Nothing brings a community together quite like good food
…and the first annual Boulder Baking Competition was no exception. There were over 30 entrants and upwards 120 people at the event, which was held on January 16th at Vermilion. Local natural food companies sponsored the event and all proceeds went to the AllergyKids Foundation and the School Food Project. According to the Baking Comp’s founders Alex Hanifin (a former elephant intern) and Sarah Orens, $500 was raised for the two organizations.
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Breads were judged in five categories: appearance, taste, ingredients used (extra points for local, organic, vegan, gluten free), baker-to-bread relationship (why those ingredients?) and originality. The judges were blown away by all of the delicious and creative recipes, but Angela Simon’s Buddha Bread stood out for being exactly what the competition was all about: healthy food and community. Her recipe was vegan and gluten-free, with organic and local ingredients used wherever possible:
- 1 cup Organic Cane Sugar
- 2/3 cup canola oil
- Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacer (equivalent to 2 eggs)
- 1 cup Outrageous Baking Company Gluten-Free Mix
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 1 ½ Tbsp Buddha Hand zest & love
- 1 ½ tsp Chinese 5-spice Blend
- 1 ½ cups grated carrots
- ½ cup chopped pecans
- ¼ cup Earth Balance Soy Free Natural Buttery Spread
- 4 oz (1/2 container) Tofutti Dairy-Free Cream Cheese
- ½ tsp Madagascar Vanilla extract
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- ½ cup chopped pecans
- 1 tsp Buddha Hand zest
- ½ tsp orange zest
The podium was rounded out by Kristan Christensen’s Beet Bread, made with cream cheese frosting and beet chips on the side, and Bar Hogen’s gluten-free Dense Chocolate Hazelnut Bread with Ganache, made with organic Grant Family Farm duck eggs.
In her recipe submission to the judges, Angela explained her inspiration for the bread.
In China and Northeast Tibet, the Buddha fruit is often carried in the hand or simply placed on a table at home. It is meant to bring good luck, happiness and a long life. It has many culinary uses—it can replace lemon in recipes, you can make Buddha Hand Citron (infused vodka), and you can candy the peel.
Angela chose to include the Buddha fruit because those were her intentions for the bread as part of a Boulder community event—to “bring good luck, happiness and longevity to the community of Boulder, to everyone involved in the baking competition and to the AllergyKids Foundation and The School Food Project, both of which are making a difference in the diet and lives of so many and enhancing well being in the world.”
I read Angela’s submission before meeting her, and if on paper it sounded a bit like brown nosing the judges, my doubts vanished instantly upon talking with her. I have never met a more genuine person in my life.
I sat down with Angela expecting a low-key chat over coffee about the finer points of gluten-free baking or her sources of inspiration for new recipes. But Angela is not just a weekend warrior when it comes to the kitchen; she is a culinary goddess. Her passion for all things food quickly shines through when you first meet her, and what began as a discussion about the merits of ground flax vs. vegan egg replacer turned into a much more personal dialogue about eating for health, allergy and GMO awareness, the frightening state of American food habits, and the potential for physical and emotional healing through food.
Angela studied at Bauman College here in Boulder to become a certified natural chef and share her passion for good food and healthy eating with the world. She currently works at Savory Spice, volunteers as a recipe developer for AllergyKids and is three weeks into the Culinary Arts program at Culinary School of the Rockies. No wonder she won a bake-off! But Angela’s journey to becoming an award-winning mindful chef and baker wasn’t easy.
Growing up on a farm in South Dakota, Angela was raised in a ‘got milk?’ community, going through gallons of milk every day because that’s what the town pediatrician recommended. In Boulder, we get used to people following gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan diets—it’s easy to forget that outside this liberal bubble people aren’t as conscious about alternative food.
That’s their mentality, that milk equates to strong bones, when actually there’s more calcium in a red pepper. For me, I’d rather eat the pepper. We’re the only species that eats another animal’s milk. It’s hard though, when I go home to my sister in law, that’s their belief. They’re taught that milk will make their kids strong, and they want to do what’s best for their kids.
Angela wasn’t always so mindful of what she was fueling her body with either; in fact she struggled through much of her teens and young adult life with disordered eating. After graduating high school in South Dakota she went to the Art Institute of Seattle for Fashion Merchandising, where an unhealthy relationship to food and bodily appearance were the norm.
It’s a materialistic industry, and I became too embodied in my outer appearance, in what I looked like. My sister was killed in a car accident when I was 12, and I was put in a sports acceleration program shortly thereafter that led to a control element that brought about anorexia, and later bulimia in my early 20s. The fashion industry just fed that control element. The norm was to always want to lose weight. I was also spiritually empty at that point in my life, which was huge.
At 24 Angela ended up in the ICU for low potassium and inverted T waves. Her doctor told her that if she kept going like she was, she would die by age 28.
To have to tell my parents that, who had already lost a daughter, was a turning point. So I went through treatment at a Methodist Hospital, and when the doctor declared me medically stable I was out the door. But they don’t take into account whether you are mentally and emotionally stable upon release, which is a problem. It’s another issue I’m passionate about and am trying to work on.
From there Angela returned to South Dakota and worked for a natural food co-op for two years, educating herself on organics and going back to basics in teaching herself about food. Then the opportunity arose for her to go to New Zealand, where she showed herself and her family that she was OK to go out in the world again.
I was on a hike up a mountain, and standing on the summit looking out at everything, where three years before I’d been in the ICU with the symptoms of a heart attack, I thought, “OK, I’m here, lets get started again.”
Angela moved to Boulder in the fall of 2008, put herself through Bauman College and worked for Grant Family Farms to get to know the source of her food. But her transformation from disordered eating to gluten-free baker and food educator didn’t happen just because she had a wake-up call in the ICU and climbed a mountain in New Zealand. She kept emphasizing that she wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without becoming spiritually full. Since following the Buddhist path, her cooking and spirituality have become linked.
Every time I cook for somebody I think about putting good intentions in the food—I want it to heal them, heal their body so they can go out and do their work. And I share the story of my transformation in the hopes that it will help anyone dealing with an eating disorder.
After she gets her degree, Angela’s dream is to teach the culinary arts and fuse the holistic teaching method of Bauman with the Culinary Institute’s traditional technique.
I love working with kids, and I’ve talked about having an afterschool program where kids learn how to make sweet potato fries and kale chips, and get to know their fruits and vegetables. As chefs, we have a responsibility to be putting out healthy food—to make what’s already happening all over Boulder the norm.
To change your diet for the better, just do one thing every day. It’s always about baby steps—it’s how I changed my life. And step by step, eventually it all manifests.