9/22/14

vegan banana breakfast bread

image from here

i think today is the first day of autumn (although my calendar says tomorrow, but that seems too late to me!) and in my opinion, there is almost nothing better than a cup of tea and a warm slice of banana loaf slathered with (vegan) butter on a rainy fall day. unfortunately, with a little man around, wanting 150% of my attention during his waking hours, and with naps that last only 45 minutes (on a good day), there isn't much time for meal prep or baking. but a mama's gotta eat, and i'm always looking for a quick & easy snack that is just as nourishing as it is delicious, so i was pretty pleased when i discovered that i could make this yummy banana loaf in about 20 minutes, and i was even more pleased when i realized that the recipe is practically foolproof (i've made it half a dozen times, each with slightly varied ingredients, and each time it turned out great). i took this recipe originally from post punk kitchen, but have modified it to make it as healthy as i could (because i need a pretty good reason to justify eating chocolate chips for breakfast). i also have a lot of optional substitutions in the recipe, if you don't have quite the right ingredients on hand... foolproof!

the loaf comes together in about 20 minutes - quick enough that even the skimpiest of baby naps allows me to pop it into the oven before i am summoned from the phoenix's room (ps - a tour of phoenix's room is coming! i'm just putting the last touches on it and i'm oh so excited to show you), and then i've got two loaves baking to perfection and ready to enjoy over the next 24 hours (i usually freeze one for another day, and the other one rarely lasts longer than a day before being devoured). you could probably make this into muffins as well (maybe baking for 20 minutes instead of an hour), although i haven't tried (but again - it seems to be pretty foolproof so let me know how it goes!)

vegan banana breakfast bread
(adapted from post punk kitchen's zucchini-banana bread)
*vegan *dairy-free *can be made gluten free
prep time: 20 minutes // bake time: 1 hour
makes 2 flat loaves (5"x9" pans)

1/4 cup coconut oil, very soft or melted
1/4 cup applesauce, at room temperature (if you don't have applesauce, use another 1/4 cup coconut oil instead)
1 1/2 cups coconut sugar (reduce to 1 cup for less sweetness; if you don't have coconut sugar, use brown sugar)
4 tsp vanilla extract
2 large, very ripe bananas, mashed in a bowl (room temperature)
2 1/2 cups grated zucchini (room temperature if possible)

3 cups whole wheat flour (i use a half whole wheat spelt flour & half buckwheat flour. if you wanted to make this recipe gluten free, use all buckwheat flour. it adds a great taste to the loaf!)
2 heaping tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp (heaping) allspice
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup dairy free chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
* you can be flexible with your additions - use all nuts if you want, or any combo of nuts, chocolate chips, raisins, currants...

preheat oven to 350F. grease two 5"x9" loaf pans lightly with coconut oil (you can also use 4"x8" pans, and the loaves should be higher). in a large bowl, cream together the coconut oil & sugar until well mixed. add the mashed banana, vanilla, and grated zucchini (having the banana and zucchini at room temperature will help keep the coconut oil from solidifying, but if it's very well creamed with the sugar it should be okay), and mix well. 

add all the dry ingredients except the chocolate chips to the bowl, in a mound on top of the wet ingredients. stir the dry ingredients gently to mix before mixing into the wet ingredients. fold or mix in the chocolate chips (or chocolate chips & walnuts).

bake for 1 hour (may need up to 1hr 20 min), testing for doneness (middle will not feel jiggly or squishy, and the edges will come away from the sides of the pan). if you're not sure whether your loaf is done, stick a knife in to see if it comes out clean. if you're still not sure, just bake it more. i prefer a slightly overbaked loaf to a mushy one any day :) allow loaves to cool slightly in their pans, then turn them out onto plates or platters to serve. enjoy with a hot cup of tea and a rainy autumn afternoon. 


8/22/14

our big move.



My little space has been so quiet lately, because there were big things on the horizon... a cross country move, back to the island I grew up on! the past two months have been a blur or packing boxes while entertaining a baby, organizing the purchase of a car and the rental of a townhouse from several thousand kilometers away (thank you paul for getting 'er done), and trying to keep our two kitties from having conniptions every time we had to corral them into their kennels and take yet another leg of our journey from Toronto to Vancouver Island. But now we've arrived at our cute Nanaimo townhouse with sunny yellow walls, and it feels wonderful to be back on the west coast! family is close by, the beautiful wilderness beckons, and I am adjusting to the slower pace of island life. as we speak, I am slow-cooking tomatoes from my brother-in-law's garden to make a tomato-basil pasta sauce (with basil from the farmer's market that happens downtown every friday, naturally). 

I'm looking forward to documenting many of our new adventures and sharing them here, and I imagine with such a different life than I had just five months ago, the look of this space will change a little too, so I am looking forward to a bit of a remodel now that I have the time (just so were clear, "the time" refers to the handful of half hour chunks that I have free each day while Phoenix naps).

It's hard to comprehend how much life really has changed in the five months since I stopped working full time as a yoga instructor and studio manager... instead of my huge belly welcoming mamas and mamas-to-be into classes at a beautiful yoga studio in the busiest city in our country, I'm now a mama myself, looking for babies yoga classes to attend here in our tiny city of 80,000 people. I left amazing friends behind in Toronto, and I miss them dearly. But I'm looking forward to honing my letter-writing skills, and to making new friends in my new town. I'm excited to spend all the smaller holidays with family, instead of only seeing everyone once or twice a year, and I'm hoping everyone will agree to come to our house for a few dinners too so I can finally show off my holiday cooking skills to more people than just Paul (although he's never complained when I made a full dinner for 10 to feed just us!)

I'm excited to be starting this new chapter of our life, and I can't wait to see where it takes us. Hooray for the west coast!

6/22/14

our birth story.


it's been over two months now since phoenix was born, and i have tried several times to write down our birth story. it never seemed to come out quite right - paul wrote a beautiful account of his version of phoenix's birth, but every attempt i made ended up being a chronological reporting of events, devoid of emotion. i realized after awhile that i was really still processing everything that had happened during my labour - it was so different than what i had imagined it would be - and i needed time to heal and absorb what had happened before i could share my version. i still feel as though i am processing my emotions surrounding my labour, and maybe i always will be. but i do feel that now i am ready to share it.

when paul & i started preparing for birth, i knew that i wanted a home birth. paul was very supportive, and we starting planning for labour by candlelight, choosing records that we wanted our child to hear as he entered the world, and arranging for a birthing tub to be set up in our living room. everything was going great, until my due date came and went with no sign of impending labour. as the days passed and i became more and more overdue, it got to be pretty clear that this baby had no intention of being prompt. he was perfectly healthy, and i was adamant that as long as the baby and i were both fine, there was no need for an induction... but at 2 weeks past my due date, the waiting was definitely wearing me down. paul's parents had scheduled a visit for 3 weeks past my due date (when we all assumed the baby would be about three weeks old) and now their visit was fast approaching with still no baby to be seen. i dreaded the idea of them arriving and me still being pregnant (or worse - having them LEAVE and me still being pregnant!) and after trying everything possible to induce labour naturally, we finally started talking about medical induction.

we went into the hospital 19 days past my due date so that my labour could be medically induced. it was a really hard decision for me, but i knew it was what i had to do for my mental health - being pregnant for so much longer than i had anticipated was wearing on me emotionally way more than i had imagined it would! i felt very sad the whole night before i was scheduled to be induced, and very sad and defeated that morning as we headed into the hospital. it wasn't the best mindset to be in when starting labour, but i didn't know what else i could do, and so we went. so you could imagine how happy i was when the doctor examined me and declared me to already be in spontaneous labour! i had been in early labour for the past two days without realizing it. we decided to allow the doctor to break my water to speed things along, and on the advice of our midwife decided to labour in the hospital.

and so we were off. i had renewed vigour knowing that i had in fact gone into labour of my own accord, and was loving every contraction as they became stronger. i felt like i was being initiated into this amazing club that so many women i knew had gone through before me. as the contractions grew stronger, i started moving and working with them, hoping to bring the baby down quickly. however, it seemed that this baby was not so enthusiastic about being in labour as i was, and during a particularly long contraction his heart rate dropped enough for our midwife to become concerned. after that, the contractions (and my labour) stalled up. we had been so convinced that the baby would be born that day, but he had other plans. i rested and tried to relax, hoping the contractions would get stronger again, but after a few hours with no action, our midwife suggested we kickstart things with a little oxytocin. it was a huge concession for me to consent to oxytocin augmentation - i already felt like i had allowed enough intervention to happen just by having the doctor break my water, and i really wanted to do things on my own, but i knew my midwife was concerned for the baby and i trusted that she had our best interest in mind. so i got set up with an oxytocin drip, and the contractions started getting stronger again.

things became blurry as the oxytocin strengthened and intensified my contractions. these contractions were different now - more intense and less under my control. they grabbed me and squeezed me, and they started to get a little scary. i was making a lot more noise to get through them, and paul helped me to keep my noises low and deep to stay relaxed through each contraction. the minutes and hours melted away, and all of a sudden it was the middle of the night and it was time to start pushing.

i've read many birth stories in which the women say that pushing was their favourite part of labour, because they felt like they had control over what was happening and could take action to help bring their baby into the world. for me, it was intensely difficult. i was exhausted (emotionally and physically) and really just wanted it to end. i put everything i had into each push, and it just didn't seem like enough. paul renewed my energy when the midwife encouraged him to check out our baby's progress and he shouted, "I can see the head, and it has hair!!" - we were both bald babies and had really hoped our little one would have hair - but this baby still wasn't inclined to make things easy for me, and he stayed put. finally our midwife, who was monitoring the baby's heartbeat and again had concerns about how far it was dropping during each push, suggested we have the doctor come in and help our baby make his way earthside with a little suction. at that point i just wanted to meet our baby, so i consented and soon our peaceful delivery room was abuzz with a slightly frenetic energy as the medical staff descended upon us. it wasn't just paul, our midwives, our doula, and me anymore - we were joined by two doctors for me, two pediatricians to make sure our little guy would be okay once he completed his journey into the world, and at least one friendly nurse (although at that point i couldn't understand why the nurse was introducing herself to me - i really didn't care what her name was and what she was doing).

after what seemed like forever, the doctors were ready with the suction and i only had to push once or twice more and phoenix was born! they held him up for me to see, and announced it was a boy. i felt so happy and so sad at the same time to see him, as i knew that paul had really looked forward to catching our baby, finding out his sex, and cutting the cord - all things that he didn't get to do. i also couldn't believe that the baby who had been living in my belly was so fully and perfectly formed, right down to his little wrinkled forehead! phoenix needed some help to get his airways cleared, so he was whisked over to the baby area of the room and i had to keep telling paul to "go over there and stay with the baby - make sure he's all right!" so that he would leave my side and fully absorb the new little life that now made us a family. once he was breathing well, the doctors gave this tiny baby to paul, who brought him over to me and put him on my chest. i could hear our doula snapping pictures and i was so happy that she was able to capture the joy i felt during these first moments we spent together.

the first day we spent with our baby was rocky, as he had had a difficult time coming into the world so we stayed in the hospital to be monitored for an extra twelve hours, and by the time we came home i had been without sleep for about 45 hours. i remember the first few hours that we spent on our own, just the two of us, when paul went home to take a short nap, and i remember marvelling over this perfect little creature curled up on my chest. i remember my mom coming to meet the baby in the delivery room shortly after he was born, and then coming back again later when i needed some emotional support. i remember deciding with paul that we'd name our baby phoenix, and going over all the reasons that this was the perfect name for the new person in our family, and then calling our parents to tell them the name of our baby - phoenix michael richard. i remember paul's parents arriving, as scheduled, and us laughing about how ridiculous it was that instead of meeting a three week old baby, they were meeting their grandson only twelve hours after he was born! phoenix was finally here, after making us wait twenty days past his due date, and working with me in an 18-hour labour - the most difficult thing i've ever done in my life.

over the first six weeks of phoenix's life, i thought back a lot to my labour, and wished it could have gone the way we'd originally planned. i cried in the shower many many times in those first weeks. sometimes i cried because i felt defeated knowing that i had had to consent to so many medical interventions that i was so against, and never wanted. sometimes i cried because i couldn't believe the miracle of what had happened, despite how phoenix's delivery had been so different than our plans. sometimes i cried because healing from labour and birth was a much longer and more difficult process than i had anticipated. sometimes i still cry, and there will probably always be a part of me that wishes i could have had the peaceful, undisturbed, empowering birth that i had imagined. but i know that the way things turned out was the way things had to be, and that the sacrifices i made during labour were to ensure that that we would have a healthy and amazing little boy at the end of everything - a little boy who exceeds my expectations and who i love more every day than i ever could have imagined.