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.
Healthy Comfort Food
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?)