Dating Jazz, Sweets

Date Night In + Recipe for Black Bean Brownies

We just finished a late dinner and hurried to get Willow off to bed.  Tooth brushing and story time minutes later, we only have  1 1/2 hours for our date night before we need to go to bed and we still need to do the dishes.  I run to the grocery store across the street to grab a pint of vanilla Haagen Das while Jazz (as usual) loads the dish washer and sweeps the floor.

It’s hard to justify squeezing in a “date” when you have so little time and energy, but when you have a child you kind of have to reimagine your whole life.  It doesn’t function the same way it used to.  You have to get creative and you have to be specific about how you spend your time.  If by the end of dishes all we have is 45 minutes, we’ll make due.

When Jazz and I did our pre-engagement counseling,  our counselor told us that you only need 15 minutes a day to have a successful relationship.  Now, by counseling I don’t mean a handful of sessions before the big day.  Before we were even engaged we spent a YEAR in counseling together.  I highly recommend it.  In our counseling sessions we learned how to communicate with one other.  We learned how to share our feelings in a way that was nonjudgemental, honest and open.  She recommended we practice this “checking in” with each other at least once a day.  So 45 minutes, that’s plenty of time to spend some meaningful, intentional time with your partner.

Dating Night In and Refined Sugar Free Black Bean Brownie Recipe // Keeping Willow

On top of our coffee table — a sanded and varnished palette on wheels that Jazz made — was Hive (one of our favorite two-player games),  two bowls cradling one of the warm, black bean brownies I baked that day (recipe below) topped with a small scoop of super, vanilla-y ice cream, and a lit candle (ok, I’ll admit, the candle made it look a little like a seance). Jazz picked out the music (Grimes | Halfaxa), we devoured our brownies, and we sat and played a couple rounds of Hive, each beating each other in opposing rounds.  To top off the night, we sat in silence reading our literature of choice as we wound down before bed (Jazz is reading Cryptonmicon by Neal Stephenson and I read the winter issue of i-D Magazine).

Our date was short and sweet (much like eating our chocolate, fudgey brownies) but it was something.  It was a moment to sit and laugh together, not worrying about life’s burdens.  We set aside a space where we decided to be WITH one another rather than just exist next to one each other (there’s a difference, I promise you).

This mini date was fun and left us excited for more.  Speaking of more, Jazz went back for a second brownie.  It’s ok, because they’re made with beans and sweetened with dates instead of sugar.  I know, I know, the ice cream kind of ruined that but it’s so much better with ice cream.

Here’s the recipe so you can see for yourself!


{Just a quick aside about these brownies.  We were having some friends over for dinner.  I wanted to make something healthier for dessert and I needed to make something without sugar since some of our friends gave up sugar for lent.  I took a little inspiration from Minimalist Baker’s black bean brownie recipe, but I used navy beans and made a few changes.  They turned out really well.  I have been playing with and tweaking this recipe to make it my own ever since and have finally landed on something that I think is really great.  The avocado makes it super rich without lots of added oil. Oh, and they are really easy to make.}

Dating Night In and Refined Sugar Free Black Bean Brownie Recipe // Keeping Willow


Black Bean Brownies- Gluten and Refined Sugar Free
makes 12 brownies

1 3/4 cups (1 can) beans (black, navy or cannellini beans will suffice)
2 eggs
1/2 ripe avocado
1 T coconut or pure olive oil
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 cup dates (soaked in hot water)
1/4 date water*
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
chocolate chips or chopped nuts optional

1. Preheat your oven to 350° F.  Place the dates in a small bowl and cover with hot water.  Allow the dates to sit for 5-10 minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
2. In a food processor or blender, combine all the ingredients beside the chocolate chips, etc.  Make sure to squeeze extra water out of the dates before adding to the bowl.  *Add a 1/4 cup of the remaining date water.  Allow to puree for several minutes, scrapping the sides of the bowl incrementally, to be sure the batter is very smooth and ingredients are well incorporated. The batter should be thicker than traditional brownie batter, kind of like frosting.  Meanwhile, with some butter or coconut oil, grease a standard size muffin pan.
3. Mix in 1/2 cup of any chocolate chips or nuts before pouring the batter into the muffin pan.  Fill the muffin pan to make 12, even brownies.  Top with extra chocolate chips or nut topping.
4. Bake brownies for about 15-17 minutes.  Much more than that and they will get a little dried out.  Take the brownies out of the muffin pan and allow to cool on a rack.  Serve warm with ice cream or a glass of milk.


Breastfeeding My Toddler

Our move to Toronto has been really great, mostly because of my friend Emily.  Emily is my ambitious friend who is passionate about birth, women’s health and feminism.  She (and her husband Dean) have been there for us more times that I can count on my hands, mostly just being really great friends.  Emily is just starting her career as a doula and asked me to write a guest post on her blog about my experience breastfeeding Willow, who is now almost 2 1/2.  Of course I agreed.

Here is the link to the post I wrote about breastfeeding, the good, the bad and the yoga moves.

Breastfeeding My Toddler



Sesame Edamame and Avocado Dip

I post a lot of recipes on this blog, and lately I’ve been asking myself the question, “why?”.  How does posting recipes on a weekly basis keep within the entire idea of what Keeping Willow is and who it serves?  The answer, honestly, is that I just like doing it.  I get excited about food and I tend to think that everyone gets as excited as I am.  While it is certain that everyone eats and most people are searching for some meal inspiration, the truth is, the WAY I have been developing recipes for Keeping Willow has been entirely self serving rather than serving you, the people who take the time to read these posts on a regular basis.

So, I am taking a little time to think about how food and cooking can play a more inclusive role in the Keeping Willow narrative.  That being said, I would like to open up a discussion.  When it comes to food, what interests you?  Are you a foodie, a fast and simple, an “I have picky eaters”, a health nut or …?  Leave a comment in the comment section, I would love to hear what is going on with you and the meals in your home.

Now that I got a little business out of the way, let’s talk about this dip.  I will leave the pictures to do most of the talking but this light and savory dip was a hit in our house, even with Willow.  It’s extremely simple and really tasty.  You can use fresh or frozen edamame and serve it with just about anything dip-able.  Our favorite were sesame rice crackers and red pepper slices.  Serve with a little drizzle of sesame oil, a dash of soy sauce, a sprinkle of red pepper flakes and some toasted sesame seeds and the brilliant green of this dip will stand out at any dinner party. Or, smother it on a sandwich with some tofu and some veggies. It’s just a great, healthy afternoon snack.  I hope you love it.

If try one of the recipes here on Keeping Willow, be sure to snap a picture and share it using the hashtag #keepingwillow.


Sesame Edamame and Avocado Dip.  Simple.  Healthy. Delicious // Keeping WillowSesame Edamame and Avocado Dip.  Simple.  Healthy. Delicious // Keeping WillowSesame Edamame and Avocado Dip.  Simple.  Healthy. Delicious // Keeping WillowSesame Edamame and Avocado Dip.  Simple.  Healthy. Delicious // Keeping WillowSesame Edamame and Avocado Dip.  Simple.  Healthy. Delicious // Keeping WillowSesame Edamame and Avocado Dip.  Simple.  Healthy. Delicious // Keeping WillowSesame Edamame and Avocado Dip.  Simple.  Healthy. Delicious // Keeping Willow

Sesame Edamame and Avocado Dip
serves 8

1 lb (500g) shelled edamame (if frozen, thawed)
1 avocado
1 clove garlic, roughly diced
3 Tbsp olive oil
3 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 cup water
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp sea salt
toasted sesame seeds
red pepper flakes
sesame oil
soy sauce

1. Combine all ingredients into a food processor or blender.  Allow to puree until nice and smooth (maybe 3-4 minutes depending on the quality of your device) scraping the sides at intervals.
2. Serve with a toasted sesame seeds, red pepper flakes, soy sauce and a light drizzle of sesame oil.  Serve with sliced veggies, crackers, bread, dry seaweed…etc.



Stay-cation // Keeping Willow Stay-cation // Keeping Willow Stay-cation // Keeping WillowStay-cation // Keeping WillowStay-cation // Keeping WillowStay-cation // Keeping WillowStay-cation // Keeping WillowStay-cation // Keeping WillowStay-cation // Keeping WillowStay-cation // Keeping WillowStay-cation // Keeping WillowStay-cation // Keeping WillowStay-cation // Keeping WillowStay-cation // Keeping Willow

This past week I had some time off, and for the first time, really since my maternity leave, I was able to play “stay-at-home-mom”.  I was really shocked by how much I enjoyed it, because I never thought I would.  Willow and I made our way across Toronto to play, swim and eat.  I had time to relax, cook and catch up on house work.

Our good friend Sarah paid a visit and, with the exception of visiting the ROM [Royal Ontario Museum], we did pretty much what we always do when we’re together: play games, watch tv, eat and drink beer.  It was so good to spend time with her and I wish it could have been for longer.

Consecutively (like 2 hours after Sarah left), my mom and youngest brother Danny, who was on his spring break, stayed a couple more days with us.  We went swimming, ate take-out and saw the Broadway show “Once” at Mirvish Theatre.  After I went back to work, my mom and Danny took Willow for the day to explore the aquarium and eat mac n’ cheese. I love seeing my mom and Danny, and Willow had a the best time.

I wish I could expound more, give you more than just an update on all this past week has been.  I apologize for the flat, general statements (not enough parentheses in this post, I know). I have so many feelings and unprocessed thoughts.  But right now I don’t have the time or energy.  Because, well 1. I had to go back to work and 2. House of Cards (am I right).

Happy Friday friends!