North West Jess

I need to tell you something that makes me feel embarrassed so I’m gonna rip the bandaid off right away and then I can freely dig into the ‘why’. Here it is: I want to grow my Instagram following and blog.

I know, maybe not what you were expecting. The reason it feels embarrassing to me is because I don’t want people to think I’m over here “trying to be an influencer”. I’m not interested in buying followers (yes, that’s a thing you can do!) or trading likes for likes so that I can sell you shit. I’m not interested in making money by perpetuating a false image of motherhood and posting only picture-perfect poses of my children. What I am interested in is building connection and community and here’s why.

The first time I really started using this space to try and foster connection was when I was in the throes of colic and medical drama with Hennie. My first experience of motherhood had me baffled; I had truly never experienced a feeling of isolation quite like during that time. I felt so resentful toward the internet and all of the perfectly staged sleeping babies I had seen throughout my pregnancy. Why was no one was being honest about how hard the postpartum phase could be? We couldn’t get our baby to stop screaming, let alone fall asleep for one of those sleeping-baby photos and I felt completely alone in my experience. The moms I knew in my real life were having a hard time adjusting to their new lives postpartum too, but they weren’t traumatized. Slowly I stopped seeing friends and family, stopped going out of the house. When Hurricane Hennie (what we called her colic phase) had fully passed almost a year later I finally posted about how bad the colic had been and immediately received comments from women who said they had struggled with colic, too. Why wasn’t anybody posting about this, I wondered. I hadn’t been able to find many moms on the internet who were portraying an authentic view of motherhood so I decided to become one for the next round of new moms who would end up searching the colic hashtag on Instagram at four in the morning, not having slept yet, searching for just one person who understood their distress and guilt at being unable to calm their own baby. “I survived!” I would be able to tell them, “and you will too. I promise.” Then I would send them the list of 42 things we had tried for Hennie’s colic that hadn’t worked and probably wouldn’t work for their babies, either (you gotta try though, just to feel like you’re doing something).

You know that quote that says “be who you needed when you were younger”? Well North West Jess became my attempt at being who I needed in that first year of motherhood, colic and all.

Of course, trying to portray an authentic view of motherhood doesn’t mean that I’m constantly complaining or that I’m ungrateful for my lot in life (as a coupla judgey DMs accused me of back in the day). There’s a lot to celebrate in my life and I’m always doing my best to choose gratitude over grumbling. But when we omit those inevitable dark, ugly, angry, or messy times from the conversation (and our feeds!) we run the risk of sending the message to new mamas that those times don’t exist  at all and that it’s wrong if you’re experiencing them. In meditation you’re encouraged to quiet your mind not by ignoring intrusive thoughts but acknowledging them and letting them pass through you without holding onto them. This has been my aim in my portrayal of motherhood as well – not to dwell on or ignore the hardships that come along with having kids but to acknowledge them and let them pass without holding them until they make me bitter. There is more in parenthood that unites than divides us and our acknowledgement of and reaction to hardship can be something that contributes to our ability to find connection, community, and common ground.

Through my blog posts about colic, Noonan Syndrome, and all of the more common ailments and milestones of motherhood from teething to sleep regressions to pelvic floor dysfunction I’m able to connect with other moms and say to them “I hear you. I understand you. I’ve been there and it gets easier” and sometimes that’s all we need to hear in order to feel less isolated in our experience.

So there it is: my hopes and dreams for this space. A group of parents who feel supported and encouraged, who can speak freely about their troubles and joys without feeling the need to filter their experiences before presenting them to the world. I promise I will always portray my own truth just as it is, answer your questions honestly, cheer you on through the easy parts and help you carry the weight of the harder ones. I hope you’ll stick around.

Flavourful, Hearty Buddha Bowls Your Whole Fam Will Love 🥦

Happy New Year!

I know this is far from my regular content and I am oh-so-far from being a qualified food photographer (how is it easier to take a good photo of a moving toddler than a good photo of a stationary meal?) but I’ve gotten so many questions about my great veggie bowls and I figured the New Year was the right time to post it. Despite how long-winded I can be (it’s all in the details, right?) it’s actually super simple. Let’s get to it!

There are 3-4 layers that you can mix as you wish and that’s basically the gist of it. You can remove and substitute to make adjustments for cost, flavour, intolerances, or availability. Here they are:

Greens Layer: this is a nutritious layer rather than a flavourful one but don’t worry, we’ll jazz it up in a minute. If I’m making a smaller bowl I’ll stick to just greens (spinach, kale, butter lettuce) but if I want quite a filling bowl (aka for Tom) I’ll add a few scoops of quinoa to bulk things up. I love a crunchy, fresh combo of kale and shredded purple cabbage! You could also use: lentils, beans, rice, potatoes, arugula, parsley.

Roasted Veg Layer: this is my favourite part because if you do it right it’ll be a super flavourful layer! I almost always roast just shallots, broccoli and cauliflower – they key is to roast them long enough, til they’re a tad charred and all of the good flavours are released when they caramelize (usually 20 mins at 400, longer if you’ve got a packed tray). Just chop up your veg, drizzle some oil over ’em (I usually use avocado oil but olive oil works too!) and go crazy with seasoning; my go-to combo is a little salt and a lot of garlic and paprika. You could also use: carrots, sweet potato, shredded brussels sprouts, peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, onion, eggplant, asparagus, the possibilities are truly endless. Different vegetables will roast at different rates of course, so be mindful of that when you chop them so they’re all done at the same time. Veg can be expensive so you can always stick to the cheaper veg if you need to or focus on what’s in season, local, or growing in your own garden!

Optional “Meat” Layer: this is where you can add some crispy fried tofu if you please! I’m not calling this the ‘protein layer’ because there is a ton of protein in plants as well and I’m not into furthering long-held misconceptions about protein 😉 If you’re in doubt go watch Game Changers on Netflix or do some good ol’ fashioned googling on a fact/science-based website. Anyway, my favourite way to cook tofu is to press the water out, cube it small, pan fry it in a little oil with garlic powder til it’s crispy, then add sauce at the end for about 1 min over high heat til the sugars in the sauce caramelize and become sticky. So good! My favourite sauces for tofu are this peanut sauce or a mix of soy and sriracha if I’m feeling lazy. I probably only put tofu on like 25% of the time though (again, lazy!). You could also use: beans, tempeh, hell throw some baked pakoras on there! I generally try to stay away from the faux-meat substitutes since they’re still highly processed foods chock full of sodium and we’re tryin’ to make a plant-heavy bowl here.

Super-Filling Sprankles Layer: I always add hemp hearts and slivered almonds to keep us nice and full for a long time but you can add any yummy additions you like! You could also use: nutritional yeast, avocado, roasted sunflower seeds, bean sprouts, cashews, any nuts or seeds you’ve got in your pantry (pecans would be lovely with the caramelized veg!), or this vegan parmesan that is yummy and easy to make and keeps in the fridge so you can throw it on everything all week. Go nuts! (get it?)

The Most Important Layer, DRIZZLE: for almost all of my bowls I mix up the same quick-n-tangy Lemon Tahini dressing that I couldn’t tell you the recipe for but it always works out. Into a mason jar I throw a scoop of tahini, the juice of half a lemon, garlic, salt, and pepper. Then I shake the bejeesus out of it and drizzle it all over the bottom (greens) layer of my bowl and again over the top. You can thin it out with a little water, oil, or even almond milk if you like and if you want to do a bigger batch just throw it all in your mini food processor or blender. I also keep a huge bottle of this, the only store-bought dressing I ever buy on hand for the lazy days when I want less dishes to do. I feel passionately about this dressing to the point where it was the first thing I sought out when we moved to the coast because I was worried no stores would carry it here (found it at IGA though!). A wine-bottle-sized-bottle only costs $12. So delicious.

I know this looks like a lot but it only takes about 25 minutes total: 5 mins to chop my veg and then 20 mins in the oven. I prep the tofu and make the drizzle while the veg is in the oven and throw it all together when it’s done! We eat this bowl a few times a week and it just feels so hearty and nourishing – no one wants to eat a cold salad in the winter time so this is my way of eating salad, a warm, roasted salad with a light, tangy sauce.

Variations: I’ve added curry powder to the veg and done the tofu in a peanut sauce to create a yummy curry-peanut bowl before. I’ve also made this dressing before over roasted sweet potato, black beans, corn, and edamame for a southwestern-y version of the bowl (you could use a lime-ier dressing if you can’t handle the heat of chipotles). As a matter of fact since I’m so into the drizzle layer of these bowls, here is a link to all of Pinch of Yum’s sauces, they are truly the best at drizzles.

A Word about Calories: there are a lot of things in here that make this a dense, calorie-rich bowl, so I always imagine this to be a meal that is meant to accompany a fairly active lifestyle (or a breastfeeding mother, haha). They’re all those good, healthy fats that our bodies need sometimes but I realize that some of my readers are also looking to make healthy changes with the goal of weight loss. If this is the case for you, you can go easier on the nuts, seeds, quinoa, hemp hearts, etc. and heavier on the greens, veg, and drizzle. My kids love these bowls because there’s so much flavour and I like that they get those healthy fats for their developing brains! I have a much slower metabolism than Tom so when I make these bowls for our family I always add more veg to my own and more high-calorie nuts and seeds to his because his body burns his food so fast that he has to follow most meals with a few pieces of toast if I don’t bulk them up.

If you make a bowl, let me know! I’d love to see it. And if anyone has food photography tips I’M ALL EARS, haha.