Enjoying the thing you are doing.

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The other day, I was driving to work, and I started thinking about leaving. Not leaving home or my job or my husband. No – about going out to things that I was really looking forward to and thinking while I’m there about leaving. I started to wonder why that happens. And what I can do to prevent it from happening in the future. Granted, sometimes you go somewhere and you really are not having a good time, or it wasn’t quite what you thought it would be, and you legitimately want to leave. But other times, I just feel like leaving for no reason. Ask my husband about my weird desire to leave concerts/sporting events/shows at least 30 minutes before the end (sometimes more). Sometimes I even feel this way when I’m the one PERFORMING the concert! I guess I just start thinking about all the other things I have to do; about how long it will take me to get home; about what time I have to wake up the next day; about how and when I’m going to fit in a run. The worst part is that these are not awkward/weird/unpleasant events. These things are FUN! I should be enjoying myself!!! So then why do I often want to leave? I made a conscious decision at that moment: to get to the bottom of this, and to no longer want to leave.

In order to do this, I started thinking about the things I’ve done that I never wanted to leave – those events and occasions that you just wish would stretch on into the wee hours of the morning and then some. What about those things was different? Some involved my husband and when we first met. Ok, that makes perfect sense – that new love and all the excitement and butterflies that come with it. I won’t count those things for now. But what other events did I wish would never end? I remembered back to a Peter Gabriel concert in 2002. It was an amazing show, and I could have sat there and watched him all night. I remembered a concert from high school where I played Eponine from Les Miz and I did not want that performance to end. I remembered pretty much every gig with my old band Sonic Girl, and I never wanted any of them to end. I remembered my wedding day. I remembered a Gillian Welch concert, also some time around 2002. I remembered pretty much all of my classes in Pastry School. I remembered laughing with a couple of friends all night about random things that no one else would think were funny (like how old Ben Franklin would be if he were alive today). I remembered playing and camping at the Newport Folk Festival in 2004.

from our campsite in Newport.

from our campsite in Newport.

So what do all of these things have in common? For starters, they seemed magical. There was some kind of magical energy at each of these events that made me wish they would never end. But I think it’s more than that. All of these events had two things in common which made them “magical.” Two thing that have to occur in order for me to wish they would go on forever:

1. They are things I am passionate about

2. I have to be fully present

I HAVE TO BE FULLY PRESENT. Sure, being passionate about it is also important, but I could be enjoying so much more in life if only I allowed myself to be fully there to enjoy it! That’s the key. To allow myself to actually enjoy these things while they are happening and not spend my time thinking and worrying about the next thing. Every event can be magical in a sense, if we let it be.

This weekend, I went camping. I  hadn’t been camping in many years, because last time – you guessed it – I wanted to leave. This time, it was different. I wanted to stay. I wanted to breathe the air and enjoy the trees and watch the fire. It was relaxing. It was fun. And i never once wanted to leave.

who would want to leave this??

who would want to leave this??

I’m sure there will be times and events that I will want to leave. But I promise to try my darndest to be there and enjoy each moment as it’s happening from now on. It’s gonna take some time, and some practice. But it’s definitely going to be worth it.

When Life Happens.

I haven’t posted anything in a while.

I’m not upset about that – I haven’t really felt like writing. Maybe it’s because things have been a little crazy. Some major events happened over the past few months:

1. I got married.

2. I went to Prague.

3. My father died.

#3 actually happened first. My father died almost exactly one month before my wedding. Being so sad and so happy at the same time is quite a challenge. And mentally exhausting. This was on top of the stress of planning a wedding in it’s final stages. I really just didn’t have time to write. At least,that was my excuse.

my dad and me, enjoying a moment.

my dad and me, enjoying a moment.

The truth is, I’ve loved to write since I was about 9 years old, when after a class assignment to write a short story about a polar bear, I discovered not only did I enjoy doing it, but I was pretty good at it, too! Every week, I looked forward to Fridays, when we got the chance to write another story. Writing was my passion. Through the years, my focus on it has ebbed and flowed – but I always come back to it. I admit I have many passions; but writing is and always will be the one ring to rule them all.

So why did I stop? Having no time was definitely a contributing factor – but not because I actually had no time for it – I just wasn’t making time for it and I believe that was intentional. When life gets too heavy, I push writing away out of fear. Writing for me, is about truth – about sharing a part of you that no one sees. Sometimes, when life becomes “too much,” I don’t really want anyone to see that.

Another big reason I stopped blogging in particular was because I had stopped baking – I really didn’t have time for that, what with  wedding crafts, family visits, vendor meetings, etc. So no baking = no blogging. That thought depressed me. Why should I have to stop writing just because I had stopped baking? Well, duh, I don’t. There are no rules in writing! That’s the beauty of the craft! So, I stripped away the limitations, and redid the blog. It’s still called Small Indulgences. It will still have recipes and baking adventures. But that’s only part of the fun. Living a life full of Small Indulgences – that’s what I want to do, and that’s what I want to write about. Having coffee with an old friend – that’s a Small Indulgence. Taking a Stand Up Paddle Boarding class with my husband (I still smile when I get to call him that) – that’s a Small Indulgence. Scratching my cat Gandalf the Gray behind the ears until he starts purring – that’s a Small Indulgence. Heck, watching the next episode of Game of Thrones is even a Small Indulgence! The little things we enjoy, that make us smile and warm our hearts – these are the things that matter. These are what life is all about. These are things worth sharing. And hence forth, they will be shared.

It’s not the size that counts; its how you live it.

So let’s get out there and live. :)

living it up in Prague.

living it up in Prague.

Kosher Brownies vs. Jewish Apple Cake: a Dessert Duel.

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So here’s a little story for you.

Last week, my fiance and I were invited to a Passover Seder. The hosts, knowing that I was a baker, asked us to bring a dessert. I of course jumped at the chance to make something for this special occasion, and I started going through some recipes, thinking of what I could bring. I settled on a Jewish Apple Cake, since not only do I love it, but I hadn’t made it in quite some time! The one thing I love about my recipe is that it always turns out perfect! I was so pumped to present it as our contribution at Seder.

Perfect for Passover.

Perfect for Passover.

It started off excellent. The batter was perfect, the apples were crisp and tasty. It looked great when I put it into the oven. As it was baking, it still looked great, but it seemed to be taking a long time to cook all the way through. I took it out, and had to put it back in the oven, because it wasn’t done yet. Finally, it was done, and it looked a little….flat. This wasn’t the end of the world, since it wasn’t supposed to be super fluffy – the apple cake is very dense. I let it cool in the pan for a bit, and then went to flip it out onto the cooling rack, and nothing. The cake did not come out. It was stuck in the pan, like REALLY stuck. I did what I normally do in this situation – I ran a knife along the sides and center. Bundt pans seem to be the worst at sticking, so I wasn’t too surprised at this. The knife usually does the trick. Not this time. After going around the perimeter multiple times, the cake still would not budge. Finally, after one more time around and practically digging the knife completely underneath the cake, it began to come loose. And then, boom! Half of the cake fell out. And then a bunch of crumbs. And then the other half (in pieces, I might add). And just like that, my perfect for Passover Apple Cake was ruined.

The good news – I had made the cake a day early, so I had time to try again. I really didn’t feel like making a whole new apple cake, though. So what should I do? I suddenly remembered seeing this box of cake mix in the kosher section at the grocery store, so I snagged it.

a quick mix fix.

a quick mix fix.

Now I knew this cake mix would not equate to the glory that is my scratch Apple Cake, but it looked good, and I was getting short on time. The next morning, I opened the box, ready to create an easy second cake for the dinner that evening.

Yes, it was easy.

Yes, it was tasty

Yes, it was way too small.

Not much bigger than an apple.

Not much bigger than an apple.

There was no way I could show up with this tiny cake! It would barely feed just me and my fiance! Now I was starting to panic. I had started becoming comfortable with the resignation that I would  have to actually purchase an already made dessert, when I had one last idea. Brownies. I don’t know where it came from, but there it was. I googled “Easy Kosher Brownies” and sure enough, found what I was looking for. And to top it off, I just so happened to already have all of the ingredients. I headed back into the kitchen for the third time, and hoped that three times really was the charm.

once, twice, three times the brownie.

once, twice, three times the brownie.

It was. The brownies cooked perfectly, were big enough, and when I cut them and removed them from the pan, they retained their shape perfectly.

redemption.

redemption.

I had been redeemed. My faith in my baking had once again been restored. As an added unexpected bonus, a few people wound up telling me these were the best brownies they ever had. So I guess it was meant to be in the end.

brownies for the win.

brownies for the win.

The brownies were the clear winner here, and I can honestly say that I’m glad the Apple Cake fell apart. Sometimes things fall apart for a reason. We just have to be patient and remember to never give up, because Good Things Come to Those Who Bake. :)

A Celebration of Pi (with Pie).

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Over the past weekend, on 3/14/15 to be exact. I went to a Pi Party. How does one celebrate Pi? With pie, of course! Everyone contributed a pie of some sort in honor of Pi. As you can imagine, there were so many pies there, I almost couldn’t handle the deliciousness. Almost.

My personal contribution was a Key Lime Pie. I started off with a cornmeal crust made from scratch, baked it for about 8 minutes, filled it with pie, and baked it for another 15 minutes. And although I absolutely love this particular Key Lime Pie recipe, I feel like it’s not green enough. So…I helped it reach maximum greeness with a couple drops of food coloring.

it's not easy being green.

it’s not easy being green.

I wanted to put some kind of topping on it, but I didn’t have any heavy cream. I did however, have all the ingredients to make a meringue, so I started whipping one up.

do the meringue.

do the meringue.

It was going really well, until my hand started getting really really tired. Then I remembered just how long it takes to whip meringue, and realized I should have used the stand mixer,  not the hand mixer. But it was too late to turn back now, so I whipped on, as best as I could. The result was not the best meringue I’ve ever made, looks-wise, but it sure was tasty.

beautiful on the inside.

beautiful on the inside.

I really really really wanted to add a slice of lime to the center, but at this point, I was crunched for time, so it would have to go lime-less. I brought it to the party, feeling sightly disappointed. I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to my desserts, but there was no way I could redo the pie and still make it to the party in time. And showing up to a Pi Party without Pie was just unthinkable.

The party was a blast. The pies were all a huge hit, including mine. So much so, that by the end of the night, my faith in my desserts had been restored.

things are looking up.

things are looking up.

The best part about the pie party? We got to take home slices of all the pies, in what I affectionately dubbed a “Super Pie.”

the super pie.

best. pie. ever.

The moral of the story is no two pies are exactly alike. But that doesn’t make them any less delicious. Pie to infinity!

The Best Sweet Beer Bread.

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Ok, so I know I said that last week I made the Best Beer Bread, and I still stick to that claim. However, the other day, I tried again, with a different beer this time – something just a little more dessert-like. What was the beer, you might ask? Why, it was Creme Brulee Stout, by Southern Tier Brewing Co.

a sweet, sweet beer.

a sweet, sweet beer.

The only problem here, was that the recipe as you may remember, calls for 12 oz of beer, and this bottle was, alas, 16 oz. Oh darn. The only solution was to drink the remaining 4 oz. Oh the perils of being a baker. ;)

more beer than bread.

more beer than bread.

Well, needless to say, the beer was delicious, and I was even more excited now to see how the bread would turn out! It smelled amazing, and it appeared to have been baked to perfection. Now, the hard part – waiting for it to cool, so I could try it.

hurry up.

hurry up.

Finally, the cooling hour had come. It was time. Time to slice. Time to taste. Time to judge and be judged.

worth waiting for.

worth waiting for.

Well, it was definitely worth the wait. It’s hard to say at this point which beer bread was the actual best – I think it all comes down to personal preference. This one was a little sweeter, which, anyone who knows me would know that sweeter is my bag. Not everyone digs on sweeter though, so let’s just call it a draw. This one shall be bestowed with the title of Best Sweet Bread Bread. If you’d like to try is, use the same Beer Bread Recipe as previously posted, but use the Creme Brulee Stout. Remember to only use 12 oz – and to drink the rest. Never let great beer go to waste.

Recipe: The Best Beer Bread.

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Here’s the recipe for the Sweet Baby Jesus! Beer Bread I posted the other day. Keep in mind, you don’t have to use Sweet Baby Jesus! beer (although it really was super delicious) – you can use whatever beer you like! I plan on doing a lot more experimenting with this one…

The Best Beer Bread.

What you’ll need:

3 cups flour, sifted

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup sugar

1 12 oz can of whatever beer you like

1/4 cup melted butter

What you’ll do:

Preheat the oven to 375. In a Large mixing bowl, whisk together the sifted flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Pour in the beer, and mix with a spatula until it gets thick, then finish mixing it by hand, until it forms a somewhat flaky-ish ball. Grease a loaf pan, and pour dough into the pan, spreading it out evenly with your hands. Pour the melted butter on top. Place the loaf pan on a sheet pan (sometimes the butter overflows while baking) and bake for approx 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

 

Sweet Baby Jesus Beer Bread.

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I forgot how good Beer Bread is. The other day, I was home from work, and really wanted to bake something, but I didn’t want anything super sweet or that took too long to make. I began flipping through my binder and came across this old recipe I had for Beer Bread. I’m not even sure where it came from, I’ve had it for quite some time – it was pre-pastry school! But I remember it being extremely delicious, and not super complicated. Being engaged to a complete beer geek, I was also 100% sure we would already have some kind of beer in the house that would work perfectly. Little did I realize just how perfectly.

perfection.

perfection.

In the fridge, I found a six pack of Sweet Baby Jesus! It’s a chocolate peanut butter porter, and if I remembered correctly, the beer bread tastes best with a darker beer. Not only was this one dark, but chocolate AND peanut butter???  The planets could not have been more perfectly aligned. I went forth and crafted the dough.

dough with beer.

dough with beer.

I greased the loaf pan, put the dough in, drizzled melted butter on top, and baked it. Not until after I tasted the dough though. A few times. This was some good dough.

baked beer.

baked beer.

I just loved the way it looked, fresh out of the oven – kinda like how I imagine the surface of the moon. Only much tastier. I let it cool, and waited patiently for my fiance to get home, so I could show him what I made, and more importantly, we could eat it. After what seemed like an eternity, he came home from work, and we sliced into the bread.

finally feasting.

finally feasting.

This was not good. I mean, it was really really good, which made it not good, because I did not want to stop eating it. It also inspired me to start thinking about other beers that would work well in the recipe….a whole line of craft beer breads…I think I’ve found my true calling.

the best thing since sliced beer bread.

the best thing since sliced beer bread.

Any suggestions for a beer to try? I’m always up for experimenting. :)

Recipe: Coconut Cake with Coconut Buttercream.

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I had a few requests for the recipe of the Coconut Birthday Cake I just made for my mom, using Vita Coco Pure Coconut Water. It may have been the best coconut cake I’ve ever had, and it was certainly the best one I’ve ever made! So, I’d be happy to share it with those who’d like to give it a try! Heck, I’ll even share the recipe for the frosting.

Coconut Cake.

What you’ll need:

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1 egg

1 tbsp canola oil

1 tbsp baking powder

1 cup flour

1/4 cup half and half

1/4 cup Vita Coco Pure Coconut Water

What you’ll do:

Preheat the oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, egg, and oil. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. Add the flour mixture, half and half, and Vita Coco to the original bowl, and beat until smooth. Grease one 8″ or 9″ pan (or a heart-shaped pan, like I did), and pour all of the batter in. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

 

Coconut Buttercream.

What you’ll need:

4 oz (1/2 stick) butter (melted)

2 oz shortening

10 oz confectioners sugar

1/4 tsp Madascar Bourbon Vanilla

3/4 oz Vita Coco Pure Coconut Water

What you’ll do:

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, shortening, and confectioners sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and Vita Coco, mix until smooth and shiny.

Don’t forget to cover the sides of your cake with fresh coconut!! :)

One Cake to Rule Them All: A Valentine Birthday Cake.


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My mom’s birthday is two days before Valentine’s Day. Every year, I make her a cake, and I try to make it exciting and different each year. Last, year, I did this one. This year, I decided to use these heart pans that my aunt gave me that I had yet to use, and was always hoping for a reason to use them. Well, what better reason than a birthday cake for my favorite lady, which also happens to be right around Valentine’s Day??

I went with an easy coconut cake, because that’s my mom’s favorite. I actually used Vita Coco Pure Coconut Water this time though, in both the cake and the icing – something I’d never done before, but it wound up working out fabulously.

coconut water

living la vita coco.

I baked the cake in the heart-shaped pan, and it just looked so cute, cooling on the rack, in all it’s heart-shapey-ness.

i heart this cake.

i heart this cake.

Next, I frosted it with the coconut water frosting. It was very….white.

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white iced.

Next, I added fresh coconut to the sides.

coconut siding.

coconut siding.

Then, I started decorating. First the border and the main flowers, all in pink, in honor of Valentine’s Day.

pretty in pink.

pretty in pink.

Then, I added the birthday wish, in dark chocolate.

they say it's  your birthday.

they say it’s your birthday.

And finally, I added a few more minor embellishments.

cake: complete.

cake: complete.

Once the cake was complete, I brought it over to my mom’s house to surprise her. She in turn, made me take half of it back home, like she always does. :)

one half of this will be mine.

one half of this will be mine.

Happy birthday and Happy Valentine’s Day, Mom. Hope you liked your (half of) cake! :D

 

 

 

Heart-shaped Chocolate-dipped Sugar (sort of) Cookies with Sprinkles.

 

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I love making Valentine’s Day desserts, which is funny, since I really don’t love Valentine’s Day. But I do love making things that are pink, or red, or heart-shaped – or better yet – all of the above! I had this sugar cookie recipe made with Monk Fruit in the Raw that I was dying to try, and this heart-shaped cookie cutter that I had yet to use, so I decided on heart-shaped sugar (sort of) cookies for this year’s V-Day Small Indulgence of choice.

the main ingredient.

the main ingredient.

I followed the recipe pretty much down to the teaspoon, except that I added one thing – red food coloring. I wanted my cookies to be pink and swirly – and I figured a small amount of red food coloring would do just that. I wound up with dough that looked a little like a human heart. I figured that meant I must be on the right track.

the tell-tale heart dough.

the tell-tale heart dough.

I chilled it for a few hours, then rolled it out and cut it into heart-shapes. The result was swirly pink hearts, just as I had hoped!

pretty in pink swirls.

pretty in pink swirls.

I let them cool, and then thought that although they were cute as they were, they needed something more. So I melted down some milk chocolate, and dipped them. Oh, and added some festive sprinkles, while they were still wet.

dipped and sprinkled.

dipped and sprinkled.

I chilled them for a bit, then packed them up, and shared them with my fiance, my parents, my friends, and my co-workers. I guess I really don’t mind Valentine’s Day that much after all – it gives me the chance to spread the love, by doing what I love.

all you need is love.

all you need is love.

I suppose it’s true what they say: love actually…is all around…and in cookies.

Happy Valentine’s Day!