Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A raw macadamia cacao & coco tart to toast to changes

There were pancakes and apparently there will also be this.

And just like those decadent pancakes were fit for a Tuesday morning, this tart is manna for a random weekday afternoon.

But first I should probably explain why both of these are possible.

Remember that trip we went on? And then, that rough first day back? Well, turns out lots of things manifest when you write them down, not just cacao hotels in the Caribbean. If you've been popping by here for any amount of time, you know that I'm a little unsettled on the work side of things, that I'm still trying to shape that portion of my life, trying to figure out how to marry corporate J and crafty J, negotiating J and nesting J.

I'm a little less unsettled now, though, since on that first day back from St. Lucia I got a swift kick in the tush when I was laid off.

But it's okay! It's happened to me before—moving back to NYC when the economy is about to go to hell and providing a service that clients generally see as an "extra" doesn't make for rock-solid job security. This is actually the third time I've lost my job in the last six years, so I know what to do. I saw it coming, actually, as work had slowed way down, but I thought it would pick up again in the fall. Turns out, not so much.

While Day One found me a little shell-shocked, by Day Three my ex-colleagues / now-friends had come to my help armed with contacts, leads, and support and within a few days I already had some (really!) exciting freelance projects lined up to tackle on my own.

Now despite me really enjoying my old office and office mates (and office location for that matter—Soho really is the best neighborhood when it comes to excellent post-lunch strolling and after-work dining!), I have to say, I do not mind at all that I no longer have to be in the same place from 10AM-6:30PM every weekday. Rather than huffing my way into an office Monday to Friday at the same time, for the same amount of hours, I decided to be the boss of me and work when I want, where I want and how I want by finding projects to do on contract, versus joining another firm full-time.

It really makes the most sense given our general state of having absolutely no clue where we'll be next year and my own personality / work style. I was the third grader asking for homework on the first day of school because the thought of sitting at my little desk between my bedroom windows to complete an assignment in the peace and quiet of my girlish room made me giddy. The seven-year old that sat for hours by herself, hidden behind one of the couches in the formal living room, drawing maps of my dream farm on poster board, complete with the precise eastward-situation of the farmhouse and the complementarily-situated animal paddocks, hen house, and orchards with lengthy lists of the species for each area thanks to our set of burgundy Encyclopedias with gilded letters on the spines.

My father must have had stock in those marble composition books from Mead, because my brother and I were never without one...or three. On the first day of summer, if not sooner, I had my official Summer Schedule drafted, redrafted, and finalized on the first page of a new one, with salient points like, wake up at 7, walk dog at 7:15, make breakfast at 7:45, off to swim practice at 9, home for lunch at noon, studious reading (e.g., Dale Carnegie or Word Perfect texts) or Spanish Muzzy video watching at 1, reading for fun at 3, walk the dog at 4, go for a bike ride to the library or to see friends at 5, do laundry or help with dinner at 7, family time until 9, and then another dog walk.

It's not at all surprising that I live for routines, for the order of things. It's partly that I like to have control, but another part of me also likes the anticipation, the lead-up. Its why as soon as dinner is cleared and the kitchen is clean and we settle down to read or watch something (or knit) in the den that I'll glance at the clock and formally announce that we'll have tea and dessert in thirty minutes. Why I keep endlessly detailed appointments and to-do's in my Google calendar. For the anticipation and the archive. I want to know where I'm going to have brunch with friends next week and where I had dinner that one spring eve with that one friend four years ago.

So to say I'm excited about the idea of creating my own freelancer schedule and working mostly independently is putting it absurdly mildly.

I still get up early, but rather than rushing around to fit in a nice ease into the day, my workout, getting cleaned up and housekeeping odds and ends before rushing off to the subway or up the street for the walk in, I can linger over that cup of coffee and bout of knitting for a bit before settling down at the computer. Or, I can head out to work in a new location every day (stay tuned for some of my favorite laptop-friendly places around the city). I can make nice breakfasts and full-on dinners more often than just the weekend. I can be more productive because I can work my way—head down, fast and furiously, with no distractions.

Aside from my elation at this newly-untethered situation, I'm still a bit scared. It's a lot to balance, this unknown about where we live now, if we're moving abroad soon, and if I'll have projects to work on after this one (by the way, this first one is with a start-up, so it'll involve me working in their office more than I will remotely, which isn't what I wanted, but, it's worth the compromise to work on the type of project that I had hoped for (experiential branding), for some international travel to a really good place, and for some European connections given the way the team is set up for this project). But, given where we are with our timeline right now, it might actually come together perfectly.

For now, I'm focusing on the freeing part of my new arrangement. The ability to choose projects that interest me, the ability to better balance work and life, and the ability to perhaps be in a better situation if and when we move (by which I mean, making connections now that will help on the work and potentially social front later).

All of which make me think that this is definitely something to celebrate. In honor of that shocking, yet mostly-welcome change, make this tart and have yourself a hefty helping!

+ + +

This was inspired by two Angelas: Angela Liddon of Oh She Glows and her No Bake Elvis Bars for the crust and Angela Gallardo of Bare Root and her Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Tart with Fresh Strawberries for the filling. Here's how I combined pieces from each of them to make my own dessert:

// Raw macadamia cacao & coco tart
Makes one 9-inch tart

1 1/2 cups whole, raw macadamia nuts
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon cashew butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of fine grain sea salt, to taste

1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup raw cocoa powder
1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

+ Crush the macadamia nuts to a nice crumble in a food processor, then add the rest of the crust ingredients. I sprinkled in a little water at the end, too, to make it all come together.

+ Press the crumble crust mix into the bottom of a cake/pie pan, keeping it as even across as possible, then place the pan into the freezer to set.

+ Meanwhile, blend the filling ingredients together–if you layer them in the order above, you won't have cacao powder flying everywhere. Once it's nice and mousse-y, smooth it over the chilled crust and place the whole shebang in the fridge to set.

+ Cut yourself a generous triangle and enjoy!


  1. YOU ARE MY HERO!!! Bravo! I'm cheering for you! I guess there is no way to quell that 'worry' initially... but I bet it'll go away after time and again you see a steady stream of projects coming your way. I know lots of entrepreneurs and they say it takes about a year for your brain to adjust into accepting that YES there will be a next project even if you don't know where it's coming from yet.

    1. Awww, I know I can always count on you for encouragement! Thanks for the cheers, Alla! :)

  2. This is really exciting, J! I know it sucks to get laid off, but it seems like you're handling it really well and you were ready for the change. It's so nice to be able to create your own schedule and choose your clients (for the most part - gotta pay the bills!). Aaron was actually laid off around this time last year (from a job he hated and was planning to leave, although not so soon) and that's when he decided to do his current business full-time. :)
    We're a lot alike in enjoying the anticipation and orderliness of planning and list-making. And also this tart...totally something I would make. xoxo

    1. Thanks, Amanda! So inspiring to hear that Aaron's business (and chic new office space) was propelled along by a layoff last year. Here's hoping I'll wind up in as good of a position (or at least with some new orchids—ha!).

      Nice to discover more of our similarities—perhaps you'll put an embargo on your chocolate break long enough to make this tart? ;)


  3. I am so excited and refreshed to hear your new journey dear...getting laid off is definitely not a fun thing but if you have an exciting things to look for then maybe its a great thing after all. And I am all about google calendar, gives me so much control and planning :)

    1. Thanks, Dixya! I'm hoping it will be :)

      And, amen to Google Calendar! xx.

  4. "I decided to be the boss of me and work when I want, where I want and how I want by finding projects to do on contract, versus joining another firm full-time." Delicious!!! just like that pie!!! xoox

  5. Oh my, now idea how I missed your note 9 months ago, Elizabeth, but THANK YOU! :) Xx.


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