January 21, 2013 § Leave a comment
Motherhood is about raising and celebrating the child you have, not the child you thought you would have. It’s about understanding that he is exactly the person he is supposed to be. And that, if you’re lucky, he might just be the teacher who turns you into the person you are supposed to be.
I stumbled upon this quote when desperately researching why it is that babies who have slept really well for the last couple of months suddenly hit the four month mark and turn into night terrors. Most of the activity in the Cakesnail household this week has taken place between the hours of 1 and 5am in the shape of crying, bouncing, rocking, crying, feeding, bouncing, crying. You get it. I think (hope) the worst is over, but it’s been big stuff for our little guy: his brain is gearing up for a mega developmental leap that should happen in another couple of weeks. It’s a pretty cool one – he’s going to start rolling, and building towards crawling (eek), and probably making those baba-mama-tata-papa sounds that we will leap to records as first “words”. But at the moment he’s a tad confused, and spooked, and needy. Doesn’t anyone whose head circumference is going to grow three centimeters in a mere month deserve to feel a bit discombobulated?
These changes bit hard to start out. It feels cruel – just as you find a rhythm with your days, and get a glorious 8 hour chunk of sleep from your little one, not only is that snatched away, but it comes with much more middle-of-the-night distress than the pure eating fest of the newborn nights. It’s all too easy to put your parenting decisions under the spotlight: should I have let him sleep “on the go” so much; does he need a stricter daytime schedule; does he need to cry for longer to learn his way out of some of this? The whole experience is quite the teacher: I certainly will never judge anyone else’s parenting decisions having been through this. Learning not to judge your own: well, that’s a much harder lesson.
I don’t write much about my yoga practice on Cakesnail – it’s something I prefer to experience more than to intellectualize, which writing invariably leads me to do. But this week I can’t stop thinking about just how much yoga there is in this journey of parenthood. It’s about dropping attachments to and expectations of an image of what our nights should look like at this point. It’s about acceptance, trust, and faith that everything is exactly the way it’s supposed to be. And it’s about kindness – to a confused, growing little boy, to Ollie, and, hardest of all, to myself. So while my asana practice might look quite different to the days Before Henry – a chaotic mom-and-baby class here, or a mad dash to and from a weekly practice there – it’s fine. I’m chanting and breathing all night long, and that gym ball does wonders for the core in any case.
Being up all night requires careful nourishment: a quick bowl of pasta and tomato sauce doesn’t really cut it. I’ve been eating a lot of meat as a result – some days it’s a sheer physical drive for a burger or steak. But I’m trying to get more fish into this diet, especially before bed, as it’s a digestable protein that keeps you full and aids sleep without a heaviness in the gut. I generally avoid cooking fish, just because I’m not really that good at it. Terrified of the modern culinary sin of overcooking, I usually end up serving fillet of sushi, which then has to go back in the oven or on the stove probably in chunks, while the rest of the meal goes cold and limp. This is why, if I invite you for dinner, I will not be serving fish. Of course this vicious circle is ridiculous: more tethering to fear, and expectations, and perfectionism. It’s only fish!
Speaking of perfectionism, I took this recipe from Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP newsletter on superfoods this month, with recipes from Dr Frank Lipman. You would think that the realities of these past weeks would make any mama infuriated by Gwynny’s curated depiction of idealized motherhood, and I totally get it if you find her ridiculous. But love or loathe, she does have impeccable food taste, and this salmon recipe hits all the right notes, whether you’re trying to get through the night, or just through the hump of late January resolution fatigue. The fish marinades in soy, balsamic, lime and honey, leaving a subtle note when grilled that pairs perfectly with brown rice and greens quickly wok-fried with garlic. Eat up, let go, and enjoy whatever ride you find yourself on right now. You’ll be off it before you know*.
*since I wrote this, nights are almost back to normal! Whatever ‘normal’ means these days…
Soy-Balsamic Salmon with Brown Rice and Kale
Adapted from Dr Frank Lipman for GOOP
2 salmon fillets, around 1/3-1/2 lb each, preferably wild or whatever salmon is sustainably fished where you are
1/4 cup light soy sauce (I used tamari)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
juice of half a lime
1 tbsp honey
3 tbsp olive oil
Brown rice to serve, cooked however you prefer (I do 1 part rice to 2 parts water in a rice cooker)
1 bunch kale
4 cloves garlic
canola or vegetable oil
Combine the soy, balsamic and lime juice in a small bowl. Whisk in the honey until well combined, and then slowly drizzle in the olive oil while continuing to whisk. Stir in a few turns of fresh black pepper.
Place the salmon fillets in a sealable container or shallow dish, and pour the marinade over the fish. Cover and refrigerate for 4-12 hours, turning the fish and basting 3-4 times during this time.
Before you cook the fish, cook your rice and prepare the kale by removing the hard stems and cutting or ripping into pieces. Finely chop the garlic and set to one side.
Line a baking sheet or tray with parchment paper or foil. Remove the salmon from the marinade and place on the sheet, skin-side up. Preheat your broiler (UK = grill) and place the salmon underneath, not too close to the heat, around the second shelf to the top. This is where it gets fun! The original recipe said to broil/grill for 2-3 minutes each side. Mine needed more like 6 minutes each side, but keep an eye on your fish and use your instincts. Just take note of how long it took, even if you end up getting it wrong, so you can tweak the next time.
Once the fish is on the second side, heat about 2 tbsp canola or vegetable oil in a wok or appropriate skillet, and add the garlic. Fry, moving around the pan quickly, for about 1 minute, then add the kale and continue cooking and stirring for about 1-2 more minutes.
Serve the rice and kale alongside the fish.
January 10, 2013 § 1 Comment
A happy new year to you all. I hope you are feeling rejuvenated and inspired by the potential that the new starts and clean slates of a clock ringing midnight can bring. We slept through the chimes this year, catching up on too many other nights of seeing the early hours of the morning that look more like milky pjs than high heels and sparkles. We were, at least, away from home, up in the Tahoe Sierras, surrounded by friends and snow-topped fir trees, observing the effects of altitude on a 3 month old’s nap schedule (not good) and his hormonal mama’s reaction thereto (worse). Thankfully not much can remain unforgiven when you see a perfect snowflake land on a bemused eyelash, while its owner attempts to catch more on his little tongue.
I made resolutions optimistically, as though life was still Before Henry: sort out the kitchen so I have space and light to take photos more easily; find a way to write more than once every three months; start getting dressed in the morning with more thought than the nearest pair of skinny jeans; cook again in a fashion about more than last minute survival. And there are days, like now, where these seem like completely reasonable goals for a human being, even a mother, and so here I sit typing with a napping baby strapped to my chest and feeling like there may again be cake. Tomorrow – who knows. I’m getting used to that, slowly.
And so to the cake. For the last 14 weeks I have eaten next to no dairy. Yep, that does mean no butter (or milk, or cheese, but really it’s all about the butter if you’re a baker). There’s enough of a link between dairy and colic in babies that I decided to cut it out from the start, terrified by the horror stories from both sets of grandparents about how nightmarish Ollie and I both were as colicky infants. And then Henry’s worst meltdown ever came right after I unthinkingly ate a Tartine croissant, which doesn’t just contain a bit of butter, and when you’re rocking a normally cheery but now inconsolably sobbing little man over and over and over, coconut vegan ice-cream and cashew nut “cheese”cake seem like completely reasonable ways to eat for the return of that cheeky smile.
I’m working on figuring out a few tricks to baking a good butter-free cake, that don’t involve the use of ingredients that belong in a chemistry class (eg xanthan gum – anything beginning with the letter x does not belong in my baking). Recipes involving fruit or veg, like carrot or zucchini loaves, often utilize vegetable oil instead of butter, giving a dense yet moist texture as opposed to the finer crumb of a butter batter, so they are my fallback recipes for the time being. I also discovered a pear and cranberry bundt cake in the last ever issue of Gourmet magazine that without icing also fulfills the dairy-free criteria: it got rave reviews both from the Thanksgiving crowd and my moms’ group, which I feel denotes sufficient versatility to mention. But, since this is January, and we’re at least pretending to be all about antioxidants and vitamins and health, let’s go back to the carrots.
While there’s certainly a time and a place for a carrot cake that is slathered in tooth-aching frosting, it isn’t really the first month of the year. How about the radical idea of a carrot cake that tastes of carrots? That’s pretty much what this simple recipe turns out. It’s somehow a treat yet wholesome all at once. Start out with good, organic carrots and take the time to grate them finely, so they find their way into every crevice of the loaf. Even if you’re dubious about dried fruits, give this a go with the raisins included first as their sweet chewiness really does complement the carrot. And if you want to take a piece of three day old cake, gently toast and slather it with butter for breakfast, I won’t tell the resolution police.
Carroty carrot cake
Adapted from Galit Babo for Bon Appetit
125g eggs (2 large eggs for me – you can weigh your first egg and then decide if two or three of the size you have are necessary)
110g oil (neutral flavored like canola, vegetable or sunflower)
140g plain/all purpose flour
5g baking powder
60g desiccated unsweetened coconut
A few chopped walnuts or hazelnuts
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C/350° degrees F.
Grate the carrots using the finer side of a box grater. Set to one side.
Beat together the eggs and sugar with an electric whisk, stand mixer or wooden spoon, until pale and well combined. Keep the mixer running on slow and very gradually beat in the oil. If you are using a wooden spoon add a small amount at a time and beat well between each addition. Turn the mixer to its lowest speed and add the flour, baking powder, coconut and cinnamon, stirring until just combined.
Put the raisins and chopped nuts in a small bowl and mix with a small amount of flour to help prevent them from sinking in the batter. Fold them into the batter and then fold in the carrots.
Pour the mixture into a loaf pan (I used a 9×5 inch) and bake for around 60 minutes. Start checking the loaf around 50 minutes – it is ready when a wooden skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out with just a few crumbs sticking. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes then turn onto a wire rack to finish cooling. Serve at room temperature. The cake will keep, well wrapped, for about 3 days, or you can freeze it for up to 2 months.