English Lessons in the Exam Room + Simple Frozen Peanut Butter and Banana Bars Recipe

There I was, abdomen exposed more than I was comfortable with, as four Chinese nurses stared at me, babbling in a language I couldn’t understand. And laughing. Laughing! At a time like this? I was furious.

A few months earlier, my husband and I had decided it was time to try for baby #2. We had been on the field for about four months and I was deep in the first-semester dip of missing the States. I was spending big portions of every day alone with my 17-month-old boy, trying to entertain him in a land that had nothing fun to do (so I thought at the time), while my husband was on campus, teaching and meeting up with students. My life wasn’t what I had imagined it would be when I stepped off the plane. Anyone been there?! I thought adding a child would spice things up a little!

I missed my cycle one month, so I thought, yes! This is it! A teammate passed on a pregnancy test she had brought from the States. Perfect. I can read the instructions on this one. (Because peeing on a stick and waiting a few minutes is hard?!) I took it. Positive! My wanna-be-sure hubby wasn’t convinced because it was expired by a few months. Ok, no problem. I’ll take another! I bought one from a local pharmacy and took it. Positive! I was elated!

We are one of those couples that likes to wait until after the first trimester to announce I’m pregnant. The weeks were crawling by. I was dying to tell everyone I knew!

At 10 weeks along, I began seeing some spotting. This didn’t happen with my first pregnancy, but, thanks to all my internet research, I knew it wasn’t completely abnormal, either. I waited a few days to see if it would stop.

It didn’t. So I called a local friend/Sister who had fabulous English. I told her the situation and asked if she could be my translator when I went to the local hospital.

She met me at the hospital and we went through the protocol of registering, paperwork, etc. I was clearly one of the only foreigners to have ever stepped foot in this building. I was getting used to being stared at by then, but oh my. This was a new level.

They took me into a room and closed the door. (Whew!) I laid down on the table and they asked me a few questions. Last cycle? How far along did I think I was? What was the problem?

My friend translated that I needed an external sonogram to be sure the baby was ok.

I laid there, holding my breath as the nurse spread the cold jelly on my belly. The screen was turned away from me, so I couldn’t see anything for myself. I had to wait for my friend to tell me what was going on.

While they were listening for the heartbeat, I noticed the group of nurses were pointing at me, asking questions about me. Of course I couldn’t understand, but I knew what they were doing. Pretty soon, I heard a few random words in English. Then giggling. What were they talking about? Later, I asked my friend, and she said they were asking how to say some words in English.

I was so mad. How could they be so insensitive? There I was, vulnerable and emotional, and they had the gall to ask for a mini English lesson.

My gentle, sweet friend turned to me and translated the news. There wasn’t a heartbeat. And the baby was measuring smaller than the 10 weeks I thought I was.

As we walked away from the hospital, I broke down. Uncontrollable tears. Not only at the thought of this baby that was probably not going to make it, but also still so furious at those nurses. My sweet friend prayed for me and encouraged me as we walked home.

We lost that baby a week later. One of the most horrifying—physically and emotionally—experiences I’ve ever had. But God filled me with peace. Peace I can’t explain. (Philippians 4:7) He knew what His plans were, and they were perfect.

A few months after my miscarriage, I was horribly sick. I puked non-stop for two days straight. I couldn’t even keep water down. It was miserable. On the second day, my husband came to me and said, “I think you’re pregnant.” Um, what? After taking two tests, we realized he was right! And after doing the math, we were surprised to find out that I got pregnant three to four weeks after my miscarriage. I hadn’t even had a cycle yet. Now that’s a miraculous, perfect plan.

I look back on being so angry at those nurses. If it happened again, now that I’ve been here five years and understand the culture a bit better, I wonder if I would respond differently. I think initially I’d still be angry and hurt. But then I would think of why they would act to flippantly in such a sensitive moment. My heart would ache for all the women here who have acted flippantly about aborting a baby they don’t want because it’s not the right time in their lives to have a baby. I would feel some of the deep pain God feels when sin gets in the way of His plans. I would be on my knees for all the women and babies that have endured such pain, whether they realize it or not.

Dealing with health issues in your home country is no fun. Add the stress of language, lack of knowledge about where to find medical supplies, and the fact that every ambulance you see never seems to be in a rush, and always drives with its lights on, and health issues can seem to be impossible to deal with. May our sole trust be in our Savior alone. Only He can sort out such messes!

*****

Health can also involve food that brings back memories, connects us, or is just plum yummy. In that vein, I want to share a delicious summery dessert. Right now, my nursing baby can’t handle dairy or eggs. This ice cream lover is not too happy. But, this dessert has satisfied that craving!

These bars can be so versatile! They are dairy free, soy free, and gluten free, but can also be vegan if you swap out the honey for another sweetener. Play around with them…add more peanut butter, make the crust crunchier by not blending them for so long. It’s a forgiving recipe. 🙂

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What you’ll need. And yes, I buy most things in bulk. A family of 5 with 2 always-hungry boys.

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If you have a food processor, that works best. Mine is too small to handle this recipe, so I resorted to a blender. Or just use a nut chopper and some elbow grease!

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I like to leave some nuts on the chunky side to give it a crunchy texture.

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The middle layer being watched by a black ninja guy. Boys. Ninjas. Everywhere.

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Frozen for a few hours and ready for chocolatey goodness!

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Essentially, you’re making Magic Shell Topping that hardens upon impact with the frozen treat.

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During this hot summer, this cold treat tricks my body into thinking it’s actually eating ice cream. I’ll take it!

Frozen Peanut Butter Banana Bars

Makes 9 bars

Ready in 2.5 hours (including 2 hours of freezer time)

Adapted from Oh She Glows

For the crust:

2 cups almonds (cashews are great, too)

2 Tbsp coconut oil

2 Tbsp honey

1 Tbsp peanut butter (or other nut butter)

1/2 tsp cinnamon

pinch of salt

For the middle layer:

3 medium ripe bananas

1/4 cup coconut oil, in a soft solid form

2 Tbsp peanut butter

1 tsp vanilla

pinch of salt

For the chocolate drizzle:

3 Tbsp dark chocolate chips*

1 Tbsp coconut oil

*Since I have yet to find dairy free chocolate chips on this side of the world, I subbed some cocoa powder and honey and warmed it up to melt together. Honestly, I just eyeballed it. 🙂

Line an 8-inch square pan with a piece of parchment paper. This makes it easy to lift out the bars later on.

For the crust: Add the almonds into a food processor and process until a fine crumb forms, slightly larger than sand. Now add in the rest of the crust ingredients and process until the mixture comes together, scraping the side of the bowl as needed. The mixture should be a slightly tacky and should stick together when pressed with your fingers. If it’s not, add a very small splash of water and process again for a few seconds.

Dump the crust mixture into the prepared pan. Smooth out evenly and then press down firmly and evenly into the pan. You can lightly wet your fingers if the crust sticks to them. Compact it as much as possible. Place in freezer while you prepare the middle layer.

Middle layer: Give the processor bowl a quick rinse. Add all the middle layer ingredients into the processor and process until smooth. Remove the crust from the freezer and pour the middle layer on top. Smooth out. Return to the freezer for at least 1.5-2 hours to set, until the middle layer is very firm to the touch.

Chocolate drizzle: When the middle layer is completely solid, prepare the topping. In a small pot heat the chocolate and coconut oil on the lowest heat, stirring to combine. When half of the chips have melted, remove the pot from the heat and stir until completely melted. Remove the bars from the freezer. Lift slab out of the pan. Drizzle the chocolate. It will harden very quickly. Cut into squares.

Enjoy these bars frozen, straight from the freezer. They melt very quickly so I don’t suggest leaving them out for more than a couple minutes. Wrap leftovers and store in the freezer.

8 Comments

  1. Jenny July 21, 2015

    Ashley, I enjoyed everything you wrote, especially your musings on how you might respond differently now. Not to make light of the tragedy of a miscarriage, but my question is about cooking. Where do you look for new recipes? What cookbooks do you use most? What cooking blogs or websites do you read while overseas?

  2. Ashley Felder July 22, 2015

    Jenny, I’m a bit of a recipe-finding addict. I often peruse Pinterest for new ideas. Here’s my personal page of recipes I’ve tried and succeeded with: https://www.pinterest.com/aefelder/pinned-it-did-it-reviewed-it/

    I don’t own many cookbooks, so I mostly turn to the web to find things. I look for recipes that don’t have tons of import items and are made from scratch. Once I’ve made one that’s a winner, I’ll print out the recipe and put it in my “cookbook” (read: binder with plastic pages) so I can make notes of how to tweak things. Here are some sites I frequent/blogs I follow that are true to their homemade claims and are yummy:

    thekitchn.com–Good for recipes, but I also love their tips and tricks for the kitchen.

    iowagirleats.com

    pioneerwoman.com–Not always completely from scratch, but SO good. Every time.

    100daysofrealfood.com

    minimalistbaker.com

    smittenkitchen.com

    And then I watch as many cooking shows as I can. 🙂

     

  3. Laurie July 22, 2015

    I love OhSheGlows! Having to feed a vegan husband, her website has been a lifesaver in our household! Living in Africa, I understand the challenge of trying to adapt recipes to work with the ingredients you have. Some overseas workers here have put together a cookbook that only uses local ingredients – another great resource for expats.

    1. Ashley Felder July 23, 2015

      Laurie! Yes, I enjoy her site. Glad you’ve found what works for where you are. Sure brings some sanity back for me when good things come from the kitchen!

  4. Danielle Wheeler July 22, 2015

    Oh, this brings me back… Ached for you then, and now again as I read.  Rejoicing in the precious, wiggly boy that is yours.

    Can’t wait to get settled into a kitchen and try this out!  Titus is crazy about “cold” food, meaning anything frozen.

    1. Ashley Felder July 23, 2015

      You were amazing during that time. I still have moments of that time ingrained in my head that involve your sweet, gentle soul. Hope Titus like these!

  5. Ruth July 27, 2015

    Ashley, I meant to reply to this last week but never got to a computer.  I also had a miscarriage in China and had a really hard time with the hospital experience.  The doctor asked if I had wanted the baby, and everyone was just fascinated by the foreigner, seeming completely oblivious to my heartache.  I’m sorry you had to go through that – goodness knows loss is hard enough without translators and giggling nurses.

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