Food and Drink, pregnancy, Recipes

Pregnancy Cravings: Date Nut Bread

Last week, I talked about how I’m trying to eat dates every day to help potentially help with childbirth. Well, as soon as I heard that dates were good for pregnancy women, I immediately thought about one of my favorite childhood snacks: date nut bread with cream cheese and strawberries. When I was a kid, my mother used to have tea parties with me for my afternoon snack. It not only instilled in me a deep love of tea, but also helped me learn how to behave at the table in polite society. One of our favorite tea-time treats were little sandwiches of thinly sliced date nut bread, smeared with cream cheese and topped with thin slices of strawberry.

We got our date nut bread from the grocery store, where it was sold in dense, dark brown, round loaves in the bakery section. I haven’t seen it in years, though, and I knew I would want to make it from scratch anyway, so I could know how many dates were in each slice. So I went looking for a recipe and tinkered around until I came up with the recipe below. Now, the recipe I based this on calls for coffee and explains that the acidity of the coffee is important for the leavening, so I used decaf coffee. Personally, I feel like I do in fact taste the coffee, though I don’t dislike it. This recipe yields the same firm, dense, dark loaf that I remember as a child. If you let it cool completely, it will easily slice into very thin slices and hold up under the application of cream cheese. Strawberries are massively out of season right now, but I will definitely have to make this again in the summer. I divide this loaf into 8 portions, which can be further divided into two thin slices and each of which has about 1 oz. or 28g of dates in it.

Old-Fashioned Date Nut Bread

(based on this recipe)


8 oz. pitted dates, finely chopped
1/2 cup of sucanat
1/2 stick of softened unsalted butter
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup of hot brewed coffee
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup of einkorn all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sprouted spelt flour
1 cup chopped walnuts

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F and grease a 8.5″x4.5″ loaf pan and line it with parchment.
  2. Combine the first six ingredients and stir until the butter is melted. Set aside to cool for 15 minutes (this will also soften your dates).
  3. Add the egg and the vanilla to the mixture and mix well. Add in the flours and baking powder and stir to combine. Fold in the walnuts.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45-60 minutes. Tent with foil after 30 minutes to prevent over-browning. Test for doneness by taking the internal temperature, which should be about 200F. Let cool for at least 10 minutes in the pan, and then remove and cool completely on a rack before slicing. Keeps for about a week at room temperature in an air-tight container, or freeze for longer storage. I get about 8 servings out of this.

Recipe Notes:

Dates are sticky and do not chop in the food processor. I tried for too long, but ultimately had to chop them by hand. This will take longer than it takes for the oven to preheat (longer still if you don’t get pitted dates).

The original recipe calls for 2/3-3/4 cup of brown sugar. I used sucanat, which is an unrefined sugar with a pronounced molasses flavor, and I cut the sugar back to 1/2 cup. I still find the finished bread quite sweet, so I think this should be plenty of sugar for most people, but if you really like sweets, maybe try it with 2/3 cup brown sugar.

I used einkorn and sprouted spelt flours to keep it healthier, but feel free to use all-purpose flour for the whole thing, or mix all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour.

I chopped my walnuts a bit more finely (I used the food processor for this since I’d already gotten it out to fruitlessly chop dates, pun intended) because I don’t like large chunks of walnut in my breads, and it makes it easier to slice a bit more thinly.

Food and Drink, Recipes

Pregnancy Cravings: Make-Ahead Easy Bean Soup

So in my “eat like a hobbit” post, I mentioned that lately I’ve been eating a lot of soup for lunch. I find that soup is easy to make, keeps for a good amount of time, is easily transported, and is a satisfying meal, especially when served with some fresh bread or cornbread. I’ve been relying on soups for my lunches for years now, and I thought I’d share the really easy version I’ve been making lately.

Since I have no problem eating meat and eggs, I don’t feel the need to eat meat every time I have a meal, but I realize I need to push more plant foods, especially beans, which are rich in the potassium, iron, and folate that I’m certainly in need of lately. I recently discovered that chickpeas have a phenomenal amount of folate. So, while this originally started as a copy-cat recipe of a bean-and-chorizo soup I had in Barcelona, I decided to change it to have more beans and no actual meat (though I do use bone broth for more protein).

This version uses a combination of black beans and chickpeas, since that’s what I had in my cabinet, but you can use any beans you like. I like it a lot with navy beans or black-eyed peas. If you’re not vegetarian, I highly recommend using the bone broth, as it adds a good amount of protein. I like Kettle & Fire brand, since it comes in shelf-stable boxes, but I’ve also used Bonafide Provisions frozen broth. Bonafide comes in 3-cup pouches, so you can stretch the soup a little bit if you use the bigger amount of broth.

I store this soup in 16-oz. mason jars in the fridge if I’m going to eat it within a couple days, or else in the freezer. Do make sure you leave headspace in the jar if you’re planning on freezing them. They defrost pretty readily overnight in the fridge, although I have forgotten to defrost one in the past, and just dipped the jar in hot water until I could release the frozen block of soup into a bowl. I simply reheat in the microwave until it’s bubbling. Typically, I can make a batch of soup on Sunday or Monday, and bring them to work to store in the office fridge or freezer for the rest of the week, which is nice. Anyway, on to the recipe.

Quick and Easy Bean Soup


1-2 Tbsp. ghee or oil
1 small onion or leek, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
2 ribs of celery, chopped
salt and pepper
1-2 Tbsp. good Hungarian paprika
1-2 tsp. garlic powder/granules
1 can of Fire-Roasted Diced Tomatoes with Roasted Garlic
2 cans of beans, drained
2-3 cups of bone broth (I used one container of Kettle & Fire chicken broth)

  1. Heat a medium pot over medium heat. Add the ghee/oil, and then saute the onion, carrot, and celery in the fat until they’re starting to soften. Add some salt and pepper to taste. Add the paprika and garlic, and stir to combine with the veggies and oil.
  2. Add the tomatoes, drained beans, and broth. Cover and bring to a boil, and then simmer for 20-30 minutes.
  3. Taste and adjust seasonings, if needed, then package or serve. Makes about 4 servings.
Food and Drink

My Pregnancy Diet: Eat Like a Hobbit

I thought I’d take some time today to talk a bit about how I’m eating during my pregnancy. Now, I’ve always had a pretty active appetite, probably because I’m a fairly physically active person (I mean, for someone with a desk job), but pregnancy showed me how important it was to eat frequently throughout the day to both keep from getting hungry and nauseous, and to keep up with my changing appetite. As my nausea has faded, I’ve found that I tend to be hungrier early in the day and then have worsening indigestion as the day goes on. So I need to eat frequently and healthfully at breakfast and lunch, and then eat a smaller dinner.

But in reality, three squares just isn’t going to cut it. No, my strategy has been to take a page from epic literature and eat like a hobbit.

Obviously, I was first introduced to the hobbit diet through the works of J. R. R. Tolkein and Merry and Pippin’s infamous exchange about the meals they were missing while on their quest to return the One Ring. But I first became aware of the actual mealtimes and foods associated with the hobbit diet through the blog Kitchen Overlord, where the author shares some recipes from her book An Unexpected Cookbook: The Unofficial Book of Hobbit Cookery. Looking at various other sources, and inferring based on parallels to British mealtimes, the hobbit meals are as follows:

7 a.m.: Breakfast

9 a.m.: Second Breakfast

11 a.m.: Elevenses

1 p.m.: Luncheon

4 p.m.: Afternoon Tea

7 p.m.: Supper

9 p.m.: Dinner

So for my pregnancy diet, I tend to eat as much as I can for Breakfast through Luncheon, have a snack before my evening commute at 5 p.m., and then make dinner/supper around 7 p.m. and perhaps have a little extra right before going to bed, to avoid waking up hungry in the middle of the night as much as possible. But how does this translate to actual meals? In practice, this comes out to about four proper meals and three snacks.

Well, I wake up around 5:30-6 a.m. and either eat right away or shower and then eat. Lately, I’ve been having a bowl of cereal with a banana and cashew milk, but earlier on, I would have something lighter, like an apple with some peanut butter. Originally, the point of this was to get me through my commute (and morning barre class) without feeling woozy or queasy from hunger. But lately, I wake up ravenous anyway, hence the larger breakfast. Then, once I’m at work, around 8:30 a.m., I made a second breakfast.

Second breakfast is generally more substantial, and my constant go-to is my one consistent craving: eggs and avocado. When I bring food from home, I slice up an avocado and cook some scrambled eggs in the microwave, then put both on an English muffin. If I’m coming from the gym on Monday, I’ll stop and get an avocado toast with eggs from the cafe near my gym. But eggs and avocado is almost always second breakfast.

Elevenses is usually a treat with a cup of tea, either some rustic biscuits (I like Effie’s nutcakes) or maybe a Hail Merry mini tart. Elevenses is particularly necessary on Tuesdays, when I go to yoga at noon and can’t eat my lunch early. So I can usually wait until about 1 p.m. for lunch, when I have a pretty standard lunch, usually a bowl of homemade soup with some bread, or maybe a sandwich or some tacos if I’m eating out.

Then, before my commute home, I have “afternoon tea” around 4-4:30 p.m. I often switch my true tea for a cup of my herbal pregnancy tea, and have that with another treat/snack, like for elevenses. Generally, I try to keep my elevenses treat a little healthier and allow myself a little more indulgence for afternoon tea, but it’s the same idea: something small, usually sweet, and often baked. This week, I’ve made a batch of oatmeal fruit bars for which I’m particularly excited.

When I get home, I start making dinner (supper), and lately we’ve been eating between 7 and 7:30 p.m. Food aversions, fatigue, and just general changes of taste have made our meals somewhat predictable. We eat a lot of beef chili, chicken stew, and the occasional evening fry-up. Sometimes, I’ll boil some frozen ravioli. And we generally get takeout a couple times a week, usually from our favorite Thai restaurant, a local fish sandwich place, or a Greek restaurant. Because my indigestion acts up later in the day, I’ve started making my supper a bit smaller than it once was, but I’ve learned I need to make sure to give Dan a little extra, as he only eats two meals a day, and started losing weight when I started reducing one of those meals (he’s more of a ranger than a hobbit, I think…).

Then, around 8:30-9 p.m., just before we’re getting ready for bed, I’ll have dessert, usually Coconut Bliss ice cream. It’s not really a meal, but I like to leave a little gap between our dinner and the treat so that I’m less likely to wake up in the middle of the night starving. So far, my desire to stay in bed has outweighed my need to eat in the middle of the night, and hopefully my hobbit habits of eating will keep it that way!

[Image source]

Food and Drink, Recipes

My Herbal Pregnancy Tea Blend

NB: I am not a medical professional or a licensed herbalist. Please do your own research and consult your doctor about any herbal supplements you take, especially during pregnancy. What follows are what I have chosen to use during pregnancy, not recommendations for anyone else.

Herbal teas can be tricky to navigate while pregnant. There are all sorts of restrictions and recommendations, and even conflicting information about what’s safe and what’s not. Then, there’s the fact that some of the teas that are specifically supposed to be beneficial for pregnant women are, well, not terribly tasty. Now, most wisdom is that herbal tisanes (i.e., not tea, which comes from the camellia sinensis plant) that are drunk for flavor contain such a small amount of active constituents that they’re unlikely to cause harm. But there are still proscriptions. Pregnant women are advised to avoid licorice root and certain hormonally-active herbs.

Then there are the total surprises. When I was in Barcelona, I learned that the standard mint blend that is served in cafes isn’t just peppermint or a blend of peppermint and spearmint, but also commonly contains the herb called “poleo” in Spanish. Since it smelled a little licorice-y when I was steeping up a cup of Mentha-Poleo tea one afternoon, I did look it up and found out that “poleo” is the Spanish word for pennyroyal, an herb I certainly didn’t want to consume while pregnant (it’s used in large amounts as an abortifacient).

So once I got home I decided I was going to make my own herbal blend, partly to have a more enjoyable way to drink some more red raspberry leaf (now that I’m solidly out of the first trimester, the warnings against it are less dire), and partly to have a caffeine-free hot drink to enjoy in the afternoons, especially after yoga sessions that I finish rather late in the say. So I started doing my research, as well as looking at some commercial “pregnancy teas” at the store and online. Obviously, a very common pregnancy tea ingredient is red raspberry leaf, for its supposedly uterus-toning abilities, but commercial pregnancy teas also commonly contain nettle. Personally, I don’t care for the taste of nettle tea (if I’m being totally honest, I think it tastes like overcooked spinach that has been boiled in urine), so I thought I’d make my own blend.

A side note: I will say that I’m rather enjoying Yogi Tea’s Mother-to-be tea, despite the inclusion of nettle. Although that’s probably because they tend to be rather heavy-handed with the flavoring herbs, and I find it tastes more of mint and cardamom than anything else.

While researching herbs to include in my personal blend, I decided that flavoring-levels of lemon verbena, rose petals, and citrus peels were probably safe. I stayed away from mint, although I might add it to a future batch, mostly because I find that the peppermint from Mountain Rose Herbs is often so potent that it overpowers any other flavor, and I wanted something a bit delicate and floral. And then I made the base of the tea red raspberry leaf. Interestingly enough, I get a strong hit of rose aroma and floral flavor from the rose petals, which blends rather nicely with the herbal citrus notes of the lemon verbena and peels, plus the slight tannic bite of red raspberry leaf.

Loose-Leaf Pregnancy Herbal Tea:

(A note about amounts: I used parts by weight, so the citrus peel will be a much smaller volume than the fluffier herbs. Using 1/2 oz. as a part, I got enough bulk tea to fill one quart-sized jar and one 8-oz. jar)

4 parts dried red raspberry leaf
1 part dried lemon verbena
1 part dried rose petals
1 part dried and cut orange peel
1 part dried and cut lemon peel

Mix all herbs well in a bowl and then store in an airtight jar in a dry place. To prepare, brew about 1 tablespoon of dried herb blend in 8-12 oz. of boiling water for 5-10 minutes. It’s particularly nice with a slice of lemon and a drizzle of honey.

Food and Drink

My Favorite Dairy Substitutes Since Apparently My Pregnant Body Hates Dairy Now

The title is a bit misleading: my body has never particularly liked digesting dairy. But it’s generally been limited to the occasional upset stomach when I have too much milk or ice cream. Since I got pregnant, I found out that one of my primary food-related triggers of nausea was dairy products. For a while during the first trimester, I just had to completely cut out dairy foods, other than butter and a very small amount of cheese. Of course, this meant that I couldn’t engage in one of the most fun stereotypical pregnant lady behaviors: excessive ice cream consumption. I also found that my standard snack of a bowl of cereal, or my morning matcha latte were now off-limits. So I spent some time looking for non-dairy replacements.

Now, I’ve gone dairy-free at various points in my life for one reason or another, although always previously decided it wasn’t worth it, so I had an idea of what I didn’t like in terms of non-dairy products. I’m not a fan of most commercial nut milks, and I don’t particularly like the effect on my body of replacing all my dairy foods with soy. So I had to look a little further. I managed to find some newer nut-based dairy substitutes that are richer than previous products I’ve tried. And I actually found a delicious substitute for ice cream. And since I have these delicious (not just tolerable) replacements, I haven’t felt the need to test out much dairy even since my nausea has abated.

Nut “Milk”:

I think my main issue with nut milks is that I consume whole milk or cream when I consume fluid milk. While I was raised on lowfat milk, I switched to whole milk pretty early on in my young adult life and have just never looked back. So all nut milks have always tasted kind of thin and watery to me. I did find that New Barn Barista Almond Milk worked alright in tea lattes for me, but I didn’t like it on cereal.

But then I tried Elmhurst Milked Cashews. Oh my god, it’s amazing. It doesn’t taste nutty. It actually kind of tastes like half and half. It’s amazing on cereal or in tea, or just on its own. I’m really glad I’ve found a nondairy milk that I can enjoy.

Ice Cream:

Of course, one of the things I was looking forward to was eating lots of ice cream because the baby needs the extra calories, right? My mom ate Haagen Dazs coffee ice cream the whole time she was pregnant with me. So imagine my disappointment when I realized that ice cream was out.

And then I found Coconut Bliss. So yummy. I’ve tried several flavors and loved all of them, but I think my favorite so far is the Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge. It’s kind of like a nutty Nutella ice cream. So if you’re looking for a rich, creamy nondairy ice cream, try it out. It does have a mild coconut flavor to it, so if you really hate coconut, you might not like it, but I don’t find it distracting. And honestly I appreciate that the coconuttiness keeps my husband out of my stash!

Food and Drink

How I Stay Hydrated in Pregnancy

Before I got pregnant, I was an obsessively hydrated person. For health reasons, I found that I functioned optimally when I get about 100 fl. oz. of plain water daily, not including any other beverages (mostly tea, if we’re being self-aware). But all that changed when I got pregnant. All of a sudden, my first-trimester nausea meant that plain water tasted bad and I had trouble getting down enough. So I thought I’d share some of the things that I found helpful to keep myself hydrated without fighting my body.

My first step was to step back and see how I could be gentler to myself. First, I realized that I wasn’t keeping up my normal level of activity while I was feeling sick, so I made the conscious decision to change my water-tracking app settings from “Active” to “Regular” to account for the fact that some of my lower intake was probably self-regulation because I needed less water. I kept an eye on myself and made sure I didn’t notice any adverse effects, but this has been a pretty solid choice for me. Then, I decided to start counting fluids other than plain water as “water” in my app. I found that I could drink flavored liquids much faster and in greater quantities than plain water, so I started counting all non-caffeinated liquids in my intake. Eventually I started sometimes including a cup of tea in that total, though I would be conservative and call an 8-oz. cup of tea 6 oz. of water in my totals.

The next thing I did sprang from this, as I learned what I did and did not want to drink quickly and in quantity. I learned that a small amount of juice added to a large glass of water was enough to make it taste good enough to drink quickly. I realize this is something that a lot of people do to make themselves drink water, but it had never been an issue for me. I started out with just a little orange juice that I bought with my breakfast sandwich and added about 4 oz. of juice to my 16-oz. jar of water that I keep on my desk throughout the day. Eventually, I switched to other juices, especially Honest Kids drinks, and Lakewood lemonade, both of which are only sweetened with fruit juices. I still like to add an inch of lemonade to the bottom of a glass of water when I need to drink a few more glasses for the day and don’t feel like forcing down plain water.

One final thing I’ve found helps me drink more fluid faster is to drink cold liquids through a straw. I have a glass straw for my jar at work and a set of steel straws at home. I used to only use them when I needed to drink while sheet masking, but lately, I find that drinking through a straw helps me get through a glass of water faster than drinking it without a straw. And since I’m adding acidic juices to flavor my water sometimes, it has the extra benefit of helping keep the acid off my teeth.

So, yes, I am consuming more sugar than I would be if I stuck to plain water and unsweetened tea. But I’m getting more hydration than when I was forcing myself to stick an ideology that my body didn’t want to support. At this point, I have no reason to believe that a little extra sugar is going to be a problem for me, and it’s more important to stay hydrated, especially as I gain weight and my water needs increase (also since it’s getting hot around here and I need more water just from my normal walk to work). So if any other pregnant ladies are having trouble staying hydrated, I’d suggest you consider flavoring your water and even letting yourself count that can of soda as a glass of water every once in a while when you’re having a really hard day. Be easy on yourself and work with your body to keep things good.