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.
Glimpses of Spring
We returned home from San Francisco on New Years Eve just in time for dinner, and craving greens -- or anything other than baked goods and pizza (ohhhh San Francisco, how I love your bakeries. And citrus. And winter sunshine). Instead of driving straight home, we stopped at our co-op where I ran in for some arugula, an avocado, a bottle of Prosecco, and for the checkout guys to not-so-subtly mock the outlook of our New Years Eve: rousing party, eh? They looked to be in their mid-twenties and I figured I probably looked ancient to them, sad even. But really, there wasn't much sad (or rousing, to be fair) about our evening: putting Oliver to bed, opening up holiday cards and hanging them in the kitchen, and toasting the New Year with arugula, half a quesadilla and sparkling wine. It wasn't lavish. But it's what we both needed. (Or at least what we had to work with.) Since then, I've been more inspired to cook lots of "real" food versus all of the treats and appetizers and snacks the holidays always bring on. I made Julia Turshen's curried red lentils for the millionth time, a wintry whole grain salad with tuna and fennel, roasted potatoes, and this simple green minestrone that I've taken for lunch this week. Determined to fit as many seasonal vegetables into a bowl as humanly possible, I spooned a colorful pesto on top, as much for the reminder of warmer days to come as for the accent in the soup (and for the enjoyment later of slathering the leftover pesto on crusty bread).
It turns out shopping for wedding dresses is nothing like they make it appear in the movies. Or at least it hasn't been for me. Angels don't sing. Stars don't explode. Relatives don't cry. There isn't a sudden heart-stopping moment that this is, in fact, "the one." To be honest, I always knew that I wasn't the kind of gal for whom angels would sing or stars would explode but I did think I'd have some kind of moment where I could tell I'd found the best dress. Instead, my mom flew into town and we spent three (yes, three!!) days shopping for dresses, and since then I've been back to the stores we visited -- and I'm more undecided than ever. Tomorrow morning I'll return with my friend Keena to try and tie this business up once and for all. Cross your fingers.
When I was single and living alone in the Bay Area, I made virtually the same thing for dinner each night. I ate meals quickly while in front of the computer. Or even worse: the television. This most often included what I call "Mexican Pizzas" which were basically glorified quesadillas baked in the oven until crispy. Sometimes, if I was really feeling like cooking, I'd whip up a quick stir-fry with frozen vegetables from Trader Joe's or a mushroom frittata using pre-sliced mushrooms. Mostly, though, it was Mexican Pizzas -- a good four or five nights a week. Today, thankfully, dinner looks a lot different. Meals in general look a lot different. How would I explain that difference? I think that ultimately how we feel about our life colors how we choose to feed ourselves and the importance that we place on preparing our own meals.
Today was 75 degrees in Seattle and it seemed the whole city was out and about drinking iced coffee in tank tops and perhaps not working all that hard. When we have a hit of sunshine like this in April (or, really, any time of the year), we're all really good at making excuses to leave the office early -- or, simply, to "work from home." I just got back from LA last night, unpacked in a whirlwind this morning, and took Oliver to meet up with three friends from our parents group at the zoo. The only other time I'd been to the Seattle zoo was once with Sam a few years ago when we arrived thirty minutes before closing and ended up doing a whirlwind tour -- sprinting from the giraffes to the massive brown bear to the meerkat. The visit today was much different: we strolled slowly trying to avoid the spring break crowds and beating sun. I managed to only get one of Oliver's cheeks sunburned, and he even got in a decent nap. A success of an afternoon, I'd say. Coming home I realized we didn't have much in the fridge for lunch -- but thankfully there was a respectable stash of Le Croix (Le Croix season is back!) and a small bowl of this whole grain salad I made right before I left town. It's the kind of salad that's meant for this time of year: it pulls off colorful and fresh despite the fact that much of the true spring and summer produce isn't yet available. And for that reason, I make a few versions of it in early spring, often doubling the recipe so there's always the possibility of having a small bowl at 1 p.m. while the baby naps in the car seat, one cheek sunburned, windows and back door open -- a warm breeze creeping into the kitchen.
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.