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.
The Thanksgiving Table
Today is a different kind of day. Usually posts on this blog come about with the narrative and I manage to squeeze in a recipe. But sometimes when you really stumble upon a winning recipe, it speaks for itself. We'll likely make these beans for Thanksgiving this year. They're one of those simple stunners that you initially think couldn't be much of a thing. And then they come out of the oven all sweet and withered and flecked with herbs. You try one and you realize they are, in fact, a pretty big thing.
I always force myself to wait until after Halloween to start thinking much about holiday pies or, really, future holidays in general. But this year I cheated a bit, tempted heavily by the lure of a warmly-spiced sweet potato pie that I used to make back when I baked pies for a living in the Bay Area (way back when). We seem to always have sweet potatoes around as they're one of Oliver's favorite foods, and when I roast them for his lunch I've been wishing I could turn them into a silky pie instead. So the other day I reserved part of the sweet potatoes for me. For a pie that I've made hundreds of times in the past, this time reimagined with fragrant brown butter, sweetened solely with maple syrup, and baked into a flaky kamut crust. We haven't started talking about the Thanksgiving menu yet this year, but I know one thing for sure: this sweet potato pie will make an appearance.
It has begun. Talk of who is bringing what, where we'll buy the turkey, what kind of pies I'll make, early morning texts concerning brussels sprouts. There's no getting around it: Thanksgiving is on its way. And with it comes the inevitable reflecting back and thinking about what we're thankful for. And about traditions. The funny thing about traditions is that they exist because they've been around for a long time. Year after year after year. But then, one Thanksgiving maybe there's something new at the table.
I didn't expect green beans to bring up such a great discussion on traditions, sharing of poems and how a piece of writing can linger with you. So thank you for that. Your comments pointed out how important people and place are and how food takes the back seat when it comes right down to it. Even if you feel quite warm towards Thanksgiving and are looking forward to next week, reading about recipe suggestions and meal planning online and in magazines can start to feel tiresome right about now. Why? Because I suppose when it all comes down to it, in the big picture it doesn't matter what we all serve anyway. Next year, you likely won't remember one year's vegetable side dish from another. What you'll remember are the markers that dotted the year for you: whom you sat next to at the table, a toast or grace, and the sense of gratitude you felt for something -- large or small.
I got a text from my mom the other day that read: demerara sugar? I responded back with a question mark, not sure what she was referencing. It turns out she was experimenting with a new pie recipe that called for the natural sugar and wasn't sure why she couldn't just use white sugar as that's what she's always done in the past. A few days later we talked on the phone and she mentioned she'd let me take charge of the salad for Thanksgiving this year as long as there was no kale. No kale! And I wanted to do the mashed potatoes? Would they still be made with butter and milk? In short, we're always willing to mix things up in the Gordon household. Whether it's inspiration from a food magazine, friend or coworker, either my mom or one of my sisters will often have an idea for something new to try at the holiday table. But what I've slowly learned is that it can't really be that different: there must be pumpkin pie, the can of cranberry sauce is necessary even though not many people actually eat it, the onion casserole is non-negotiable, the salad can't be too out there, and the potatoes must be made with ample butter and milk. And while I was really scheming up an epic kale salad to make this year, there's a big part of me that gets it, too: if we change things too much we won't recognize the part of the day that comes to mean so much: the pure recognition. We take comfort in traditions because we recognize them -- because they're always there, year after year. And so today I present to you (mom, are you reading?): this year's Gordon family Thanksgiving salad.