self-serve fro yo

This is one of the best things in my life right now.

Happy Summer!!

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daily dessert – sweet melissa

I had such a great weekend – I really needed it. I usually work on the weekends, but I decided to let myself off the hook so I could usher in the season properly.

On Saturday, we cleaned the hell out of the apartment, which always feels amazing. We collected five huge bags of shoes and clothes to donate and made some promises to each other about keeping up on our chores so we can maintain all our hard work.

Sunday was a day of complete leisure – a picnic in Prospect Park with my friends from The PIT, lots of drinking and eating and playing games. It was a blast. I slept hard Sunday night.

And today, Monday, I did some work in the morning, went to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in the afternoon (pictures later this week!), and met up with my friend Daniel for a stroll in Park Slope and a fantastic dinner in the early evening.

On our stroll, we walked by Sweet Melissa Patisserie – I’ve seen it a dozen times but I’ve never been inside. Today I left my real camera at home, but I snapped some shots with my phone – it’s such a cute little bakery.

We ordered two small bite-sized items: a delicious little Florentine and a thumbprint cookie. Both were excellent. I’d love to go back and sample some more of their yummy treats. Plus, they sell ice cream, coffee, have an adorable seating area AND a back garden!

Sweet Melissa Patisserie
175 Seventh Avenue (btwn 1st & 2nd Streets)
Brooklyn, NY
(They also have a Carroll Gardens location.)

I’m ready for June to begin tomorrow! I’m looking forward to a great week.

daily dessert

Look what Kevin brought home yesterday! I didn’t even know they made this. I love the Joe-Joe’s from Trader Joe’s, they’re like Oreos!

Obviously the ice cream version is divine.

We haven’t had ice cream around here for a while. I have to be careful or I will eat it all. 🙂

stupid brain

I took the day off today – something I don’t get to do as often as I thought I would when I quit my desk job last year.

I’ve been working a lot of hours lately – writing, baking, performing and rehearsing. I can’t wait for those hours to be fewer some day, but for now I am building something. It takes time!

It’s hard for me to take a day off – it gives me anxiety. I feel like there are things I could be doing, should be doing, like opportunities and paychecks are slipping through my fingers. It’s kind of ridiculous. So today, instead of staying cooped up in my house on the computer all day long, I decided to shut my own stupid brain up and enjoy the beautiful, warm spring Saturday, guilt-free.

the brooklyn bakery examiner

I did not take this adorable photo, nor did I make this adorable cookie. This is the Pumpkin Whoopie Pie from One Girl Cookies, a Brooklyn bakery. And the photo was taken by Kathy YL Chan, and posted on her site, Serious Eats NY, The Dessert Files. (Yum.)

So, speaking of One Girl Cookies, I want to share with you guys my first published article as the Brooklyn Bakery Examiner (!!) over at Examiner.com. My short piece is called “The Story of One Girl Cookies – a Cobble Hill, Brooklyn Bakery.” Click here to read it.

I am so excited to continue to write this column. As you’re all well aware, I love all things sweets. I also love many things Brooklyn. So this is a match. I already have a bazillion ideas in mind for places to write about and explore. I’ll probably even have to revisit some of my favorites from daily dessert. Do you remember the trip I took to Baked in Red Hook, Brooklyn? That was one of the best days of my life.

(July. Coming soon to a city near you.)

Yeaaah, so this isn’t gonna be too bad at all, this new gig. In fact, I can’t think of many other things I’d rather be doing.

p.s. I’ve heard rumors that it’s going to be almost 80 degrees in NYC this weekend. We’re going to the beach, right? (I’m kidding…Am I?)

daily dessert + an overdue update

This melty mess of a cupcake was, without question, the best thing I’ve eaten in the last week. It’s a chocolate peanut butter omg you would die cupcake. My best friend, Daniel, who is also my former roommate from before I moved in with Kevin, went home to Tampa last week to see his family. And he brought back with him what he knows perfectly well is one of my greatest weaknesses, a dessert item from Wright’s in Tampa.

Wright’s is the best sandwich shop ever. Period. And they also make the most amazing cake I’ve ever had in my life. Ever. Period. They just recently started making cupcakes. HOLY COW. This was incredible. And I am forever indebted to Daniel for carrying it all the way back to NYC with him on the plane. He got one for me, one for himself, and one for his current roommate, who didn’t happen to be home when we broke them out to eat them. So Daniel ate his, I ate mine. And then. Like two fat kids hiding in the basement eating twinkies WE ATE THE OTHER ONE. Awful. Awful, awful. I said, “What are you going to tell your roommate?” He said, “I’ll just go get him something from the store.” Ugh. It was worth it, though. Also, we didn’t have a choice. The cupcakes were stronger than we were.

Speaking of cupcakes…

You all remember my dear friend, Elizabeth Blue, don’t you? Well, the above photo was taken by Blue herself. But more importantly, the above cupcakes were MADE by Blue herself. Aren’t they awesome?

Blue is a very captivating young woman with dozens of interests and strengths, including enviable cupcake-making skills. I’m excited to see what she has up her sleeve for this year of her life. She quit her waiting tables job last year, just a couple months before I quit my job. Her gut-decision actually inspired me to get the heck on with my own quit-my-job plan instead of just talking about it. She’s been through a lot of transition in the last few months, but transition is always exciting because out of transition grows your next chapter!

All cupcakes aside, it’s been a busy few days around here. We had a hectic weekend, complete with a friend’s (lovely) wedding and several meetings, a fundraiser show, and lots of odds and ends.

And last week was no different. Here’s one unbelievable thing that happened. My good friend Billy called me up and asked me if I wanted to go with him the very next morning to one of the leading advertising agencies in the country, and – more or less – help them brainstorm for a few hours for one of their current projects. What?! And! They were going to be paying us a significant sum of money for the short time we were asked to lend our brainstorming services. WHAT?!

Of course, so grateful to Billy, I jumped at the opportunity. I’ve been collecting any and all odd ways to make money lately – from babysitting, to a couple new writing gigs I’ve got (more on that in a moment), to coaching improv teams – anything that can help make ends meet. So I would have been foolish to have turned this down. Not only because of the money, but also because of the fascinating experience it promised to be. I’ve never been part of a real-life advertising brainstorm session before. It’s a subculture of the world I was very intrigued to learn more about.

So why did they want three comedians, Billy, me, and another comedian friend of ours, to come help them with their campaign? Good question. I asked myself the same question a dozen times that morning. Ultimately, it turns out that the guy who was sort of running the session was a very open-minded person. He clearly spent his time thinking mostly outside the box, and evidently it works for him, because he’s got a big, important job, doing big, important things, making big, important money. And he was wearing a t-shirt. So he probably gets to do what he pleases. Not bad.

Once we arrived, we learned that the gentleman in charge had also asked musicians, graphic designers, sound people, even a famous anthropologist (!) – professionals from all aspects of creating an advertisement, to be part of the brainstorming process. Traditionally, it doesn’t work that way. Traditionally, the actors, musicians, etc. show up after the fact and simply implement the plan that the ad agency has come up with. But this guy wanted everyone to be part of the process from the beginning. Pretty smart, I think. Seems like a solid way to figure out the best possible ad campaign.

It was a fun, weird, wacky morning of my life, but one I will never forget. And my bank account is also eternally grateful.

The only other thing I’m excited to share with you is that I’ve been writing over at Gather.com. Here is my profile. Basically, I’ve been hired as one of their “socialwriters,” which are people who write short articles on the hot topics of the day. I can actually write about anything that interests me, but because we get paid based on how many people view a certain article, so far I’ve only stuck to the stuff that’s popular right now. I definitely plan to branch out and write about more of my personal interests and less about what’s in the news right now, but since I only started writing for them this past Friday, I’m still getting my feet wet. I’ve written articles on everything from Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, to Passover Recipes, to the story of Palm Sunday – I’ve even covered some celebrity news stories like Bethenny Frankel’s wedding. So far, I’m having a blast. I’m perfecting my quick writing and editing skills with every article. And I’m making some spending money!

Besides Gather, I was also asked last week to be a writer for a website called the Examiner.com. They’ve asked me to become their “Brooklyn Bakery Examiner,” which is obviously perfect and obviously right up my alley. I haven’t written anything for them yet, but I’ll let you know as soon as my first Brooklyn Bakery article comes out. So exciting!

Perfect timing for both of these gigs, for sure. I am absolutely adoring that I can write and earn money. That’s always been a dream.

Fanny & Jane is chugging along too. We had a fantastic meeting over the weekend with some very trusted friends and advisers and we devised a plan for the next few months of the business. I’m so excited about what’s possible with this little bakery, and I’m so happy with how far we’ve come. It’s a labor of love, for sure, but I wouldn’t change it.

So, that’s the update! Thanks for bearing with me while I try to carve out time in each day to write for Gather and the Examiner, and also to write the stuff I love writing the most which is for y’all on this blog, and also while I still (still) try to balance growing and expanding the bakery with all the rest of it. I hope my posts here won’t be too intermittent, but if they become so for a few days, you’ll know why!

Oh yes, and one more thing. The magnolia tree next door to our house has started to blossom.

Progress! Hope! Spring!

daily dessert – van leeuwen ice cream

A daily dessert?! WHAT?!?! It’s been ages.

I was just telling Kevin the other day how ridiculous it is that I’ve barely posted a daily dessert since I quit my job six months ago, despite the fact that I have more free time than I did when I was working at that desk. It certainly speaks to the big adjustment this new lifestyle has been – trying to figure out how to negotiate it all, to keep doing the things I love, to pull back on the things that don’t need my focus right now – it’s a juggle for sure.

So, it’s time to start featuring some of my favorite dessert experiences again. And what better place to start than with the brand new store front location of NYC’s beloved artisan ice cream truck, Van Leeuwen. If you live in New York, you’ve seen the pale yellow truck frequenting the streets of the city, offering fresh, straight forward, delicious ice cream in a fantastic variety of flavors. They’ve got the standards like chocolate and vanilla, but they also have more exotic flavors like red currant, earl grey, and ginger. Despite walking by their truck dozens of times, I’d never stopped to partake.

Then, while in Greenpoint a few days ago, on a beautiful, warm, sunny spring day no less, I walked by their new store front location and I decided I had no choice but to stop in.

I forgot how awkward it can be to start snapping photos after you place an order with someone behind a counter. I never know if they mind or not, but I always feel super weird about it, so I try to take my shots as quickly and slyly as possible. I don’t think he noticed…eh who am I kidding, he probably noticed.

He recommended the earl grey flavor, but I’ve always been a big fan of strawberry ice cream, especially if it’s made with only a handful of high-quality ingredients.

I almost ordered a coffee too, but I couldn’t afford it.

I love the ambiance of this little shop. Even though it’s a small space, it feels very airy thanks to soft lighting and a big picture window in the front that opens up onto the street. And I really like the colors and textures they’ve chosen – they’re relaxing.

The strawberry ice cream was very good. I wish there had been more strawberry chunks, but that’s just a personal preference. It was otherwise delightfully tangy and sweet, and tasted very clean and simple. And I always like knowing I’m eating ingredients that are farmed or grown locally.

I have a feeling Van Leeuwen’s new store front is gonna be jumpin’ once the spring and summer weather is here to stay. I’m so glad I stopped in – I just adore new sweet treat shops because I know how much love and care has gone into them. I’m sure that’s true for any new business, but – for obvious reasons – shops that offer sweet stuff have a special place in my heart.

daily dessert

Can you believe how long it’s been since I’ve done a daily dessert segment!? I can’t even remember the last time. It’s not that I haven’t been enjoying yummy desserts lately, but the truth is, some days I’ll only eat a little something sweet and it’s not blogworthy. And some days I’ll just eat a couple bites of Fanny & Jane leftovers. But the main reason, most likely, that I haven’t been writing daily dessert lately is because I’m so constantly surrounded by desserts that I haven’t been craving them as often as I used to. Smelling a fresh pan of brownies just out of the oven is enough for me to feel like I’ve satisfied my sweet tooth. Weird, right?

(Don’t worry. I’m making up for the loss of calorie consumption by eating more pizza.)

Last night, after a weekend filled with baking sweets, shipping sweets, a dinner party, a sketch comedy show performance, an all-girls sleepover with some of my Bests, a (terrible) movie-going experience, and lots of red wine, I headed home to Brooklyn to CRASH. I desperately needed to sleep off not only the very busy and very fun weekend, but also the entire last week.

I worked harder last week than I may have ever worked in my life. Naturally that’s meant to be an exaggeration, but then I think about my life and I think – Really, though, when have you ever worked this hard? It was just nonstop. And that’s not a bad thing. It is a challenge and an adjustment.

Last night when I got home I laid on the couch watching TV for the first time in forever and I marveled at how much I was able to accomplish over the last seven days – how many hours I spent each day moving, planning, organizing, arranging and troubleshooting. I ached from it all. I fell asleep at 11pm last night and slept FOR TWELVE HOURS. Yeah. Like I’m a 7-year-old kid with the flu. My body is so thankful today.

Before I landed on that couch last night, and after the horrible movie I saw (I won’t even tell you what it was for fear that you saw it, liked it, and we therefore cannot be friends anymore), I stopped at Trader Joe’s to pick up a few odds and ends. Poor Kevin has not had real food in this house in days. (He does the laundry around here. I do the grocery shopping.) I just haven’t had time to shop. So I grabbed some eggs, some fruits and veggies, and some cereal and bread at TJ’s – just stuff to tide us over until Thanksgiving. And then I saw these.

And I had to have them. They just looked so…delicious? Unique? Vintage? I don’t know. I was drawn in. When I got them home, Kevin’s interest was piqued as well and we immediately cracked open the box.

Oh my gosh they’re so yummy! I love them.

They’re salty, sweet and the maple cream filling is SO GOOD. They’ve inspired me to try to create a maple treat to add to the Fanny & Jane menu. (We’re also considering adding Snickerdoodles to the menu for December! I adore Snickerdoodles, especially when they’re the perfect combination of chewy and crispy. You know what I mean.)

I’m already enjoying this slower paced week. I have a few business-related odds and ends to finish up today and tomorrow. And I have to prepare two easy Thanksgiving side dishes. I’m also going to do a quick apartment clean and I want to get a couple good workouts in before the holiday. Beyond that stuff, I’m hoping these next two and a half days, and the long, fat, sleepy weekend that awaits us all, will be relaxing. I definitely need some time to recuperate and recalibrate before the December rush (Eeeeeeeek!!!!).

For Turkey Day, Kevin and I are heading upstate with some good friends. My best friend Adam and his parents have generously invited us to join them for their annual Thanksgiving weekend. I will miss my family for sure, but it wasn’t convenient to go home to Illinois for both Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. A few of our friends from college have been going up to Adam’s parents’ house for years and years to spend Thanksgiving together and this is the first year Kev and I will be tagging along. We can’t wait!

daily dessert

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Okay so maybe these look a bit odd close up, but they’re amazing. I promise.

I had a long day outside the apartment today – missed a yoga class because of a slow midday train, grocery shopped and had lunch in the city instead, babysat for an awesome 4-year-old kid for a couple hours, went to Harvard Sailing Team practice, and then to Biggest Loser Club to watch the show with my friendies – certainly nothing to complain about, and another good day, but a long one.

I’m finally home now and it’s late, but before I go to bed, I wanted to tell you about a super easy, yummy sweet treat I made earlier this week: No Bake Cookies.

When I was a kid, my mom used to make these, and I absolutely love them. I still remember the blue and white ceramic plate she’d sit them on in the fridge. They’re a family favorite. And they’re incredibly easy to make.

There are many varieties of No Bake Cookies out there, so if you like the one you know, stick with that. But if you want to try something new (or if you love peanut butter like I do), give these a whirl. You won’t be disappointed.

Best of all! It’s another Grandma Rose recipe!

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Grandma Rose’s No Bake Cookies

1 stick regular oleo (or butter)
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

1/2 cup milk
1 cup chunky peanut butter (creamy is fine too)
3 cups quick oats
1 tsp vanilla

Bring the oleo/butter, sugar, cocoa and milk to a boil over MEDIUM heat. Continue boiling for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Add peanut butter, oatmeal and vanilla. Stir quickly. Drop by spoonful onto wax paper.

If they don’t harden immediately, you can put them in the refrigerator to firm up.

I’d like to note that in addition to the butter substitution, I also used vanilla soy milk instead of regular milk, because that’s all we had. And I used regular oats instead of quick oats, also because that’s what we had. The quick oats are probably better for this recipe – the regular oats were still pretty “raw” once they were mixed into the rest of the ingredients, but I didn’t really mind. They changed the consistency, but not the flavor. So I say, use quick oats if you can, but if not, you’ll survive.

My favorite part of my grandmother’s recipe is that she’s written, “Eat yourself,” which you can see if you look closely at the bottom of the notecard, meaning I should eat them all myself. Haha. I genetically inherited my love for peanut butter from this woman.

Oh and I ate about ninety spoonfuls of this batter before I even let them harden into cookies. It’s that good. PEANUT BUTTER, PEOPLE!

daily dessert

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On my way to the grocery store yesterday, I saw this sign. As you may have gathered by the insane amount of pumpkin cookies I’ve made so far this season (I’m making pumpkin brownies today!), I’m really into pumpkin right now. Being that I’m a human adult, I’ve been craving a pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks lately, but I haven’t gotten one yet. Mostly because I always end up spending my dessert calories on something else.

So when I saw this sign yesterday, I was thrilled. I love Red Mango, as I’ve discussed before, and I love pumpkin. Perfect.

Then I waffled back and forth about it – do I go buy one? I just had something else sweet before I got on the subway to come here. Do I really need it? Am I that hungry? OH JUST GO, I thought. I really didn’t want to spend the money, but I was obviously stressing myself over it. So I went.

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And lo and behold, just as I was walking in, one of the Red Mango employees was walking out WITH a tray of samples! He literally met me at the door and said, “Would you like to try the new pumpkin spice flavor?”

Um, YES!

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I was so pleased that I didn’t have to spend upwards of $5 on a small cup of fancy frozen yogurt (it’s the little things when you’re unemployed). And the pumpkin spice, although tasty and interesting, wasn’t amazing. I obviously would have eaten the whole serving if I’d gotten it, but I’m glad I got to taste it first because now I know not to go buy a big container. It just wasn’t good enough.

My real dessert treat yesterday, though, was something gifted to me by my dear friend Marina. She gave me the last piece of a date and brown butter tart she’d made earlier this month as a congratulations present for quitting my job! It was a very sweet gesture.

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I ate the bottom portion of this piece yesterday after lunch, and saved the top piece for another time. You guys, this was delicious. So so good. And you can find the recipe here.

This was honestly one of the best sweet treats I’ve had in ages. And the most interesting thing about it is that it’s not even that sweet.  Marina described it to me as being similar to olive oil cake, which led me to believe that it was more flavorful than it was sugary, and she was right. The dates add the perfect amount of sweetness and the tart itself, well it’s just incredibly good. I sat on my couch eating it so slowly and deliberately, mm-ing and ahh-ing the whole way.

Thanks, Marina!

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