Milestones

When I graduated from college, I didn’t want to go to all the ceremonies. I felt above it all. Don’t get me wrong–I was glad that I’d finished, but I went to a school the size of my entire hometown, and felt I’d just be lost in the crowd during graduation. But my mom talked to me about the importance of ceremony in your life—milestones deserve their moment. And she’s right. Ceremony and a little pomp and circumstance sort of force you to reflect on your accomplishments. Otherwise, something as big as a college graduation or a wedding would be just another day that, eventually, you wouldn’t remember apart from the rest. You need finality, you need reflection, and you need to share and celebrate accomplishments with others.

I just got home from upstate New York last night where I saw my youngest sister graduate. I saw her messy apartment (you seriously didn’t notice that dust covering the TV?!), her favorite bars, met her wonderful girlfriends, and experienced what she meant when she said she lived in the middle of nowhere. And, of course, I saw her graduate. But there was more than that. There were the cocktail parties, the baccalaureate ceremony and the torchlight tradition where graduates carry a torch down to the campus lake at dusk singing, drinking, crying, reminiscing.

These are all things that my own college didn’t do—things, knowing myself, I probably would’ve scoffed at. But things that I’ve since realized are so, so important and I’m grateful Zoe got to experience them.

Zoe. No one can quite believe you’ve finished college. Most of my friends remember you as a skinny, freckly little girl with wild and crazy curls—shocked that you’re  now a young woman moving to the city and starting a life of your own. For me, I remember you bouncing away on the trampoline in the back yard, how obsessed you were with those coconut boobs mom and dad bought for you in Hawaii, your affinity for gardenia perfume, your rather advanced (and pricey) taste in clothes, and the summer I lived with you and you earned the nickname “Crumbs.” Oh, and obviously your love for Nutella (clearly we’re related).

So I know you’re probably experiencing that odd mixture of fear and excitement right now. And I also know a lot of people tend to dole out advice during these milestones and you’ll hear them, but you can’t really absorb it. You may not be ready yet. They’re telling you what they’ve learned after decades of trial and error. Now is your time to set out with your own trails and your own errors. But there are a few things that I know to be true: there are people in this world where, generally, things just work out for them. I think you might just be one of those people.  Remember to put things in perspective. A job’s just a job, a boy’s just a boy, an apartment’s just an apartment. Follow your instincts. Follow your heart. If you do those two things, you’ll be just fine. And when you’re not, you know who to call. There’s a brood of us cheering you on.

So thank you for making this skeptical older sister soften to ceremony, sororities, and milestones this weekend. I’m so happy to have had a glimpse inside the last four years of your life and the people and places that loved you (and that you loved back). From your oldest sister and the one applauding you from all the way across the country—here’s the simplest of Nutella pastry to celebrate a milestone. So simple that you will be able to pump it out even in the smallest of New York kitchens.

Nutella Puff Pastry

Nutella Puff Pastry

  • Yield: 6 Servings
  • Prep time:5mins
  • Cook time:20mins
  • Inactive time:15mins
  • Total time:40mins

This recipe was inspired by a recipe for Chocolate-Almond Pastries in the December ’09 issue of Martha Stewart Magazine. I gave it new life by using hazelnuts and Nutella. It’s a versatile recipe–you could easily use any combination of nuts, dried fruits, and chocolates. Next time I make it, I’m going to add a few dollops of Mascarpone cheese to finish it off.

Ingredients

1 sheet frozen puff pastry (from a 17.3 package), thawed
1 large egg, beaten for an egg wash
7 oz. Nutella (roughly half of a 13 oz. jar)
1 Tbsp. sugar for sanding the crust
Fleur de sel (or fine sea salt) for finishing
4 Tbsp. whole hazelnuts, toasted and chopped

Instructions

Preheat oven to 45o F. Arrange puff pastry on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Form a 10-inch square  and fold each edge in to make a 1-inch crust. Poke middle of dough numerous times with a fork. Brush edges of dough with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Freeze for fifteen minutes.

Transfer baking sheet to oven and bake until pastry is puffed and golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and spread Nutella evenly across the pastry. The Nutella will begin to melt, making it much easier to spread.  Sprinkle with sea salt and hazelnuts and cut into 4 squares or 6 triangles. Serve warm.

Comments

  1. Meghan

    I too skipped my graduation ceremony, and agree with a lot of your sentiments. That said, your lil sis' sounded like it had some unique elements that made it more of a special closure than just a boring ritual. The bagpiper pic is my fav!

    That recipe looks insanely tasty!!

  2. Anne

    Clearly we are supposed to be friends. Not only is there a shared love of Nutella, there's the fact that I too own that blue BR dress/ tunic thing. (Assuming, of course, that's you in the photo since we haven't actually met...) Till then!

    1. megang

      Anne! That is definitely a BR tunic and that is definitely me. Too funny. Can't wait to finally meet in person!

  3. Shannalee

    What a sweet tribute and lovely reflections. Congrats to Zoe! :)

  4. Rose D

    Oh, this post brought tears to my eyes! How lovely to share all the joys with your sister. I too could care less of my own graduation but I've still got great memories. And thanks for the Nutella recipe. My two toddlers are addicted just as my sister and I were...and still are!!

  5. Alwaysravenous

    Ditto, I too did not attend my college graduation ceremony. Ditto, I now agree with your mom about the importance of celebrating the milestones of one's life. AND Ditto, LOVE NUTELLA!

  6. El

    Such a sweet post. Congratulations to your sister. Looks like she has a bright future!

  7. Meeta

    congrats to you and your sis! nutella makes my son's world brighter and his eyes light up! this is just perfect!

  8. Rachael

    Absolutely the best post yet. Understand, Crumbs, that we ALL feel this way, and just can't say it quite as well as Megan can. This weekend was more than special for this sister up in the Northwest. And Megan, what beautiful words. How you can put exactly into words what I wanted to say is beyond me. Thank you for putting it out there. I often make an afternoon snack much like this that you posted....only I use the puff pastry shells and FILL them with the nutella goodness. Possibly a snack only enjoyed with a bit of guilt but nothing like it.
    I love you.

  9. Dana

    What a sweet and heartfelt post. She is lucky to have a big sister like you. I always wanted an older sister to cheer me on and give me advice, but I had two younger brothers to give advice to instead (not that either of them listened to me). Lovely treat.

  10. Danielle

    Such a sweet tribute to your sister and the sisterhood that you share :) Clearly, Nutella is the most appropriate way to celebrate this!

  11. A Canadian Foodie

    What a beautiful, loving and heartfelt tribute to your little sister. Good for you for taking the time to make a tribute to her in this way, too. It is these little moments shared and the love spoken that caries us together forward through life. I was touched. She will be... so will many others. I am thinking of my lovely daughter Lauren as you wrote this. She graduated at Tufts in Boston 2 years ago without momsey there. It was a huge disappointment for both of us - but her ceremony week fell at a time that I could not get away from my work. We were heartbroken. Grandma went, but it wasn't the same. Her older sis couldn't get off work, either. And I wrote her a poem that I cried over for days writing it, and every time I read it. She is an Occupational Therapist in Palo Alto now - the other side of the country, and very happy. Still much too far away from me (in Edmonton, Alberta - Canada) - but, she is definitely living the dream. Your sister is absolutely lucky to have you. And the nutella recipe!!!
    :)
    Valerie

  12. Carra young

    Sweet words. Sweet recipe. Love!

  13. Dana

    TasteofBeirut just posted about a nut free Nutella recipe using tahini. Maybe I can convert the pastry so that my nut-allergic counterpart can partake as well! It looks so good, but I always feel so guilty making things that I can't share.

  14. Grace

    Good Morning Megan

    Nutella is one of my most favourite things in the whole world! My kids love it too, this will be a great recipe to add to my Nutella collection.

    You brought me to tears this morning with your post. I recall telling my daughter the same thing when she didn't want to attend high school grad and prom. These milestones are so important to experience not only for yourself but for the people that love you. What a special bond there is between sisters. I have three sisters and couldn't imagine life without them, we share so much together.

    Time to grab the tissues, all the best!

  15. megang

    Grace: Thanks for stopping by and sharing your story about your daughter...so true about sisters. Strange how you get closer when you get older.

    Dana: A nut-free version sounds interesting! Let me know if you try it...love to hear how it turns out.

    Other Dana: Grass is always greener, huh? I remember always wishing I had a brother to run around and get into trouble with!

    Danielle, Meeta, Mardi, El, Anne, Carra, Rose, Shannalee: xoxoxoxoxo. Thanks for your sweet comments!

    And Valerie: As always, thank you so much for your wonderful comments. Sometimes life gets in the way of us doing things we want to (especially if you live as far as Canada!) Doesn't make it any less hard though, I know. But it sounds like your daughter Lauren turned out just fine :)

  16. MomGordon

    It's 7 am, way too early after returning from helping Zoe pack up the apt., clean off that TV (really?!!) and deposit her in NYC. Now tears are dripping in my Peets... long live Nutella and the milestones that bind us together! Thanks, Megan.

  17. Aunt Jill

    What a beautifully written piece!! You know, don't you, this is why there are moms, or significant people in ones life, to guide us and remind us of the importance of traditions and ceremonies. What a great treat to have this memory to reflect on. All the best to Zoe in her new adventures. Megan, you so skillfully bring it full circle. What a pleasure. I remember the first time I tried nutella, I was surprised I liked it. This could be a go...........love you aunt jill

  18. Chez Us

    Beautiful and thought provoking post. I am sure Zoe loved it!!

    Now .... wait until you see what I have planned to make this weekend. You are going to laugh. That is all I am going to say!

  19. Janet

    What nice words of great advice for your little sister! She's lucky to have you.

    This looks so good that I hate you a little bit right now. I need to stay away from the Nutella! Is there a Nutella-addicts support group somewhere? ;)

  20. Manggy

    You are too sweet Megan! You're right - if you don't go through all these ceremonies, when will you know when to cry? Heh heh heh.
    I love that this is such a quick way to deliver nutella into your tummy! (Short of spooning it...)

  21. Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite

    What a beautiful tribute to your sister Megan. She is, indeed, a lucky lady to call you her big sis! Oh and that nutella puff pastry? Worth going to university and graduating for ;-)

  22. Alice

    Mmmm...Nutella...My sister and I love it. The other day I saw a woman walking around the zoo with a jar of nutella and a spoon, eating straight out of the jar. I was impressed.

    I am going to get on the "Can't beleive Zoe is Graduating Train." I think Zoe might have been in diapers the last time I saw her. Congratulations Zoe and very sweet post Megan.

    1. megang

      I love that you saw a woman walking through the zoo eating Nutella out of a jar...I usually reserve those moments from when I'm alone and the general public isn't around. Thanks for your sweet comment, Alice. Yes, still blown away that Zoe's job hunting in New York. Very strange!

  23. sara

    so so so right on in your advice, it is all trial and error... and a job is just a job. Thank you for such wonderful writing. I can't tear myself away from your posts- I'm quite behind since last I've been here and will try not to do so again. You are SO talented.

    1. megang

      Wow, thank you Sara! That means a great deal coming from you! Hope you're doing well and hanging onto these last bits of summer.

  24. www.thingsIfancy.com

    This is soooo great. My kids love Nutella & I love me some puff pastry. Found this from The Kitchn! Thanks for sharing.
    www.thingsIfancy.com

  25. Maria

    Wow!!! I was simply looking for a simple puff pastry recipe for the x-mas holidays and luckily fell upon this one! Your message and encouragement for your sister brought tears to my eyes. I am raising three daughters I adore and can't wait to celebrate that milestone with each of them. Mostly though, I'll know I did something right if they love and support each other. How proud your mom must be of both you girls. My girls thank you for the recipe!!!

  26. Jane

    I am so glad I stumbled on this recipe with a last minute dessert I have to make tonight. :) This looks perfect!

  27. anne

    so your sister graduated from Colgate? I'd recognize that torch tradition and maroon striped tents in any context!

    1. megang

      Ha! She did!

Join the Discussion

Healthy Comfort Food

Thai Carrot, Coconut and Cauliflower Soup

Thai Carrot, Coconut and Cauliflower Soup

People describe raising young kids as a particular season in life. I hadn't heard this until we had a baby, but it brought me a lot of comfort when I'd start to let my mind wander, late at night between feedings, to fears that we'd never travel internationally again or have a sit-down meal in our dining room. Would I ever eat a cardamom bun in Sweden? Soak in Iceland? I loved the heck out of our tiny Oliver, but man what had we done?! Friends would swoop in and reassure us that this was just a season, a blip in the big picture of it all. They promised we'd likely not even remember walking around the house in circles singing made-up songs while eating freezer burritos at odd hours of the day (or night). And it's true.

Oliver is turning two next month, and those all-encompassing baby days feel like a different time, a different Us. In many ways, dare I say it, Toddlerhood actually feels a bit harder. Lately Oliver has become extremely opinionated about what he will and will not wear -- and he enforces these opinions with fervor. Don't get near the kid with a button-down shirt. This week at least. He's obsessed with his rain boots and if it were up to him, he'd keep them on at all times, especially during meals. He insists on ketchup with everything (I created a damn monster), has learned the word "trash" and insists on throwing found items away on his own that really, truly are not trash. I came to pick him up from daycare the other day and he was randomly wearing a bike helmet -- his teacher mentioned he'd had it on most of the day and really, really didn't want to take it off. The kid has FEELINGS. I love that about him, and wouldn't want it any other way. But, man it's also exhausting.

Read More
Cheesy Quinoa Cauliflower Bake

Cheesy Quinoa Cauliflower Bake

I just finished washing out Oliver's lunchbox and laying it out to dry for the weekend. My favorite time of day is (finally) here: the quiet of the evening when I can actually talk to Sam about our day or sit and reflect on my own thoughts after the inevitable dance party or band practice that precedes the bedtime routine lately. Before becoming pregnant for the second time, I'd have had a glass of wine with the back door propped open right about now -- these days though, I have sparkling water or occasionally take a sip from one of Sam's hard ciders. Except now the back door's closed and we even turned on the heat for the first time yesterday. The racing to water the lawn and clean the grill have been replaced by cozier dinners at home and longer baths in the evening. You blink and it's the first day of fall. 

Read More
Stuffed Shells with Fennel and Radicchio

Stuffed Shells with Fennel and Radicchio

I'd heard from many friends that buying a house wasn't for the faint of heart. But I always shrugged it off, figuring I probably kept better files or was more organized and, really, how hard could it be? Well, I've started (and stopped) writing this post a good fifteen times which may indicate something. BUT! First thing's first: we bought a house! I think! I'm pretty sure! We're still waiting for some tax transcripts to come through and barring any hiccough with that, we'll be moving out of our beloved craftsman in a few weeks and down the block to a great, brick Tudor house that we wanted the second we laid eyes on it. The only problem: it seemed everyone else in Seattle had also laid eyes on it, and wanted it equally as much. I'm not really sure why the homeowner chose us in the end. Our offer actually wasn't the highest, but apparently there were some issues with a few of them. We wrote a letter introducing ourselves and describing why we'd be the best candidates and why we were so drawn to the house; we have a really wonderful broker who pulled out all the stops, and after sifting through 10 offers and spending a number of hours deliberating, they ended up going with ours. We were at a friend's book event at the time when Sam showed me the text from our broker and I kind of just collapsed into his arms. We were both in ecstatic denial (wait, is this real?! Did we just buy a house?) and celebrated by getting chicken salad and potato salad from the neighborhood grocery store and eating it, dazed, on our living room floor. Potato salad never tasted so good. 

Read More
Smoky Butternut Squash and Three Bean Chili

Smoky Butternut Squash and Three Bean Chili

If your house is anything like ours, last week wasn't our most inspired in terms of cooking. We're all suffering from the post-election blues -- the sole upside being Oliver's decision to sleep-in until 7 am for the first time in many, many months; I think he's trying to tell us that pulling the covers over our heads and hibernating for awhile is ok. It's half-convincing. For much of the week, instead of cooking, there'd been takeout pizza and canned soup before, at week's end, I decided it was time to pour a glass of wine and get back into the kitchen. I was craving something hearty and comforting that we could eat for a few days. Something that wouldn't remind me too much of Thanksgiving because, frankly, I can't quite gather the steam to start planning for that yet. It was time for a big bowl of chili.

Read More
To Talk Porridge

To Talk Porridge

Porridge is not the sexiest of breakfasts, it's true. It doesn't have a stylish name like strata or shakshuka, and it doesn't have perfectly domed tops like your favorite fruity muffin. It doesn't crumble into delightful bits like a good scone nor does it fall into buttery shards like a well-made croissant. But when you wake up and it's 17 degrees outside (as it has been, give or take a few, for the last week), there's nothing that satisfies like a bowl of porridge or oatmeal. It's warm and hearty and can be made sweet or savory with any number of toppings. The problem? Over the years, it's gotten a bad rap as gluey or gummy or just downright boring or dutiful -- and it's because not everyone knows the secrets to making a great pot of warm morning cereal. So let's talk porridge (also: my cookbook comes out this month! So let's take a peek inside, shall we?)

Read More