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.
On Monday our little family of three is headed to the airport at 6 am to board our first with-baby cross-country trip. We'll be visiting Sam's family in New Jersey for a few days, then renting a car and driving over to meet up with my family at my mom's lake house in the Adirondacks. Sam's younger sister and her kids have yet to meet Oliver; my grandpa has yet to meet him, and Oliver has yet to take a dunk in a lake, see a firefly, or spend quality time with energetic dogs -- of which there will be three. A lot of firsts. This week my family has been madly texting, volunteering to make certain meals or sweets on assigned days while we're at the cabin and it got me thinking about really simple, effortless summer desserts -- in particular, ones that you can make while staying in a house with an unfamiliar kitchen and unfamiliar equipment and still do a pretty bang-up job. I think fruit crisp is just that thing.
Somehow, in what seems to have been a blink of an eye, we have a six month old baby. In some ways I can't remember a time we didn't have an Oliver, and in other ways it's all a blur broken up by a few holidays (a Thanksgiving thanks to grocery store takeout, and our very first Christmas in Seattle), a few family visits, a one-day road trip to Portland, a birthday dinner out, a birthday cake, weekend drives to nowhere in particular, swimming at the pool with Oliver, weekly get-togethers with our parent's group, doctor's visits, hundreds of walks around the neighborhood, hundreds of cups of coffee, dozens (or more?) of scoops of ice cream. Most of the worrying about keeping a baby alive has made way for other concerns, and Oliver's need for constant stimulation or soothing walks and car rides has been traded for stretches of time playing with a new toy or checking out his surroundings. In truth, it's thanks to that tiny bit of baby independence that this humble, summery cake came to be in the first place. So we've all got an Oliver to thank for that. Or, really, we have a Yossi Arefi to thank, as it's from her beautiful new cookbook that I've bookmarked heavily and am eager to continue exploring.
We walked to the library last week and I had a strange realization standing in line watching Sam check out his usual massive stack of books: Will I ever have the time to read stacks of books again? I used to be much more of a reader than I am today -- a fact I'm not at all proud of. But when evening rolls around and the more formal workday ends, I find emails and other odds and ends creep in. Walking home from the library, I began obsessing over free time for reading, asking Sam if we'd ever be those two old people who study bird manuals and can recognize birds on walks. I want to have the time to read bird manuals someday. For now though, we're young and we're working a lot. We did sneak away on that one-night camping trip I told you about, and cooked some interesting, haphazard meals which I hope to share with you soon. For now though, for summer: a strawberry dessert recipe.
Much like friends, types of Sunday mornings, or books -- there are many different kinds of desserts. Sometimes you may be in the mood for a light French cake piled high with summer fruit. Other days, a thick slice of fragrant pound cake will do. And then there are those days when you crave a rich chocolate mousse that you share after a night of good conversation and a little too much wine. But let's be honest. When it comes right down to it, the most basic and unassuming dessert of all is sometimes the only one that will do. A good and simple affair. Vanilla ice cream. So I want to talk about that today--about a dessert that withstands the test of time, that will always be there for you. A dessert that is far from trendy, that doesn't play favorites or trick you into thinking it's something that it's not. It's a good foundation. A solid beginning.
[ Pie. if you've been around here much in the last few months, you know that I make pie. A lot of pie. And I'm particularly excited to share this pie with you today because it helped me break out of a rut. A pie rut. A baking rut. A Marge inspiration rut.