Last weekend we went camping out on Orcas Island, my favorite of all the San Juan Islands. The trip had been on our calendar for a few months, but it seemed to sneak up quickly (hasn’t that been the case this summer?) leaving us scurrying like crazy to get out of the house Friday afternoon to catch our ferry. We’ve been to Orcas enough times to have a favorite swimming hole, hike, and bakery, but this trip would be different as we were going car camping with three other couples and a gaggle of kids. I knew that at 24 weeks pregnant it might not be superbly comfortable to sleep in our small tent, but we were bringing air mattresses and I packed my pillow so surely all would be well. The day before we left I baked a loaf of this banana bread and stocked up on healthy snacks and fizzy water. Sam dug through the basement to find all of our camping gear. We were ready.
A few friends commented that they couldn’t believe I was going camping pregnant, but really let’s face it, it was car camping right by a gorgeous lake and we had fresh banana bread: how bad could it be? And for the most part, I seem to have an interesting reaction to many of the negative comments or warnings I hear about pregnancy: I tend to take it with a weighty grain of salt. I know that I’ve been very lucky in not feeling sick and having relatively good energy, and I’m fully aware that this isn’t the case for many people (and that it could also change for me). I also know that I’m a ‘mind over matter’ kind of gal which has served me pretty well so far. When I ran marathons a few years ago, you get used to not listening to your body — you listen to your mind. Sure, you train smart and show up physically prepared, but on race day you often ignore all the signs your body gives you that it’d really like to stop and walk, thank you very much. Instead you listen to your mind telling you to keep putting one foot in front of the other. To be honest, this is how I’ve approached so many things in life: I assume I’ll work hard at it and it’ll work out. I’ll put my mind to it. I’ll focus and drown out the naysayers.
But pregnancy is slowly teaching me that this isn’t going to work all the time. The days of talking myself into running another mile, staying up another hour, or getting up earlier to get more accomplished might just be nearing an end (for now). The weekend we were camping was a hot one — as we’ve been experiencing so much this summer in the Pacific Northwest. And for the first time, my ankles and calves became so swollen I could barely see my ankle bones. When I looked down one morning I thought, oh no. I’m becoming one of those pregnant women.
Now, my theory with many minor ailments in life is to drink more water (those who know me well lovingly roll their eyes at my suggestion that it cures so! many! things!). But liters of water and hours later, my ankles were still stumpy and my energy was low. That evening, I figured I needed to go on a brisk walk — surely that would fix me right up. I set off by myself to explore the other campsites and trails nearby. I came back to camp, had a huge glass of water, and put my feet up. No change. Sleeping that night turned out to be far less comfortable than I’d thought and getting up in the middle of the night to pee numerous times was a challenge in our very small two-person wilderness backpacking tent. I was humbled.
This of course is all very minor, but it has made me confront the fact that I’m likely not going to be the one driving the ship for the next few months. I know that as much as we prepare and as many books as we may read, my body and our baby may have other things in mind than what we expect, anticipate or plan for. As I’ve written about in my pregnancy journal, it’s good that pregnancy is such a gradual process. If you went from not pregnant to 24 weeks with a sizably round belly and baby kicks and jabs and swelling and fatigue right away it would be rather shocking. But the body eases you in slowly; now I’m just going to have to get a little better at really letting go and listening to it.
I don’t necessarily have a go-to banana bread recipe so I searched through a few cookbooks that I’ve been wanting to bake from and found this beauty from the new-ish Ovenly cookbook. And while there are so many banana bread recipes out there and you may wonder why it’s necessary to talk about yet another, this one is special because it’s an adapted Moosewood Cookbook recipe and I appreciate that it’s largely sweetened with maple syrup and is made with whole wheat flour. So many banana bread recipes are so delicious because they’re actually more like a cake, loaded down with sugar and oil; this one looked different and called to me. It turned out to be a hit in the mornings. We unwrapped it and kept Sam’s camping knife close by to slice away small pieces. With campsite coffee and slightly cooler mornings, it really hit the spot.
The Ovenly ladies call for canola oil in their recipe but I opted to use coconut oil instead; it has a really wonderful sweet fragrance that works well with the flavors in this bread. If you don’t have coconut oil, you can certainly use a canola or vegetable oil instead. I also added walnuts because I happen to love nuts in my banana bread. You could leave the nuts out altogether if you prefer or make this loaf a bit more indulgent by adding chocolate chips. It’s wonderful sliced at room temperature or toasted — always with a little butter.
Slightly adapted from: Ovenly
Preheat the oven to 350F. Liberally grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan with butter (or non-stick cooking spray).
Peel the bananas and place in a small bowl. Mash with a fork until smooth. Separate out 1 cup of the banana mash. If there is extra, feel free to freeze in an airtight container for future use (smoothies, top your yogurt or oatmeal).
Grind the flaxseeds into a fine powder using a coffee or spice grinder.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, flaxseed meal, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, eggs, oil, brown sugar and vanilla extract. Add the sour cream and mashed banana. Whisk until almost smooth — it’s ok if a few lumps remain.
Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined. Don’t overmix. At the very end, fold in the toasted walnuts. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan.
Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean.
Winter Comfort Food
I intended on baking holiday cookies to share with you today, but when I sat down to brainstorm all I could think about, truly, was the morning porridge I've been making and how that's really what I wanted to send you away with. The holiday season always seems to zoom on by at its own clip with little regard for how most of us wish it would just slow down, and this year feels like no exception. We got our tree last week and I've been making a point to sit in the living room and admire the twinkle as much as possible. I have lofty goals of snowflakes and gingerbread men and stringing cranberries and popcorn, but I'm also trying to get comfortable with the fact that everything may not get done, and that sitting amongst the twinkle is really the most important. That and a warm breakfast before the day spins into gear. This multi-grain porridge has proved to be a saving grace on busy weekday mornings, and it reheats beautifully so I've been making a big pot and bringing it to work with some extra chopped almonds and fresh pomegranate seeds. While cookies are certainly on the horizon, I think I'll have this recipe to thank for getting us through the busy days ahead.
We returned home from San Francisco on New Years Eve just in time for dinner, and craving greens -- or anything other than baked goods and pizza (ohhhh San Francisco, how I love your bakeries. And citrus. And winter sunshine). Instead of driving straight home, we stopped at our co-op where I ran in for some arugula, an avocado, a bottle of Prosecco, and for the checkout guys to not-so-subtly mock the outlook of our New Years Eve: rousing party, eh? They looked to be in their mid-twenties and I figured I probably looked ancient to them, sad even. But really, there wasn't much sad (or rousing, to be fair) about our evening: putting Oliver to bed, opening up holiday cards and hanging them in the kitchen, and toasting the New Year with arugula, half a quesadilla and sparkling wine. It wasn't lavish. But it's what we both needed. (Or at least what we had to work with.) Since then, I've been more inspired to cook lots of "real" food versus all of the treats and appetizers and snacks the holidays always bring on. I made Julia Turshen's curried red lentils for the millionth time, a wintry whole grain salad with tuna and fennel, roasted potatoes, and this simple green minestrone that I've taken for lunch this week. Determined to fit as many seasonal vegetables into a bowl as humanly possible, I spooned a colorful pesto on top, as much for the reminder of warmer days to come as for the accent in the soup (and for the enjoyment later of slathering the leftover pesto on crusty bread).
If I asked you about what you like to cook at home when the week gets busy, I'm willing to bet it might be something simple. While there are countless websites and blogs and innumerable resources to find any kind of recipe we may crave, it's often the simple, repetitive dishes that we've either grown up with or come to love that call to us when cooking (or life in general) seems overwhelming or when we're feeling depleted. While my go-to is typically breakfast burritos or whole grain bowls, this Curried Cauliflower Couscous with Chickpeas and Chard would make one very fine, very doable house meal on rotation. The adaptations are endless, and its made from largely pantry ingredients. I never thought I'd hop on the cauliflower "rice" bandwagon, but I have to say after making it a few times, I get the hype.
People describe raising young kids as a particular season in life. I hadn't heard this until we had a baby, but it brought me a lot of comfort when I'd start to let my mind wander, late at night between feedings, to fears that we'd never travel internationally again or have a sit-down meal in our dining room. Would I ever eat a cardamom bun in Sweden? Soak in Iceland? I loved the heck out of our tiny Oliver, but man what had we done?! Friends would swoop in and reassure us that this was just a season, a blip in the big picture of it all. They promised we'd likely not even remember walking around the house in circles singing made-up songs while eating freezer burritos at odd hours of the day (or night). And it's true.
Oliver is turning two next month, and those all-encompassing baby days feel like a different time, a different Us. In many ways, dare I say it, Toddlerhood actually feels a bit harder. Lately Oliver has become extremely opinionated about what he will and will not wear -- and he enforces these opinions with fervor. Don't get near the kid with a button-down shirt. This week at least. He's obsessed with his rain boots and if it were up to him, he'd keep them on at all times, especially during meals. He insists on ketchup with everything (I created a damn monster), has learned the word "trash" and insists on throwing found items away on his own that really, truly are not trash. I came to pick him up from daycare the other day and he was randomly wearing a bike helmet -- his teacher mentioned he'd had it on most of the day and really, really didn't want to take it off. The kid has FEELINGS. I love that about him, and wouldn't want it any other way. But, man it's also exhausting.
We recently had our favorite day of married life yet. When I tell you what it consisted of, you may worry or chuckle. Sundays used to be sacred in our house in the sense that it was our one day off together. We'd often read the paper, get a slice of quiche at Cafe Besalu, or take walks around Greenlake or Discovery Park. But now Sundays are generally when I work the farmers market for Marge Granola, and Sam helps me set up and take down each week, so they've taken on a very different feel, one more of work than leisure. So a few months ago, after mildly panicking that we no longer had any routines or days off, we reclaimed Saturdays as 'the new Sunday' and last weekend set the bar pretty high. The day began really cold: in the high 20's and graduated, eventually, to the 30's. We decided it'd be nice to just stay inside; Sam had a little work to do and some letters to write. He had a few articles he'd been wanting to read. And I'd been thinking about this lasagna recipe, so I puttered around the kitchen roasting squash and slicing garlic. The afternoon ticked on slowly. Sam made us baked eggs for a late lunch and I tried unsuccessfully to nap. I think it was the calmest we'd both felt in a long time. I'm lucky to have found a man who loves spending time at home as much as I do. While we both love going out to see friends, traveling, and having people over to our place, we also gain the most, I'd say, by doing simple things around the house -- straightening up, making a meal. organizing records or books or photos. Especially in this season of cold temperatures and early-darkening skies, it's what I crave the most. And last Saturday closed in the best of ways: we opened a bottle of "wedding wine" (thanks to my neurosis and fear we'd run out, we over-ordered wine when planning for our wedding) and dug into generous slices of this very special vegetarian lasagna, a hearty layered affair with caramelized onions, a sage-flecked tofu ricotta and a simple, savory butternut squash purée.