Banana Bread.

 

 

Banana bread is a wonderful thing.  It smells great while baking, you can tell yourself it’s nutritious because it has fruit in it, and it’s just….homey.  However, if you have read past posts, you know that due to food insensitivities, I had several things removed from my diet which precluded me from baking things like banana bread and eating them.  It has forced me to become creative, and I do believe I’ve come up with something that tastes pretty good!  A major benefit to this bread, apart from the fact that it is gluten/dairy/egg free is that is has almost no fat.  Perfect.

 

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So here you go – my banana bread!

 

1 tbsp. flax

3 tbsp. water

¼ tsp. baking powder (first amount)

¾ cup white rice flour

¾ cup of sweet sorghum flour/tapioca flour, blended (use half of each to make up ¾ cup)

1 tsp. xanthan gum

¾ cup white sugar

1 ¼ tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. ground cinnamon

1 cup mashed banana

¼ cup applesauce

 

Combine the flax, water and first amount of baking powder and set aside.  Stir together the dry ingredients.  In separate bowl, stir together the banana, applesauce and flax mixture.  Combine the wet and dry ingredients, stirring until just combined.  Put batter in an 8 x 4 loaf pan.  Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 50-55 minutes.  Cool before slicing.

 

See – easy!

A couple of notes:  I used organic sugar and organic bananas, and I also used applesauce I had made and frozen in the fall, so the whole thing was pretty healthy.

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Review by my husband: “This bread is a slightly different texture than normal banana bread – maybe a little denser.  However, it tasted great.  I find gluten free baking more filling.”  Ha, ha.  He is a man of few words, but he knows what he likes.

 

Let me know if you try it, and if you like it!

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The Flight.

It was a ‘hurry up and wait’ kind of day.

We had anticipated our trip to Costa Rica for months and had desperately wanted the day to come. Hurry up! But as the days grew closer, we all know what happens…time drags….on and on until we are counting down the hours and minutes and seconds. Our flight happened to be early in the morning, so we would need to leave for the airport in the middle of the night. We rushed all day to knock things off the to-do list, pack, clean the house, and get ready… Hurry up! Then the minutes started to slow down, and there was nothing left to do but wait.

The alarm goes off on Saturday morning, and we start rushing around. Hurry up! Pack the car, grab a coffee (or tea!), get the baby ready, warm (and hopefully back to sleep) and get on the road. Oh yes, and then more waiting. On the highway, finding the valet parking, getting a shuttle….wait, and try to wait patiently!

The minutes count faster as we race to the check-in, race through customs and race to the gate! Hurry up! ….and then, you guessed it, wait. The plane was loaded, everyone was ready and had been rushing to get to this moment…the take-off! Hurry up! Except for this time, there was just more waiting. Two hours of waiting, in fact, as they tried to decipher through a technical problem, find the best solution, and keep us happy and informed. Make a decision, we pleaded…hurry up!

As we walked off the plane, there was no more spring in our steps. There was no hurry up. We were defeated…and grounded. And so, instead of leaving the airport at 8 a.m., we were coming back to our seats at the gate, hours later, with no end to the waiting in sight. It was an afternoon of ‘hurry up and wait.’  We would rush to eat lunch, hopefully a quick return to the plane…and then wait. Our ears tuned in to every announcement, every word from the loudspeaker, ready to hurry up and get on board. More waiting.

This ‘hurry up and wait’ attitude reminds me of a trip I took to Peru. We were on a work trip in a small, poor community just outside of Lima. As Canadians, we were asked to set aside our ‘hurry up and wait’ mentality and embrace their culture, a beautiful culture of ‘wait…and enjoy the waiting!’ We witnessed this first-hand in every interaction, but a specific occasion always stands out to me from that trip. We had been invited to a Peruvian wedding during our stay – what a privilege! We were told that the wedding was at 6 p.m., so we would likely plan to arrive at 6:30, and things would get started at 8:00. Pardon me? We were all very confused, but tried earnestly to set aside our culture to embrace theirs. We arrived at 6:30 as planned….half an hour after the event was written to take place on their invitations. We waited as people trickled in…and tried to enjoy the waiting. Sometime after, the bride showed up…and proceeded to wait in someone’s car. Here it was, the main event, we thought! Hurry up! But…she waited. See, she was too ‘busy’ enjoying the company of a friend. She was in no hurry, even on her special day. She and her friend chatted in a vehicle for almost an hour, and then, like we had been told to expect, things slowly got started at 8:00.

This two-week trip to Peru was nearly 6 years ago, and I still think of that night often. Even as sometimes patient, often polite Canadians, we have far too readily embrace this ‘hurry up and wait’ mentality. Hurry, hurry, hurry through your day, rushing from one activity to the next. We grab breakfast on the go, do conference calls in the car (hands-free, of course), a working lunch, rush from one appointment to the next, maybe scheduling in coffee with a friend, quick supper, some scheduled time with the family, and then most often our nights are filled, too. Friends of ours, from South America, have said that one of the difficulties adjusting to Canadian life is always being ready to entertain….but no one ever just drops by! (At least not without scheduling it a week in advance.)

We have two young kids; we are a busy family. But I fear that a lot of our lives are done in the mentality or ‘hurry up and wait,’ and not ‘wait….and enjoy the waiting.’ We are doing our very best to enjoy each stage without asking life to ‘hurry up!’ to the next.

Could we all make a pact? A pact to, in our conversations, not ask each other when the next big thing is? When are you getting engaged? Getting married? Having kids? Buying that house? Stop asking each other to hurry up to that next stage of life. Let’s work together to just wait…and enjoy the waiting as we live each day.

Our 8 a.m. flight became a 6 p.m. flight…I hope I’ve done a good job enjoying the wait. Watch for my next post to hear about what happened that night and during our time in Costa Rica. I will share my tips and failures from traveling with a 5-month-old…

Tickling the Ivories.

When I was seven years old a guy came to our door.  He was from the Royal Conservatory of Music, and he wanted to know if there were any children in the house that might be interested in lessons.  My parents said perhaps, and he came in.  He had with him an accordion, since transporting a piano was not feasible.  🙂  He sat me down, showed me how it worked, and then set out some music that I could try and play.  I think it was possibly “Mary Had a Little Lamb”.   I did well.  He said that obviously I would be a great candidate for a student, and left his information.  My parents thanked him, and then promptly found a young woman in the neighbourhood that taught piano lessons for much less money.  So off I went to my piano lessons.  I loved it.  I started in the old Leila Fletcher books – anybody remember them?  Orange, then green, then the yellow book.  After those I transitioned in Royal Conservatory, Grade One.  I progressed through Conservatory, and through different teachers, until I reached Grade Eight, and then encountered a teacher so unkind, and so uncomplimentary, and so defeatist that I stopped.  The shame is that none of these teachers put me into the exams, which would have been good to do.

By this time, of course, I was in high school (Southwood – Go Sabres!), which opened up a whole new area of musicianship.  I briefly flirted with playing the drums, only because percussion also included keyboards, but soon decided to take up the flute instead.  That led to four years of playing flute and piccolo for the various concert bands in the school.  However, when the teacher learned that I also played piano, and was quite competent, I also had the opportunity to play for pit bands, jazz bands, and accompaniment for people doing solo instrument work at the Kiwanis Music Festival.

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As you can see, music has been, and continues to be, a huge part of my life.  I attempted to finish up Grade Nine piano as an adult with two toddlers in the house, but there just was not enough solid practice time to accomplish this.

And now….I teach.  Teaching piano has its own set of highs and lows.  The highs are many – seeing a light turn on in a student’s eyes as they understand a new concept, seeing the success of a student practicing and being proud of how well they can play their new song, and seeing a genuine excitement in a student who just really loves to learn.  These are just a few of so many things I could name, but the ultimately high in piano teaching is recital time, when the students can show in front of non-judgmental family and friends how hard they’ve worked, and what new skills they have mastered.  The lows can be quite discouraging – bad attitudes, lack of practice and lack of desire to be at the lesson being the worst.  Fortunately, there are many more highs in a week than lows, so there is always something to be happy about!

One thing I can say – that teacher that was so unkind and uncomplimentary?  She did teach me well, in that she showed me exactly what I did NOT want to become as a piano teacher myself.  I think we all enjoy a hearty “Well done!”, and honestly, even if the music was not so much “well done”, there is always something to compliment a student on, even if it’s just – “Well, I know this isn’t your favourite song, and I’m so glad you were willing to give it a try and play it for me today.”

Are there any other music teachers out there?  How about parents whose children take lessons?  Do you love music, or were you tainted by a bad teacher?  Let me know!  And remember – it’s never too late to learn.  One of my best students is a 40 year old Mom of two who also holds down a full time job.  You can do it!

The Diving Board Story.

I thought for the sake of you, our readers, I would re-post a blog post I wrote nearly 10 years ago (YIKES…I feel old). This afternoon is one that if I had my life on videotape, I would replay over and over again for the sheer hilarity of it all. In my youth, I was not drinking calming tea this day, but rather had likely had too many Iced Capps from Tim Hortons. If only I had been drinking tea, maybe my brain would have been thinking clearly.

From August 11th, 2005…

So…I am in the midst of two ridiculously crazy weeks…

This week is another day camp – 65 kids grades 1-6…yes, you are right, it is fun…Okay, so I am having a blast…that is until today (more later)…

Anyway, so I spend from 7 am – 5 pm at the church and our various locations, and my nights at the townhouse because Jarett’s friends from New Brunswick are down and this is my only week to see them. This week has been awesome, so fun – but I am beat, so incredibly tired…it’s not funny – not even in my incredible giddy state…

A lot is happening – roommate shifting in the townhouses and trying to figure that all out. Finishing up the day camp Friday and then leaving Saturday for a week in inner city Hamilton on a missions trip with my youth pastor and my kiddos…Trying to get ready for school and STUCA and figuring out finances and how I am going to do everything I need to do…I haven’t even had time to think about moving and packing and all that…not really looking forward to even thoughts of it.

So Wednesday – ah yes, the most hilarious afternoon of my life. Most embarrassing, but most hilarious nonetheless. We went bowling (where I kicked butt of course) and then swimming at the Waterloo Rec Centre.

A few disclaimers and sidenotes:
a. We had NO injuries in our EXTREME Sports Day Camp two weeks ago
b. I am VERY VERY tired
c. I am BLIND without my glasses
d. I was very GIDDY and subsequently out of it today

Alright, so we get to the place and go to the locker room…Ah yes, a lovely place to start the embarrassment. Well…basically, I stuffed a bunch of stuff (mine and other peoples) into a locker, paid the quarter and then learned it was out of order (there was a big sign on the front…I Am Very Tired)…then I put it in another one, but locked it wrong and wasted a quarter, so I had to put it in another one…not the best story of the day…it just started me out on the wrong foot.

So, I went to the kiddy pool to go hang out with some of the youngest day campers, and in my state of tiredness, proceeded to fall multiple times from the couple inch high drop-offs that are apparently obvious with huge stripes of colour on the bottom of the pool.
So, I ditch the kiddy pool and go to the water slide, knowing I will find lots of the kids there. Now, I was wearing a tee-shirt over my bathing suit to promote maximum modesty at day camp. Apparently, that wasn’t as good as an idea as I thought. I went down; on my back of course because I am cool, and about 15 feet to the bottom of the slide, I stopped (the resistance from my shirt being too much). There I was. I could see the lifeguards, they could see me. I could see people from my group, they could see me. So, I did what any dignified person would do…I doggy paddled the rest of the way and graceful glided into the water.
After conquering the water slide, I went on to the hot tub. Now again, I am blind. I see a five-inch wall, a gap for the run-off and then another five-inch wall. I play out the logics and decide that you must have to jump into the hot tub…so I did. I made quite the splash – a near cannonball – and when I bob back up I apologize to the people around (it was quite crowded everywhere there that day) and then the lifeguard comes over. Great. She points me to the path where you can, quite nicely, walk gradually into the hot tub. Oops. So, I sit there, and then a few seconds later, another lifeguard comes over and says something – I couldn’t hear her though because it was so loud, so I just figured she wanted us out, so myself and the two kids that were with me, got out. (Turns out people from day camps weren’t allowed in…but I think they just hate me for doing a cannonball in the hot tub! 🙂 )
So, I move on to the high diving board. Now again, I am blind. Plus, I don’t really prefer heights so that is not really fun. However, I love a good adrenaline rush and new challenges, so I figure I will just tackle the high dive and move on (I guess I forgot what kind of day I was having!). I did a successful dive, a cannonball and then went up for round number three; another dive. I figure, I am an expert at diving (in a normal pool), and I am clearly rocking the high dive, woohoo! I am pumped for this one. I wait for my turn patiently, yet anxiously. A few day campers are up there with me, and my nerves compared to theirs was completely embarassing. My fear of heights makes me want to get off quickly, so I figure I shall run (or at least shuffle) and dive. Now again, I am blind and the greenish board blended in far too well with the water providing a very bad situation for me, the very blind girl. So I take off, shuffle shuffle shuffle and …… JUMP…… except when you are diving, you stay closer to the board then when you are jumping…plus…in my anxiousness, I believe I dove about a foot and a half too soon because on my way down, THWACK, THWACK, the very springy board smashed into my legs (at least twice), providing quite the crippling effect. Now, when you are in the diving position, it is quite difficult to get out of that position. So, in the impact on the water and from some reenactments, I believe I flew in the air and hit the water like an upside-down cannonball. (Yes, you may laugh, I haven’t stopped laughing since it happened). Considering the gracefulness that so normally surrounds me, this dive was quite…nice.
So, I proceeded to sit in the kiddy pool, 19 years old, with my legs up, ice packs on, quite embarrassed. I had four immediate bumps on my shins (two per leg) from the THWACK of the board, a little blood trickling down, and oh yes, I was the leader of this day camp. I was in fine form. I then had to go fill out an accident report and confess my age to which I said…”I’m 19…I’m 19!!!” thoroughly ashamed at my complete lack of skill…and how the injury occurred…When the lifeguard asked to record for the report how it happened, all I could say was, “I went off the high dive. I dove. That’s all.”

There you have it. Five humbling experiences in one afternoon.

Warm Chocolate Pudding

Bonus blog post!  We usually split posts between us and do one each a week, but it is so darn cold here in Southern Ontario that I just knew somebody would want to have this in their arsenal for the week-end.

Pudding – ahhhh – who doesn’t enjoy lovely smooth pudding?  I do, I do!  Or rather, I did, until dairy was yanked from my diet.   Hmmmm…….think, think……there must be a way around the lack of dairy.  And lo and behold, there is!  The secret is (drum roll, please) canned coconut milk!  Full fat for this.  Nobody wants watery pudding.

In our family we have always enjoyed eating the pudding warm – well, hot, actually.  Like – as soon as it is in the bowl and out of the pan, hot.  This particular pudding is also great the next day out of the fridge, cold.  With the kids out of the house, my husband and I split it evenly.  He eats all of his immediately.  I always have instructions to call him when it’s ready, and he comes running.  I eat half of mine hot, and save the other half for the next day, at which point my husband will try and guilt me into giving it to him.  He has also been known to get out a spatula and clean the pan until there is no trace of pudding remaining to be washed down the drain.  Such a helpful guy!

The man’s quote for this pudding is:

“It is not too sweet, and is great on a cold night.”

He also said it was chocolaty and warm, but that’s a given.  Ha, ha.

Chocolate Pudding

½ cup white or brown sugar  (brown gives it a slightly more caramel flavour)

3 heaping tbsp.. cocoa

¼ cup cornstarch

1/8 tsp. salt

2 ¾ cup coconut milk*

2 tbsp. margarine or butter

1 tsp. vanilla

In a saucepan, combine sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, and salt.  Place over medium heat, and stir in the coconut milk (with a whisk to get rid of any little clumps).  Bring to a boil and cook, stirring constantly, until it coats a metal spoon (or until it looks thick to you).  Remove from heat and add butter and vanilla.

Done!   So easy, so good.

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*I use a full can of coconut milk, and then to make up the rest of the liquid, I add in whatever is in the fridge – flax beverage or coconut milk (in a carton).  If you use almond milk, I do believe this would work too.  You could use more than one can of coconut milk, but that’s too pricey for me.

A couple of notes:

I use organic white sugar

Read your cocoa labels – I know of one brand that has allergy warnings for the large size can, but not the smaller one, because they are packaged in different plants.  Thanks for making my life easy, guys.

I use organic coconut milk.  I just don’t like the chemicals in some of the other stuff.  This time I used Native Forest.

Enjoy, and stay warm.

Double Chocolate Cookies

I am not a professional baker, nor do I pretend to be.  As my children were growing up, in an effort to keep costs down, I did a lot of baking to make school lunches, and provide my children and their friends with snacks.  I discovered that I was pretty good at it!  I loved to make cookies, squares, muffins, breads…..just about anything, really.

Then two things happened – first, as children tend to do, my kids grew up, got married, and moved out.  If I kept doing that much baking we would be very chubby grandparents.    Second – I developed food issues.  When you can’t have dairy, gluten, soy, nuts and eggs, it really puts a crimp in your baking style.  I wallowed in self-pity for a while, and then started experimenting.    When baking without these key ingredients, you need to do a fair amount of substituting, and you need to change your expectations as to how things will be as far as texture goes.  Regular flour is lovely and smooth and “gluey”, so things hold together well, and have a very smooth feel in your mouth.  Non-gluten flours, because they are ground from various things like rice, sorghum, quinoa, etc., can tend to be a little grittier in texture.  On top of this, substituting for eggs with chia seeds or ground flax adds a little grainier substance to your baking.  On the up side, chia and flax are very healthy.

Last week I pulled out an old recipe for double chocolate cookies.  I did some tweaking, and this is what I came up with.

2 chia eggs

½ cup plus 2 tbsp. sugar

½ cup cooking oil

2 squares unsweetened chocolate

½ tsp. vanilla

¾ cup white rice flour

¾ cup sweet sorghum flour

6 tbsp. brown rice flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/8 tsp. salt

½ cup chocolate chips

Mix together the chia eggs and sugar.  Melt chocolate squares in cooking oil, and add that as well as the vanilla to the chia/sugar mixture.

Add the rest of the ingredients.  Stir.  Drop by tbsp. onto greased baking sheet (or use parchment paper).  Bake in 350* oven for 8-10 minutes (mine took 7).

Chia seed eggs – for each “egg” use 1 tbsp. of chia seeds and 3 tbsp. water. For a smoother texture, grind your chia seeds first.  Combine the chia seeds and water, and let sit for at least 15 minutes to make a nice gel.

  • I used organic sugar
  • I used Camino unsweetened chocolate – free from all major allergens
  • I used Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips – free from all major allergens
  • Flours – you can either to Bob’s Red Mill, or Bulk Barn has them in bulk.

A review by my husband, who can eat whatever the heck he wants.  Ha.

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“The cookies look good.  They have a crisp exterior, and are soft and moist inside.  They are slightly grainy.  (I explained the whole gluten free flour texture thing.) However, this slight graininess would not stop me from eating more (as he carried away a bowl of four cookies). “

My husband grew up in a family with eleven children, so granted – he is not a picky eater – but he did plow through a significant number of cookies.

I hope that, if you give these a try, they are a success for you as well!

The Parent Quotes.

As a parent, you say things that would never be spoken by another person, except perhaps if you are playing Mad Libs. It is an almost constant battle between laughing at your hilarious child and trying to formulate real thoughts into real words that form an actual conversation. Just the other day, I had rushed in from doing about 10 errands, had to drop off groceries, find some lunch, get my toddler to bed, write down some thoughts for this blog post and then rush back out the door to pick up my baby at my mom’s and go to a tea party. (Oh thank goodness I finally got to have some tea after all of that!) In the midst of all that, my husband was trying to ask me a very simple question that in years past I could have answered with ease. On that day, however, all I was coming up with was a blank stare and a twitch as I tried to do a few tasks, answer my toddler’s question, feed a baby and concentrate on being an adult all at the same time.

Here is my top 10 list of things I have said out loud in the past month to our toddler:

1. “Stop tickling me with your food!”
2. “Your favourite animal is a slimy dragon covered in cream?”
3. “Don’t honk your sister’s nose!”
4. “A poopy bum on the couch is not a good idea!”
5. “I do not smell skunky!”
6. “Don’t throw tiny bear down the stairs or you will break his legs!”
7. “Thank you for playing a concert for me while I was in the bathroom.”
8. “Yay! We get to drive past the big tooth today!”
9. “Maybe the train just dropped the pirates off at home.”
10. “Okay…eat your ghost!

…and here is my #1 most hilarious, can’t believe it left my mouth quote from being a parent so far…

A pee sandwich? No, if you get pee on your sandwich, I’d throw it out!”

So, the next time you are talking to a mom and it takes her a minute to answer your perfectly normal, adult question, just remember that she has spent at least half her waking hours talking about dragons, stuffies, pirates and the bathroom.

Toddlers have their own arsenal of crazy things they say, too. While I have a whole slew of funny Jackson quotes, I thought I would share my top 2 unknowingly scary things that he has said, both in the last few months.

Scene: Jackson is playing in the living room, and Claire is laying on her floor mat. I am in the kitchen, and the kids are not in view.

J: (frantically, panicked) “What’s that guy doing in our house?! I don’t like him! What is he doing in our house?!”

As a mom, I feel torn between fright and saving my child, but, of course, I choose to save my child. I come into the living room… “What? What guy??”

J: “That spider…right over there!”

Ps. I couldn’t even find/see a spider. Heart attack for quite literally nothing.

Scene #2: Jackson and my husband are upstairs for bedtime. The room is dark, just one little lamp on.

“Good night Jackson.”
“Good night… Oh, daddy. Can you get the boogie man?”
“Aww, kiddo, you know what the boogie man is?”
“Yeah, daddy, it’s right over there.” (points to shelf in corner)
(Hubby looks over, starting to freak out) “Uh, what?”
“Right there, I see it on the white shelf.”
(Hubby starts breathing heavily…)

Turns out, my hubby hadn’t turned on any music yet for Jackson (he listens to music as he falls asleep), and he wanted the cd with this song on it…

Ps. Our son doesn’t actually know anything about the “boogie man.”