Change, transition, the unknown… These are not scary words to me.  Typically, I love the death and resurrection of self, the ambition of a new adventure, the synchronicities that occur and propel my life magically forward.  It’s a potion that makes me come alive.  The unknown is my jam!! When accompanied with chronic fatigue, however, I am learning the unknown is NOT my jam.  It is indeed a graceless jar of shit that tastes like poodley oodley on burnt toast.  The unknown married with fatigue means all bets… are… OFF.   

When I’m tired, I get ANGRY.  I get accusatory.  I tell God and his minion helpers (who so lovingly give me sign after sign that everything is going to be okay, and IS okay) to fuck off and fuck themselves, fuck the cats, fuck the dog, fuck the wallpaper, fuck my camera, fuck my computer, fuck that person, fuck those people, FUCK EVERYONE, fucking fuck the fucking fucks!!! Which is… ahem… concerning.  

I have to keep myself from throwing the cats out the window.  I have to cement myself to the chair when the garbage truck rumbles up right as my daughter is falling asleep. (I do this so as not to stab the driver in the throat with this pen that feels like MY ONE TRUE FRIEND).  Soooo much love for others… 

I’m not my best self when I’m tired.  I know this.  When the doctor told me I had chronic fatigue, I was like– ‘DUH!!! YOU FUCKING IDIOT! FUCK DOCTORS!!!’  

But when I put the brakes on… take a moment to recompose and breathe… OF COURSE, I don’t like feeling like my real self is disappearing or getting lost in the fatigue and mundane of motherhood day to day.  This isn’t who I want to be– for me, for my husband or for my daughter!

And love for self?  OOF.  I can’t even go there right now. 

Surprisingly, I only recently put this two and two together– that being shaken when handling transition during the worst fatigue of your life is not only a new normal but it’s pretty freakin’ understandable!!  It might take a little time to find your magic, girlfriend!  Feeling like a shit pile because I’ve been unable to ground myself, and find comfort in those roots that steady me to the center of the earth and back, I have been beating myself up for the shell that I inhabit.   It’s good to be reminded this isn’t easy.  It’s a deepening of the lesson plan to get me to a new place, which given the day can be totally annoying or exciting… or really, really annoying. πŸ˜‰ 

Rather than beat myself up (or beat up the people/animals/entities around me that love me), I’m focusing on the following…

I won’t always live in a dark house.

Where I live won’t always be decorated with animal heads and fishing reel wallpaper.

I won’t always live on this little sleep. 

The cats won’t always be indoor cats.

The Small Dog won’t always be so jealous or needy.

We won’t always make bupkis money.

Ruby won’t always wake up through the night.

She won’t always need me to feed her, etc. 

I don’t know what’s to come but I know that this time is temporary and I’m doing my best to allow myself a little grace.  What more can I expect on two hours of sleep a night?  

I know there’s a deeper meaning to all of this, lessons I can take from this aside from ‘parenthood= lack of sleep.’ What is the dialogue that runs through my head when I can’t sleep at four in the morning?  What do I tell myself when I look in the mirror?  What are the first thoughts that come to mind when my red eyes are bulging like a Disney villain?  Is that reality or have I also been listening to the worst version of myself while running the worst dialogue? For the love of God, is ANY of it loving??? 

Nothing at all against the word ‘fuck–‘ a good swear can be a grossly satisfying relief when the need to express frustration feels like sickness.  But here’s hoping a deep breathe or two can give me just enough awareness to add some softer words to my vocabulary. I haven’t used ‘shit’ in a while?  Ha! It seems almost godly in comparison to what’s been coming out of my mouth!

*Deep breath*

Here’s to GRACE… Here’s to BREATH…  and Here’s to BECOMING. xoxo

 

 

I found myself stagnate.  In transition.  Feeling a bit unguided.  Stuck. It lead to worry. Fear. Anxiety. An unrelentless need to figure it out.  I had been wringing my hands in desperation and unable to sleep.  With so many variables out of my control, it felt like I was just a passenger in my own life.  It’s a miserable existence that I don’t recommend…  

Insert forlorn photo here!

A Good Question to Ask When You Are Worried

Anxiety. Stress. Worry. It takes it’s toll!

The question that I’ve been asking myself lately?

“How much do you want to suffer?” 

Huh.  Have I been suffering? That sounded like such a heavy experience.  How have I been suffering? What does that look like in my life?  What are the choices I’m making?

How much do I want to suffer???  Not a whole lot come to find out!  The question was a bit eye opening for me. The worry, the fear, the intensity of it all… it did nothing for our situation.  Our house hadn’t magically sold, our debt hadn’t gone down.  We’re not a step closer to buying a home here and I still have no idea how I’m paying September’s bills.  So whyyyyy do it???

Worst case scenario, those bills become past due, my credit I had worked so hard to rebuild turns to shit and eventually, I have to rebuild it again.  Can I live through that?  Of course.  I did it once, I can do it again.  I also have a lot of shame about the amount of debt I’ve gotten myself back into.  Did I overspend… again?  Yup. Did we expect the house to sell a bit faster?  Yeah.  Whoops.  But beating myself up does nothing but let me marinate in my mistakes, still stuck, still fearful.  

How much do I want to suffer?  

I love this because it’s a question about taking back the reins and being proactive.  It’s about controlling what you can.  It’s about being grateful for all that IS.  

I need $700 by September 1st.  That’s all.  And at the end of the day?  I really don’t even need that. 

I just need air in my lungs, a little food for fuel and the rest are just gifts.  I don’t need the timeline for our house to sell.  I don’t need a down payment for a new home right now. I don’t need to know when we finally can move into a new home with more light.  I don’t need to have the answers about my creative life’s purpose yesterday.  And I certainly don’t need to be 60 pounds lighter before I allow myself to feel worthy. 

But my mind went down the rabbit hole and already saw bills past due, bankruptcy, the house in foreclosure, living in this rental shooting poorly lit photos, me dying of heart disease, Ruby without a mother, all of the world on fire, the aliens invading… All of these horrific things because of $700.  When you put it like that it seems… I don’t know… FREAKING CRAZY.   

When I began asking myself this question, I found myself being more proactive. Not about trying to figure it out– but about taking control of my life where I could.  I don’t want to suffer. So how can I gently change my actions and mentality?

Even when I’m exhausted, I’ve been doing my best to go out for walks to move my body, but to also be connected to nature and my intuition. I really do my best to use all five senses to take everything in. (Sidenote:  Highly reccomend a documentary from Iceland on Netflix called ‘Innsaei: The Power of Intuition’— a little slow to start but a few fascinating stories about how we’ve lost our connection with nature and with ourselves).  As soon as Ruby is down for a nap, I meditate because I know it’s the only time I have and who knows for how long!  I’ve been focusing on the spiritual– the mind, body, soul connection because that is what matters. AND when I’m most connected is when I’m most inspired and the ideas come…

There was a couple recently in the news, parents to a beautiful one year old girl, who went into a cave for an ice climbing day trip.  Despite being educated, experienced climbers, they took a wrong turn due to some poor information and ended up burning their packs and their own hair to survive, being rescued in the nick of time. Were they thinking about something like $700?  Not a chance.  The things they thought were important to them, they realized were so insanely insignificant, it was life changing. The wife said she couldn’t even look at instagram anymore because it just didn’t matter any more. 

How much do I want to suffer?  

I don’t plan on suffering anymore. Still human, but I practice letting go daily.  Everything will work itself out because everything always works out for us.  We expect good things.  And it’s not about our own timing. Coupled with the mantra, “My life is changing because I am changing my life” and I’m beginning to realize things are hardly that bad.  And that actually, I’m powerful and capable. And while I will be grateful for the house to sell, to be able to photograph in a house that has good light with a camera without focus issues, figuring out which creative life path will be most fulfilling and help the most people– blah, blah, blah…  it’s nothing I’m going to lose sleep over anymore.

It’s something I’ve been learning recently so I thought I’d share.  How much do you want to suffer and where can you take control?  Questions to take some time on… 

Happy Friday.  πŸ™‚

 

 

 

 

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!  πŸ™‚ 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 most blueberry 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!

Crunchy, buttery and tender… Perfect start to your morning!

 

All those antioxidants in the blueberries?  SUPER healthy.  πŸ˜‰

Blueberry 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.  πŸ™‚ 

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?  πŸ˜‰

 

 

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.  πŸ™‚

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…  πŸ˜‰

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/

 

 

 

 

 

 

MONEY. The four letter word so bad it’s five letters. Money fears are always the f*ckers to our authenticity and manifestation, aren’t they?

This has been an educating and eye opening transition for me being a stay at home mom.  On one hand, I’m always with my daughter which is exhausting but wonderful.  I would absolutely hate being away from her, having to work full time right now.  On the other hand, not having an income– especially not having my own income, has been challenging and scary. Then, the third part of my current conundrum is having this intense desire to create. I have 1,249,823 projects I want to work on that require time, energy and money.  No big!  πŸ˜‰  

I’ll be frank, I zero percent want to go back to work right now.  My body still feels wrecked (which I’m working on), I’m up with our daughter all night (four month sleep regression is a THANG), I’m exhausted all the time, and I know to work on weekends will totally wipe out all reserves.  

I don’t ‘sleep when the baby sleeps,’  I ‘hustle when the baby sleeps.’  I bake, I take photos, write blogs, edit photos, watch tutorials… I am always working.  I am always learning.  I’m not creating because of all of this magical downtime I have, I am MAKING. IT. HAPPEN. in between burps and diaper changes, or at midnight after she’s asleep.

So to spend my ‘hustle time’ working for someone else at an unfulfilling job means I won’t have the time or energy to create (which in itself is a life force sucker), and that– truth be told–  scares the shit out of me. Not because I think my inner artist will shrivel up and die, turning quickly into a depress case (though been there, done that) but because if I don’t start these projects now, will I ever have the perfect circumstances to start them?  Time is a commodity. It’s like paying rent versus the investment of a mortgage.  People that are successful food bloggers are successful now because they put in years of blogging.  Most YouTubers are able to monetize because they have years of videos under their belt winning subscribers not because they have five.  I don’t want to be 65 just having started things. The sooner I start, the sooner the pay off.  Hence, the hustle. You get what I’m putting down?

I know society can be a judgmental, know-it-all biotch.  “If you can’t pay your bills, suck it up and get a job. It’s called being an adult. You do what you have to do for your children. You made the choice to have kids.”  And to an extent, there is totally truth to that!  Sometimes, a person might need to get a job that feels like dying (our grocery store is hiring) to remind yourself that you’re responsible and capable of making money.  It feels good to pay your bills and to be able to afford things.  This makes sense to me as I’ve been spending beyond my means (the whole no income thing).  Money is a karmic lesson I get a lot because I continue to spend.  So, maybe we’re relearning a little somethin’ somethin’ here…

On the flip side, sometimes you have to say no to certain money making opportunities (our grocery store is hiring) because it’s time to believe you’re worth more than a job you hate. That idea is part of an old program or your history. You’ve paid your dues and learned your lessons. Your back doesn’t have to break anymore. You CAN have a job you love. Believe in YOU. Or as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe says: “At the moment of commitment, the universe conspires to assist you.”

Sometimes ‘suck it up’ individuals are exceptional at paying bills but can kinda, sorta, really, totally suck at life. Ha! They can sometimes be lifeless or totally unhappy, martyr-and-victim parental units that are dying inside thinking there’s only one way to do life. I promised myself at the start of this child rearing shindig, that I was going to do this different. I don’t believe my life’s purpose is to solely raise my daughter. I believe my life’s purpose is to create, live an authentic life and brings something decent and lovely to the planet as best I can.  It is what makes me feel energized– whole and complete, nurtured and nurturing. And in part FOR my daughter, she’ll hopefully learn through my example she is allowed a fullfulling life as well, and that good things don’t just happen to other people.

So what do you do when your heart and intuition are telling you to create and start these projects but your bank account is saying get a part time job and do the responsible thing? It’s a confusing spiritual merry go round. Personally, for reasons of my own doing, I have both been burned and blessed by stepping out in faith. 

I have waited too long to do the responsible karmic thing and gone into debt without being grounded in reality.  I’ve also passed up lucrative jobs, only to have my aunt email me randomly about a job in the mountains that finally felt right.  I had to borrow money from my sister to move to Mazama to start a life I know I was destined to live.  Hardly responsible. Totally in line with everything I am. And let me tell you, the fine line between those two situations for me right now is the confusing reality between getting knocked on the head in Kansas and having the courage to walk the Yellow Brick Road.  Ha! One is a black and white reality. The other is a vibrant and colorful dream.  And neither is necessarily right or wrong.

This week I dropped my sis off at the bus station down the mountain in San Bernardino.  I was angry and frustrated that I’ve been feeling in limbo.  I felt utterly hopeless, confused. There were some tears.  Did I mention angry?  Anyway, I stopped at one of the turnoffs to have some words with my guides and angels.  For whatever reason, my honesty and the view felt empowering.  The ‘in between’ of manifestation can totally suck (hello, we’re human after all!) but there has always been something incredible on the other end of it when I commit to it.  The mountains reminded me of that.  

The current state of affairs:  I will not apply at the grocery store but I did apply at the local movie theater.  I will reach out to the local tavern about working weekends but specifically for karaoke night (y’all I love my karaoke). I reached out to local photographers to see if they needed weekend help during wedding season because I’ve been dying to have the opportunity to start shooting weddings.  (At the very least, to see if I’d like it).  I’ve reached out to LA headshot photographers to see if they’d be willing to take on apprentices because I would be sooo happy to learn new things.  

I’ve continued to upload images to Shutterstock for some down the road chump change.  I’ve been baking and blogging. I submitted to the Food Network for their baking championship shows. I look for interesting jobs on Craigslist.  I will reach out to local businesses to see if they need food photographs for their websites or menus (which also means I’m working on a photography website).  Our house is on the market in Mazama and I remind myself without attachment to outcome, it could sell at any time.  Weaving, what feels in my soul, like a positive and healthy tapestry… 

I have no idea how this all plays out but I know that it does.  The ‘in between’ is hard, scary and feels impossible but it’s my choice. I know I get to decide to take forty steps back into an old box of possibility or stick to what feels good in an exciting and responsible way.  I know it’ll be in perfect timing and can imagine how utterly grateful and ecstatic I’ll feel later as I can see how the stars aligned.  

And when I am on the other side of this… as a current basket case with sleepless rage tendencies?  I’ll be sure to laugh when people say things just work out for me because I’m a naturally positive person.  Ummm… yeah.  The earful the mountains got would say I’m a total Florence Henderson right here.  πŸ˜‰

We get a choice, friends. Here’s hoping the mountains remind you, too.  xoxo

 

 

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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… πŸ˜‰

 

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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You guys… This week I went swimming in my sisters pool.  It was magical.  

According to plan, I was going to drive to LA, leave Ruby with my sis, have a good swim and then meet friends around 1pm at a local cafe.

My body has been pretty beat up over the years working in the food industry. But then getting pregnant and giving birth has been even more pain I’ve gotten to experience daily.  My feet and achilles are always in constant pain but the major add on since birth has been sciatic back pain.  Carrying my little cherub hits the nerves in my lower back and the pain gets so bad I wince trying to turn over in the middle of the night. Currently, my body is a wonderland… in a war torn country.  πŸ˜‰  

It’s crazy how much we can lose our sense of play as adults. When I was little, I was a total fish.  We had an inground pool that I lived in until my hair turned green.  Years later, however, I lost my gills.  We sold the house with the pool and after college I moved to Los Angeles, living in a land locked apartment building. Crazy busy and always working, I never saw water unless I was doing dishes.

Well, due to a ton of traffic and construction, the typical hour and a half drive took two and a half hours. When I arrived, I only had 20 minutes to spare and toyed with the idea of not going in.  

It felt like it was barely enough time to make a difference.  I’d also be meeting my friends at the cafe looking like a wet rat.  I’d be racing in, racing to get out, racing to get to my friends– all while towing around Ruby.  It just didn’t seem worth it.  I was so bummed.  

Well, thankfully– for whatever reason– I stuck to my guns and made myself go in.  The car ride was hot and I had so been looking forward to it all week, I wasn’t going to drive all of this way to wimp out.  And let me tell you, to be immersed in cool water, especially after a long drive with no AC, felt like LIFE.  I still had lower back pain but it felt incredible to move all of my muscles without strain.  I honestly wanted to stay in there all day!

It was amazing the sounds that came back to me from my childhood like not a day had passed– the lapping of the water in the pool, the way the water drops sounded against the hot concrete while getting out, what your shadow looks like while you’re drying off.  I’m not sure why but it felt so special and meaningful. Where you could tell the years had flown by was in my swimming ability.  Ha!  If you don’t use it, you definitely lose it!  πŸ˜‰  

Anyway, all this to say… It was a wonderful reminder that even with limited time, we have choices.  We decide what our priorities are and I’m so glad I chose to take the literal plunge.  Oh!  And the best part?  I was so happy I didn’t even care I showed up like a wet rat to lunch.  

Is there anything you’ve wussed out on when you could have taken the hiccup of time that you had?  Creating art?  Reading a book?  Singing a song?  Dancing to some music?  Going for a swim?  

This is just a friendly reminder from your Captain… DO IT!!!  πŸ™‚

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Hey everyone!  How we doin’?  πŸ™‚

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.  πŸ™‚

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!  πŸ˜‰

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. ΒΌ cup granulated sugar
  3. 1/8 cup brown sugar
  4. 1 Tbl. + 1 Β½ tsp cornstarch, dissolved in 1 Tbl. + 1 Β½ tsp water
  5. ΒΎ 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 Β½ 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.  πŸ™‚

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.  πŸ˜‰

These will be your FAVORITE brownies for ice cream sundaes. 

You can see why…  πŸ˜‰

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…. πŸ™‚

 

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.  πŸ™‚

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!  πŸ™‚

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…  πŸ˜‰

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.  πŸ™‚

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?  πŸ˜‰  

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 180Β° 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
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