It's been a long time, but I am back! You probably wondered where I've been and if the blogging world had been abandoned for the real world. Well, fear not, readers! I am resurfacing from my hole with new recipes and honest and fun tales of my daily life.
I am by nature one of my harshest critics. It is a constant battle I face in all things I do: from parenting, to married life, to household management, to my business ventures, to my fears, to my writing, etc. I could really go on and on, but I'll spare you all of that. I began 2016 with a post about conquering my fears and learning to take the time to enjoy the every day. It started with what I like to call an epiphany while traveling to my mom's house for Christmas at the end of 2015. I wrote how my fear of flying and the anxiety I let build up in me took away the excitement and joy I should have in going to see my family. I needed to learn to let go and focus on the good ahead of me rather than the build-up of fear leading up to it.
Well, that theme continued to plague me and ultimately change me for all of 2016. There is nothing more difficult than recognizing and tapping into a self-induced flaw and then moving on to change and overcome that very thing you don't like about yourself. It's one thing to recognize it but quite another to make that change happen from within. And, the year 2016 did a lot to challenge the changes I knew I needed to make and to actually make those changes into a reality. What a year! I spent much of it mired in politics, arguing with strangers and family, and letting the outside world affect my mood and attitude toward others in a negative way that ultimately challenged the very happiness I have in my household. I looked at every suggestion as a criticism. I looked at every challenge to my thoughts as if the person was saying I wasn't smart. I took offense at many different things that had absolutely nothing to do with me, but my thoughts and actions and the reactions to them became so self-consuming that ultimately I made it about me. This had to change.
Whenever my mood and outlook is cloudy, I have a habit of looking negatively at all aspects of my life. A couple of years ago, I decided to take my blog out of my personal space and try my hand at making it bigger. I began to add advertisements, get out there on social media, join blogging groups, expand what was on my site, add weekly recipes, and really try my hardest to make this venture a legitimate income-making business. We filed Food Therapy as a business and began collecting receipts for tax purposes. I used my husband as my example of how to be a success at something you love. For his whole career, he has set goals both personally and business-wise for himself. By setting these goals, both short-term and long-term, he has it in his mind to make it happen. Once written out, it's as good as gold. I love that about him and wanted to do the same with my business.
However, I've come to realize that I'm not him. Starting last year I began to have self-doubts. I wasn't turning a profit. The workload was taking up all of my time. I resented the kids interrupting my work. And, most of all, I stopped enjoying cooking. Everything I made was subject to the camera lens. Everything I ate had to be photographed. Every recipe I made had to be blog worthy. It stopped being fun. This, too, had to change.
So, I took a break. I went back to spending my free time enjoying books. I stopped feeling pressed for time. I cooked and baked when I wanted to or when something took my fancy. I took up knitting again. I watched tv. I enjoyed my family and let them into my kitchen again. I became the manager of my son's soccer team. I traveled to Holland without even thinking of my blog. Most importantly, I was there for my mom when she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure in September. I gradually remembered what was important. Yes, sometimes I still resent always feeling needed and not being free to put my full self into an endeavor I choose, but I also realize that when I'm not there for others it negatively affects my psyche and overwhelms me with unhappiness and dissatisfaction. Add a little guilt to the mix, and you've got the recipe for the Debby Downers.
Recently, I traveled to be with my mom following her surgery to have a defibrillator and pacemaker put in her heart. Despite the circumstances of my visit, I will admit to enjoying my trips to Florida to spend time with her. In the past, I've made excuses to stay home and wait for her to come visit me. It seemed easier because otherwise I'd have to take the entire family with me. I always had the kids in tow and our visits were never relaxed. Being able to travel alone and to spend quality time with my mom has meant more to me and my inner self than I can express here. It also gave me time for reflection. It's amazing when you are away from routine how much you can reenergize your spirit and bring with it a new purpose. The ability to tackle those routine affairs takes on a life of its own with renewed vigor and ideas.
I also, most importantly, realized something that I've known in the past but had never done a good job putting into practice: I am not my husband. You laugh at that statement especially if you know my husband, but let me explain. I have a habit of looking at others for guidance and advice. Yes, Gary is good at what he does and gives incredible advice. I'm a fool not to listen. However, I know now that what works for him might not work for me. He goes forward in all facets of life with the utmost confidence. He is always sure of himself. For me, I cave when things don't go according to plan. I'm not good at shifting and refocusing and working at it from another angle. I shut down and retreat. I start dabbling in other ideas thinking maybe this one will stick. I start getting angry with myself, disappointed that I can't succeed. Most of all I turn a blind eye to the successes I do have. It might have taken me many years of disappointments but I've learned that the best thing I can do for myself is to follow my instincts and be satisfied with the accomplishments I have. I need to remember that what I do here is for fun, not profit. It's for sharing my thoughts and ideas, not for tax breaks.
During my recent visit to my mom's house and the weeks leading up to it, I was asked by several people why I haven't blogged in a while. They said they missed my stories and recipes and still go on regularly to check to see if I've put anything new on the site. It warmed my heart. I told them I was just taking a break. And, that's exactly what I was doing. I wanted to give it up, to turn away from it. At times, I felt like it was another failed attempt at trying to do something bigger than myself. Yet, after hearing from a handful of folks, I realized that it actually touched some people and that they wanted me to do more. Here I was thinking no one was really engaged in my blog only to find out it had touched a few. In my book, those few might as well be a thousand.
On the flight home from Florida, I had yet another epiphany. Maybe it's the high altitude that does this to my brain, but whatever works! I started thinking about my original goal for my blog: to simply use my writing along with my love of cooking to share my voice with my friends and family. Period. I had no plans to be any bigger than my circle of friends. The blog was a fun and creative way to share the things that made me happy. As is my tendency, I set loftier goals for myself and tried too hard to make it bigger than it was when I set out to do it. Why do I do this to myself? Why can't I just be satisfied with doing it the way it began and wait to see where it goes?
So, I decided to go back to the beginning. Keep it simple. I might not post every week. I might post twice in one week or only once a month. That's okay. I'm not setting high expectations for myself. I might not reach a wide audience or I might reach more than I thought I could. I don't know and that's okay. The key for me is to find balance. Balance in all things in my life. I need to stop worrying about goals and five years from now. In five years I'll have one child in college and another on his way. Those are my biggest goals to focus on. Being able to spend quality time with these kids in the short amount of time I have with them needs to be my priority. In the meantime, I'll go back to what makes me happy and to stop listening to ideas from others of what I could do, should do, but have a hard time doing. I'm going to be me and be happy doing me.
And, what makes me happy right now, you ask? Vegan foods make me happy. Vegan desserts that taste fantastic make me even happier. While our entire household has not become vegan, we do have one fanatical by-the-book vegan (Madison) and one just-about-almost-there-but-cannot-live-without-eggs vegan (me). I truly admire Madison's dedication to her veganism. I have to write about how she inspires me in another post, but suffice it to say it has truly transformed our kitchen and created a budding cook (me so proud!).
One of the biggest complaints Madison has about vegan foods is the lack of really good desserts. Yes, they are out there but it's kind of hit or miss as to whether they truly replace the butter-laden, egg, and dairy tasting treats you find in most kinds of desserts. Well, discovering really great options for her has become my mission. And, my first dessert to share with you is such a winner that you'll want to try it not only for its ultimate tastiness but also its ability to fool those you know and love into thinking it's not vegan.
The original recipe comes from Molly Yeh's incredible cookbook, Molly on the Range. People, if you love cooking, do yourself a favor and buy this cookbook, pronto. I've been following Molly's blog for a few years now (http://mynameisyeh.com). The pictures alone of her beautiful creations are enough to make your mouth water and yours truly as envious as can be (remember I am my worst critic). In her new cookbook, she creates a vegan hazelnut cake that we just had to try. Obviously, there are no eggs and no dairy. It uses a blend of ground hazelnuts with flour, almond milk, and coconut oil. Even the ganache is dairy free and yummy. Yes, I did lick the spoon. Repeatedly. I tweaked the recipe a little by adding a bit of cardamom for spice and pecans for crunch. The result is a cake that satisfies a sweet tooth by night and a breakfast cake by morning, which means it goes well with both a glass of red or a dark and hot cup of coffee. Trust me, I've sampled it with both.
Adapted from Molly Yeh's recipe for "Chocolate Hazelnut Vegan Horsey Cake" in her cookbook
A vegan cake made with hazelnut and white flours, coconut oil, almond milk, and a cardamom spice. Topped with a chocolate ganache made from vegan chocolate chips, coconut oil, almond milk, and maple syrup. It's a dessert that will satisfy the vegan in your life and maybe inspire others to take that leap.
For the cake:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup hazelnut meal
2/3 cup organic raw cane sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted but not hot
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Juice squeezed from half a lemon
3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
For the ganache:
2/3 cup vegan chocolate chips
2 Tablespoons coconut oil
1 Tablespoon unsweetened almond milk
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
For the topping:
3/4 cup pecan pieces
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8-inch round cake pan with cooking spray. Line the pan with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, the hazelnut meal, the sugar, the salt, the baking powder, the baking soda, and the ground cardamom. In a medium bowl, whisk together the melted and slightly cooled coconut oil, vanilla, lemon juice, and almond milk. Pour the liquid ingredients into the flour mixture and stir together until they are mixed. Pour the mixture into your prepared cake pan.
3. Place in center rack of your preheated oven. Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then finish cooling on a wire rack.
For the ganache
1. Place all of the ingredients for the ganache into a small bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds and then stir the ingredients together. Microwave for another 30 seconds and stir again. Stir until the last of the chocolate chips has melted and your ganache is smooth.
2. When the cake has completely cooled and the ganache has slightly cooled, pour the ganache on top of the cake. Spread the ganache to the outer rim of the cake. You can either frost the sides or allow the ganache to drip down the sides. Do as you please. Finish with a sprinkling of pecan pieces over the top of the ganache.