Fool-Proof Coconut Banana Loaf (With A Top-Secret Ingredient!)

Today’s cooler temperatures and overcast skies made it feel like fall is just around the corner. And one of my favourite things about fall is baking: loaves, muffins, cookies, and cakes–all of the things that felt like too much effort during the hot summer months. I made my Grandma Murphy’s recipe for a coconut banana loaf for an afternoon snack today (freelancing has its perks).

This might look like a plain old ordinary banana loaf, but there’s a secret ingredient that transforms it into banana bread amazingness. And it’s not, surprisingly, the coconut. It’s the wonderful nutty nectar that is almond extract. Yum.

banana coconut bread

I always hate saying goodbye to summer, but there’s something so appealing about cozying up in chunky knits with a mug of piping hot coffee and a slice of homemade banana loaf. That being said, I’m happy to see that summer temperatures will be back before the weekend!

FOOL-PROOF BANANA COCONUT LOAF
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup melted butter
3 medium bananas, mashed
Splash of almond extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup medium grind coconut, shredded
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350F

Beat the eggs, then add sugar and melted butter and beat well. Stir in bananas and almond extract.

Measure the dry ingredients into another bowl and stir until well mixed. Spoon mixture into a greased loaf pan.

Bake for 55-60 minutes.

6 Core Design Principles of “Baby Chic” Decor

Y’know that old saying “Where there’s a baby there’s baby stuff?” No? Oh. Maybe that’s because I just made it up. Anyway it should be an “old saying” because it’s true: Where there’s a baby there’s baby stuff. Babies are small and compact and take up very little space but their stuff is a whole other story.

When Dave and I bought our first house last March, I spent hours reading design blogs looking for decor inspiration. We’ve done lots of work on the house to make it feel like our own–we painted the walls and ceiling in every room (except the bathroom, which we hope to gut one day), tore up the smelly carpet on the second level and painted the floorboards white, and bought some new furniture. There’s still a long list of “to do’s,” but overall the place is getting closer and closer to how I imagined it would look.

Except…. except for all of the baby gear. While I was ecstatic about having a baby, plastic objects in loud primary colours weren’t exactly part of my decor daydreams. Maybe you can relate? If so, here are some tips for incorporating the core “design principles” of “baby chic” decor into your home.

1. Interlocking foam tiles double as an area rug in your living or family room. The colourful ones with animal faces are particularly “funky.”

Is it an area rug, or baby's play area? Super hard to tell right?!

Delightful area rug, or baby’s play mat? You tell me.

2. Mismatched dining chairs are all the rage and who says one of those chairs can’t be a infant’s highchair?

Pin-worthy, amiright?

Totttaalllyyyy Pin-worthy, amiright?

3. Embrace the industrial look by hanging a metal Jolly Jumper door clamp from an archway so baby can get her exercie on.

It's for the baby, honest...

That looks normal, I guess.

4. Save money on living room furniture by replacing an armchair with an bouncy chair.

babybouncychair

You could put a boring adult chair in this spot, but the “baby La-Z-Boy” (as I like to call it) is “quirky” and “unexpected.”

5. Store toys and books in decorative baskets in each room–your baby will enjoy them and adult guests can entertain themselves if the conversation gets boring.

Could anything be more cheerful?

If a smiling caterpillar doesn’t bring you joy, your heart is clearly made of stone.

6. I never realized how much character an ExerSaucer adds to a kitchen. Everyone should get one, baby or no baby.

exersaucer

I would’ve preferred a kitchen island with granite countertops, but, actually, the barnyard motif works.

Whenever I feel like I’m going to scream because there’s a folded stroller base in my dining room or a Bumbo chair in the bathroom, I just look at my dreamy, perfectly-turned-out “home” on Pinterest and feel instantly calmer. After a minute of fantasizing about living in a house that is so tidy (and without a single Fisher Price item in sight), I remember that these styled interiors look pretty in pictures, but in reality, it’s nice to have a home that feels lived in–a place where a family goes about their real, hectic, and often messy lives together, baby-gear clutter and all. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Spit Up is the New Black: My First 3 Months of Motherhood

The truth is, I loved her before I even laid eyes on her. Before she appeared on the ultrasound monitor as a tiny white speck. Before we heard the intoxicating sound of her heart thump-thumping at 150 beats per minute. Before we knew she was a she. I loved her even then.

But all of that was the equivalent of a summer-camp crush compared to the to the tidal wave of love that washed over me when I finally met her. Olivia. Our daughter. The love of our lives.

baby smiles

She came into the world at 1:44am on July 2, 2014–a beautiful, squawking, seven-pound bundle of joy with cherry-red lips and a very full bladder: she peed on me as the doctor held her above my belly to let Dave cut the umbilical cord. Ha! The girl knows how to make an entrance. When I held her tiny newborn body against mine for the first time, it felt like my heart was a volcano erupting warm rivers of love and gratitude all over the delivery room, out into the hallways of Mount Sinai Hospital, and through the streets of the entire city.

The first six weeks of motherhood were a dizzying whirlwind of diaper changes, round-the-clock feedings and sleepless nights. I’m not going to lie: it was utterly exhausting. How come no one talks about how much time a mom spends nursing her newborn? Sure, all of the books I read told me that babies need to eat eight to twelve times per day but I was thinking each feeding would be ten minutes, max. I’m here to set the record straight: if you plan to breastfeed at some point in your life, prepare to be a 24-hour all-baby-can-eat milk buffet. Feedings sometimes took up to an hour, which basically equals eight hours a day (or more), which basically amounts to a full-time job.

Getting out of the house with a newborn is an adventure in and of itself. It’s staggering that infants–such tiny little creatures–have so much gear. Every outing requires an intense round of mental gymnastics as you sort out what you’ll need (a car seat, a stroller, a carrier–all three?) and making sure you know how each item works before you leave. You don’t want to cause a traffic jam in the mall parking lot because you don’t know how to collapse the stroller. (Hint, though: most of this stuff is only a quick Google away.)

Things got easier around the two-month mark. She started sleeping for longer stretches and she was happy to take a bottle. “I get to make dinner?!” I exclaimed the first time that Dave came home from work and fed her from a bottle in the evening. I had never embraced the task of preparing a meal with such enthusiasm. Dicing onions and heating olive oil in a frying pan helped me connect with my pre-baby self, someone that felt a little lost to me during the first few weeks of motherhood.

I love being a mom (I love being her mom), but it took time to adjust to this new role. All aspects of my life changed overnight, including my marriage (date night… what’s that?!); my social life (while 5 p.m. once kicked off “happy hour” and after-work drinks with friends, it now signals the beginning of what the experts call “the witching hour,” a three-hour period in the evenings when babies are particularly fussy); and my exercise routine (my running shoes haven’t seen the light of day since I don’t even know when).

Sometimes I still I miss the days when I had the freedom to do these things whenever I pleased. A simpler time when I didn’t spend most of the day with a nursing pillow strapped around my naked torso. But then I catch a smile on our daughter’s adorable face, or hear her sweet coos and giggles, or smell her delicious baby scent, and all of that longing disappears. I’ll be reacquainted with my sneakers soon enough. For now, I’m savouring every sleep-deprived moment with this beautiful little soul.

Blogging, Babies & Butter Tarts

I’ve decided to start blogging again. Why? Because I missed it. Because why not. Because what else am I going to do while my baby naps. (Oh yeah–I had a daughter a couple of months ago! But more on that later. Probably.)

September means back to school for students and back to work for summer vacationers, and since I’m not going back to either of those things, I might as well go back to blogging. Right? Write.

A lot of stuff has happened in the past few months: Dave and I said goodbye to our carefree/child-free days of bar hopping and apartment dwelling in Toronto’s Trinity-Bellwoods neighbourhood and became home-owning, Rav 4-driving, diaper-changing, stroller-pushing east enders. Our new gig keeps us busy doing all sorts of things, like trying to stay ahead of a Mount Everest-sized pile of laundry, making our house feel like a home (I swear we’ll get window coverings soon!), and manipulating our facial muscles in ridiculous contortions in attempt to make our daughter smile. Sometimes it even works (proof below).

baby smiles

Things I haven’t been doing lately include, but are not limited to: baking and blogging. And bathing. Just kidding. I totally still bathe, although it’s been bumped down on the to do list these days. Taking care a human baby is hard work! But it’s impossible to complain about the job when your boss is so darned cute.

Anyway, here’s a Grandma Murphy-approved recipe for butter tarts. I thought these were the perfect treats for this post since our daughter’s due date was Canada Day (her actual birth date was July 2) and apparently butter tarts are considered a Canadian delicacy. Beware: they are sinfully delicious and almost too easy to make!

easy butter tart reicpe

Note: I used this pastry recipe for the tart shells, but store-bought ones work, too!

1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 425°F

Cover raisins with boiling water. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes. Drain water. Beat in egg, brown sugar and the remaining ingredients. Pour mixture into raw tart shells–do not overfill. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. 

The Quick & Easy Breakfast Food That Changed My Life

Easy granola recipe Mark BittmanGranola is, admittedly, a rather boring subject to blog about.

However, I’ve been making this humble breakfast food from scratch for a few months now and I swear it’s changed my life. It’s so delicious! And easy to make! I confess, I had no idea toasted oats and nuts could be so transformative.

There’s a bit of an overhead cost to making granola from scratch, since you have to buy a combination of nuts (I buy everything in bulk), but one batch makes enough to last us about two weeks. It couldn’t be easier to make and it tastes delicious with yogurt (or milk) and berries and is also a great snack.

Mark Bittman granola recipeI must thank Mark Bittman for this recipe and for giving me such a scrumptious reason to get out of bed in the mornings.

6 cups rolled oats (do not buy quick-cooking or instant)
2 cups mixed nuts and seeds: a combination of sunflower seeds, chopped walnuts, pecans, almonds, cashews, sesame seeds, etc.
1 cup shredded coconut (optional)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or to taste
Dash salt
1 /2 to 1 cup honey or maple syrup, or to taste
1 cup raisins or chopped dried fruit

Heat the oven to 350°F. In a bowl, combine the oats, nuts and seeds, the coconut if you’re using it, cinnamon, salt, and sweetener. Spread evenly on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes or a little longer, stirring occasionally. The mixture should brown evenly; the browner it gets without burning, the crunchier the granola will be.

Remove the pan from the oven and add the raisins. Cool on a rack, stirring once in a while until the granola reaches room temperature. Transfer to a sealed container and store in the refrigerator; it will keep indefinitely.

Just-Because Chocolate Chip Cookies

Last night I made chocolate chip cookies.

IMG_2385

There wasn’t a birthday or anything particularly special to celebrate. Just a random Monday at the end of March and a girl’s craving for something sweet.

IMG_2393Sometimes the soul just needs ooey-gooey, freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.

IMG_2377

Sorta New Year’s Resolutions

IMG_2272Winter sucks. But sometimes you have to stop complaining about the cold, and the darkness and the dirty slush and just get out and play in the snow.

That’s a sorta New Year’s resolution that I’m gonna try out this year: Embrace winter.

Continue reading