Seriously, it’s been a weird week. When I stepped back from the blog, I found out something interesting. A few things, actually. I’ll share them momentarily.
I’ll also share this chocolate chip streusel banana bread, which is heaven. How can it not be? It’s the most perfect banana bread, all filled and topped with chocolate chips and the most delightful, crumbly streusel.
Back when JAB began, I had just come away from a traumatic life event. I’ve talked about it before, and so I’ll just quickly summarize. My youngest daughter had a dangerous birth with an abrupted placenta, and both she and I went into distress. I remember looking at the ceiling as everything went blurry, struggling to breathe, watching Kenny tending to the baby and thinking, “I’m going to die alone.” It was not a moment I’d like to repeat, though someday I will, of course.
Afterward, I blamed myself. She’d been breech, and I’d been doing a lot of alternative methods to try and turn her, like acupuncture and chiropractic maneuvers. All of these were doctor-approved, and when I asked the doctor afterward if it could have caused the trauma, he insisted that it was just bad luck and nothing more. But somebody close to the family suggested to me that it had been my fault, and no matter how vehemently I denied it to her, I was angry and forlorn.
Thus began a year of not being that nice to myself. I was probably suffering some form of postpartum depression as well, and I set about holding myself accountable for both things that were in and out of my control. I sought perfection, and it wasn’t sustainable. I began to heal.
JAB was part of my healing process. I gave myself permission to be fun for a while and to try new things. I took up the guitar, started this blog, and began trying things I’d never tried before. I wanted to see what I could do, however imperfectly. It was humbling. I stink at the guitar, but I love it. The blog has been just fine, but not anything super special. And I’m not perfect, but boy, I’d like to think that I’m special.
Along the road, I met lots of blog friends who supported me. Alice and Dorothy, who continued to help me whenever I needed it despite the fact that they are big news and I am not. So many big-time bloggers never give anyone the time of day, but they did. I will always consider them friends. Cheyanne and Annie and Kate, who felt like friends in the struggle, and who are all magnificent. Gayle, who has achieved so much so quickly. Lisa, whose sense of humor I relate to like crazy. And endless more people I spent parts of my virtual week with. I’ll still visit their blogs, but I’ll miss the interaction.
What I discovered on my week off is that I am still as busy as I was before, but I have the space now to give everybody and everything a little more time. My children now have more of my undivided attention on weekends, and that’s priceless. Plus, for the first time in years, I picked up a spiritual text and started reading it. I’ve been avoiding religious texts since the incident years ago, not sure of how to tackle some of my biggest spiritual questions. Now I want to face my fears and get on with living.
As I said last week, I’m taking a break. I don’t know how permanent this is, or if I’ll miss JAB so much that I’ll be back within a few weeks. No idea. But I have to give myself this time, and we’ll go from there. Hope your autumn goes beautifully, and I’ll miss you for now!
In case you’ve never had a brookie before, it’s just the kind of dessert that inspired me to begin food blogging. A cookie/brownie hybrid deserves a food blog, right?
But you see, these are even better. The bottom layer is a chocolate chip-filled fudgy brownie, and the top is pumpkin chocolate chip cookie dough. I’m so glad brookies are a thing, but even gladder that pumpkin brookies can come out of it!
Almost three years ago, I decided to start Just About Baked. It was a love story to the desserts I push to decadent limits, and a way to write and express my creativity in a way that I hadn’t been able to before. I started this not knowing anything about what I was doing, and boy, did it show.
Those early pics? Don’t look. And as for the rest of it, I learned a lot about so many things. The learning curve was steep, and I was excited to get a chance to absorb whatever I could.
But here’s the rub. All this time, I’ve been doing my first passion during the day, which is teaching. I’ve been teaching full-time in public high school for 17 years. It’s a full-time job and then some. I work a minimum of ten hours each day and then come home to make dinner, do homework with kids, have playtime, put them to bed and then work some more. In case nobody’s ever told you this, grading papers and planning lessons takes forever, for English teachers especially. Case in point? Before I wrote this post today, I spent five solid hours grading about 35 essays. And I’ve got many more to go! Not complaining, but it is what it is.
Somewhere in the middle of having three kids and being a teacher, I needed some additional stimulation. Anyone who knows me realizes that my days are packed, and I like them that way. So I created this site, nurtured it, and managed to keep it fairly functional for a while. Until recently.
Over the summer, I got a lot busier at work thanks to a promotion, and working all day and part of the night all week long is tough enough without having to bake, photograph and organize JAB on weekends. See, I like to hang out with my kids, and that’s more important than social networking. I’m also not that good at social networking, to be honest. It’s always felt uncomfortable to me, like I’m existing in a world that’s not quite real. I also like occasional downtime, and working 24/7 takes that away. Oh, and did I mention that my house is falling apart because there’s no time to fix things or clean up after my three kids?
I like to give what I do time and attention, and it’s not happening on this blog the way it should or could be. I wish I could be Superwoman and just do everything, but nope. I’m not going to hold myself to impossible standards, and I’m not going to let the time I have with my family suffer either. My first professional passion was teaching, and there it stays. Prioritizing has to happen sooner or later.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t still consider myself a baker. It also doesn’t mean that I’ll never pick this up in an official capacity again. However, I need a break. I need time to think about things. It goes against the grain of who I am to do anything that resembles giving up, but I have to show myself some compassion. Better to take some time and figure out whether JAB is a chapter that will continue, or if it’s about to become a piece of my past.
I have one more post later this week that will thank all the lovely people who have helped me over this journey, and that I hope will express how much I’ll miss them. I’m emotional enough that I can’t even write about these pumpkin brookies for now, so just enjoy the pics, okay? I’ll see you in a few days, but for now, already feeling the separation anxiety. It’s been a heckuva ride, and I’ll miss it terribly.
The thing is, pound cake can be a little too crazy decadent. The pound cakes of yore would actually sweat butter, if you know what I’m saying. But how else to get a lovely pound-ish cake without the butter?
Brown sugar to the rescue! Thanks to the higher moisture content of my favorite sugar choice, this cake can be made with healthy canola oil and still be the perfect cake to dip in fondue or leave plain. Sounds like a winner to me!
We need some winning right now. Twice a year, ants come into my house and get way too comfy. All the ant spray in the world can’t ultimately stop the little buggers.
One thing that weirds me out about ants is that they crawl in and out through electrical sockets. On an intellectual level, I realize they can’t get electrocuted that way. Still, it makes me mad that they can do it. And that I can’t chase them in there and kill them.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not hugely bloodthirsty or anything. But when I see ants all over the place, I get this bizarre urge to take them all out. It’s my house, dangit. Get out!
Thanks to the ants, I also had to clean out my baking cabinet and throw away anything that might tempt them that was open. Bye bye, chocolate chips. Bye bye, sugary sprinkles. Oh, the pain.
Luckily, I have cake to distract me. Isn’t that always the case?
This is a one-bowl recipe with no crazy creaming or pyrotechnics. Just plain old mix and serve! Plus, this recipe will yield two regular loaves or one gigantic one. That’s pretty neat!
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some ants to go deal with. Let’s hope the freeze comes soon!
I mean, it’s too sudden. We’re at 90 one day and then 60 the next. I cannot. Has Mother Nature ever heard of transitions? And by the way, could she just stop with the hurricanes already?
Since I don’t want to spend today talking about the weather, I’ll talk about something far more relevant instead. My blog’s been around for going on three years now, but I’ve never made black bottom cupcakes. Once this occurred to me (in the middle of the night, mind you, and it woke me up), I had to correct that immediately. I also had to make them gluten-free, just to make up for the oversight of never putting a chocolate cupcake stuffed with chocolate chip cheesecake filling onto this site.
A few weeks ago, you may remember that I fell over and injured my foot. Well, it’s all better now, but it’s been a pain-ridden time. Either I was walking funny or I hit something on the way down, because my back has been spasming nonstop. A few days ago, the relief began to seep in, but there’s still some pain.
The combination of all this plus the stress of the Jewish holiday season (it lasts a month) has made me very neglectful of anything but family or work. In other words, I’ve been ignoring the blog world and social media, and I’m sorry about that. But as my blog friends have taught me, there’s only so much anyone can handle before the nervous breakdown begins. Mine is scheduled for November, by the way. I have to hold it together until then. Winky face.
Seriously, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the concept of “good enough.” That’s a really tough standard for me to find acceptable in myself. In other people, it’s usually fine. But for me, I want to be the best. I’m not sure where this overdeveloped sense of competition came in, but I’m pretty sure it was born out of insecurity earlier in life. As an adult, I’ve been set on standing out and setting a standard of excellence.
I’m still driven that way, but I’ve pulled back from that on JAB. I will never be the best baking blogger, or even in the top several hundred. That’s okay. This site began as both an experiment and a hobby, and I’m okay keeping it there.
While I might not be on the Internet much, my desserts are as lovely as ever, I assure you. You’ll never know that these cupcakes are GF, and they’re also not that much of a nutritional wasteland.
The cake base of these cupcakes is positively virtuous: a chocolate cake that is vegan with no butter or eggs. The cheesecake filling is made with lowfat cream cheese and only about 1/3 cup of sugar, which means it’s not too sweet. You can eat a couple of these and not feel bad about it at all!
I’ve been in a tough place for the past couple of months, but I have hope that things will slow down and that I’ll stop waking up in the middle of the night thinking about black bottom cupcakes. Until that happens, I’ll just have to keep baking. Enjoy the fruits of my sleepless labor, friends!
When that happens, I head to bakeries or farmers’ markets. At both, there are people displaying their wares and their creativity. I need both, believe me!
At the market a few weeks ago, a woman was selling turtle scones. The second I saw them, I knew I had to bake my own. Here they are. Could anyone not want these for breakfast? Nope, didn’t think so!
I’ve had a soft spot for Turtles (the candy, not the animal) since I was a kid. My dad would bring my mom a box every Valentine’s Day, and she would always share with me. How great is that? A mom sharing her special candy with her kids is true love. I’ve loved Turtles ever since.
The animal I’m less certain about. Turtles live for a looooong time. Sea turtles live to be at least 100, and those little ones you buy in the pet store live to about 30. I’m not sure I could ever make that long a commitment. Imagine how attached I’d get to my turtle, and how I’d feel when he passed. If he passed before me, that is. They can really hold on.
Still, turtles are cute. I remember this one from my zoology class in high school that somehow got into a duct and crawled all the way through and into our vice principal’s office. Oh, the screams. That was such a good day.
These turtle scones will only cause screams of joy, I guarantee you. I promise!
The base of these scones is cream, which makes them light and crumbly in the best way. Chopped caramels, pecans (or walnuts) and chocolate chips get right in there for a true breakfast pastry party. No better way to start your day that I’ve ever seen!
No matter what kind of turtle makes your day, these scones are definitely the way to go on this particular day. Hope you have a great Wednesday!
If you guessed Rosh Hashana, you’re 100% right! That’s the Jewish new year, when it’s traditional to eat sweet foods to usher in an equally sweet new year.
Honey is one of the most popular Rosh Hashana foods. A lot of people make a honey cake, but as Kenny pointed out, it’s not the best of cakes. So instead, I offer up these honey cookies!
The school system I teach for actually gives everyone the first day of this holiday off, so I only have to take leave for the second day. Yay for my wonderful county!
At the same time, most of my colleagues don’t celebrate the holiday, so they’re all excited to be getting into a three-day weekend, whereas I’m just looking ahead to lots of cooking and cleaning.
It’s traditional to make a lot of food for our holidays, and it’s all good stuff. There’s the requisite brisket, or honey-baked chicken, or kugel (look it up if you don’t know what this is). It’s all so much food, and yet people seem to eat every bite.
Seeing as how I’m doing a lot of work this weekend to prep, I’m keeping this post short. We all good on that? I’ll also be incommunicado through Tuesday night, so it is what it is. Goodbye, pretty iPhone. For now.
Honey cake is controversial because it’s often dry and comes across as an inferior version of spice cake or carrot cake. Therefore, I’ve jettisoned it completely in favor of honey cookies.
These are a snap to put together, and they are delightfully honey-ish without going fully over the threshold of being too sweet. If you pair these with tea, it’s a match made in heaven.
To all my friends celebrating, shana tovah (happy new year). May this be a year filled with all the good things!
Yes, my post is later than usual this week, and no, it’s not on purpose. I just forgot what day of the week it was because, as usual, there’s a lot happening at work. I’m usually pretty good with time, so I’ve managed to surprise myself by losing track of it a little.
Or maybe I just wanted to wait longer to bring you this autumnal take on my favorite cookie, the snowball. These pumpkin snowballs are the perfect afternoon snack on a crisp fall day!
When I was a kid, catalogs were a pretty big deal. Before online shopping happened, I would happily spend hours poring over the pages of different catalogs. My favorite by far was the Sears Wish List, which came out in the fall and was full of holiday cheer and tons of toys. I could look at those toys forever, imagining that I owned them all.
A more consistent and less exciting offering was my mother’s L.L. Bean catalog, which I would look through and privately wonder at. My mother always said that their clothes were “classic,” but to me, that just meant dull. I was always much more into sparkly things and spur of the moment trends. And khaki chinos? Shiver. No, thanks.
Now that the holiday season is in the kind of imminent future and the leaves are starting to turn, I’m definitely thinking about those catalogs. Time has a way of slipping by, and I’m not trying to rush things. At the same time, there’s been no opportunity lately to stop and smell the crunchy leaves. Or read a catalog. We’re going to have to work on that.
The best way to get a break in my world is with cookies. Snowballs have always been a huge fave of mine, and adding just a small amount of pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spice makes them more than ready for fall.
If you remember the days of leafing through catalogs while lying on your tummy on a carpeted floor, then we’re simpatico. If you think time is going by too fast, join humanity. We’re all there. I hope you get some time to stop and look around. If not, I hope there’s a cookie break in there somewhere!
Like, getting a box of chocolates or flowers without an occasion? That sounds like it would be nice. Note to Kenny: do that more. Hear me, love of my life?
Another pleasant surprise? Finding a layer of pumpkin cheesecake in the middle of a delicious loaf of pumpkin chocolate chip bread. It’s double the fun!
Now that TV has started up again, I’m overwhelmed by the obligation I have to continue watching many shows. Yes, it’s a chore. A fun one, but a chore nonetheless.
Last season, we watched Superstore. It’s a silly piece of sitcom fluff, and I like silly in my life. Being serious is so overrated. But now I have to find time to add that to the list. See, I’m still trying to finish Casual on Hulu, Suits on Amazon Prime, and then I have to pick up Once Upon a Time again, even though the storyline has gotten totally weird.
The problem is, Kenny and I watch these together, so both of us have to be available (and awake) to make it through. It’s not that logistically easy. He plays ball sometimes, and I have the habit of passing out at 8:30 every night. It’s not auspicious for good TV watching.
Also, Kenny has a very short attention span with TV shows. He forgets them or loses interest quickly, and then we tend to not finish things. like seasons 6 and 7 of Mad Men, which has fallen by the wayside, or seasons 3 and 4 of Orange is the New Black. Gone.
But hey, I shouldn’t complain. We have so many good options. Do you remember when you were at the mercy of the TV schedule? Those grueling days are gone!
You know what else is gone? Plain old pumpkin bread. Not that I’m hating, because I’m not. But this is sooooo much better.
In the middle of these moist and gluten-free layers is pumpkin cheesecake. It’s lovely. The creamy pumpkin middle layer does full justice to the cakey outer layer. Woohoo!
Hope you have a lovely fall TV season, and that you get caught up on all your shows. It’s hard work! Better have some pumpkin chocolate chip cheesecake bread around to make it easier!
I’m on a cake kick, for sure. Something is just very comforting about cake this time of year, and I need all the comfort snack breaks that exist. Pass me a fork and a plate!
This recipe is a one-bowl, throw everything together and mix kind of recipe. Even the glaze takes about two seconds to throw together. When you’re done, there’s a fluffy apple cake with a lovely honey glaze that looks like it took hours to make, but in reality might have taken 10 minutes. Are you game?
I’m so excited for apple season. Once a year, my family goes to an orchard (it’s about 26 miles away, so it’s not super nearby) for their annual pumpkin festival. While I love the corn maze (not) and the hay rides (yay!), the best part is undoubtedly their caramel apples.
Yep, it turns out that not much in life is more delicious than a freshly picked orchard apple smothered in caramel, peanuts, sprinkles and sea salt. I get mine with the works every year, and then I hide from my kids while I eat it on top of a hay bale. That way, Mommy doesn’t have to share.
This time of year also beckons the upcoming Jewish new year, otherwise known as Rosh Hashanah. That’s Hebrew for “head of the year.” To celebrate, it’s traditional to dip apples into honey (so good!) to beckon a sweet new year.
A few days ago, my daughter (the baby, she’s 4 and change) saw me baking this cake. When she found out that it was an apple cake, she immediately figured out that it was for our upcoming new year festivities. She’s smart, that one! And then she said, “Mommy, put honey in it.” Because of course, she knows that’s a winning combo this time of year.
To make her (and myself, honestly) happy, I put a simple honey glaze over the cake. It was really the perfect finish, and I’m so glad my kid figured that out for me.
Like I said, if you’re short on time, this cake is the way to go. My family really enjoyed it, and I plan on baking several more this autumn. It’s that time, after all. Let’s get our apple on!
I do that a lot in the fall. My baking this time of year contains a lot of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. If I take something out of the oven right before I head up to bed, I can actually drift off for the night with all those autumn spices whirling around my senses. I highly recommend you try it.
Even though it’s soaring back up to the 90s this week here in the sunny DC area, I’ve been baking for crunchy leaves and cooler breezes since Labor Day ended. This cake is no exception, and it’s magnificent. The base is pumpkin goodness, filled with all those lovely spices and chocolate chips. Did I mention that the whole cake is smothered in a rich chocolate glaze?
Last week was full of mishaps. As in, just a terrible week. On Wednesday I was at work when I learned that one of my teachers had fallen, so I rushed down the hall to check on her. On my way, I slipped in a stealth water spill and fell down too. Irony? The teacher was fine, but I couldn’t walk so well. I had to get to the urgent care clinic because my doctor wouldn’t see me without some kind of crazy workman’s comp claim number that I could’ve easily given him later (can I rant about healthcare sometime soon?) for an x-ray. Luckily, nothing was broken, but I’m very swollen and bruised.
To compound that (yes, I’m complaining), I had a 22-mile commute the next day to a training class. I don’t like commuting. More complaining.
That evening was Back to School Night, which means I had to be on my A-game to meet with parents. I put a pair of sneakers on over my bandaged foot (not my typical Back to School Night uniform of cute dress and heels) and went to work from my training class. When I opened my mouth, I realized that the fun continued. My voice was going.
See, I’ve had a cold for about a week, but it’s just been hovering. Do you ever have a hovering cold? It’s kind of polite in nature. It doesn’t intrude too much into your life except in the early morning or late at night, but then it really intrudes. No warning, and BAM! Suddenly, you’re going mute in front of parents.
By the next day, I had to face down my students with no voice at all. I spent the day croaking and rasping at them and feeling completely done in. Thank heaven the next day was Saturday. It was time to sit down and shut up. I was never gladder to do both.
One day into the weekend, and things are looking up. My foot is very bruised and still somewhat swollen, but it’s getting better. My voice is a light rasp now as opposed to completely silent, so yay. And I can bake even without a foot or a voice, so that’s the best news of all.
This cake is lovely. I don’t usually pair butter with pumpkin, but special occasions call for a fancier cake. What occasion, you might ask? Feeling better, y’all!
Because pumpkin and chocolate chip is the best combo ever, I had to put them into a decadent bundt with the best chocolate glaze in existence. This is my favorite glaze recipe bar none. It’s super easy, and it’s thicker than most glazes. It’s impossible not to love!
Last week was full of mishaps, but this week will be better and full of cake. It’s not how many times we fall, but how many times we determinedly get back up again. That’s what really matters!