and an outspoken abolitionist during the mid 1800s, and I like to think that he would have been more than receptive to veganism, thanks to his deep and abiding compassion. Just look at this Wikipedia quote (emphasis mine):

“In 1833, Whittier published the antislavery pamphlet Justice and Expediency, and from there dedicated the next twenty years of his life to the abolitionist cause. The controversial pamphlet destroyed all of his political hopes — as his demand for immediate emancipation alienated both northern businessmen and southern slaveholders — but it also sealed his commitment to a cause that he deemed morally correct and socially necessary. He was a founding member of the American Anti-Slavery Society and signed the Anti-Slavery Declaration of 1833, which he often considered the most significant action of his life.”

Awesome as Whittier was, I ultimately knew there was a different author I wanted to choose: the one, the only, Jane Austen. I’m currently reading Jane’s Fame, an exploration of how her fame has waxed and waned over the years, and it’s fascinating. There have been so-called Janeites from nearly every walk of life, and her novels have made their way into unlikely places — like the trenches during the first world war. The evolution of literary criticism — and how those changes affect Austen criticism — is fascinating to me as a one-time English major. Jane it is!

Book with a turquoise cloth cover, which features the feet and legs of folks dancing in old-fashioned clothes.

I was tempted to choose an Austen novel for the book/film prompt, but her books include a surprisingly small number of explicitly mentioned foodstuffs, and nothing really appealed to me. This prompt is a much better fit, though: Now I can play around with the entire Regency period’s palate! As it turns out, the Regency period ushered in some fairly substantial changes in dining habits — like the introduction of lunch (because breakfast was eaten earlier and dinner later). Most of these changes, of course, started with the upper class, the people who were in high society and needed to keep up with their trendy neighbors. The Austens were solidly middle-class (some higher-class acquaintances thought Jane herself a bit low-class and vulgar), so it’s hard to say how many of these changes would have trickled down to her family.

The good news for our cause, though, is that Jane was an avid letter-writer. Although her steadfast sister Cassandra destroyed many letters before her death, those that remain give us a little glimpse into what we might’ve found on Jane’s table. There are also two extant cookbooks used by friends and family close to Jane. Dining with Austen uses those resources to recreate recipes from Jane’s time. It promises to be a great resource for food Jane herself might have eaten; although it’s still a work in progress, the ultimate goal is a Jane-centric cookbook. For this prompt, I’m going to take it from the top and share my ideas on what vegan delicacies a day in the life of Jane might have featured. I’m trying to stay true to ingredients that the Austens would have been able to access — no Chao cheese or hemp milk here!


The Austens probably sat down around 9:00 or 10:00 with a pot of tea. Although breakfasts used to be heavy (I’m thinking of the full English breakfasts Jenny has been tantalizing us with!), by this time, they were probably simpler. Jane might have had some homemade bread with jam, canned from the previous year’s harvest. Or maybe she would have had something a little heavier, like a piece of spiced cake or a scone or two.

My recipe calls for spelt flour, coconut milk, and vanilla extract, but the Austens’ cook could substitute regular wheat flour, homemade oat milk (since oats would be easier to access than almonds and could be manually ground), and any other extract they had on hand. Jane’s tea could be sweetened with a lump of sugar and some of that oat milk, if necessary.


Jane’s midday meal wouldn’t have been anything fancy — maybe some small cold sandwiches of homemade bread and any vegetables that were on hand. The Austens would have eaten these sandwiches with knives and forks after they’d been cut into small triangles. On the side, Jane could snack on fresh fruit and leftover cake from breakfast. This was a light meal to tide her over until dinner. Perhaps the cook could have experimented with something like my Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup Sandwich!

Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup Sandwich

Other than the nutritional yeast, I think they would have been able to manage something similar! Even the pickles on the side would have been welcome — pickled veggies were quite the fad.


This was the largest meal of the day, and by the early 1800s, Jane’s family had begun eating it around 5:00 pm — a big change from their previous dining time of 3:00! Dinner would have consisted of many courses and much variety, including something like my Warm Lentil & Brussels Sprout Salad with Roasted Radicchio Wedges.

Warm Lentil & Brussels Sprout Salad with Roasted Radicchio Wedges

With a few simple substitutions, this nourishing, warm dish would have been entirely possible. Or maybe they would have served a soup.

Kale and White Bean Soup

The cook could have managed Kale and White Bean Soup easily enough! Jane might also have eaten whatever veggies were in season, sauteed in oil instead of the rich, buttery sauces that were popular at the time. She would have sipped wine with her meal, and rounded it off with dried fruit, nuts, and some kind of sweet — maybe candied ginger or something heavier, like cake.


If Jane stayed up late, she might have another bowl of soup around 10:00 or 11:00 pm, along with another glass of wine — or maybe negus, a nasty-sounding gelatinous beverage made with water, wine, lemon juice, spices, and, traditionally, calves-foot jelly. Jane’s vegan version would strip out the jelly and be more of a mulled wine. ;)


That was fun! And now I’m inspired to research what ingredients were available to Jane so I can recreate some of her family’s recipes. Maybe that will be next year’s MoFo theme!