In my twenties I wanted so badly to own a bakery. A few failed lease attempts (thank God) led to a wholesale granola company that I kept working away at because, well, that’s my personality. I work away at things. I know a lot of people romanticize entrepreneurship and I get it: you’re working for yourself, setting your own hours, and presumably following your dream. But as small businesses grow, what often happens is the reason you were so excited to start the business in the first place (for me, baking and interacting with my community) gets lost in the mires of bookkeeping and lawyers and vendor contracts and hiring and firing. The dream can get lost.
I remember three or four years ago I was invited to a lunch at The Pantry geared towards people who wanted to start a food business. I was there with a few other local business owners, and all the participants could ask questions that we’d each take turns fielding. There was midday wine and beautiful springtime salads and, it turns out, tough questions. One of the women asked where we see ourselves and our business in five years. Not a crazy question. In fact, a pretty common and even a good question, so I was shocked to feel my eyes welling up and my face become hot. When I thought about my business in five years, I couldn’t see a thing. I saw a black hole. And when I thought about myself? I saw a mother. I wanted to have a family.
This was the first time I’d had this realization. I wasn’t one of those women that pretended to be a mommy when I was a little girl or pined for motherhood throughout college. But in realizing that my dream with Marge Granola was feeling like it was coming to an end point, I was worried that — as I tiptoed into my late 30’s — another dream would, too. Sam and I started trying to get pregnant soon after and today Oliver is downstairs singing Old Macdonald with his Aunt Christa after begging me for a second piece of toast with “buttah” and waving to the garbage man from the living room window.
After selling Marge in October, everyone asked me, “What’s next?” While I didn’t know the specifics, I knew that I wanted to work for someone else. I was ready to no longer work for myself. Years ago, I’d fought against the idea of a more traditional career path with everything I had. Maybe it’s because my Dad’s a staunch entrepreneur and I admire and love that about him. Maybe it’s because I found my own success in that lifestyle, which is affirming and validating. But today, with a small singing Oliver in the house and time to think about my next move, I know it’s time for more stability. That’s the season we’re in now.
So next week I start a new job! A real job. I’ve been excited to tell you all about it. I’ll be working over at Simply Recipes as the Director of Sales and Marketing. They’re based here in Seattle, so it’ll be a legit desk job which I haven’t had in many, many years (and yes, it has had me slightly reevaluating my current wardrobe of Madewell jeans + Birkinstocks day in and day out).
My friend Tara once said to me years ago as we were headed out on a walk: “You know the hardest part about freelancing? You have to work so hard to find the work.” That stuck with me, deeply, for years. I’m tired of working so hard just to find the work (I know all my freelancing homies feel me on some level); Now, I’m ready to stop looking and hustling to drum up work, and settle in and spend all of my time doing the work.
What does this mean for the blog? Don’t worry. I’m continuing with the site; I can’t imagine giving up the blog after so many years of checking in with you, and sharing recipes and photos. But to be honest I’ll need a little time to settle into my new role. I know many of you are inspired by the quicker weeknight meal ideas, and I’d love to start sharing a few healthy dinners we’ve been making lately that fuel us, so I’ll plan for that. And of course on the brink of berry season, there will likely be baking! Sharing quicker, more impromptu content is always easier on Instagram, so if you’re not following along over there, that’s a great place to connect, too.
So I’ll see you back here soon-ish. With new stories of commutes, and the balancing acts of full-time employment, motherhood, cooking, gardening, summering, dreaming, and doing good work. I can’t wait.
These grain-free bars are refined-sugar free and full of flavor, thanks to the toasted almonds, pecans, cashews and handful of different seeds. As long as you keep the proportions the same, you can use any nuts or seeds you like here — a great excuse for a good old fashioned pantry clean-out. The bars are great as is or, for an elevated approach, the chocolate drizzle feels pretty special.
For the Bars:
For the Chocolate Drizzle (optional):
Preheat the oven to 325 F.
Grease an 8×8 inch square baking pan with butter (or coconut oil) and line with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang on two of the sides to help with removing the bars once they’re set.
In a medium mixing bowl, toss together the almonds, pecans, cashews, pepitas, sesame seeds, and flax seeds.
In a small saucepan, warm the brown rice syrup, vanilla extract and kosher salt and stir until well combined.
Pour the wet mixture into the nut mixture and stir to coat. Quickly transfer to prepared pan. The mixture is sticky! My trick at this point is to quickly grease the back of a spatula and use it to press the mixture firmly and evenly into the pan in a nice even layer.
Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until the tops are just slightly golden (this can be tough to tell visually, so just trust that they firm up once cool). Allow bars to cool for at least 1 hour in the pan.
Once the bars have cooled completely, use the parchment paper as handles, lifting the bars out of the pan, and slice into 10 even bars (or 20 smaller squares).
In a small, microwave safe bowl, combine the chocolate and coconut oil and microwave on high until melted, 40-60 seconds (stir halfway through to ensure it doesn’t burn in spots). Dunk a teaspoon in the chocolate and use it to drizzle over each bar in a zigzag design.
Let the chocolate firm up before handling the bars, at least 25 minutes. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week, or in the fridge for 3-4 weeks.
On Monday our little family of three is headed to the airport at 6 am to board our first with-baby cross-country trip. We'll be visiting Sam's family in New Jersey for a few days, then renting a car and driving over to meet up with my family at my mom's lake house in the Adirondacks. Sam's younger sister and her kids have yet to meet Oliver; my grandpa has yet to meet him, and Oliver has yet to take a dunk in a lake, see a firefly, or spend quality time with energetic dogs -- of which there will be three. A lot of firsts. This week my family has been madly texting, volunteering to make certain meals or sweets on assigned days while we're at the cabin and it got me thinking about really simple, effortless summer desserts -- in particular, ones that you can make while staying in a house with an unfamiliar kitchen and unfamiliar equipment and still do a pretty bang-up job. I think fruit crisp is just that thing.
In a few short weeks, we're headed to New York, Vermont and New Jersey to visit family and see my sister Zoe get married. In starting to think through the trip and do a little planning, I found Oliver the cutest tiny-person dress shoes I've ever seen (and he's quite smitten with them), sussed out childcare options for the night of the wedding, and found what feels like the most expensive (and last) rental car in the state of New Jersey. I try very hard not to be one of Those People that begins lamenting the loss of a season before it's remotely appropriate to do so, but this year, as we'll be gone much of September, I've felt a bit of a 'hurry, make all the summery things!' feeling set in. So we've been managing increasingly busy days punctuated with zucchini noodle salads, gazpacho, corn on the cob and homemade popsicles (preferably eaten shirtless outside followed by a good, solid sprinkler run for one small person in particular. Not naming any names).
Somehow, in what seems to have been a blink of an eye, we have a six month old baby. In some ways I can't remember a time we didn't have an Oliver, and in other ways it's all a blur broken up by a few holidays (a Thanksgiving thanks to grocery store takeout, and our very first Christmas in Seattle), a few family visits, a one-day road trip to Portland, a birthday dinner out, a birthday cake, weekend drives to nowhere in particular, swimming at the pool with Oliver, weekly get-togethers with our parent's group, doctor's visits, hundreds of walks around the neighborhood, hundreds of cups of coffee, dozens (or more?) of scoops of ice cream. Most of the worrying about keeping a baby alive has made way for other concerns, and Oliver's need for constant stimulation or soothing walks and car rides has been traded for stretches of time playing with a new toy or checking out his surroundings. In truth, it's thanks to that tiny bit of baby independence that this humble, summery cake came to be in the first place. So we've all got an Oliver to thank for that. Or, really, we have a Yossi Arefi to thank, as it's from her beautiful new cookbook that I've bookmarked heavily and am eager to continue exploring.
A triple berry summer crisp made with oats, quinoa flakes and hazelnuts. Summer in a skillet.
I had a weak moment on our honeymoon in Italy when I decided that I should be making gelato for a living. My enthusiasm for Italian gelato wasn't surprising to anyone. I'd done extensive research, made lists, had Sam map out cities in terms of where the best gelaterias were. I took notes and photos and hemmed and hawed over flavor choices: Sicilian Pistachio! Chestnut Honey! Sweet Cheese, Almond and Fig! In truth, on that particular trip, I cared far more about treats, sunshine, and cobblestone walks than I cared about famous landmarks or tourist attractions, often leaving the camera back at the hotel in favor of my small black notebook which housed detailed jottings on dessert discoveries in each city we visited. Our friends Matteo and Jessica happened to be in Naples on the one night we were there, and we all went out for pizza together followed by a long stroll around the city. At some point the conversation turned to gelato (as it's bound to) and Matteo brought up the famous school in Bologna where many renowned gelato artisans study. My wheels were spinning. Maybe we should visit Bologna. I should see this school! I should talk to these students! I could make Sicilian Pistachio; Chestnut Honey; and Sweet Cheese, Almond and Fig each and every day of our lives. Or at the very least, travel to Bologna to learn how and then come back to Seattle to take our Northwest city by storm. Well here we are six months later, back to reality, and the impetus to pack up my bags and head for Bologna has subsided for the time being ... but not the unwavering gusto to sample. That part will always be with me. It's been awhile since I mixed up a batch of ice cream at home, but the other day a beautiful new cookbook landed on my doorstep and I flipped right to a recipe for dark chocolate sorbet with toasty, salty almonds. I didn't need much convincing.