I’ve been a bit MIA the past week or two.  I go through crazy creative spurts and then have my days where I’m just surviving life and don’t want to do anything.  It usually coincides with how much sleep I’m getting.  It has also been unbearably hot, so who wants to turn on the stove?  ACK!  🙂

BUT!  I finally did get around to making some blueberry scones and I love this recipe.  These scones are crunchy on the outside but tender in the middle.  When most people think of scones they think of dry, flour-y hockey pucks.  That’s not a real scone, damn it! These are light and fluffy but packed with lots of buttery flavor.  And due to the sugar sprinkled on the top, it’s got this crunchy sweet exterior that pairs deliciously with your morning coffee!

And all those antioxidants in the blueberries?  SUPER healthy.  😉

Scones are super easy when you get the hang of it but can be a little daunting if you’ve never tried them before. But YOU GOT THIS!  At the bakery I used to work at, the goal was to make a batch within 8-12 minutes and then pop them in the oven.  And with a line out the door… WE DID.  

For starters, you pulse all the dry ingredients in a food processor.  (Click HERE for the one I use.  In the realm of baking equipment, they’re fairly affordable now.  I want to say when I bought mine a few years ago, it cost something like $400).  Once all of your dry ingredients are pulsed together, you add your diced chopped butter and pulse until the butter chunks resemble the size of peas.  Now, if you don’t have a fancy shmancy food processor, you can totally use a pie cutter like THIS one.  That’s the one I have.  It’s sharp and cuts through butter like buttah! 

Then you transfer everything to a bowl and make a well in the center.  You add your whisked together buttermilk, sour cream and vanilla.  You lightly mix with a spatula until the dough is slightly moistened and begins to come together.  Then you add your fruit.  Fold in the berries gently.  

Finally, you dump out your dough onto a floured surface and with a bench scraper like THIS one, you chop up and mix the dough until it becomes moldable.  You shape the dough into a circled disk and cut into ten wedges.

Transfer the wedges onto a half sheet tray lined with parchment and sprayed with Pam.  You brush some egg wash on the top and sprinkle with a healthy dose of coarse sugar crystals like THIS.  I am currently out of my sugar crystals (D’OH!) so I used Turbinado Sugar in the Raw.  That works too!  But trust me, if you get the sugar crystals you get that bakery quality crunchy-sweet ‘muffin top.’  THE BEST PART.  🙂 

So that’s the scoop, folks!  Do yourself a ‘flavor’ and try these guys out.  A little self care in the form of summer fresh fruit yumminess.  You won’t be sorry!  And as always, if you like what you see, please follow along on instagram @MandiCrocker and @MandiCrockerSweets and be sure to share with your family and friends.  

Happy August, everyone!  Is it winter yet?  😉

 

 

INGREDIENTS:

5 1/2 c. flour

2/3 c. sugar

2 T baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp nutmeg

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 c. butter, cold and diced

2 T. vanilla

1 1/2 c. buttermilk 

1/2 c. sour cream

2 c. fresh blueberries

EGG WASH:

1 egg yolk

3 T. buttermilk

Coarse sugar crystals for sprinkling (about 1/3 c.)

 

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a half sheet tray with parchment paper and spray with Pam. 

In a small bowl, whisk together the 1 1/2 c. buttermilk, sour cream and vanilla. Set aside.

In a cup, whisk together the egg yolk and 3 T. buttermilk. Set aside.

In a food processor, combine flour, sugar, baking power, baking soda, nutmeg and salt.  Add butter and pulse until butter chunks resemble the size of peas.  (You can also use a pie cutter).  Transfer to a large bowl.

Make a well in the dry butter ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients.  With a spatula, lightly fold everything together until just moistened.  Fold fruit in gently. Dump out onto floured surface.  

With a bench scraper, chop into the dough until it starts to become moistened throughout.  Just enough for it all to come together and become moldable. Make a circle with the dough (about ten inches in width and 1 1/2- 2 inches in height) and cut into ten pie wedges.  

Transfer the wedges to the lined half sheet tray.  Brush with egg wash and sprinkle each scone with a hearty amount of sugar. Bake for approximately 26 minutes, turning half sheet around half way through.

 

 

One of the cookbook’s sitting on my shelf is ‘Southern Italian Desserts’ by Rosetta Constantino.  I bought the book in the midst of moving so I never really had too much time to work with it.  Flipping through the pages, however, it’s exactly what I wanted it to be!  The recipes are authentically Italian, and unlike most American baked goods.  I was excited to try some new things… 

One of the recipes in this book is called ‘Africano.’  It’s a chocolate hazelnut cake roll.  (Umm, OKAY).  You make a homemade chocolate hazelnut paste (move over Nutella!) and wrap a thin layer of sponge around it.  After it’s set, you dip it in chocolate, and then dip it in white chocolate and chopped pistachios. Hazelnut?  Pistachio?  I reeeeeeally want to go to Italy!!  Actually my big goal is to take Ruby on a tour of Europe when she’s old enough to appreciate it.  I can’t wait!!!

One of the reasons I love this cookbook is because she groups her recipes by Italian region.  This dessert is native to Sicily and the author got to try an Africano while visiting Palermo, her husband’s hometown.  I had just binge-watched a ton of Food Network’s Baking Championship so I couldn’t help but say-a everything-a like-a I was channeling-ga my eener Damiano Carrara!  Ha!  

Did you know his bake shop, ‘Carrara Pastries’ is in Moorpark, CA.  That’s only two hours away… And THAT IS HAPPENING.  🙂

These were a little tricky to roll but the components themselves are very simple to make.  The rolling the cake up and the dunking in chocolate was the biggest challenge– BUT!  So worth it for a unique dessert I’d never had before.  

Below is a photo of the half sheet thin sponge I baked.  You divide it into four sections and spread the hazelnut paste all over it.  Then you roll the cake up away from you (toward the top of the photo) so you have four long logs.  You cut each log into three parts so you will eventually end up with 12 cake rolls. 

 

Next time I might skip the cake part completely and just eat a bowl of hazelnut paste sprinkled with pistachios.  But you do you…  😉

You can check out the book below!  Happy Wednesday!  xoxo

 

 

 

 

Africano
Yields 12
Chocolate Hazelnut Cake Roll
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Ingredients
  1. HAZELNUT PASTE
  2. 1 1/2 c. skinned hazelnuts
  3. About 1 T. safflower or neutral-tasting vegetable oil (I used coconut oil)
  4. FILLING
  5. 9 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (40-55% cacao)
  6. 1 cup (240g) hazelnut paste (above)
  7. 1 cup (125 g) powdered sugar
CAKE
  1. 3 large eggs
  2. 3 T. sugar
  3. 2 tsp mild-flavored honey
  4. 1/2 c. cake flour (50 grams)
COATING
  1. 16 ounces (454 g) dark chocolate (55-60% cacao)
  2. 3 T. safflower or other neutral-tasting vegetable oil, divided
  3. 6 ounces (170g) white chocolate
  4. 1/2 cup (75g) finely chopped raw pistachios
Instructions
  1. TO MAKE HAZELNUT PASTE
  2. Preheat the oven to 350.
  3. Toast nuts for 20-22 minutes until very dark and almost smoking.
  4. Pour oil into food processor along with roasted hazelnuts. Process until a smooth paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl and blade. Add a bit more oil if needed to get paste going.
TO MAKE CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT FILLING
  1. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler, just until the chocolate is smooth. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Stir in the hazelnut paste until evenly combined. Sift in powdered sugar. Let stand until it is thick and spreadable.
TO MAKE THE CAKE
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Line a half sheet tray with parchment, butter and flour parchment. (You don't want to skip this step!)
  3. Beat the eggs, sugar, honey in a stand mixture with whisk attachment for 15 minutes, beginning at medium speed and increasing to high after ingredients are blended.
  4. Sift the flour over the top, one-third of flour at a time, gently folding in until completely incorporated without deflating mixture.
  5. Use a small spatula to spread the cake out over the half sheet. It will be very thin! Bake 8-10 minutes until just lightly golden. Lift out the cake on its parchment paper and transfer to a flat surface with long side facing you. Trim away crust edges of cake and then cut into four equal sections about 4 inches wide. (see photo in blog)
  6. While the cake is slightly warm and pliable, divide the filling evenly among the four pieces and spread over the top like peanut butter. With the long side facing you, roll one filled cake away from you into a long roll. Roll remaining three pieces.
  7. Transfer the rolls, seam side down, to a baking sheet lined with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15+ minutes to firm the filling. Trim the ends of the rolls to neaten them and cut each roll into three equal segments. Lay them on a parchment lined baking sheet, seam side down.
TO MAKE THE COATING
  1. Melt the dark chocolate with 2 T. of oil in a double boiler, just until chocolate is melted and smooth. Dip each roll into the melted chocolate with a fork, shake off excess and put down on parchment. Coat all of the rolls and refrigerate 30 minutes.
  2. Melt the white chocolate with remaining 1 T. of oil in a double boiler. Put the pistachios in a small bowl. Dip each roll into the white chocolate and 'stamp' the ends into the pistachios. Refrigerate 15-30 minutes to set. Best served cool but not cold.
  3. **Refrigerate in a single layer airtight container for up to one week.
Adapted from Southern Italian Desserts
Adapted from Southern Italian Desserts
MandiCrocker https://mandicrocker.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who has 12,485 cookbooks?  *raises hand*  THIS GIRL. 

Who uses them?  *crickets*

Oy to the vey, I’m so bad!!  I have a ton of cookbooks and while I find a lot of inspiration in them, I rarely crack one open to try a new recipe.  I go to the cracked out, ratings ridden internets.  Yack!  Where’s the charm?!  The romance?! What happened to those books you found in the days of yore? 

A dusty old book you’d find at a flea market or garage sale… and a promise to yourself to start cooking authentic Chinese cuisine.  (Ha! The book doesn’t have pictures, who are we kidding). 

Or the cookbooks your grandmother gave you… Mine never did but here’s hoping you have romantic stories of talking baked goods with grandma.  Mine watched a lot of golf and Wheel of Fortune.  “Bogey, bogey, par, par, son…”  is all I can say about that. 

And then what about those special treat brand new cookbooks with the hardcovers you purchased just for you?  Like Liz buying a lace teddy just for her in Eat, Pray, Love… you bought this cookbook in some kind of intimate act that no one needed to know about.  You just know that it fulfills YOU.  Those ones are my favorite.  And for the love of God, I’ve got millions!

So here’s my new goal, friends.  To share some recipes out of these amazing cookbooks in hopes that A) in 460 years, I’ll get some of the bang back from my buck- ha!  and B) that I will have learned something new and inspired myself to try new flavors, skill-sets or techniques when developing recipes or C) to just find some more winners for the home collection!

So for this blog, I made some Hazelnut Pistachio Slices out of ‘Payard Cookies,’ by Francois Payard with Anne E. McBride.  I chose this recipe because I had pistachios on hand which never happens and I LOOOOVE pistachios!!! (And hazelnuts?  I see you!!) Also because I thoroughly enjoy little ‘dipper’ cookies.

They’re not only small and cute but ‘dipper cookies’ are a perfect little bite with coffee or tea.  They usually have a nice shelf life which I appreciate so you have something to serve when you have guests or when ‘neighbors call.’  (I’m not sure who has neighbors that ‘call’ anymore but I wish we still lived in that time…oh, the poundcakes and southern accent I would have on hand…)

The great thing about this recipe is that they make about a 100 small cookies, which is awesome!  I thought they would be like buttery shortbread but instead they are more like a nutty biscotti.  I’m cool with this because a good ‘dipper’ has to hold up to some moisture!  I chose to dip mine in bittersweet chocolate because they look even more adorable and I love chocolate dipped anything.  Yay!

Then I tried to find some good light in this incredibly dark house we rent- ha!  I find the washer works best.  Ya gotta do what you gotta do… 😉

 

Anyway, give this recipe a try and be sure to share it with your friends!  And if you like what you’re reading, be sure to subscribe to the blog and follow the fun over on instagram:  @mandicrocker and @mandicrockersweets.  Happy Baking, neighbors!

 

Hazelnut Pistachio Slices
Yields 100
A crunchy almost biscotti-like sliced cookie filled with pistachios and hazelnuts. The perfect 'dipper' for coffee or tea!
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Ingredients
  1. 2 c. minus 2 T flour (250 grams)
  2. 1/2 tsp baking soda
  3. pinch of salt
  4. 4 1/2 T butter, room temp (65 grams)
  5. 3/4 c. light brown sugar (150 grams)
  6. 3 T water
  7. 2/3 cup hazelnuts, finely chopped (90 grams)
  8. 1/4 cup pistachios, finely chopped (30 grams)
  9. grated zest of 1/2 lemon
  10. 1 c. bittersweet or milk chocolate chips, melted for dipping (optional)
  11. 1/4 c. ground nuts for decorating (optional)
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl sift flour, baking soda and salt
  2. In a medium saucepan, heat the butter, brown sugar and water, whisking until everything is melted and slightly hot.
  3. Pour the melted mixture over the dry ingredients
  4. Stir in nuts and zest, mixing completely. Let cool to room temp.
  5. Roll the dough out into a 1 inch thick square. Height and width should be about 5 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two hours (or preferably overnight)
  6. Preheat the oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment.
  7. Take out dough and cut into one inch strips.
  8. Cut each strip into 20 slices. (They will be small and fairly thin).
  9. Pop them into the freezer (if you can) for another 15 minutes to firm up again.
  10. Bake for about ten minutes, or until bottoms turn a light brown.
  11. Let cool completely and you can keep them in air tight container for two weeks.
  12. **If you want to dip in chocolate, microwave chips in 30 second intervals in a small microwave safe bowl until smooth. Dip at a horizontal, brush remainder of chocolate of the side of the cookie and place on parchment paper. Sprinkle with ground nuts. Allow to set completely.
MandiCrocker https://mandicrocker.com/
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Hey everyone!  How we doin’?  🙂

It is insanely gorgeous up here in the mountains right now.  I know once summer hits, it’s going to get crazy hot.  I’m kinda dreading it.  I’m such a winter girl!  So I’m doing my best to enjoy it while the nice weather lasts.  🙂

And part of the enjoyment of this time of year is making a recipe like this one! Today’s post is a light, fluffy and refreshing dessert called ‘Blueberry Jamboree.’  Have you ever had it?  I used to work as a General Manager at Magnolia Bakery in Chicago and this was one of my favorite desserts that they served there.  I was grateful to find they shared the recipe when I searched online for it years later!  

I’ve tweaked it slightly adding lemon juice and nutmeg to the berries and vanilla to the cream cheese filling for personal preference.  I’ve also used frozen blueberries before in a pinch and it’s turned out beautifully.  (Now if they’d only post a recipe for those pistachio cupcakes!  Gah!!)  

The dessert consists of a pecan shortbread crust with a light, whipped cheesecake filling and a sweet blueberry compote topping.  It has a very mild and refreshing flavor.  It’s one of my favorite summer desserts for sure and because it’s not too sweet, you can eat an entire pan of it!  😉

It’s an incredibly easy dessert to make, too!  You make a blueberry compote out of blueberries, sugar, lemon, lemon zest, nutmeg and a little cornstarch.  While that’s cooling, you make a quickie shortbread crust and press it into a 13×9 pan.  You bake the crust for only 15 minutes which is also great because who wants the oven on that long in the spring & summertime?  

While the crust is cooling, you beat cream cheese and powdered sugar together, and fold in whipped cream.  Pile the light filling onto the crust, top with blueberry compote and keep it in the fridge for an hour to set.  That’s it!

This is a great recipe to try this time of year!  And if you do, be sure to take a picture and tag me on Instagram:  @mandicrockersweets.  If you like what you see, don’t forget to subscribe to MandiCrocker and share this post on Facebook.  In fact, I dare say we just might have  a giveaway coming up… Shhhh!  You won’t want to miss a thing!  

Happy Tuesday, folks!  xoxox

 

Blueberry Jamboree
A crunchy, pecan shortbread crust filled with a light, whipped cheesecake filling, topped with a sweet blueberry compote. The perfect light and refreshing dessert for Spring!
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Blueberry Compote
  1. 3 1/2 c. fresh blue berries, divided
  2. ¼ cup granulated sugar
  3. 1/8 cup brown sugar
  4. 1 Tbl. + 1 ½ tsp cornstarch, dissolved in 1 Tbl. + 1 ½ tsp water
  5. ¾ tsp of Lemon Zest
  6. 1 tsp lemon juice
  7. 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
For crust
  1. 3/4 cups unsalted butter, melted
  2. 2 c. flour
  3. 1 c. toasted pecans, chopped
For cheesecake filling
  1. 2 cups heavy cream
  2. 1 lb cream cheese, room temperature, cut into chunks
  3. 2 c. sifted confectioner’s sugar
  4. 1 tsp. vanilla
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325. Butter a 13x9 inch pan or line with parchment paper.
For blueberry compote
  1. In a large pot combine 1 ½ c. blueberries and both sugars over medium high heat.
  2. Stir until sugar is dissolved, and blueberries begin boiling.
  3. In a small dish, mix together cornstarch with water.
  4. Whisk cornstarch into the blueberry mixture, stirring until it begins to thicken. Stir in zest, lemon juice and nutmeg.
  5. Remove compote from the heat and fold in remaining 2 c. of fresh blueberries.
  6. Set aside and refrigerate to cool completely.
For crust
  1. Melt butter and mix with flour and toasted pecans until a crumbly dough forms.
  2. Press mixture into the pan and bake for 15 minutes, or just until beginning to lightly brown.
  3. Set aside and cool to room temperature.
For cheesecake filing
  1. In a mixer, whip the heavy cream until thick. Put into a separate bowl and set aside.
  2. In the same mixer, beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla.
  3. Fold whipped cream into cream cheese mixture until combined.
For assembly
  1. Pour cream cheese mixture over cooled pecan crust. Top with blueberry compote.
  2. Let set in the fridge for one hour and then enjoy!
MandiCrocker https://mandicrocker.com/
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While I was living in Chicago, I started a little side business on Etsy.  I sold brownies– all different kinds.  I made Classic Dark Chocolate Brownies, ‘Go Nuts’ Brownies, Grasshopper Mint with big ol’ chunks of Oreos, etc. But my best seller?  Fluffernutter Brownies.  

Fluffernutter Brownies consisted of a dark chocolate brownie, with a peanut butter swirl, peanut butter chips, marshmallow fluff and salted peanuts.  All ingredients which take me to my happy place!  

 

They’re crazy rich and fudge-like!

Definitely lick-your-fingers ooey, gooey.  🙂

A few things about this recipe.  It uses a mixture of melted bittersweet dark chocolate and cocoa powder.  For the bittersweet, I use Ghirardelli chips. I usually stock up when I find them on sale for $2.99.  For the cocoa powder, it’s imperative that you use a non-dutch process cocoa or it will change the texture of the brownie.  I typically use Ghirardelli or Dagoba because that’s what I’ve been able to find where I live.  Typically my local grocery or Target carries these items and aren’t hard to find. 

Once the dark chocolate batter is made, I add 3/4’s of a bag of peanut butter chips and dump it into a 13×9 pan.  Then, I make a peanut butter swirl on top which consists of peanut butter and sweetened condensed milk.  You can typically find sweetened condensed milk in 14 oz. cans and you’ll only need half a can for this recipe.  

But before the other half of the can goes bad and you’ll feel like you’ve wasted your money, can I do you a life flavor?  Make Vietnamese Coffee.  Put a spoonful of condensed milk in your coffee.  In your COFFEE, people!!!  It’s insanely good.  I experienced this for a the first time at a Vietnamese restaurant with my buddy ‘Chef.’  I was all, “What’s Vietnamese Coffee??” And he was like, “Oh, Cupcake, prepare to have your world rocked.”  It was divine.  You guys… this post is like two recipes in one.  You’re welcome.  😉

These will be your FAVORITE brownies for ice cream sundaes. 

You can see why…  😉

So once you’ve got your peanut butter swirl on top, put the pan in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Half way through, drop globs of fluff onto the tops of the brownies.  Cover with remaining peanut butter chips and salted peanuts and bake for another 20-25 minutes. Mmmmm…  

I mean… LOOK AT THAT THING.  *swoon*

Now if you want your Fluffernutter Brownies really ooey gooey, you can add the fluff at the very end.  Bake your brownies as you typically would but as soon as you take them out of the oven, drop the globs of fluff onto the brownies and it will melt all over the top like a sauce.  Ummm… OKAY.  Also, they last for dayssss…. 🙂

 

I closed up my Etsy shop pretty quickly. Not only has my dream been to own my own baking shop but I was having issues shipping brownies so fudge-like in the summer months.  As a customer having to pay for shipping, you also are looking for wholesale prices.  My baking has never been stripped down and cost effective for nationwide shipping or renting commercial kitchens.  I always load everything up with goodies (whoops!) and it’s hard to make a profit when you don’t have the room or aren’t able to buy your ingredients in bulk. 

So, unless one day I am actually able to open a brick & mortar place of my own, which–for various reasons– is the only way I think I’d want to sell baked goods again… I thought I’d share the recipe and make some old fans happy.  🙂

If you like what you see, folks, don’t forget to subscribe to MandiCrocker!  You can also follow me on Instagram:  @MandiCrocker for my blog or @MandiCrockerSweets for my baked goods feed.  And if this looks super yummy and delectable to you, don’t forget to share with your friends!  Enjoy!  🙂

Fluffernutter Brownies
Super rich dark chocolate brownies with a peanut butter swirl, peanut butter chips, marshmallow fluff and salted peanuts. Ooey, gooey crazy delicious!
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Prep Time
30 min
Prep Time
30 min
For brownie
  1. 1 c. all purpose flour (about 130 grams)
  2. 1 1/4 c. non-dutch process cocoa (about 70 grams)
  3. 2 c. sugar
  4. 1 tsp instant espresso powder
  5. 3/4 tsp salt
  6. 10 oz. bag of bittersweet chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli)
  7. 1 & 1/2 c. unsalted butter (3 sticks)
  8. 4 eggs
  9. 2 egg yolks
  10. 10 oz peanut butter chips, divided.
For swirl
  1. 7 oz. sweetened condensed milk
  2. 2/3 cup peanut butter
For toppings
  1. 4 oz. fluff ( half of a small jar)
  2. 1/2 c. salted peanuts
  3. Remaining 1/4 bag of peanut butter chips
Instructions
  1. Line 13x9 inch pan with parchment and preheat oven to 350.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, sugar, espresso powder and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a double boiler, melt dark chocolate and butter together, mixing until smooth. Dump melted mixture into a large bowl.*
  4. Whisk in the eggs and egg yolk vigorously into the chocolate mixture one at a time.**
  5. Stir in dry ingredients and mix until combined. Stir in 3/4 of a bag of peanut butter chips and dump batter into 13x9 pan.
  6. In a small bowl mix together peanut butter and sweetened condensed milk. It will be thick. Drop spoonfuls of mixture on top of the batter and swirl on the top as best you can. Put in the oven for 20 minutes.
  7. Take brownies out and drop spoonfuls of fluff onto the top of the brownie batter. Sprinkle with remaining peanut butter chips and salted peanuts. Bake for another 20-25 minutes.
  8. Cool completely before cutting or let set overnight.
Notes
  1. *You can also use a microwave to melt the chocolate and butter together. If you go with this method, make sure the butter is on the bottom of our bowl and melt the mixture at 30 second intervals, mixing every time, so as not to burn the chocolate.
  2. **Be sure to whisk quickly or the eggs will bake and curdle in the hot mixture.
MandiCrocker https://mandicrocker.com/
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I had every intention of posting this blog days ago… but alas, with a newborn, my time is not my own.  Actually, that’s a lie. Technically, Ruby is no longer a ‘newborn.’  At over three months, she is considered an ‘infant.’  An ‘infant?’  Sounds so…big…  No, she’s TOTALLY a newborn!!!  *cries real tears*  

But I digress…

Today on the blog I’m sharing a pavlova recipe.  Pavlova, for those that may not know, is a whipped mixture basically of egg whites and sugar that is baked at such a low degree, it doesn’t seem like it’s being baked at all!  The moisture is evaporated out until you have a hard outer shell and an ooey, gooey marshmallow-y (technical term) center.  

And the fun part about pavlovas is that not only is it a GREAT way to use up those egg whites after making pastry cream but it is also super fun to pipe.  I piped mine into a sunshine shape. Or a flower shape.  I can’t decide.  You decide?  

Pavlova can be very sweet (it’s pretty much a cup of sugar to 4 egg whites), so I love to cut it with some tart lemon cream.  In today’s recipe, I’ve adapted a lemon cream recipe from Tartine Bakery, in San Francisco, WHICH!  Visiting their website, I’ve learned they’re opening up some kind of juggernaut ‘manufactory’ in Los Angeles.  Ooohhhhh, exciting!!!

Anyway, this lemon cream is TO DIE FOR… It’s super tart and creamy.  All that I did in my recipe was remove some of the butter so the flavor would be even more tart to offset the sweetness in the pavlova.  But typically? It’s perfection in lemon cream.  If you’re a lemon lover, I don’t say these things lightly!  The recipe I’ve included makes 2 & 1/2 cups but trust me you’ll be grateful for leftovers it’s that good!

My go to pavlova recipe is Ina’s, OF COURSE.  “Ina, Ina, Ina, Mandi…”  I know.  (I want her to be my next door neighbor or great Aunt or something).  Pavlova was perfect for this weekend as not only can pavlova be decorated to match the spirit of the weekend, but my friend Candy gave me some wonderful lemons from her tree.  A total score!!  So I baked her off and filled the shell with lemon cream… 

 

 

Then I covered her in whipped cream and fresh berries. I was going to buy blueberries– you know– red, white and blue.  But up by us everything is ridonkulously expensive.  Blueberries at our local grocery were $4.99 for a non-organic 6 ounces!!!  I just… I couldn’t. And usually I’ll suck it up for ingredients cause I need them that bad.  For whatever reason, this got my goat.  Ha!  So I settled for our dreamy blackberries from Aldi’s for– ahem– $2.49.  (I want to live with Ina Garten at Aldi’s, by the way). 

So red, white and black it is!  But look, they’re blue star decorations!!!  *cue America the Beautiful*

 

Man, that lemon cream did its’ job and just cut through the sweetness of that pavlova.  Still sweet, for sure, but with the zip of the cream and the tart of the berries?  So refreshing!  Perfect barbecue dessert! 

Even Ruby thought so…  😉

OH MY GOD, LOOK AT THOSE LITTLE TOES ON MY NEWBORN!! I MEAN INFANT!!  I MEAN NEWBORN!!!  *cries again*

Pavlova’s are extremely easy but a little tricky.  🙂

For starters, our oven is pretty old and it’s hard to get it to stay at 180 degrees, so I had to check mine constantly– upping and lowering the temp continuously.   Second, you need to make sure to incorporate the sugar at the right time while whipping your egg whites– very slowly, around the soft peak stage.  This is to make sure the sugar has time enough to dissolve. Otherwise, you’ll have whipped egg whites with sugar granules.  It will deflate when you bake it and all of the sugar will ‘weep’ out.  You also won’t get that lovely glossy and marshmallow-y texture. If you’re not sure you’re quite there, just rub a bit between your fingers.  

And you know?  If it weeps a little… it’s just feeling its feelings, man. 

I’m not a huge meringue fan but watching The Great British Bake-off and all of Mary Berry’s masterclasses on these tall and frosted meringue cakes, it makes me feel all fancy pants to do it.  Ha!  It truly is a light and refreshing dessert for summer.  And be sure to eat it quickly!  It won’t last more than a day or two…

But who are we kidding?  Like that’s a problem?  😉  

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, everybody!  Don’t forget to subscribe to this blog and share with your friends!  And many, many thanks today to our courageous veterans.  Today I’m remembering my grandfather and father in law, who have both served and are no longer with us.  xoxo

Memorial Day Pavlova
A crunchy and marshmallow-y meringue treat filled with tart lemon cream, whipped cream and refreshing berries!
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Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
3 hr
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
3 hr
Lemon Cream
  1. 2 c. fresh squeezed lemon juice (meyer, if possible)
  2. 3 eggs
  3. 1 large egg yolk
  4. 3/4 c. sugar
  5. pinch of salt
  6. 1/2 c. unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
PAVLOVA
  1. 4 egg whites, room temp
  2. pinch of salt
  3. 1 c. sugar
  4. 2 tsp cornstarch
  5. 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  6. 1/2 tsp. vanilla
WHIPPED CREAM
  1. 1 c. heavy cream, cold
  2. 2 T. powdered sugar
  3. 1/2 tsp. vanilla
BERRIES
  1. 1/2 pint of strawberries
  2. 1/2 pint of blackberries or blueberries
LEMON CREAM
  1. On very low heat, combine the lemon juice, whole eggs, yolk, sugar, and salt in a frying pan, whisking constantly until thickened.* Your thermometer should register 180° F. It should take about 8-12 minutes.
  2. Let cool for five minutes and stir in the butter.**
  3. Let set in the fridge for at least two hours but preferably overnight.
PAVLOVA
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a mixing bowl, beat the egg whites and salt together with a whisk attachment on high for about one minute. Until you just about reach the 'soft peak stage.'
  3. While the mixer is still on high, slowly pour in the sugar and beat for about two minutes. The meringue should be glossy and look like marshmallow. There should be no sugar granules when rubbed between your fingers.
  4. Sift in the cornstarch and add the vanilla and vinegar. Carefully fold together with a spatula until just combined.**
  5. Pile the meringue into the middle of the lined sheet pan. Make a well in the middle. (Or feel free to pipe a design, always leaving some kind of well for the cream and berries).
  6. Bake for 1 1/2 hours.
  7. Then, turn off the oven, keep the door closed, and allow the meringue to cool completely in the oven, about 1 hour. It will be crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.
WHIPPED CREAM
  1. Whip cream until fairly thick. Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat until thick and desired consistency.
ASSEMBLY
  1. Fill the pavlova shell with lemon cream. Cover the top with whipped cream and fresh berries. Decorate to your heart's content!
Notes
  1. *Whisk constantly so that the mixture doesn't become too hot. If overheated, the eggs will literally scramble.
  2. **I use my cuisinart to add the butter to the lemon cream. It aerates it a bit, gets out any lumps and incorporates evenly.
  3. **Be careful not to overbeat as you don't want to lose the air incorporated into the whites.
Adapted from https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/mixed-berry-pavlova-recipe-1948158
MandiCrocker https://mandicrocker.com/
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When I ask people what their favorite dessert is, nine times out of ten they choose chocolate chip cookies.  I’m not sure why…  😉

Is it the sweet to salt ratio?  The crunchy exterior with a gooey center? Or maybe the comforting childhood memory of a special treat after school?  Basically… WHO CARES!!! PUT IT IN MA FACE!!!!  

I’ve always said that you can judge a bakery by their chocolate chip cookie.  I gave up pretty quickly on that theory, however, because great chocolate chip cookies are actually hard to find!  What I’ve also learned as a baker is that everyone wants the cookie of their childhood.  I had a friend give me their version of their ‘favorite chocolate chip cookie’ and it was hard to stomach. Thick, small, white and round, flavorless with a ton of flour… Blech!

So stop, collaborate and listen:  If you’re the kind of person that tends to say ‘These are too rich…”  MOVE IT ALONG!!!  UNFOLLOW!!! UNFRIEND!!!  Umm… These cookies aren’t for you.  😉

My idea of an amazing chocolate chip cookie is super buttery, crunchy on the outside, chewy in the middle.  AND… a cookie that is always good the next day.  Oh!  And if it’s not all over your fingers?  Fah-get about it!

Always wanting to make desserts that are ‘the best thing I’ve ever tasted,’ I have tried countless times over my almost-40 years to come up with a chocolate chip cookie that, in my mind, is THE BEST chocolate chip cookie.  It is with great humility, honor and service that I say… I believe I have finally found it!!!

Using browned butter, a mix of flours, high quality chocolate, a light sprinkle of sea salt and you have ooey, gooey perfection. They should be put in a museum for millions to ogle… as long as that museum is IN MY MOUTH. 

One of the keys to these cookies is browning the butter.  If you’ve never browned butter before it’s very easy. But it’s also important to pay attention. Over browning your butter makes for a drier cookie, in my experience.  Here’s a tutorial from Mindy Segal, owner of Hot Chocolate in Chicago, a restaurant and dessert bar I’ve been to and adore.  *swoon*  

Another important key is really high quality bittersweet chocolate with 60-70% cacao.  Did you know that chocolate chips were designed to maintain their shape?  The chocolate you’ll want to use for an ooey gooey cookie is a ‘melting chocolate.’ I typically use Scharffen Berger bars and cut them into chunks and shavings, or Guittard wafers.  And if price just isn’t an issue for you, Gwyneth, Valhrona Chocolate Feves are incredible. This time I found a chunk of a Guittard ten pound bar at a local grocery store. They had big chunks of the bar weighed and wrapped in plastic.

You can absolutely use chocolate chips for every day cookies (I recommend Ghirardelli), but if you want that ooey, gooey look for a special occasion?  Use the good stuff.  Same goes for a flaky sea salt! I recommend Maldon Sea Salt Flakes.  And unlike the chocolate, a box of sea salt flakes lasts a very long time.

Finally, for that ooey, gooey look, save 1/3 of your chocolate until you’re about to bake them. Press them into the top of your dough.  That will give them that pretty bakery feel.  

This is a sexy, delicious dream of a cookie, folks.  

For the love of all that is good and holy… TRY THESE!!! And when you do, be sure to share your warm, delicious baked cookies with NOBODY.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?!  LICK THEM ALL SO NO ONE WILL EAT THEM, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!  THEY’RE YOURS!! 

Instead, a very noble and selfless thing to do would be to share the recipe!  On Facebook, Instagram, Match.com, whatevs.  AND!  Be sure to tag me on Instagram: @mandicrocker and @mandicrockersweets so I can repost and retweet all your fabulous cookies as you make them.  And subscribing to this blog wouldn’t be a bad thing either!  😉

Anyway… buckle down ‘Lost In Space’ style and PREPARE YOSELF.  This recipe makes a lot. There’s going to be lots of NOM, NOM, NOM ahead… 🙂

The Best Ooey, Gooey, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie Ever!
An ooey, gooey chocolate chip cookie... Rich and buttery... Crunchy on the outside, chewy in the middle... A delicious marriage of sweet and salty perfection!
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INGREDIENTS
  1. 2 c. browned butter, cooled
  2. 2 1/4 c. brown sugar
  3. 1 c. sugar
  4. 2 T. molasses
  5. 1 T. vanilla
  6. 4 eggs
  7. 2 c. all purpose flour
  8. 2 c. whole white wheat flour (I use King Arthur's)
  9. 1 c. oats, ground into flour OR 2/3 c. oat flour
  10. 4 T. ground flaxseed meal (optional)
  11. 2 tsp. baking soda
  12. 1 tsp. kosher salt
  13. 18-20 oz. high quality bittersweet chocolate, 60-70% cacao, cut into chunks and shavings. (I use Scharffen Berger or Guittard)
  14. sea salt for sprinkling (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together flours, flaxseed meal, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a mixer, beat the browned butter, sugars and molasses until fluffy and combined. Add vanilla.
  4. Beat in eggs one at a time.
  5. Slowly add dry ingredients one cup at a time until combined.
  6. Mix in 2/3's of the chocolate until just mixed. (The rest will be used to top before baking).
  7. Plastic wrap and leave in the fridge overnight.
  8. The next day cut dough into 2 1/2 oz. chunks. Top scooped cookies with remaining pieces of chocolate.
  9. Bake at 325 for 12-15 minutes. Leave on the pan for 10 minutes.**
Notes
  1. **If after leaving on the pan for ten minutes, the cookie is still too gooey to pick up, pop back into the oven for two minutes. And again, if needed. Do not overbake.
MandiCrocker https://mandicrocker.com/

 

I know Mother’s Day isn’t an easy day for everyone. Some couples can’t have children or have lost their little ones… didn’t grow up with ‘The World’s Greatest Mom’….or chose not to have children which can sometimes be a painful decision in hindsight… whose mothers have passed… That is why, as a new mom, on my very first Mother’s Day, I’m just sooo extremely grateful for the opportunity to be one. This little ham hock is the coolest, funniest little cooing, hiccuping, laughing weirdo… and I have a great husband that cares about his girls so much. I just find myself extremely lucky for my life, the people in it and this milk sucking glow worm that softens my heart everyday. I do my best not to take it for granted. What a great and awesome responsibility…
 
This morning my husband asked me if I wanted anything special for breakfast.  I began making this- ha!  I’ve been doing my best to eat heart healthy so it’s nice to splurge.  I’m not sure why I didn’t just hand the recipe over to him while I binge-watched ‘Younger’ for the second time but alas… I must really like cooking?  (Remind me of this come Thursday when my back aches, Ruby’s crying and cooking is the last thing I want to do!)  😉
 
I hope you all are having a wonderful Mother’s Day!  I know I’m feeling very blessed.  🙂

 

Chorizo Skillet
Serves 3
Spicy chorizo mixed with crispy shredded potatoes, crunchy vegetables and a hit of citrus. Yum... 🙂
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
35 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
35 min
Ingredients
  1. INGREDIENTS
  2. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  3. 9 oz pkg of chorizo
  4. ½ medium yellow onion diced
  5. 1 cup cilantro, leaves picked and reserved for garnish, stems minced
  6. 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  7. 2 russet potatoes, peeled and grated
  8. 2 garlic cloves, minced
  9. 4 mini bell peppers, seeded and diced
  10. 1 hearty handful of spinach, coarsely chopped
  11. 5 sticks of asparagus, chopped
  12. 1 T. lime juice
  13. 4-5 eggs
  14. salt & pepper, to taste
Toppings
  1. red & green salsa
  2. avocado
  3. lime wedges
  4. cheddar cheese
  5. parmesan cheese
  6. sour cream
  7. cilantro, for garnish
Instructions
  1. DIRECTIONS
  2. In a 10 or 12-inch cast-iron skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chorizo and cook until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. While chorizo is cooking, squeeze out access moisture from grated potatoes with a paper towel. When chorizo is cooked, set aside on a plate.
  3. To the skillet, add the onions and minced cilantro stems. Cook for about five minutes until the onions have caramelized, 5 minutes.
  4. In a separate pan, sauté the asparagus and bell pepper. Season lightly with salt & pepper. Add the spinach and set aside.
  5. Add the butter to the onion pan. Add grated potatoes and mix. Press the mixture into an even layer and let cook until golden and crispy, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, then cook, stirring constantly until the potatoes are evenly crisp, about 2 minutes.
  6. Add the reserved chorizo and veggies to the skillet. Stir in the lime juice.
  7. Make 4-5 wells in the hash and crack an egg into each one. Season each egg with salt & fresh ground pepper. Cook, covered, until the whites are just set, 3 to 4 minutes. Garnish with the toppings of your choosing and serve! 🙂
Adapted from The Tasting Table
Adapted from The Tasting Table
MandiCrocker https://mandicrocker.com/

Ah yes, Gluten Free Raspberry Tarts… “for the celiac in all of us.”  Truth be told, I don’t make tarts often.  This is because I’m lazy.  Tarts can be very time consuming and due to their delicate nature (especially with a gluten free crust), can be often hard to master.  Also, cleaning tart pans is my version of hell.  You often have to soak them, wash them and dry them immediately because they rust easily.  Give me a cupcake tin any day!

With that said, tarts are both gorgeous and delicious.  They look so delectable and special all lined up in a bakery window. Worth it?  Absolutely.  And whose excited for fresh berries?!   I LOVE berry season!!!  When I was living in Washington, we’d go pick a ton of berries as the season progressed from strawberries to blueberries, and we’d keep them in our freezer throughout the year.  

I’m always trying to find good gluten free recipes because my best friend is actually celiac.  As a person that loves her gluten and loves to bake for her friends, eat with her friends, whose life revolves around food, food, glorious food… THIS SUCKS FOR ME.  I mean, in the grand scheme of things, she has it easy!!!  😉

I kid… Like my heart healthy lifestyle and in the spirit of friendship,  this is a challenge that I accept with dignity, grace and determination! 

In the recipe I posted, I made six tarts.  I made my crusts on the thicker side because with gluten free crusts, they can get awfully crumbly.  I think that was a mistake.  In the creme to crust ratio, I would have made them thinner next time and the crusts held up well. If you’ve got eight tart shells, I would do eight!

To make creme brûlée, I always use Ina Garten’s recipe.  She’s a goddess and I don’t mess with perfection. 

Because this creme brûlée is for a filling and not individual desserts, I just use a casserole dish rather than ramekins.  You have to bake it a little longer but the clean up is so much easier.  Hot tip for the lazy!  And the water bath is extremely important.  I set the dish inside a 13×9 pan and fill it with water. 

If you’re in a bit of a rush, you don’t have to make the jam.  You can just buy a gluten free brand at the store.  I used about a tablespoon of jam per tart and spread it evenly over the bottom.  

Because tarts can be a little overwhelming to try, here’s another tip. Feel free to make the filling ingredients ahead of time.  That way, before you want to eat them, all you have to do is assemble.  🙂

After the shell is spread with jam, fill each tart with creme brûlée. I used a pastry bag for each tart (a little less messy) but a knife works fine, too! Then you sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar on top and torch it.  And then you have these cute little tarts!

The fun part is you can decorate them any way you want!  

I’ve been watching videos on chocolate garnishes.  Note for next time: Use the right chocolate.  I melted bittersweet Ghirardelli chips which are great for cookies and a good quality chocolate, but terrible for garnishes.  It doesn’t temper properly so it doesn’t turn back into a solid chocolate.  (And duh, I know this.  But mom brain… *sigh*)

This one felt very whimsical to me… like a fairy crown!

And you can decorate them any way you’d like or just keep it simple!

There’s something so comforting about baking on dreary days… But enough about these tarts, let’s eat these suckers! 

See the thin layer of raspberry in there?  Creamy filling, burst of acidity in the raspberries, the sweetness of the chocolate, nuttiness of the almond crusty, the sugar crunch on top… nom nom nom!

They’re really light and refreshing, especially with the fresh raspberries. A perfect spring or summer dessert!

“The perfect bite!”  What movie? 

And the best part?  Dinner’s already made for the hubs!  😉

If you get the chance to try these out, please let me know what you think!  And be sure to use the hashtag #mandicrocker.  

Happy Monday, y’all!! What are YOU making with fresh berries?!  🙂

Gluten Free Raspberry Creme Brûlée Tart
Yields 6
Creamy creme brûlée and tart raspberry layered inside a nutty shell.
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For the crust
  1. 3 c. almond flour
  2. 3 T. sugar
  3. 1/3 tsp. baking soda
  4. 1/3 tsp kosher salt
  5. 3 T. coconut oil
  6. 1 egg
Rasperry Jam
  1. 6 oz. fresh raspberries
  2. 1 T. sugar
  3. (or you can use jam!)
Creme Brûlée
  1. 1 extra large egg
  2. 4 extra large egg yolks
  3. 1/2 c. sugar + 6-8 T. more for brûlée
  4. 3 c. heavy cream
  5. 1 tsp vanilla
  6. 1 T grand marnier (optional)
To decorate (optional)
  1. Fresh raspberries
  2. Various Chocolate garnishes
  3. Powdered Sugar
For tart shells
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. In a bowl whisk together almond flour, sugar, baking soda and kosher salt.
  3. Add coconut oil & egg. Mix well with hands until dough clumps or use food processor.
  4. Separate evenly and press into 6-8 tart shells.
  5. Bake until shell begins to turn golden brown. (Approximately 8-12 minutes if making eight tarts. Approximately 15-20 minutes if making six tarts.) Cool completely. Remove from tart tins.
For creme brûlée
  1. In a bowl, mix together egg, egg yolks and sugar. Set aside.
  2. Scald the heavy milk in a saucepan.
  3. Slowly pour a 1/4 cup of scalded milk into the yolk mixture and whisk FIERCELY! 🙂
  4. Add another 1/4 cup of milk and whisk.
  5. Add the remaining milk and whisk until thoroughly combined.
  6. Add vanilla and Grand Marnier.
  7. Pour into six 8 ounce ramekins or use a casserole dish.
  8. Set ramekins/casserole dish into water bath. (I use a 13x9 inch pan)
  9. Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes for ramekins. Bake for 50-60 minutes for a casserole dish. (Liquid should be jiggly like set jello but not watery or runny).
  10. Cool completely
To make raspberry jam
  1. Simmer raspberries and sugar on low.
  2. The jam will be done when most of the moisture has been removed and the jam has gotten thick.
  3. Cool completely.
To assemble
  1. Scoop 1 T. of jam into bottom of each tart shell.
  2. Fill tart shells with creme brûlée.
  3. Sprinkle sugar on top and torch.
  4. Decorate as you wish!
Notes
  1. **You will need a blowtorch for this recipe.
  2. **Make filling ingredients ahead of time.
  3. **Gluten free crusts tend to be a bit crumbly. Be careful when removing from tart shell.
MandiCrocker https://mandicrocker.com/

Hey folks!  Today we’ve got a whole wheat waffle recipe courtesy of my new heart healthy lifestyle.  As I wrote in my previous blog, my high blood pressure followed me home from the hospital after giving birth to my daughter.  In this blog, I share my blood pressure journey, imperative information everyone should know before getting their blood pressure checked and some heart healthy deliciousness.  Hope you enjoy!

*******************************************************************************************************

Before leaving the hospital, the doctors warned us about the potential that my blood pressure was going to get higher.  At that point we were entirely exhausted and frustrated, and knew we would feel better being in our own beds.  Those conversations, however, shook me a bit.  They sternly warned me about the risks of postpartum preeclampsia and chronic hypertension.  High readings could lead to blood clots and stroke.  I didn’t know if I felt wonky because of high blood pressure, c-section recovery or being on meds, but these warnings got in my head.  While I was grateful we left the hospital when we did, I was also happy to have a follow-up visit with my midwife.  Having heard all of my shenanigans, she wanted to check my blood pressure while I was there.  It was in the high 130’s.  “Borderline,” she said, based on my history.  At her suggestion, we got a blood pressure cuff to monitor everything while home. 

My anxiety was pretty high.  On one hand, I had a newborn that I just couldn’t believe was ours.  She was just such absolute joy, I miss how small she was already!  But at the same time, there was this shadow side of my health that terrified and exhausted me. Seeing the cuff everyday was a uneasy reminder of the lurking unknown. 

The cuff itself was difficult to master. I felt like I could never properly get the cuff on right by myself and the readings were a bit all over the place, sometimes in the 150’s and low 160’s. That was terrifying to me. With the most helpless and pathetic gift of a little newborn now under my care for life, I couldn’t fathom anything happening to me. For her sake and my own paralyzing fear, I got an appointment immediately at our local clinic.

The General Practitioner there said my blood pressure was too high, put me on metroprolol and had me do an EKG and a lab test.  She mentioned to have blood pressure this high is very dangerous.  She didn’t sound nonchalant. She made me feel like if I didn’t make changes now, I would have major complications pretty quickly. Having heard the blood clot/stroke spiel from the doctors where we delivered, as much as I tried to trust the universe with healing and peace, my anxiety was through the roof.  

From that point, every time I went up the stairs holding Ruby I was terrified I was going to have a stroke.  Pain in my upper thigh, I was sure was a blood clot and it was only a matter of time before it moved to my lungs.  If I ate something I didn’t realize was high in sodium, I could feel my arteries clogging.  

To my readers, maybe this fear seems a bit far out and unnecessary, but when you feel in a fog recovering from surgery and taking care of a newborn, and when you don’t feel entirely well regardless, it’s very easy to believe there is something wrong with you. We also live at a fairly high altitude and this effects me sometimes as well. Those doctors really got in my head and with Lliam at work, holding down everything for us, my fear was a conversation I really could only have with myself. 

I immediately began eating insanely heart healthy.  I researched what to do, which foods to eat and which would be bad for me.  My daily intake now consisted of things like spinach, nuts, whole grains, oats, fruit and veggies– like nobody’s business.  I removed all salt, sugar, red meat and fat as best I could.  A few days later, I went down the mountain for my first OBGYN visit.  My blood pressure had stabilized in the lower 120’s.  Oh, the relief.  While still shaky and nervous, because I was still scared I had a blood clot, I had a little validation that the medication was working. 

I got a phone call from my local clinic for a follow up appointment.  They said the General Practitioner really wanted me to talk to a midwife nurse practitioner that came in sometimes.  I was told this nurse knew more about postpartum health situations.  I arrived waddling, just barely into my c-section recovery, carrying my daughter in her heavy ass car seat.  

They took my blood pressure and it was in the 150’s.  I couldn’t believe it.  I had been so relieved and now it was back up again!  I explained to the nurse that I definitely had ‘white coat syndrome,’ was probably panicked from everything we’d been through during our hospital stay and I asked her to take it again.  She did and it was even higher.  “See, now I’m even more anxious! I really think I’m fine.  I just need to calm down and, like,  get zen.”  

She said she would wait a few minutes and take it again.  “This is the time to get zen,” she said, “because otherwise, I really want you to head back down to the other hospital.”  (Our local clinic has no OBGYN). They asked whether or not my husband was at work, if he could come pick me up and take me if needed, etc. I was so in my head.  

They left and my heart was racing.  I could not ‘get zen,’ I was overwhelmed with anxiety.  I looked at my little girl and had no idea what was going to happen.  Lliam was working as a temp for the county at the time.  He was trying to get in good with them to win a permanent position.  The last thing we needed was a consistently sick wife taking him away from work.  Not to mention, with a newborn and being strapped for cash,  to be working less was hardly ideal.  They came back in and took it again.  They didn’t tell me what the reading was, they just said, “We need to get you to the ER.  Call your husband. This is a ‘leave work now’ situation.”

I couldn’t believe what was happening. In just a matter of days, I had gone from partially relieved to being hospitalized.  I called Lliam and he came over as soon as he could.  They hooked me up to a blood pressure monitor and gave me labetalol. It wasn’t working. I looked at Ruby, still in her car seat.  I didn’t bring enough formula for her.  I didn’t expect this. This wasn’t supposed to happen.  Lliam eventually went home to stock up on diapers and bottles.  They upped my dosage of labetalol.

The hospital smelled like an old folks home. The poor guy next to me couldn’t stop vomiting.  I had barely a thing to eat all day and the drugs were making me feel even worse.  It was like another surreal nightmare.  I was soooo grateful Lliam was there but how long would I be in the hospital? Would I have to be monitored for days? What would we do with Ruby while Lliam was at work?  If he took time off, how would we survive financially?  So many thoughts… 

The ER doctor looked a little out of his league with my situation so I wasn’t surprised when he eventually called down to my birth hospital and talked to an OBGYN there.  They said to put me on procardia, and if my blood pressure went down below 140, I was okay to leave.  The procardia worked!  After six hours, I was ECSTATIC to be going home.  I had a new prescription… and about 120,000 new fears.  

About a week later, I had another follow up with my OBGYN. My blood pressure was taken and it was in the low 140’s. While wary, they didn’t seem too concerned.  I was relieved!  After being hospitalized I was terrified it was going to be sky high again. From where it had been, and my nagging feelings of death looming, that number felt low and I was grateful.  

Later that week, I had a follow up with the local clinic to go over my lab results. I was feeling really good, healing well and I was excited for this to be my last appointment there.  However, things took a turn pretty quickly.  The labs showed that I had really high cholesterol and that my EKG showed a couple of anomalies.  She also mentioned a Vitamin D deficiency but that’s pretty common.  I could tell by the stern look on her face I was being judged.  “This isn’t good! Really unhealthy! Very dangerous!”

F*******ck!!!  Again I thought I was out of the woods and now I was REALLY terrified about strokes and blood clots.  Anomalies on an EKG?  I was being referred to a cardiologist at 39 years old? What… the H!!!

Quick sidetone: What I DID find hilarious, however, was that of all the years I have worked professionally as a baker or managed bakeries, the one thing I did NOT have was diabetes. Everyone and their grandmothers have always told me I was going to end up diabetic but alas, suckas!  You gotta find your humor (and minor win) somewhere, right? Ha! I kid…

But back to our story… At another follow up with the OBGYN– Yes, Holy Doctor Appointments, Batman!– I showed her my lab results.  Her verdict on my cholesterol, “Yeah… that’s really high.”  She explained that eating healthy wasn’t going to cut it and that exercise would be important for me.   Neither the hospital nor my local clinic wanted to put me on medication for cholesterol because I was partially breastfeeding but she also said they would continue to monitor my blood pressure closely. 

I felt really helpless so I reached out to my stepmom who is a nurse.  She was excited like only a nurse can be– obviously, not for my fear but for having  a fun conundrum to figure out.   Thankfully, she relieved me a bit by giving me ideas and not making me feel like I was going to die. She suggested I get my own General Practitioner, a doctor that I could see regularly and follow up with about my blood pressure when the OBGYN appointments were over. 

Since leaving the hospital after Ruby’s birth, I had been seeing a doctor and going to various appointments– whether for me or my daughter– 2-3 times a week. Every appointment we had was 45 minutes away and the winding road down the mountain leading to those appointments drops 4,000 feet in elevation in thirty minutes.  To be out for hours with Ruby was a challenge. I would lug her around in her car seat, holding her away from my body as best I could so as not to knock her against my knees.  I was relying solely on my arm strength (which was pretty nil after leaving the bakery and those 50 pound bags of flour).  I had no core strength due to the cesarean… it was an exhausting work-out.

She was struggling to breastfeed and latch properly, so the hours away from home unable to pump decreased my milk supply. Breastfeeding is a nightmare in itself and everywhere you go there is such judgement. “You know, you really want to be exclusively breastfeeding.” Uh-huh. And I’d really like for you to have a clue about what I’ve been going through before you say REALLY STUPID THINGS…. ahem.  Obviously, I was stressed…

Aside from these appointments, I was also taking care of the animals, cleaning the house, washing the dishes, doing laundry, pumping, changing/burping/snuggling/breastfeed-attempting, and cooking healthy constantly because gone were the days of a quick hot dog. Thank you GOD, I have a supportive husband and we have a pretty agreeable baby. *knocks on wood*

Finally, I went to a General Practitioner down the mountain.  He might have been 12 and looked like a young Ryan Gosling, but he actually listened to me.  He went over my labs with me piece by piece and the weight of the world came off my shoulders. “Is this cholesterol high?  Yes.  But is it high enough for me to even put you on medication?  Not at all.  This is fixable.”  

WHAAAAAAAAT????  I was BLOWN AWAY!!!  Everyone had me believing my cholesterol was through the roof.  “400’s or 500’s is through he roof.” My cholesterol was 293. He also told me diet is more important than exercise because if you eat a box of donuts, running a mile isn’t going to make a difference.  (Personally, I think it’s a mix of diet and exercise but what woman in her right mind is going to fight with a guy who will one day grow up to be Ryan Gosling?) 

He put me on a higher dose of Vitamin D because “the one you’re on is too low and this dose is totally useless.”  He said the EKG was “unimpressive” and looked like a “cover your butt” situation.  And mostly… he was really excited for me.  I told him what I had been eating and the changes I had been making and he was grateful because many patients spend a good deal of time in denial about their health issues.  He even had the Attending Physician come in and talk with me to ease my mind.  

Together, they agreed the cholesterol wasn’t that big of an issue but that the blood pressure was the big concern with my history. They wanted to up my procardia a smidgen because my reading that day was in the 140’s.  I began to panic again.  No, no, no!! I felt okay and I had been eating super healthy. I know it’s always a little high at first.  He said the meds were part of the journey for a short time but that if I continued on this path, I wouldn’t need them forever.  Being off the meds completely was our goal.  I agreed to take the extra bump but also asked them to take my blood pressure again at the end.  It was now in the 120’s.  WHO’S HEALING WHO HERE, PEOPLE?! (I should totes have been a doctor…) 😉

They told me to follow up in two weeks. I went to schedule my appointment with Dr. Baby Ryan and found out he would be on vacation for two months.  NOOOOO!!!!

Finally, the appointment with the cardiologist came around.  There, my blood pressure was 118/76.  I was PSYCHED.  That’s the lowest it had been.  They took their own EKG and while they also saw the same anomalies, they agreed the referral was a ‘cover your butt’ situation.  

And come to find out, anomalies aren’t fact.  They’re curiosities– like going to a dermatologist for a weird mole but knowing just because it’s weird doesn’t mean it’s cancerous.  To be on the super, super, super safe side, they scheduled a stress test and an ultrasound of my heart for later this month.  They said I was doing beautifully with my life changes and I left feeling on top of the world.

Last week, I went to another follow up appointment with a General Practitioner.  My blood pressure was 144.  Again, this was a new doctor who didn’t know me at all.  Based off of this reading and my supposed history, he said we needed to consider putting me on additional medication at this point.  I just… I couldn’t.  I felt so much better, I was READY to be healthy and I just couldn’t believe my blood pressure was high. AGAIN, it always goes down after a bit!!!  It lowered to the low 120’s last time! But did Dr. Baby Sexypants put that in my notes?  No! They always and only include the first reading. Ahhhh!!  From the condescending nod, I know Dr. NOT Ryan Gosling doesn’t believe me. 

He’s beginning to make assumptions about who I am and the thought of that is so frustrating, I begin crying.  (The worst possible timing, OF COURSE I DO).  He asks why I’m crying but where on earth do I begin? It’s also difficult to formulate cohesive sentences due to ‘mom brain’ without sounding pathetic and unstable. He then starts asking me how I’m doing at home with the baby because now he thinks I have postpartum depression.  “No, I’m HAPPY at home! I love my baby! My husband is awesome!”  He tells me it’s okay to be overwhelmed with a baby. “I’m not overwhelmed with my baby– THIS! THIS is what stresses me out!”  He asks what am I doing for my anxiety.  “Typically I mediate! But I haven’t been because–” He tells me there are counselors I can talk to at the hospital.  “It can be really helpful if you’re feeling overwhelmed.” My skin is crawling.

I’m not sure what I said but my stubbornness won.  If I wasn’t going to go on extra meds, he pointedly suggested I get a blood pressure cuff at home.  (We returned the one I had previously because I don’t feel like I ever got it to work properly).  This way, it would help me, help them, treat me correctly.  He totally didn’t believe me. I left feeling defeated, like I had taken 100 steps back.  

I was zero percent enthused about spending a chunk of money we didn’t have on something I wasn’t sure would work properly, but I went to Target and looked around.  They had a wrist monitor!!  The best decision I could have made for my history. I’ve named her Betty. She is totally loyal and I love her so much.  She takes my blood pressure and my pulse.  She does averages.  And the best part? I never have to were a STUPID FROGGIN CUFF.  (Ahem)…  I trust her readings.

What I have learned from Betty is incredibly eye opening.  The first reading I took was in the mid 140’s.  But in the span of five minutes, it went from the high 140’s to the low 120’s.  If I am moving and have just set down my daughter, it’s in the 150’s.  If I take a minute to sit and do some deep breathing, it’s in the 130’s.  If I take another minute, it’s in the 120’s or lower.  If I take five minutes to relax, as the directions suggest, it is always in the low 120’s. 

With readings all over the board, you can imagine my frustration and fear. Which reading was the correct one?!  If I really did have high blood pressure, I wanted to know! I began to do some research and my jaw dropped.  According to this Berkley Wellness website, blood pressure is often taken incorrectly and myriads of people are probably put on medication unnecessarily.  

Did you know that to get a correct reading ideally, you should:

  • wait five minutes in a quiet room before being tested
  • there should be no talking during the test
  • you should be sitting on a chair, back supported with feet on the floor 
  • forearm supported at heart level by your nurse
  • wear an appropriate cuff size
  • readings should be done on both arms, one five minutes after the other

I couldn’t believe it.  I still can’t!  EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. my blood pressure has been taken, it has been as soon as I walk in the door, typically only a minute after lugging around Ruby when my heart is racing and I’m out of breath.  The nurse talks to me through the process. Sometimes, they’ve taken my reading while I’m seated on the examination table, feet dangling.  And it took hours of asking for them to give me an appropriate cuff size at the hospital. They would never take it manually. And for sure, they’ve never tried both arms. To do or not do these things, for me, is literally a change of 20+ points!!

How can something so important to diagnosis and prescription, be taken so mistakenly in the medical field? Again, the last doctor I saw wanted to put me on additional medication because one reading is always taken as law.  Can you imagine???! None of these guidelines or my anxiety or mental state have ever been considered or believed.  It is incredibly scary to think of the amount of people potentially misdiagnosed. Am I grateful to have a healthy daughter and to be feeling healthier?  Of course!  But can we do better?  Abso-froggin’-lutley! 

In hindsight, this whole experience has been pretty eye-opening.  I consider myself pretty ‘zen’ for the most part; when I get anxious, I know to mediate.  During my second trimester, when my blood pressure was in the 110’s, I was meditating 20 minutes daily.  I felt relaxed, connected, present and peaceful.  In my third and ‘fourth trimester,’ as they say, I haven’t kept up the practice as much.  It’s especially hard to find alone time with a newborn.  However, to see readings differ significantly based on whether or not I’m relaxed, or after a minute or two of deep breathing, it is a pretty affirming reminder.  In my head, I’ve always had the answers but whether or not I follow through with them in life is a whole other story. 

While this experience has been frustrating and scary, I really am grateful that it happened. I’ve learned so much about the power and magnitude of my fear, and what a huge factor it can play in my health. I learned a lot about speaking my mind and sticking up for myself, trusting my intuition and what I know about my body.  And I’m even grateful that I was so petrified because I’m not sure if anything less would have scared me into a healthier lifestyle.

While my blood pressure has stabilized, I haven’t forgotten or ignored that it has stabilized while still under the influence of medication. Going off medication, would it sky rocket?  I have no idea.  So, I’ve made no plans to throw caution to the wind with my lifestyle.  If anything, I feel more committed to stay on this life path for as long as I’m blessed with one.  If I’ve estimated my pregnancy weight properly, I’ve lost almost 50 pounds.  Two weeks postpartum, at my first follow up clinic, I was weighed and for sure I’ve lost 22 pounds without counting baby weight.  And truly, it’s not about weight.  I stagnated for a week and a half pounds-wise and while it was frustrating, I felt more energetic, felt a bit stronger, my clothes still fit well, etc.  In my heart I knew it wasn’t about numbers and I’ve NEVER felt that way before!

Mostly, it has occurred to me that if I want Ruby to grow up healthy, confident, smart, funny, fearless, strong, loving and excited about this world… who do I need to be to help get her there? If I want to teach her to put herself in the way of beauty in this world, she requires a mother that is truly beautiful.  Gone are the days of low self-esteem and anxiety. I want to be who she needs me to be.  There is a note on my mirror to remind myself of this daily.  

Introducing her to healthy food as delicious and nourishing (rather than making it about weight) is one way I can encourage her wellbeing. And like an episode of ‘Chopped,’ I have personally been given a challenge to make food heart healthy and it excites me!  So today, I’m sharing a waffle recipe I adapted that makes this treat at breakfast delicious but also good for you.  Rather than use all purpose flour, I substituted whole white wheat.  In place of oil, I use unsweetened apple sauce.  I added oats, ground flaxseed meal and a bit of cinnamon– all great ingredients that help to lower blood pressure.  I replaced full fat milk with non-fat and rather than use sugar I use honey.  (Honey is totally sugar but at least it’s got some proven health benefits). 

And the kicker?  (Because I’m NEVER gonna be a ‘4 oz. of plain chicken and steamed broccoli’ girl).  They’re super yummy!  I love the nuttiness of various whole grain flours and oats in baking so I love these waffles!  I don’t feel like I’m missing out on ‘the real deal,’ because they aren’t processed and don’t taste like fat free crap.  They’re just yummy waffles!  

Well, that blog took forever- ha!  Thank you soooo much for reading all of this– and I hope next time you go to the doctor you ask for a few minutes of peace before any vitals are taken.  You owe it to yourself to be properly cared for!  Health & happiness, y’all!  This is really exciting.  🙂  

Heart Healthier Waffle Recipe
Yields 6
Light and fluffy whole wheat waffles with heart healthy ingredients. They still feel like a treat but it's an amazing way to start your day!
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Prep Time
20 min
Prep Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 1/3 c. whole wheat flour (I use whole wheat white)
  2. 1/2 c. rolled oats
  3. 2 T ground flaxseed meal
  4. 1 T baking powder
  5. 1 tsp cinnamon
  6. 1/2 tsp salt
  7. 1 3/4 c. non-fat or almond milk
  8. 1 T good quality honey
  9. 1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce
  10. 2 eggs, separated
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, oats, flaxseed meal, cinnamon, baking powder and salt.
  2. Separate the eggs. (See note below)
  3. Mix milk, applesauce, egg yolks and honey to dry ingredients.
  4. Beat egg whites to stiff peaks and fold into the batter.
  5. Ladle mixture onto hot waffle iron and bake until golden brown & crispy.
  6. Top with sugar-free jam, fruit compotes or a light drizzle of the real maple syrup or honey.
  7. Enjoy!
Notes
  1. *In a time crunch, I have completely skipped the separation of the eggs, added whole to the batter instead, and these waffles still turn out great!
Adapted from Genius Kitchen
Adapted from Genius Kitchen
MandiCrocker https://mandicrocker.com/