On Self-Care & Food Blogging

Disclaimer: I sat down to write a Friday Favorites post and this is what came out. If posts about mental health and self-care aren’t for you, don’t fret–I’ve got some new recipes coming your way next week. Oh, and you should make these this weekend.

When I started this blog nearly two years ago, I decided to post three times a week. It was a lot of work for someone who had no experience with this sort of thing, but I figured that if I was going to have a blog, I was going to take it seriously. With limited exception, I posted three times a week for the first fourteen months of this blog’s existence. 

That all changed last Christmas. I think I got burnt out from all my extra holiday work and then totally thrown off by an extended visit with my family in Texas. To put it simply, I got out of my regular routine and I’ve never quite gotten back into it.

On Self-Care & Food Blogging
Breakfast time on Swans Island.
Since returning to Brooklyn in January, I’ve had a few weeks where I’ve managed to get three posts up, but those have been few and far between. This summer, I somewhat intentionally put E2 Bakes on the back burner and only posted once a week. I had a lot going on–besides work, I quit smoking (three months off nicotine this week 🙌🏻). I also muddled through the end of a truly gnarly 18-month bout of depression. Maybe that’s too personal for a food blog, but it’s what happened. When my brain fog finally (finally) started to clear in the middle of August, I made some changes in the name of self-care.

On Self-Care & Food Blogging
View from the Red Hook Waterfront.
First, I switched grocery stores. Bet you weren’t expecting that. That may sound minor and totally out of left field, but if you’ve been around here long enough, you know that I think grocery shopping is a blast. Since I returned from Maine, I’ve made time every weekend to take the fifty minute walk down to Fairway Market in Red Hook, Brooklyn. It’s a good way for me to clear my head (especially once I get to the benches near the waterfront), and I can’t help but be inspired by the quantity and quality of goods at that market. I still buy my coffee beans at Sahadi’s and hop over to Trader Joe’s and Key Food for things here and there, but I do the vast majority of my shopping at Fairway. With so many great options in my neighborhood, my new ritual might seem ridiculous to some, but I shop so frequently for others that this simple act of shopping just for me and at my favorite grocery store qualifies as radical self-care. Oh, and for those of you wondering, I take the bus home. <–I’m asked about this all the time.

In conjunction with my new grocery shopping ritual, I’ve also started taking better physical care of myself. I’ve written before about my weight and how I try to practice something like mindful eating. I’d love to tell you that I have a perfect, balanced relationship with food, but like a lot of people, I struggled after I quit smoking. It all came to a head when I made the mistake of stepping on the scale for the first time in years on the night before I left for a beach vacation. <–tip: don’t do that.

Since then, I’ve concentrated more on my meals and nutrition. Given the amount of baking and recipe testing I do every week, strict diets aren’t for me right now. Instead, I’ve spent time planning meals that are heavy on nutrients and limiting my snacking to fruits and vegetables. I’ve also spent more time consciously exercising; this is definitely helped by the smoking cessation. I still bake and eat sugar (obviously!) and have no intention of stopping, but I try to limit my consumption to once a day. So far, so good.

As a result of all these changes, I’ve got some new meal-time recipes to share with y’all over the coming weeks and months. Please consider this photo of a recent batch of Sausages with Roasted Grapes as a teaser.

On Self-Care & Food BloggingSo, why exactly am I telling you all this? Because another part of my new-and-improved self-care regimen has been to get back to regular posting. Blogging makes me happy; if I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t do it. I have no plans to go back to three posts a week–with a day job and a social life, that is just too demanding. Two posts per week, however, has proven to be doable. You may not have noticed, but I have stepped up my posting since the beginning of September. With the exception of one Friday where most of Brooklyn lost internet access, I’ve posted twice a week since Labor Day.

My posting is not on an exact schedule right now, but I am headed in that direction again. For now, I am trying to post on Tuesday or Wednesday and Friday, all at around 1pm Eastern Time. I am planning to start posting earlier in the day soon, but as each post requires about 12-15 hours of my time, I’m deciding to concentrate on creating quality content for now and worry about timely publishing later. In addition, I’ll be debuting a more streamlined Recipe Index by the beginning of next week.

On Self-Care & Food Blogging
New favorite chocolate chip cookies. Coming at you soon.
If any of you have any recipe requests or ways that you think I could improve this little corner of the internet, I’d love to hear them. Feel free to reach out to me via email or on any of my social media accounts. Your feedback is always appreciated.

On Self-Care & Food Blogging
Out of the fog.
It feels good to be back on a blogging regimen these past few weeks. After all, this blog was originally created by me for me. I wanted a food blog for six years before I got brave and crazy enough to hit “publish.” The fact that any of you come here to read my ramblings and make my recipes is just icing on the not-so-proverbial cake. Thanks for reading.

On Self-Care & Food Blogging

24 Hours in Maine: What We Ate

It’s no secret that I love Maine. I first went in the summer of 2012 and haven’t missed a year since. If I ever decide to move out of New York, you can bet that’s where I’m headed. I’ll be the one running a pie shop out of an airstream trailer. Until then though, I’m just biding my time between road trips.

24 Hours in Maine: What We AteThis past weekend, I took an early bus up to Boston, met up with my little sister, Eliot, and rented a car. The plan was to drive up to our AirBNB in Portland, see what was happening there, and then take our time driving down the coastal highway back to Boston. When it comes to vacation, we do best without structure, so our only concrete plan was to eat as much great food as we could. I am here to tell you that we succeeded.

24 Hours in Maine: What We AteUnlike my usual trips, which are during the summer and up to an island with no restaurants or grocery stores, this trip was just days after a huge snowfall. Lots of things were shuttered until April, so in terms of finding things to do (and more importantly, things to eat), we just had to go with the flow. Here’s what we did.

Dinner: Eventide Oyster Co. in Portland, Maine

24 Hours in Maine: What We AteWe were only going to be on vacation for 24 hours, so we planned for our Friday night dinner to be our “big” meal. After scanning Yelp, we settled on Eventide Oyster Co. We ventured over around 8pm without a reservation. The place was packed, but the hostess was super friendly and gave us a place to stand and order drinks (a cider for her, a root beer for me). She said it would be about 45 minutes, but we got a table in thirty! Eventide specializes in small plates of fresh seafood (all local, of course) and recommends two per person. We ordered the Lobster Ceviche, Scallop Crudo, Fried Pollock, and Clam Chowder. Everything was great, but we both agreed that the Scallop Crudo and Fried Pollock were our favorites. I will say that both of us were too full for dessert after sharing four plates, so you might consider starting with three and adding another as necessary. After tax and tip, we got out of there for $70–not bad! If we’re ever back in Portland (and let’s be real, we will be back), we’ll definitely go to Eventide again.

Breakfast: Coffee by Design in Portland, Maine

24 Hours in Maine: What We AteWe got up early on Saturday morning, checked out of our AirBNB and went in search of coffee. We landed at Coffee by Design, a chain that started at the L.L. Bean flagship. We were greeted by a friendly barista who took us through the pastries they had to offer and gave us tips on where to find parking (hint: there is none). We got two large coffees, a sausage & goat cheese scone, and a potato-based chocolate cake doughnut from The Holy Donut. The scone was insane, as all things with breakfast sausage and goat cheese ought to be. I’ll be recreating it soon! The doughnut was good, but did have a distinct potato flavor that overshadowed the chocolate. A doughnut is a doughnut though, and neither of us had any issue finishing it.24 Hours in Maine: What We Ate

Snack: The Standard Baking Co. in Portland, Maine

24 Hours in Maine: What We Ate24 Hours in Maine: What We AteAfter breakfast, we found some parking near the water and decided to do a little looking around. We ended up in K. Collette, a high-end home goods store, where my sister bought the embroidered buffalo pillow of her dreams. While we were checking out, we got to talking with the cashier. It quickly came up that I am a baker, and she said we just had to get to The Standard Baking Co. down the block. It’s set back from the street behind a hotel parking lot, so if you’re not paying attention, you’ll miss it. That would be a shame. They specialize more in bread than sweets, but we made it out of there with an Apricot Galette and a Raspberry-Almond Galette. They’re made with a shortbread dough and filled with homemade preserves–perfect road snacks. The Standard Baking Co. was our last stop in Portland before we got on the coastal highway and headed south. Our buttery galettes were the perfect treat after our side trip to Cape Elizabeth. You can tell Eliot was into the Apricot version.24 Hours in Maine: What We Ate

Lunch: The Ramp Bar & Grill in Cape Porpoise, Maine

24 Hours in Maine: What We Ate24 Hours in Maine: What We AteNo trip to Maine is complete without a lobster roll, and after a couple of side trips to Biddeford and a seasonally-abandoned Old Orchard Beach and a lot of shenanigans, we were starving for one. We got off the highway in Kennebunkport hoping that literally anything was open. Just as we were hitting the end of the line and about to give up, we found the The Ramp Bar & Grill. It’s situated on Cape Porpoise and has an amazing view of the water. The restaurant is tiny and is covered top-to-bottom with New England sports and political memorabilia. We settled in among the year-round locals and ordered our lobster rolls. They came with housemade potato chips and a dill pickle, and were just what we needed to get through the rest of our trip. The lobster was tossed with butter and mayonnaise and served in a toasted bun–no surprises here. Neither of us care for mayonnaise, but we make an exception for lobster rolls.24 Hours in Maine: What We Ate24 Hours in Maine: What We Ate24 Hours in Maine: What We Ate24 Hours in Maine: What We Ate

After lunch, we destroyed some perfectly beautiful untouched snow across from the public school in Kennebunkport and drove around a Franciscan Monastery between Kennebunk and Wells before getting back on I-95 and heading back to Boston. It was a quick trip, to be sure, but it was just right: uninterrupted sister time and lots of great food. If you ever find yourself in coastal Maine for 24 hours, this is the way to eat your way through it.24 Hours in Maine: What We Ate

On Gratitude

Thanksgiving is almost here. In the last few weeks, I’ve posted three new pie recipes, my “ideal” stuffing, and even a couple of holiday breakfast recommendations. I toiled over cranberry sauce this past weekend in a last ditch effort to give you another recipe for your turkey dinners, but realized that you had likely nailed down your menus already.

So today, I have no recipe to share or any pie-making tips. No, today I have something much more important: gratitude. That’s what this holiday is really about anyway. The big meal is nice and all, but it’s not what makes Thanksgiving…well, Thanksgiving.

I’ve mentioned before that 2016 has been a rough year for me. It started off with the amicable end to a meaningful romantic relationship and has been a wild ride ever since. I moved. I switched careers (again). I worked entirely too much. I mourned.

When things don’t go your way, it’s easy to get sullen and nasty. You think too hard about the state of your life and all the things you don’t have instead of the things you do, and suddenly you’re miserable. And people should be allowed to be miserable without explanation. But the thing about misery is that it doesn’t hurt anyone else–it only hurts the person feeling it.

I won’t say that I haven’t been a miserable wreck at all this year. That simply isn’t true. But I have made a point of looking for the good, even if the only decent thing that happened that week is that my bodega finally started carrying the 12-ounce cans of Sugar-Free Red Bull.* If, every night, I can think of one good thing that happened that day, then I must be doing alright. But I have a lot more than one thing for which to be grateful.

*This hasn’t actually happened, but a girl can dream.

On Gratitude

1. I am grateful for my family. I have not always been the best sister or daughter. I have put my family through a lot in the last 31 years. But they have always stood up for me and sometimes done things that seemed impossible, and for that I am thankful. This year, my mom came up to New York to help me move. I called to ask in January, and before I could even finish the sentence, she said “I’ll book a ticket.” I had barely packed and it was absolutely freezing, but she never complained once. My parents gave me the best birthday gift ever–they partially funded my girls’ trip to Swans Island, Maine. I really needed that week with my friends. My sisters are my heroes. They have taken more than their fair share of crazy phone calls. Our running text chain is my favorite thing on earth. How lucky that we were all born with the same sense of humor. Bottom line: I won the lottery on families. I have no idea how I got so lucky.On GratitudeOn Gratitude

2. I have the best friends in the world. When your life falls apart, it’s your friends who help you put it back together. I could elaborate, but there are too many things to say. And so, I’ll just say thank you.On Gratitude

3. I get to cook and bake all day everyday. When I started really getting into baking, I was working as a nanny. While every family I’ve worked for has allowed me to do some cooking for them, I haven’t really had my heart in full-time childcare in years. When I was feeling stuck professionally earlier this year, a personal chef job seemingly fell out of the sky just when I needed it most. Now, I bake at home in the mornings and cook for a family of four in the afternoons. It’s definitely exhausting, but my heart is in it.

4. I live in New York. I have literally always wanted to live here. I had an idea nine years ago that being a New Yorker would be glamorous, and it is sometimes. The rest of the time, it’s crazy. If you really want to live in New York, prepare to work all the time, pay way too much rent for a tiny apartment, and constantly be hustling. Nothing is easy here. But, nine years in, I feel like I sort of know what I’m doing.

5. I have everything that I need. There is money in my bank account–not a ton, but enough. I have clean, nice clothes. There is always food in my refrigerator. I have a roof over my head.On Gratitude

6. I am grateful for this excellent schnauzer. Her name is Stella. She smells like Fritos and dirt, and she is perfect.On Gratitude

7. I’m grateful for this little corner of the Internet. When I clicked “publish” last year, I had no idea what E2 Bakes would become. It’s a lot of work running a blog: recipe testing, writing into the wee hours, spending money on ingredients. And then there’s the agonizing over whether anyone will read the post I’ve spent 12 hours creating. Thank you to each and every one of you for reading, commenting, liking, sharing, and (most importantly) making these recipes in your kitchens. Nothing makes me happier than hearing how my recipes are working for you.

I may have had a rough year, but as you can see, I have plenty of goodness in my life. I hope you do too! What are you thankful for? Let me know in the comments.

Happy Thanksgiving!

On Weight Loss & Eating Habits

Warning: This is a very long post.

It was recently suggested that I write a post about how I maintain my weight.

At first, I thought this was ridiculous. I write a baking blog that is devoted almost exclusively to making food you really shouldn’t eat everyday. Who am I to talk about healthy eating and exercise and making good choices? I’m certainly not a nutritionist or dietician, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that my story is valid.

July 2016
You see, despite the vast amount of sugary treats I bake and post on here, I’m what most people consider skinny. Dare I say, I am a small person. But I haven’t always been. In fact, my last major weight loss–I say “last” because there have been many–coincided with my learning to bake. Yes, nearly three and a half years ago I weighed 65 pounds more than I do now. My dress size was twelve sizes larger than it is presently, and shopping for pants…well, it was never fun. Seven years prior, I had lost fifty pounds, but life had caught up with me. I had finished the degree that had brought me to New York, gotten a desk job, learned to cook, and become a bit of a party girl. I was walking less and eating and drinking more.

It’s not that I hadn’t noticed it happening: the gradual tightening of jeans, that my bras were too small, or that I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror. No, I knew it was happening. But I figured that I’d eat “better” and it would all come off. I tried a few crazy diets. One involved some super disgusting leek soup, and I’d like to formally apologize to everyone who witnessed the two weeks where I went on a self-imposed “no wheat/no meat/no dairy” diet. Oh, and for those four days where I cut out caffeine. Oof.

August 2010
I’d always lose some weight, but the second I started eating whatever I had previously banned, it all came back.

I gradually became okay with my larger body. To that point, I was the largest I’d ever been, but also the happiest. I had fallen in love with a wonderful man. I had (finally) started to get my life together. I was beaming. I really didn’t mind being a “bigger” woman. All this is to say, I never actually set out to lose the weight again. The number on the scale had no bearing on my happiness or emotional well-being, and it doesn’t to this day.

August 2012
Sometime around the spring of 2013, I was living with that afore-mentioned wonderful man in a nice neighborhood in Brooklyn, when I accidentally made a major life decision and learned to bake. It was just a hobby to distract me from another major decision I had made: to take a break from drinking. Alcohol wasn’t making my life any better. In fact, it was making it worse. I was lethargic and tired, unreliable, and prone to emotional outbursts. Cutting out the booze for a while turned out to be a long-term lifestyle change, and all of those unappealing behaviors suddenly ceased to occur.

As anyone who has ever given up alcohol can tell you, one of the immediate effects is that your body craves sugar. This makes perfect sense since alcohol metabolizes as sugar–you can’t just take all of that away without your body screaming for it. Suddenly, I wanted all of the cookies. All of them. And so I ate a lot of cookies. But since I prided myself on my cooking and that I ate well at home, I was disappointed in the quality of baked goods at the local grocery stores. I decided I’d stop purchasing subpar baked goods and learn how to make vanilla wafers. That’s how the baking started.

June 2013
That’s a lot of information to take in, but it’s how I got to where I am today. Replacing alcohol with baked goods doesn’t seem like a way to lose weight, but that’s kind of how it began for me. I’d go through two bottles of seltzer while making chocolate chip cookies. At first I would feel the need to eat the cookies throughout the day, stopping for a treat whenever I walked by the Tupperware they were packed into. But as time went on and I baked more and more, I stopped seeing the finished products as real food and more as a crafting project. Like “Hey, I made these! Aren’t they pretty?! Also, they’re edible and totally delicious.”

I know that sounds absolutely insane, but that’s what happened: a switch flipped in my brain, and suddenly baked goods and sugar weren’t foods I felt the need to gorge myself on, but instead, a nice way to end a meal or a day.

July 2013
That mindset started making its way into all my interactions with food. I slowly learned what an appropriate serving looks like and how to read my body’s signals that I was full. I read about low-fat dairy and all the stabilizers it contains, and stopped buying it. In fact, I stopped buying anything low-fat and cut out nearly all heavily-processed foods. I learned to make granola and started eating 1/2 cup with yogurt and fruit for breakfast nearly everyday. I read about the addictive qualities of artificial sweeteners, and slowly weaned myself off a four-Splenda-per-coffee habit until I drank the stuff black. In that vein, I cut my Diet Coke consumption down to one every two weeks, and brought my general caffeine intake down from four large coffees a day to two.

That caffeine slashing really helped–I sleep more now, and it’s really hard to accidentally overeat when you’re sleeping.

January 2014
All these changes had an effect on my energy, and I started walking for pleasure more than anything else. I took a nanny job in a nearby neighborhood, and would leave home at 7:20am everyday to take the forty minute stroll to work. I’d spend the entire time daydreaming about things I wanted to bake, listening to podcasts, and taking in this amazing place where I get to live. This little bit of exercise helped me so much–it helped me to be more present. Also, exercise releases endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people don’t kill their husbands. They just don’t. <–Kidding. Name that movie.

The walking did make me happy though, and helped me to have some gratitude for everything around me. The alone time I got while walking to work set the tone for the whole day, improving my interactions and my level of self-care.

Note: This post is getting really long. If you’ve stuck with me this far, thank you.

June 2014
In the late summer of 2014, I suddenly realized that my clothes didn’t fit. I’ve never been one to go shopping all the time or keep up with fashion trends, but I suddenly realized that belts that had once clung for dear life around my ribcage were now loose around my hips. I saved up a little money and took myself shopping. Before I had gained back all the weight from my previous weight loss, the smallest sizes I had ever worn were a medium in dresses and a 6/8 in pants. I went into a store and grabbed a few dresses in a medium, assuming they’d fit. They didn’t–they were huge on me. I continued leaving the dressing room for smaller sizes in disbelief. Over the course of sixteen months, I had shrunk down to an extra-small size 2.

I walked home in a daze with seven new items in tow. I couldn’t imagine how I would ever maintain this weight. Heck, I couldn’t understand how I had gotten to this weight in the first place. I could not be this person–I had been bigger my entire adult life. I was an impostor walking home with a bag of clothes that certainly couldn’t belong to me. I couldn’t wear a size 2. But I did and I do.

I have maintained this weight loss for two years, despite all of the baked goods I make, all the chocolate malts, and all of the crazy changes I’ve had in my personal life. In the last two years, I have changed careers, started a business, amicably ended a meaningful long-term romantic relationship, and still maintained my weight. Where I used to eat my feelings, I now channel them elsewhere.

July 2016
I still love to eat, obviously. I mean, I have a food blog. But I don’t stress myself out about what I put into my body. Today, I eat a high protein, high fat, high fiber diet. Yes, you read that right. High fat. Together with the protein, it keeps me full all day long. Plus, fat makes things taste good.

Here is how I maintain my weight today:

  • I eat a substantial breakfast everyday. As they say, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. If what I eat is only going to keep me full for two hours, I won’t be at my most energetic or high-functioning levels for the rest of the day. Substantial doesn’t mean unhealthy or full of sugar. For me, it means yogurt and granola, or two eggs and a salad or fruit. Lunch is usually avocado and/or tomato on whole grain toast. Dinner is whatever sounds good, whether it’s Everyday Cassoulet or a double bacon cheeseburger.
  • In that same vein, I don’t deny cravings. If I want pizza, I am going to eat pizza. Just a slice or two kills the craving, and then I go on with my day. If I deny myself what I want, I will binge on it at some point. Eating a whole pizza is not good for my body or for my mind. I eat what I want and then go back to eating how I should, and I don’t feel one bit of guilt about it.
  • I don’t buy processed food beyond crackers, chips, and bread. Generally speaking, if I want to eat something, I make it. If I need to buy something pre-made, I check the list of ingredients to make sure I know and can pronounce each and every one.
  • I don’t eat when I’m not hungry, and I don’t eat food just because it’s there. This is simple. I do not have to eat food just because it’s available. If I am hungry, I eat. If I’m not, I don’t.
  • I don’t drink my calories. I have a Diet Coke every so often, but other than that, it’s just water and seltzer.
  • I walk 30-90 minutes everyday. This is made easier by living in a city that is basically built for walking. By getting out and moving for at least half an hour everyday, I have a chance to clear my head while also burning some calories. I am lucky in that I work a fifteen minute walk from my apartment–this guarantees 30 minutes of exercise everyday.
  • I save room for dessert. I love baking and eating sweets. I don’t eat the whole batch of whatever I’ve made (most of it is shared or given away), but I also don’t deny myself. Eating cookies and ice cream and pie is one of life’s simplest pleasures, and I love having something sweet at the end of the day.

Now, this is just what works for me. I am not a nutritionist or a dietician, so I am in no position to tell anyone how to eat or exercise. Not everyday falls squarely into these guidelines (there are exceptions to every rule), but most do. By allowing myself to eat what I want, even if it’s just a little bit, I am free to enjoy my life without worrying about calorie counts or if that one piece of cake is going to send me into a binge.

It’s taken me a long time to get to this point, but I’m happy with who I am and the relationship I have with food today. I never thought baking would lead me to a healthier lifestyle, but it has. Thank you for letting me share it with you.

July 2016