Things have been pretty different for me lately.
After I published my last big essay, Confronting My Anxiety in Anguilla, I received such an overwhelmingly positive response that it was almost a little too much for me to handle. I kind of withdrew for a little bit, and stopped writing. I love that the things I share on this blog can have such an impact on people, and I'm honored that my words really seem to resonate. But I shared such a big part of me and it was so well received that it caught me off guard. I felt a little intimidated after that last essay, like nothing I wrote again would ever feel so honest. I also felt worried that nobody would want to read the other essays I write. But then something hit me, I don't write these essays for anyone else. I write them for myself, and I then I share them with people.
Something really special for me is knowing that the things I've been telling you guys about are so authentically "me". The feelings I talk about and the way that I choose to write about them is genuine, and knowing that people care about something so personal is such a blessing. It feels good to communicate with people through my writing.
One of the biggest things I learned about myself in Anguilla was that I don't spend nearly enough time specifically focusing on things that make my heart and body feel good. I get distracted by work and by other obligations, and I put my own happiness on the back burner. I think a lot of us do that. I know that sometimes it's necessary, because we all have other things to worry about. Sometimes it's family members, or friends, or romantic partners. But it's important to remember that in order to be the best we can be for other people, we also need to be strong for ourselves.
So I'm working on that. I'm trying to be a better version of myself, and I'm trying new things. I found a lot of things to do in Anguilla that made me happy, but I need to get back to doing those things in Los Angeles.
That's something totally new for me. Entering a sweaty room of people and twisting my body around in unfamiliar ways. Closing my eyes around strangers and focusing on the sound of my own breath. It's weird. But it feels so good. I like having a 90 minute block of time where I go into a quiet room, shut off my phone and focus on myself. I always walk out of the studio with a big smile on my face.
A lot of people would be quick to describe me as one of the chattiest people ever. I love talking and I love making noises. I'm easily excitable and when I'm in a good mood I don't know how to shut up about it. Meditation is the exact opposite of that. It forces me to shut down the talkative portion of my mind, and direct my focus onto the things pulsing around inside of me. It's frustrating, mostly because it's something I'm not used to. But it can be so rewarding. There's a specific type of mediation I've been working with lately. It's called Metta Bhavana and it's a way of developing compassion through love and kindness. You start by thinking positive things about yourself. Generating feelings about the qualities you possess that you are most proud of. And then you spread those loving feelings outward, onto people you love and care about, towards people you feel neutrally about, and finally towards people you feel hostile towards or resentful of.
I've got to admit, it's challenging. And takes time to get to a place where you're comfortable feeling compassion towards the people who have hurt you or other people you care about. Don't be to hard on yourself if you can't get to a good point the first few times you try. But it's helped me discover the things that truly bother me. Not necessarily specific people. But more so specific actions that make me feel unsafe or untrusting. Recognizing those things is really important, and helps you make decisions about the way you interact with people.
I know this isn't that out of the ordinary for me. I've obviously got a huge passion for baking, as evidenced in this blog I started, and also in the essay I wrote Why I love Baking. But after my switch to a plant based diet in January I felt a little bit of an identity crisis. I didn't know how to bake without certain ingredients like butter, milk or eggs. It felt wrong to transition from my old recipes, which were aggressively not vegan, to new recipes that still tasted and looked the same, just without any animal products.
It's actually been really fun. I'm rediscovering baking. Using new ingredients to achieve similar results, and I'm so much more open to new flavors and executions. It's exciting. And it feels so good when I finally get a recipe right after a lot of trial and error.
Like this banana bread. I LOVE quick breads. And I love baking them. I also love that we call them breads when really it's just cake that's shaped like bread.
To figure out this recipe, I actually reworked an older recipe of mine, Coffee Banana Bread, to make it vegan. I used flax eggs as a binder, and added some strongly brewed coffee into the batter to really punch up the flavor. It's yummy, and makes my whole house smell like banana bread when I make it. It tastes like sweet bananas and rich coffee. It also tastes like I'm doing something that makes my heart feel good, which just so happens to be my favorite flavor.
Go do something for yourself today. And then go make this banana bread.
Banana Bread (Vegan)
yields one medium loaf
- 2 Tablespoons Ground Flax
- 6 Tablespoons Water
- 2 Cups All Purpose Flour
- 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
-1/4 teaspoon Salt
- 3/4 Cup Brown Sugar
- 1/2 Cup Vegan Butter, Room Temperature
- 1/4 Cup Strongly Brewed Coffee
- 2-3 Overripe Bananas
- 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 1 teaspoon Coffee Extract (optional)
- 1/2 cup Dark Chocolate Chips (optional)
- 1/2 cup Crushed Walnuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a small bowl, mix together ground flax and water and set in the fridge for 10-15 minutes.
Prepare a loaf pan by coating with vegan butter and dusting with flour, or by spraying with your choice of non-stick spray.
In separate bowl, sift the flour, baking soda and salt together. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together the brown sugar and vegan butter. Once mixed, add in the coffee, peeled bananas and extracts. The coffee extract is optional, and will make for a stronger, richer taste overall. But if you only have vanilla extract that will be just fine, and still make for a delicious quick bread.
Slowly add in the flour mixture, as well as the flax "eggs" to the batter. Mix until fully combined and add in the optional chocolate and walnuts. I made the photographed batch without any additional ingredients, but I like having the option for the next time I made this recipe.
Bake in oven for 50-60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool and then gently remove from loaf pan. The banana bread will stay good for about a week when wrapped in tin foil or plastic wrap. But I've literally never had a loaf last longer than two days. No exaggeration.