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Life Arts    H3'ed 6/6/11

Bread from the Heart A Hit at Chicago Green Festival

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My guest today is Jacqueline Vasan, proprietor of Bread from the Heart. We met at the recent Green Festival in Chicago. Welcome to OpEdNews, Jacqueline. Can you tell our readers about your business?

at Green Festival, Chicago, May 2011; photo credit: Paul LeVan

Bread from the Heart is my contribution to the local, sustainable living movement.  It seems to me that such a basic, bread, should be pure, nutritious, and, of course, tasty.  I also believe that it is important to teach children about nutrition and give them the opportunity for hands on experience with making food.  I teach kids about grains and flour by using a grain mill attached to a stationary bike to make flour.

Bread from the Heart seeks to work with churches, renting facilities at affordable rates from some churches and distributing freshly baked products through many churches.  Many churches have kitchens that are or can be certified by the health department.  In this way, churches continue to provide services to the neighborhoods in which they are located, provide work to a few individuals and provide local organic breads to the neighbors.  

The ingredients that we use in our products are local as much as possible.  We use Illinois wheat and other grains, eggs, dairy, honey, cheese.  For items that are not locally grown, such as sugar, we work with companies that provide fair wages and sustainable practices.

Because we find that many people suffer with food allergies, we make gluten-free items, paying close attention to individuals' specific allergies.  While one gluten item will work for one person, it will not work for another.

You move around from one facility to another? So, you don't have a permanent location, Jacqueline? Or is this in addition to it?

I have a permanent location at 82 Woodside Road in Riverside, IL.  This is the kitchen of Riverside United Methodist Church.  I rent this facility at a very affordable price.  In addition, I have the moral support and encouragement of the members of the congregation and the trustees and minister of the church.

My goal is to have similar agreements with a few churches, so that different types of bread can be baked in different locations at the same time.  Gluten free bread, especially, is best made in a facility that uses gluten free ingredients exclusively. For many people with gluten allergies, cross-contamination is a real problem.

Thanks for clarifying. How did you get interested in baking in the first place, Jacqueline?

whole wheat bread; photo credit: Smitha Vasan

Everyone in my family bakes.  I find it easy and easy to teach. I also have become very interested in nutrition and the effects of additives in food. Baking allows me to preach the gospel of good food: Nutrition that is delicious.

I sampled Bread from the Heart at the Green Festival and it was, indeed, quite delicious. Do you want to expand a bit on your comment about food additives?

Absolutely.   I have had the good fortune to experience symptomatic relief of psychiatric symptoms by eating mostly organic foods.  I've also met parents who tell me about behavioral problems that were alleviated by eliminating petroleum based food additives from the children's diets.

Yikes! There are petroleum-based food additives in our diets? Like what?

According to the parents I've spoken with, many food preservatives and colorings are petroleum based.  Similarly, many personal care items, like deodorants, shampoos contain petroleum based ingredients.

Yuck. How long does it take for someone to begin to feel better after a change of diet? Tell us about some of the goodies you make, Jacqueline. What's your specialty?

I suppose it would depend on the nature of the affliction. For kids with behavior problems, relief can come with the next meal.  The issue with additives is that they can cause many serious problems that most of us are not aware of. This leads to further harm through prescribed medications.  The focus on the industrialization of food leads us to very dark places.

photo credit: Smitha Vasan

My breads are made with very few ingredients.  I find that eggs, milk and butter are generally not necessary.  Though we do use them for some specialty breads, like challah, we don't routinely use them in our whole wheat, rye or sourdough loaves.  We make cinnamon rolls without eggs and use safflower or light olive oil.  Most of our breads are 100% whole wheat flours.  Our very popular sellers,  banana bread, and apple sauce cranberry breads do not have eggs.

Of course, many of our cookies, like oatmeal raisin chocolate chip, chocolate chip and snickerdoodles do have butter and eggs.  They are made with whole wheat flour and are well received.  For special needs, we make appropriate substitutions.

My specialty is what I call a "vegetable roll-up."  I spread fresh vegetables and various cheeses on whole wheat dough and roll it  up and pinch it.  After putting venting holes in this roll, I bake it.  The vegetables cook as the cheeses melt and the kitchen smells terrific.  The baked roll can then be sliced in sizes appropriate for a meal or an hors d'oeuvres.  This is probably my favorite thing to make because it shows that baked goods don't have to be sweet.

Yum! Thanks for talking with me, Jacqueline. Good luck with Bread from the Heart!


Bread from the Heart website

Other Green Festival-inspired articles, so far:

Young Chicago Entrepreneur Brings Green Cleaning Products to Market  Thursday, June 2, 2011 

Is This Megadairy A Threat to Health and Livelihood of NW Illinois Residents? Sunday, May 22, 2011 

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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