CARAMELISED FIG SKILLET PIZZA-STYLE PANCAKES + farewell to this blog + a journey from an anonymous food blog to cookbook, part 1

It is with a very sentimental and somewhat heavy heart that I announce the impending closure of this particular blog chapter. Unless you’ve shared the good, bad and everything in between via a blog before, you probably cannot understand the attachment I have to a place that has given me the ability to connect, express myself, create, celebrate and even share about some of the most personally difficult times with many who would be strangers to me had this platform not existed. My blog is not disappearing into the ether, but it will be reinvented… revamped in a way that will actually benefit everyone who visits, with better performance, easier to find recipes/posts and improved navigation overall. But, despite the far-from-optimal navigation on this blog theme that has seen me through all these years so far, I have loved my non-slick, unpolished little corner of the internet. And the move to a self-hosted site feels very incredibly overwhelming right now.

On an emotional level, it is not unlike the move from our first apartment in Stockholm (a 34m2 studio, with one window and the smallest bathroom in the world) to the first home we owned with actual bedrooms in 2009. I remember shedding tears one night as I sat in our bed (that folded out from the lounge room wall), saying to my husband that I was scared of “all the space” in the new apartment, even though I knew the move would bring new opportunities for us. He assured me that I would get used to it and that I wouldn’t miss the old space (lack thereof) as much as I thought I would. And despite my initial concerns, he was absolutely right. There hasn’t been a single day that I have regretted our decision to move back then. Nor to move again to the place we currently call home.

Because I don’t know how long this blog migration journey will take (hopefully not long) and because there is only 1 month left until my first cookbook, Naturally Sweet Vegan Treats, launches I thought I’d take you on a retrospective little trip down blogosphere lane. I am sure there are many of you who don’t know the origins of this blog, so here goes. In August of 2011, when my little guy Louie was a not-yet-crawling-baby-bundle-meets-kitchen-companion, I came across an ad somewhere for free blog hosting. Having cluttered my Macbook desktop to the point of literal distraction with recipes, crafting projects to-do, personal photos and musings, I decided a blog could be a perfect place to both collect all this digital stuff and keep me accountable to following through on my domestic bucket list. Because I wanted to remain anonymous, I chose a variation on a nickname I have had since I was 9-10 years old as my blog/pen name (that would be Miss Marzipan). And because I didn’t have any money to sink into it, I chose a free blog theme. I wrote some words, I clicked “publish” and thus my first blog post went live on August 8, 2011.

I began cooking, crafting and sharing, keeping my blog and my domestic pursuits completely anonymous. Whereas some people like to announce a project such as this on Facebook to build support from the get-go, I wanted to keep my blog to myself. If I am honest, I suspected that anyone who knew me irl would find this caper all rather lame and uninteresting. With my secret blog there was no prestige (hence not being overly concerned about the absolutely abominable Ericsson/Nokia [circa 2005] phone photography), no self-imposed “rules”, no pressure to perform, no need to justify my choices or interests… and no subscribers. I was genuinely happy doing my own thing, keeping a record for myself of my daily “adventures” at home with my first baby, without self-promotion… even if it meant I was playing to an empty audience. In fact I assumed I’d be sharing to myself for quite some time.

And then I embarked upon the first of many blog “challenges”. Having returned to veggiedom during my pregnancy with Louie, I was already deeply indebted to and in love with all things wholesome and plant-based, but an episode of Oprah led me to partake in her One-Week Vegan Challenge which I documented, along with everything else I did that involved food. It brought the first visitors to my blog, which in turn led me to discover other people’s blogs and, lo and behold, I was possibly the last blogger in the history of the blogosphere to find out there was a “community” here. As my passion for cooking grew, I began to attend food related workshops and talks (both here in Sweden and in Australia), to follow a couple of blogs (the first was Cupcake Project) and to document just about everything I did at home, from making my own toxin-free cleaners to baking for babies. I started to invest money in kitchen implements and appliances that would have seemed ludicrous to me at other stages of my life. KitchenAid ice-cream maker attachments, deluxe Wilton cake decorating caddies, 24-hole cupcake carry cases… you name it, I was geeking out over it and spending stupid amounts of money on it.

I was a good experimenter, but not a good blogger. I took long breaks from posting during travel and when I returned to work briefly after my first period of maternity leave (and I’m still not great in the ol’ consistency department, as you will no doubt be aware if you are a subscriber). I know it is probably hard to fathom, but for some reason I was terrified about people finding out about my blog, while paradoxically wanting to connect. As such, I took paranoid public blogging to the next level and refused to use even my first name here or even identify the country in which I resided. And selfies? Ugh. The thought of me posting a picture of myself made me physically anxious. Only one person with whom I connected here knew me in real life (hi Kim!) and we chatted intermittently via post comments on each other’s blogs about the things we liked that had nothing to do with our real jobs at the office in which we both worked, she as a copywriter and me as an art director.

I did many things that career bloggers clearly don’t do… and after a year I had around 7 followers as a result. And then came the event that changed everything; my pregnancy with Lillian. It was high risk and I found myself in and out of the emergency room at our local hospital, me and my tiny unborn Lillian surviving hemorrhage after terrifying hemorrhage, before I was eventually put on bed rest with a diagnosis of “a very large” and threatening SCH. At the end of weeks of strict bed rest (and meditation, journal writing, gratitude lists and whatever I could do to save my sanity and my baby), I had to take it very easy, but was finally able to move around my own home. I began to cook and bake with a never seen before fervour that was fueled by a combination of boredom, gratitude and pregnancy hormones. And I began to share what was going on for me on my blog. This changed the way I communicate online and it is something that has stuck to this day (once you start sharing in a certain way, it is hard to go back). I realised that it’s not so terrifying to let other people see glimpses of your life in its roughest, rawest and most downcast moments. There is beauty in the realness… and relatability too. That’s when people really started to find my blog. And I started caring less that they were finding it. In fact, I started to feel more “me” and began to connect with certain fellow bloggers and subscribers in a more personal way. I am happy to say that many of those people are still here today, Gallivanta, Violet, Clanmother, Mimi, Sophie, Laura and Mazigrace included (I am grateful to all of you who have hung around and shared your lives and work here too).

Another pivotal moment was my trip back to Australia in 2013-2014. I was not only introduced to Poh Ling Yeow (thanks to a hook-up from my awesome brother), but I was given the opportunity to work alongside her, assisting at the opening of Jamface. It was the first time I had worked with food in this kind of way, let alone with a celebrity cook, although my history working with food stretches way back to my very first job working in what is now a gastropub in Adelaide (then it was more of a regular pub… with food) as a teenage high school student. Poh was baffled as to why I didn’t have an Instagram account and encouraged me to get one, promising to stay in touch with me via my account if I did. And so I got Instagram. I also finally saw the benefit (after 3 years!) of sharing blog posts with images taken with an actual camera. Because, up until that time, this blog had been the equivalent of a personal journal shared online, it had never crossed my mind to up my game in terms of visual presentation. Which is actually crazy considering my professional background is art direction, graphic design and visual communication (including photography). Somehow I had never seen the two paths merging. What I created for work was completely distinct from what I shared on my blog in every way imaginable. Anyway, around the same time as my day at Jamface, I spontaneously picked up a copy of Sarah Wilson‘s I Quit Sugar for Life at the check-out of a store in Adelaide. And so began a new wave of cooking, sharing and eventually joining the IQS8WP, my experiences of which I documented… everywhere! This, I suppose, is pivotal moment number 5 (if we are keeping track of numbers of pivotal blog moments!).

By the time I eventually joined Instagram in 2014, I was well-practiced at sharing about the happenings in my life with a degree of openness that was pretty uncommon in amongst the punchy one-line captions signed off with witty hashtags of many a Macbook and marble-featuring flatlay. However, it took me some time to get to grips with this new platform. For one thing, I did not understand the mechanism of hashtags and thought they were some kind of cool internet speak, not realising their actual function was to make posts discoverable. Yes. Pathetic, I know. I quickly learned, however, when my posts were “miraculously” found by people unconnected to me (which was 99.999999999999% of the Instagram population as, once again, I could count my followers on two hands). I continued to cook, share and connect with new people, many of whom were also interested in more wholesome food of a veggie and less sugary kind. The newly formed I Quit Sugar community was supportive, engaged and engaging. I made good friends, many of whom I have since had the chance to meet in real life. I even had breakfast with Sarah Wilson herself at a cafe in Sydney around the exact time her book, First, We Make the Beast Beautiful, launched. But that’s skipping way ahead in the story.

So, I shared my sugar-free veggie food on Instagram and I won “Sarah’s Picks” for the mid-year round of the IQS8WP in 2014, and suddenly… BOOM. No more hiding behind my nickname and smoothie jar for a profile pic. I Quit Sugar wanted me to do an interview and they wanted to see what I looked like. And finally, after 3 years of blogging, I decided to share who I was (in a low-key way). The evidence of this event is my profile pic on Instagram, which has remained unchanged since. And though I feel the image still says a lot about me, strangely it might be one of the few occasions I have worn colour in the past 20 years, so in that way is not at all reflective of my life… or rather, of my 99% black wardrobe. Amazingly people didn’t start hating on me or leaving me abusive comments after I shared more of who I was. On the contrary, I started to connect with more people.

Meanwhile, I had decided to invest in an actual camera and found a demo model in a camera store window; a Canon 7D. Having previously gone through my entire university art school degree using a hockshop-bought Pentax from the 1970s and developing my own photos in a darkroom, digital photography was a new and slightly (ok, very) intimidating world. But over the next couple of years of experimenting, I discovered that I could combine my professional background as a creative with my rather expensive food hobby… and actually recoup some of the money I was throwing around grocery stores in Stockholm like confetti. In the summer of 2014 my sweet parents encouraged me to incorporate into our family holidays trips to Finland and England, where photography workshops were being held. I am going to be honest. What I get from these types of situations is inspiration and connection. I am someone who learns the practicalities best by doing, teaching myself and practicing in my own time by working on personal projects. It’s how I went from being completely computer illiterate in 2001 when I started university (I literally did not know how email worked and technology felt like my nemesis… but that is a whole other story), to working on a Mac daily and being versed, to an adequate point, in the entire Adobe Creative Suite. But those workshops were incredibly valuable, well worth it experiences, and I made wonderful friends and connections along the way.

After the summer holidays and prior to returning to my job as an art director, I decided to enrol in an intensive pastry course that took place during the evenings so my husband could be with our two little ones. The days were incredibly long, as I would wake early with two bubs to care for and return from pastry school on the subway close to midnight on occasion. What took me to pastry school was passion; a passion for both baking and learning. I never saw myself becoming a commercial kitchen pastry chef (which would have involved taking extra studies and, most likely, an apprenticeship) and I still don’t. I don’t have the right temperament and I don’t think I’d be able to maintain the momentum necessary to keep things both functioning and interesting. I always saw myself being a happy home baker and, because my time at pastry school coincided with my husband going (ethical) vegan and me quitting sugar, it was a given that I would experiment further at home on my own with treats of a healthier, plant-based nature (my first experiments actually began in 1992 when I was a Morrissey-quoting, lone vegetarian schoolgirl… and, for the purposes of transparency, my food back then was not far short of appalling).

What I discovered at pastry school was that traditional pastries and their contemporary plant-based, white sugar-free counterparts can have very little in common. But I still learned valuable lessons and the overall experience was fabulous. I developed a whole new level of appreciation for the chemistry of baking, the artistic craft of presentation (although my own home bakes still err on the rustic side of the spectrum, ’cause #motherhood), not to mention the practicalities of “organised” baking such as mis en place, timing, the clean-as-you-go approach and the weighing and measuring of ingredients. I tend to work well in group situations especially when I’m 1) placed with other hard workers (I can’t abide slackness) and 2) afforded some degree of autonomy. My baking partner, Linda, and I kept a clean station and stayed on track with timing (I often went a little over when decorating, though!), managing to share an oven, stove top and implements quite naturally.

I continued to bake, share, blog and Instagram (yes, I use it as a verb and a noun) even after I returned to my corporate job. I found myself eating a lot of lunches at Sally Voltaire’s restaurant near my office (the Vegan Salad was my go-to) and dreaming about food. I even made food to bring in for my team (Taline Gabriel‘s Raweos, for example). And despite the fact that I was running, eating well, doing regular yoga and the like, I began to get sick. All. The. Time. My immunity was shot, I was putting on weight inexplicably, my anxiety levels started going through the roof and the commute to work (although short, because I live in the city) became a personal nightmare. Because I literally did not know what was going on for me medically or emotionally, I couldn’t communicate it with my co-workers, as much as I liked them (and still do). I still liked my job too and I can honestly say it was, in general, one of the best I have had for so many reasons. But I knew that something was way off with me and that I needed to find a path out of it.

Around this time, the poop hit the proverbial fan with various Instagram “wellness stars” being outed for sharing bogus nutritional advice (along with fake diagnoses). This rocked my world as, naive as it may sound, I had started to buy into the whole green smoothie lifestyle (NB: I still love smoothies, but they’re certainly not a cure-all). I’d begun to feel like a failure because I was trying to live “my best life” and was embracing many of the “clean living” (I hate that expression, hence quotation marks) things I was encountering, and yet I was sick… sick to the point of needing to have lymph nodes biopsied to find out what was wrong with me. It turns out it was terrible immunity and freaked out lymph nodes* (*not the official medical term). When the truth came out about certain wellness figures I’d been following, I vowed to be more mindful about “influence”. I vowed to always share my food from a personal place rather than a dogmatic, preaching one… not to tell people how to live (especially those who were unwell, looking for hope or otherwise vulnerable), but to share what I loved and what worked for me from an anecdotal perspective, even if it was rather unglamorous (and my life is often rather flour-dusted and unglamorous). Non-judgy sharing from a personal stance has always been my way online and I hope it will continue to be so, but this so-called “wellness” influencer fiasco cemented my position on the matter.

And then, pivotal moment 654 (erm, I’ve lost count at this point): Oliver.

When I found out about my pregnancy with Oliver, firstly I was overjoyed. Overjoyed is a gross understatement, actually. I knew he was meant to be here. I knew it. And, despite my medical and pregnancy history and all the naysayers (some people were literally upset with me when I told them I was pregnant again), I knew all would be well. My health improved drastically overnight. And it was by far the easiest and most chill pregnancy of the three. I also heard an internal voice say early on in the pregnancy, “This baby will save you”. It sounds crazy, I know. But in some ways, I guess it is true. I went through some damn stressful periods at work in 2015 and unfortunately the peak of it all coincided with my third trimester. But the gift of landing in hospital with cramps more painful than contractions around Christmas 2015, was that I was able to make a decision, with support from my doctors, to step back. It was hard on one hand, but I had a baby and my health to protect. So I did it.

In the weeks leading up to my due date in early 2016, I finally accepted my first paid commission for food-related work (recipe development and photography). I had rejected all other offers for paid blog or Instagram collaborations up until that point, but this particular offer came from one of Sweden’s largest and best organic food producers and I felt I couldn’t say no. To ensure it was all legitimate, I re-registered a freelance company in Sweden… literally in the same week that Oliver was born. Around Oliver’s due date, I sat in the car park of BB SöS (the hospital where I was due to give birth) having contractions in the car whilst speaking on the phone to an editor from one of Europe’s biggest publishing houses. That very day I was supposed to be meeting with the editor and my co-author to discuss a book project we’d been working on. Instead, I found myself waiting for a midwife to check how effaced and dilated I was. Gotta love timing, eh?

But for some reason, despite missing this HUGE meeting with someone who could potentially change my life forever, I was absolutely cool with how things panned out. And in hindsight I am so grateful that it didn’t come to pass, as it would have been an emotional catastrophe to take on a book project with a (brand) new-born baby and two toddlers in tow! Some people might be able to juggle such weighty responsibilities (who even are you?), but being predisposed to anxiety, it would have resulted in a total breakdown for me. I am sure of it.

As it was, I continued to do what I had been doing… sharing my food by posting online. And then something else happened. I guess I had gotten a little bored of creating recipes of a certain kind, because for some BIZARRE reason I decided to fully embrace my love of all things geeky and fandom-y (I’m a fantasy fan from way back. 1980s… Yeah!) and share my own interpretation of Game of Thrones-themed recipes. I knew this could be a potentially DIRE move. Instagram favours the hip, so I thought, not the nerdy. Yet I felt the compulsion to go full geek. My content at that time was naturally in tune with what was en vogue by chance, not design. I was already veggie and eating sugar-free and even though these were longterm lifestyle choices and not a bandwagon I had jumped upon for the purpose of validation, I suppose my stuff was “on trend”. And Instagram eats trends for breakfast. Thus, because of this and the fact that the dreaded algorithm hadn’t kicked in, my engagement on Instagram was bafflingly high at the time (well over 20k engagements on a slice of avocado toast? Somewhat sad and bewildering, but true). I was starting to be offered more opportunities to make money doing what I already loved to do with brands I actually liked, and people who followed me knew what to expect from me…

And then, overnight, I decided to throw a potential spanner in the works by posting pictures of potions, elixirs and Dothraki-inspired tofu jerky. It was weird, it was whimsical, some people no doubt hated it, I loved every second of it. And I came to realise that I could unapologetically be myself and share what I loved… and it wouldn’t necessarily mean the death of my account or the end of my friendship with every hipster on “the gram”. I didn’t make a cent from anything GoT-related, nor did I set out to. But I did meet others who loved the books and show like I did, and I loved seeing what they created and sharing their work via my channels, regardless of how many followers they had. It was another one of those pivotal decisions. Why? Because I made more friends and became more “me” by sharing more of what I liked… and being unafraid to do so.

I know this isn’t a great cliffhanger to the story, but I think I will leave part one there. Part two will follow when this blog is shiny and new. In the meantime I’ll be counting the days until my book launches on the 23rd of October (23 is my lucky number, by the way) because it is still completely surreal to me that a published book with international distribution somehow sprang from the very random stuff I have written about in this post.

And I’ll leave you here with a picture taken in front of the very same wall as my Instagram profile picture of over 4 years ago (with an extra munchkin in the mix and my new book baby). Oh, and a delicious recipe… because I am still food-obsessed and if you are reading this, there’s a good chance you are too.

Love, Marisa x

My book is available internationally for pre-order now, and I am in the process of creating bonus material for all who pre-order. So if free extras appeal to you, you can find my book here online at your preferred bookstore.
(Apparently it’s already in store at Dymocks in Melbourne [say wha?!?],
my ultra talented friend Vickie Liu – aka Vickie Yo – informed me today when
she picked up a copy!)

 

 

Obsessed as I am with all things skillet/pizza/breakfast/fig-related, I literally dreamed this recipe. That’s right, my subconscious mind invented it while I slept. So if you see it elsewhere, the other creator is either 1) weirdly in synch with me and I with him/her 2) skilled in the art of legilimency. And if you like it, you have my subconscious to thank for it. Seriously though, it’s wholesome, grounding, satisfying, easy and inviting and features a skillet and jammy caramelised figs, so you *will* like it. Please let me know if you try it (comment here or tag me in your recreation post on Instagram if you happen to reside there).

And here’s a tip: if you allow it to cool completely and then slice it, it makes a perfect grab-and-go breakfast or treat. You’re welcome! x

CARAMELISED FIG SKILLET PIZZA-STYLE PANCAKES

Makes: 2 large or 4 individual, depending on skillet size
(Ingredient measurements in US cups & metric)


INGREDIENTS

1 3/4 cups (415 ml) unsweetened plant milk
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp (135 ml) well-mashed ripe banana (approximately 1 banana)
1 tbsp (15 ml) rice malt/maple syrup
1 tbsp (15 ml) baking powder
2 tbsp (30 ml) melted coconut oil (or extra milk)
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp (80 g) buckwheat flour (or spelt if you prefer)
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp (60 g) almond flour
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp (70 g) oat flour or 70 g of oats pulsed to a flour
1/4 tsp vanilla powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
A pinch of salt
4 fresh figs, sliced

Coconut oil for frying and brushing over
Approximately 1 tbsp (15 ml) coconut sugar for sprinkling over

 

DIRECTIONS

  1. Add all wet ingredients to a large mixing bowl and stir to combine.
  2. Add dry ingredients and fold through to combine.
  3. Heat a little coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat. Meanwhile, preheat your oven grill to 400°F (200°C).
  4. If using a larger sized skillet, ladle in half the batter from the mixing bowl (approximately 1 1/2 cups/360 ml). Do ensure you are using a skillet with an oven-safe handle. If using smaller skillets for individual serves, add a quarter of the batter to each one. Allow the batter to begin to cook for around 1 minute, so that the mix is just starting to set, then arrange half (or a quarter, if using small skillets) of the figs slices on top.
  5. Cook for around 3 minutes further on the stove top over medium heat or until you see the edges have cooked and small bubbles are forming on the surface.
  6. Gently brush a little coconut oil over the surface and evenly sprinkle over coconut sugar (a teaspoon or so will do per pancake).
  7. Transfer the skillet to the oven and allow the pancake surface to cook under the grill for 3-5 minutes or until the figs are caramelising, keeping a close eye on the skillet to ensure no burning occurs.
  8. Remove the skillet from the oven. Allow the pancake to cool at least slightly before slicing and serving.
  9. Repeat the cooking process with the remaining batter.
  10. Serve the pancake slices with coconut whipped cream, syrup, nuts and/or other toppings of choice.
    I served this one with a low-sweetener salted caramel sauce from my book, Naturally Sweet Vegan Treats.

 

NO-BAKE MISSISSIPPI MUD PIE – a vegan, gluten-free, refined sugar-free spin on a classic chocolate treat

There is a reason why my most requested recipe of 2017 (aka, this No-Bake Mississippi Mud Pie), is only making an appearance on this blog today. I’ll get to that and the recipe in a minute (well, actually a few minutes). Today is my birthday, a day I have had mixed feelings about celebrating since I was a little girl. Why? It is the expectation around occasions such as this combined with what I suppose I perceive is a somewhat undeserving limelight being cast in my direction (after all, my mother did the hard yards on the 29th of August all those years ago in London, not me) that makes me feel not entirely comfortable. I adore celebrating other people’s birthdays and have a tendency to go over the top for my children on the anniversaries of their births as a result of my party-planning enthusiasm and my overwhelming gratitude for the fact that my children exist in this world. However, I used to ensure I was traveling on my own birthday to avoid having to host some kind of event or party because, although I love to socialise and I appreciate love, friendship and camaraderie as much as the next person, I have always felt a pressure to be in a certain emotional state (i.e. happy and revelling) on my birthday and have found that expectation and reality don’t always align. This has been a bit of “a thing” since the first birthday party I can recall… an occasion during which my 3-5-year-old party guests were thrilled, and I, meanwhile, was having some kind of emotional melt down over my mum baking my Cindy dolly into a cake (PS I don’t blame you, mum. I now think it was a very cute idea!).

But today I have decided to give myself a gift. The gift of space… to indulge in (very)simple things that make me happy and bring me a sense of true/grounded contentment. I began my day with my favourite meditation; Kundalini Sat Kriya. If you haven’t tried it before, what can I tell you? You will probably find it strange (it is, even to me and I have done it many times!), but it works. It really does. If you’re curious you might like to try a version with some guidance. I then scrolled through Yoga with Adriene‘s video uploads to choose my yoga flow for the day and found Yoga for Text Neck, literally moments after I realised I was probably suffering from text neck. So I listened to my body and went with that. I drank my green powder concoction (the first thing I consume each day) then spent a good 10 minutes lovingly dusting the leaves of one of my favourite plants with a cloth. I watered and appreciated the others too. Then I ate a chocolate bar for breakfast because… yolo.

And now I sit here typing these words because this blog makes me happy. Being in this space makes me happy. And my work-related busyness keeps me from being here far more than I would like. These days, my bread and butter comes from executing creative content for other people. Nothing to sniff at or complain about as it has been my vocation for many years, from my time as a graphic designer at a marketing bureau to my last non-freelance job as a corporate art director. But I love creating for the love of creating too. And I love sharing and connecting. And those are things this space has always afforded me the opportunity to do. And so I am “indulging” a little by not doing any paid work today and taking a full day off for the first time in around 2 weeks. That is my gift to me.

I have touched on this via my Instagram accounts (@missmarzipancom and @missmarzipan_moments), but I received a preview print of my cookbook, Naturally Sweet Vegan Treats, last week. It was a momentous full circle kind of moment for me and so overwhelming that I literally had to put the book in another room and close the door for a while. To borrow directly from my post:

“Long story short… One year and 5 days ago I left my corporate job. Literally the same day I had my resignation meeting (and admitted to my boss I had no idea what I was going to do🙈)- in fact, exactly 4 hours later- I was offered a book deal by an American publishing house🙏🏻. While working on my book Oliver stopped breastfeeding. And then, as a result of the massive hormonal changes I was going through in combination with other factors, I was diagnosed with depression😢. Yesterday my psychologist agreed that I am now doing well. I have no more follow-up appointments scheduled🙏🏻. And my first copy of my book arrived at my door by courier😱. BIG full circle kind of day. I am still processing it all.
Love to you, Marisa x”

I have ventured to go through it now, and my overwhelming feeling is of the “You done good, kid” variety. I feel blessed that my children and recipes inspired by my family appear in its pages, I am absolutely amazed that I was able to follow through with it all despite the personal challenges I faced during its conception, I am forever grateful for the kindness I had along the way from friends, family (especially my husband and children) and those who stepped in to volunteer support when it was so, so needed and, of course, I am beyond thankful for the opportunity itself (Page Street Publishing and Macmillan, thank you for all the hard work you have done and continue to do), as a cookbook of my own was not even a proverbial twinkle in my eye back when I started this blog.

In gratitude for their support and friendship and, I’ll admit, with a sense of pride, I’d like to congratulate some of my friends on their own amazing cookbook publishing achievements. I know firsthand now the heart, soul, tears and flour/veggie scrap-covered slog involved in giving birth to such a project, and I applaud not only my friends mentioned here, but anyone who has ventured to put their work in print. Firstly, I want to mention the latest work of Ditte Ingemann, who has just released Krydret with Anne Hjernøe, a gorgeous book shot with David Loftus (who many will know as Jamie Oliver’s go-to photographer and bff). This book was in the process of being created when Ditte’s talented and lovely husband, Søren Thuesen, who I have interviewed right here on this blog, was diagnosed with cancer. Not only has Søren been going through the ordeal of tests, chemo and everything associated with recovery from this most brutal of circumstances, but Ditte has been supporting him and had a book to create in the midst of it all. Truly, these people are heroes. I wish Søren the speediest of recoveries and Ditte the best of success with Krydret… and everything else!

Vegan superstar Kim-Julie Hansen, who has been an incredible support to me, may not yet know this but her debut book, Vegan Reset: The 28-Day Plan to Kickstart Your Healthy Lifestyle, is already ranked #1 in Amazon’s New Release category for Juice and Smoothie cookbooks… and it won’t even be launched until next week! Maria Koutsogiannis, the ball of energy in Greek goddess form who has been making me smile since 2015, has released her wonderful debut book, Mindful Vegan Meals… and it turns out we have the same editor (hi, Marissa G.!)! The powerhouse that is my friend Nina Olsson has released her vibrantly veggie and beautifully captured second and third books, Feasts of Veg and Veggie Burger Atelier. My lovely Bettina Campolucci Bordi is kicking goals with her 5-star rated book, Happy Food, released earlier this year and available for ordering worldwide. Talented food creative and IG friend from way back in the day, Sara Kiyo Popowa, will be having her gorgeous book, Bento Power, released in 3 weeks. Good news: it is available for pre-order as I type! My sweet Lynn Hoefer‘s fabulous healthy eating cookbook, Himmlisch Gesund, has just hit shelves in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. My ridiculously talented and knowledgable naturopathic advisor and good friend, Julia Michelle, has released her incredibly informative eBook, 21 Day Reset, a guided 21-day diet and exercise program, with sleep protocol and stress management regime built in. She knows her stuff, guys. I can vouch for that. Newer friends Carolin Strothe and Maya Sozer have both created their third and second books respectively. Power Vegan Meals by Maya is available now and Carolin’s drool-worthy book, Einfach Natuerlich Backen, is currently available in German and will be launched in the UK and US in April next year.

Dear friends and incredibly talented creators Rita Serano and Dr. Rupy Aujla have already released books that I am currently in love with. Rita’s Vegan in 7 is a masterpiece of simple, honest plant-based cooking and Rupy’s The Doctor’s Kitchen is a wonderful collection of wholesome, tasty recipes developed by a passionate medical professional who is at the forefront of championing balanced living and disease prevention through healthy eating. Gorgeous Rachel Khoo’s new book The Little Swedish Kitchen (also shot by David Loftus) is a gem. As beautiful as you would imagine one of Rachel’s books to be, I have been lucky enough to taste some of her Sweden-inspired dishes when she hosted a gathering in her home early this summer (where I also had the chance to flick through her book’s pretty pages). And I can tell you, you will not be disappointed if you grab yourself a copy, particularly if you find the landscapes, produce and cuisine of Scandinavia enchanting! All of these fine people are doing okay without any promotion from me (as, of course, are Candice KumaiDeliciously Ella and Jamie Oliver, who have all released new and very impressive titles too), but I wish them so well on their journeys and thank them as creators/friends/supporters/inspirers and general all-round good people. Extra thanks to my amazing friend Timothy Pakron, otherwise known as Mississippi Vegan, who chatted with me the other day as he awaited his first copy of his stunning book of the same name, Mississippi Vegan. It is available for pre-order now.

And finally, speaking of Mississippi, here is my gift to you/anyone who has requested it, in a belated yet far more easily searchable form (yes, scrolling through dozens of Instagram posts to search for a recipe in the comments section is a pain in the butt. I feel you); my No-Bake Mississippi Mud Pie. Made for the first time almost a year and a half ago and inspired by a treat served aboard Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas, I hope you will love it too. According to Wikipedia, it is believed that the first Mississippi Mud Pie originated in the state of Mississippi and that the name of the gooey chocolate sauce-topped crumbly chocolate pie crust concoction is “derived from the dense cake that resembles the banks of the Mississippi River”. Whatever its roots may be, this treat is sure to speak to the chocolate lover in you, wherever you are in the world.

And wherever you are in the world, I send my love there!

Marisa x

NO-BAKE MISSISSIPPI MUD PIE

– a vegan, gluten-free, refined sugar-free spin on a classic chocolate treat

COOKIE CRUST INGREDIENTS
225 g gluten-free oats (or quinoa oat mix)
30 g crunchy quinoa (or other gluten-free crisp flake-style cereal)
2 tbsp cacao powder
150 ml unsalted almond butter
6 tbsp rice malt/maple syrup
6 tbsp melted coconut oil
2 tbsp warm water

MISSISSIPPI MUD FUDGE FILLING INGREDIENTS
250 g cashews, soaked for at least 4 hours/overnight
250 g dates
70 g raw cacao
2 tsp vanilla powder
A pinch or two of salt
70 ml coconut oil
150 ml water (+ a tablespoon or extra if needed)

GANACHE INGREDIENTS
100 ml maple syrup (or rice malt)
40 g coconut oil, melted
35 g cacao (if using maple, a little extra cacao may be needed)

TO SERVE
Fresh summer berries
Seasonal edible flowers (optional)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Line a small baking pan with baking paper.
  2. Blitz quinoa oats, flake cereal and cacao in a food processor to make a coarse flour.
  3. Add wet ingredients and blitz until well combined (a shiny dough should start to form).
  4. Pop the mixture into a round spring-form cake tin and, using your hands to pat down, spread the mixture evenly across the base and approximately 4 cm up the sides of the tin to create a pie crust. Use a silicone spatula or the back of a wooden spoon to flatten and smooth the mixture. Try to create a smooth surface & even thickness.
  5. The crust will set quickly if placed it in the freezer for 30 minutes.
  6. While crust is firming up, in a high-speed blender or food processor, blitz all the fudge filling ingredients until a smooth thick frosting-textured mix has come together.
  7. In a small mixing bowl combine ganache ingredients and mix well until a smooth and shiny pie topping has formed.
  8. Using a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, fill the pie crust with the filling and smooth the surface out.
  9. Spoon ganache over the top. Decorate with fresh berries and edible flowers, if using.

*This recipe, as shared on my Instagram account was, made originally as a collaboration with Mud and if you use food grade bentonite clay, you can try adding a teaspoon or two to the fudge filling. You wont notice any taste or texture alteration. 

 

 

GDPR: The European Union’s General Data Protection regulation, compliance & how it may affect blogs

Are you as confused as I am about the implementation of GDPR and what it means for you as a blogger (or reader of blogs)? The EU’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will officially come into effect tomorrow, May 25, 2018. And, to be quite honest, I don’t know what all the possible implications for me will be, especially as my blog is not monetised, I don’t actively “market” and I don’t sell product. But, on a personal level, I assume I’ll be receiving less email!

For all of us in Sweden, GDPR will replace the Swedish Personal Data Act. Apparently there are similarities between these two regulations, but under GDPR individual rights will be strengthened and companies will be subject to more restrictions when processing personal data. If you’d like to read the European Union’s entire legislative act for the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), you can find it here. If, like me, you have neither the time nor inclination, here’s the skinny version:

Basically, GDPR will reinforce what professional marketers already do: i.e., sending marketing material only to those who opt in, while keeping personal data secure and safe.

What this means for businesses is, no doubt, a lot more complicated than what it means for individuals like me. From an article by The Verge entitled No one’s ready for GDPR:

‘For companies that have operated under the principle of “extract as much data as possible and figure it out later,” reorganizing under GDPR is a lot like an episode of Hoarders, especially one of those episodes where the hoarder doesn’t finish cleaning and everyone sort of falls apart crying at the end.’

For my part, I feel it necessary to add my own statement about GDPR as it may pertain to this blog, just to be on the safe side. MJ Mallon has scripted one that I’ve tweaked slightly in part for the purposes of simplicity and because she has succinctly included information that I believe could be relevant to this matter.

Email subscribers, I hope this issue will not affect you. Please pop back if you don’t hear from me in a while!

❤ Marisa x

Image Ⓒ cybersecuritycoalition.be


Your privacy and my GDPR compliance

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But please rest assured that your personal information will not be sold or shared with any third parties under any circumstances. If you wish me to remove your comment and associated data for any reason, please get in touch.

If for whatever reason you do not consent to the above, please don’t leave a comment on my blog.

ALL-VEG EDAMAME PASTA WITH FRESH TOMATO, KALE & OLIVE SAUCE (gluten-free, 100% plant-based)… and a work-life update

Before we get to this most simple and tasty of pasta recipes, I want to chat about a couple of things (skip ahead if this bores you, I don’t mind!). Firstly, I have been sadly absent here for far too long. As always, when I am away from this blog for any length of time, I miss it. As someone who doesn’t obsess in the least over SEOs, stats and such (I might if this blog was monetized, but as it is not…), I feel that I can share virtually anything in this space related to my passions and my life, and it’s ok. I have no anxieties about clicking publish (other than my typo-phobia) and maybe that’s one of the perks of having a 7-year relationship with a completely organically evolving, non-strategic blog; not money from ad revenue, but the gift of freedom of expression. In any case, my absence is justified and has been necessary on account of time (lack thereof). And no, I am not about to spring another pregnancy announcement on you, however something has certainly been in a kind of creative gestation period… a phase that is coming to a close as I type these words.

I have been working on my first cookbook! 😮

It’s something I have talked a little about on Instagram, but as my manuscript is with my editor and things are still being finalised in terms of the design, I am yet to do the big TA-DA! In fact, I honestly can’t fathom it, even after months of loving dedication and intense hard graft. My head and reality are not quite in sync about it just yet.

I have also worked as a food stylist and recipe creator for two of my fave brands, IKEA and Friggs, and have continued to submit magazine articles on the regular (on that, if you happen to live in Scandinavia, I have several recipes in the current issue of Glutenfri Matlust Magazine). I have renewed my contract with Royal Caribbean (yay!), so that means more traveling, shooting (and eating!) food this year, and I have already spent a week aboard Symphony of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship, sampling and capturing the culinary offerings. Literally all of these opportunities were on my 2018 wish list, so the gratitude is immense.

Simultaneously, the self-imposed pressure to live up to my own expectations (let alone what I assume to be the expectations of others), an absolutely unprecedented hormonal freak out that my body decided to have post-weaning Oliver (I am still moving through that) and a string of illnesses and accidents concerning my children (of which broken bones and chickenpox are just two), have meant not enough sleep, too much coffee and the inevitable stress snowball effect that comes with the everything-at-once conundrum. Yep. That old chestnut. Again. I bore myself with it, believe me.

Right now I am doing what I can to nourish myself back into some semblance of balance and normalcy. I see a LOT of posts on Instagram along the lines of “Do you struggle with ….? I hear you. I did too. And now that I am super successful, I want to share my secrets with you! Just sign up for/click the link for/swipe up for… etc.” I’m going to be honest. This might not be inspirational. It certainly isn’t the ‘living the dream’ quick fix solution I am sure sells well for others because that’s what the vast majority of people probably want to buy. But I haven’t cracked the code of ‘freelance WAHM life’. And I am not trying to sell you anything either. For now, freelance life for me is very much a process of going with the flow and learning from every stumble, every little victory, each mistake and all challenges faced and (hopefully) overcome. And just maybe I’ll have my rough edges polished off over time and my desk will morph into something Pinterest-worthy. Or maybe I am stuck with being the creative go hard or go home (figuratively, as I work from home!) type. When I’m engaged in a project – whatever it is – I do it with my whole heart and all my creative energy. That is a good thing. I think. Well, at the very least I suppose it means I give a damn… and at best it means I love the process and that I am genuinely invested in my clients. I truly think that it’s the latter.

The downside? I find it hard to step back. I have a tendency to criticise the 💩 out of everything I do. I check. I recheck. I can get obsessively bogged down in little things. And, whereas I used to have a manager saying “Marisa, go home.”/”Don’t work on weekends.”/”Why are you eating lunch at your desk?”/”You really have to start saying no.”, now it’s up to me. And, left to my own devices, I realise I haven’t been the kindest of self-managers.

A serious physical manifestation of my hormonal issues (exacerbated by stress) landed me in my doctor’s office a few weeks back. Whilst there, it was suggested to me that I should also see a psychologist as, according to some scale, I am (or rather was on that day, at least) “mildly to moderately depressed”. Believing my situation to be temporary and seeing the possibility that my recent anxiety flare-ups were intrinsically linked to my hormonal imbalance issues, my doctor nevertheless deemed it an issue worth addressing (albeit in a non-medicated way). I decided to follow her advice. And, lo and behold, talking things through also helps. It doesn’t fix perinatal anxiety or post-breastfeeding “blues”, of course. But it does help in terms of perspective… and breaking the isolation of it all. Funny how communicating with other humans does that, eh?

I mentioned in one of many Instagram rambles lately that I was struggling with certain aspects of my health and wellbeing. Long-time trusted friend and connection Julia, a naturopath and nutritional medicine practitioner (and owner of Julia Michelle health clinic in Melbourne), stepped in with the most timely assistance ever. I was literally in the final proofreading stages of my manuscript when she said “We should chat!”. Post-conversation with her, I’ve started taking supplements, upping my water intake, reducing my coffee consumption, adding more protein to my meals and generally being more mindful about how I am treating myself. It will be interesting to compare this cycle to the last one, of which the PMS stage was traumatic to the point where I found myself on the phone to a mental health services line that my husband called for me in an I-don’t-know-what-to-do-to-help-you-panic (I certainly won’t be calling that number again for a stress and PMS-induced anxiety attack!). I can safely say that things have gotten steadily better over the past three weeks. Or rather, they seem to have stabilised somewhat. Which is the same thing, as far as I am concerned. My doctor believes it is only a matter of time (and consistent better self-care) before my hormones have found their new normal after years of pregnancies and breastfeeding (and no periods).

And so, I just keep on keeping on. Trying to be a little kinder to myself and practicing what I already know works. More sleep, more sunshine, more downtime, more water, better self-care, quality time with loved ones, time set aside for doing enjoyable things, more movement, good nutrition. The simple things work, as always.

Is this an opportune moment to segue into a nourishing yet time-saving recipe? I think it could be…

❤ from a slightly better-rested Miss Marzipan x

EDAMAME PASTA WITH FRESH TOMATO, KALE & OLIVE SAUCE

Gluten-free, 100% plant-based

This pasta sauce is so tasty, so simple and very customisable. The sauce is a variation of one that I have been making for years. If you’d like to see this recipe ‘in action’, there’s a stories highlight I created on Instagram (from about 18 weeks back).

1 packet edamame pasta (or pasta of choice)
10-12 ripe plum tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tbsp olive oil

A bunch of kale, washed, trimmed of the woodiest stems and chopped roughly
Kalamata olives (as many as you like… be generous!)
Chilli flakes, optional
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Fresh basil

DIRECTIONS

  1. Simply take the tomatoes, cut them in half width ways and place them cut side down in a deep frying pan (one with a lid) over medium heat.
  2. Add a splash of olive oil and the garlic.
    Place the lid on and allow the tomatoes to cook for around 10-15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, sauté the kale in a pan over medium high heat for around 2 minutes, then set it to the side.
  4. Prepare your edamame pasta according to directions.
  5. Use tongs to lift the skins off the tomatoes and give your tomatoes a mash to create the sauce. Add the olives and kale and stir through. Season the sauce to taste (chilli flakes are a wonderful addition).
  6. Spoon a generous amount of sauce onto each portion of pasta. Scatter over a few fresh basil leaves and serve immediately. Enjoy!

 

 

*I want to be clear, as always, that I share my personal experiences here in an anecdotal fashion for the purpose of transparency and ‘connecting’, and not to medically advise anyone. I am not ‘anti-medication’ or ‘pro-medication’. I am pro-getting-the-right-help-depending-on-individual-and-circumstance (and doing so with assistance from qualified professionals if need be). I am pro-feeling better.

 

 

PRETTY-IN-PINK SEMLOR (Swedish cream buns, with a vegan twist & extra bling)

This time of year is one of celebration, with Shrove Tuesday, Valentine’s Day and the Lunar New Year knocking at each other’s doors, not to mention all three of our children celebrating birthdays within a one-month period (the first being our pink-obsessed little Lillian). The lazy girl in me has responded to the call to party by creating a treat that fulfils the festive brief for all the aforementioned celebratory occasions.

I give you my pretty-in-pink (plus vegan and refined sugar-free) take on the classic and beloved Swedish treat, semlor.

Semlor are the buns that take fika to the next level around this time each year in Sweden. Traditionally eaten on Shrove (or Fat) Tuesday, they are our national pre-Lent treat of choice. If you’re looking to switch your customary Shrove pancakes up with something new this year (or impress your Valentine), why not give these a go?

Happy Fettisdagen (Fat Tuesday), to all celebrating!

❤ Marisa x

PRETTY-IN-PINK SEMLOR

Vegan, refined sugar-free Swedish cream buns
Makes: 12 

FOR THE DOUGH

25 g of fresh yeast for sweet dough
3/4 cup + 2 tbsp (210 ml) oat milk
2 tbsp coconut sugar
2 1/3 (290 g) organic all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
A pinch of salt
75 g coconut butter

FOR FILLING

1 1/2 cups (150 g) almond meal
5 tbsp maple syrup
A little water, if necessary
A few drops of almond extract

1 1/2 cups (355 ml) plant-based whipping cream
2-4 tsp pitaya powder (depending on desired level of pinkness)

FOR DUSTING

1/4 cup coconut flour
1 tbsp pitaya powder

DIRECTIONS

  1. Melt the coconut butter in a saucepan and add the milk, heating gently until finger-warm in temperature (but no hotter).
  2. Add the milk mixture to bowl of a stand mixer and stir through the yeast until it is dissolved.
  3. Add the coconut sugar, salt, cardamom and the majority of the flour.
  4. Using a dough hook attachment on your stand mixer, knead the dough for around 7 minutes on a medium speed, adding more flour if necessary to bring it together.
    Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and cover it with clean kitchen towel.
  5. Allow the dough to double in size in the bowl for around 45 minutes.
  6. Dust a clean work surface with flour. Pop the dough onto it and divide it  into 12 equal portions before shaping each into a round ball.
  7. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
  8. Place the buns on the tray and cover them with the tea towel, allowing the dough to proof for 30 minutes.
  9. Meanwhile prepare your almond paste by blitzing the almond meal, maple syrup, almond extract (plus a dash of water if needed) to a paste consistency.
  10. Preheat your oven to 390°F (200°C). Brush the tops of the buns with coconut milk.
  11. Bake the buns for around 10 minutes.
  12. Remove the tray from the oven and allow the buns to cool completely on a wire rack.
  13. Slice the top off of each bun and set the tops to the side.
  14. Whisk your cream until stiff peaks form, add the pitaya powder and whisk again to combine.
  15. Top each bun with almond paste. Pipe or spread the whipped cream on top of the almond paste, then lay the “lids” on top of each bun.
  16. In a small bowl, mix the coconut flour with 1 tbsp of pitaya powder and sprinkle this mix over the buns.
  17. Serve immediately.

 

SPICED CHICKPEA & KALE AVOCADO TOAST

I am not a fan of New Year’s ‘detoxing’, dieting… or even resolutions, for that matter. I do, however, like to eat in a balanced way that’s sustainable year-round, and for me that means eating lots of plants (or greens, if you will)! I don’t tend to go avocado crazy around this time of year, but yesterday I happened to have a ripe one leftover from some recipe testing. And that lone avocado (combined with an opened can of chickpeas, some nearly-wilting kale and some 2 day-old yet perfectly toastable sourdough) led me to this ever-so-delicious and oh-so-simple combination; one that’s surprisingly flavourful, yet fresh and light.

 

This will be the first of a few posts this year that will detail real food stories from my kitchen and share the simple, everyday recipes I make (that ensure I am getting more than ‘5 a day’ in a fuss-free way). I can easily eat vegetables for breakfast, lunch, dinner (plus treats and snacks too!) and, as long as what I am eating tastes amazing and is satiating, I never feel ‘deprived’. Rather, I feel nourished and more balanced in all ways.

Speaking of balance, I finally decided to seek a professional opinion (again) about my ‘hormone situation’. I don’t think it’s strange in the slightest that I have to reevaluate things and get blood work done after recovering from my third pregnancy, but it’s something I wanted to wait to look into until Oliver was completely weaned. The last time I nursed Oliver was around the second week of December, at which point he saw it as a novelty… and one that was losing its appeal, evidently!

I have various motives for getting new blood tests done post-breastfeeding. My thyroid condition alone has been cause for concern at times over the years, and my doctor now wants to ensure I am taking an appropriate dose of medication (right now I take a low dose and the amount prescribed has been stable for some time).

The sadness I have felt that the time of bonding with Oliver in his most dependant state is over, has been replaced by the joy of connecting with him in a new way. It’s all the more lovely as he starts to talk and communicate in increasingly sophisticated and animated ways, showing us more of his bubbly, quirky and loveable character. The downsides of crazy hormonal skin, hair loss and other postpartum woes, are more than counterbalanced by improved sleep quality, less anxiety and, most of all, the distinct feeling that I am returning to me again. By that I don’t mean in a physical, ‘bouncing back’ manner, but rather in terms of emotional centering, which is far more important to me right now.

And that brings me full circle back to the toast. If you’re about ditching the New Year’s diet trend and just eating real food, try this. So delicious. So easy. I promise!

How is 2018 treating you thus far?
Very well indeed, I hope!

❤ Marisa x

 

 

SPICED CHICKPEA & KALE
AVOCADO TOAST

Prep Time: 5 mins | Total Cook Time: 35 mins

INGREDIENTS

1 can organic chickpeas, drained and well-rinsed
2 tsp olive oil (+ extra for the kale)
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
A pinch of salt
A crack of black pepper

1 large, ripe avocado (or 2 smaller ones)
A squeeze of lime juice
A squeeze of lemon juice
2 tbsp finely chopped red onion (optional)
A handful of fresh parsley, chopped (optional)

Half a bunch of kale

4 slices of thick cut sourdough

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat your oven to 200°C and line a deep baking tray with baking parchment.
  2. Combine all the chickpea ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl, stirring with a spoon.
  3. Spread the chickpeas out onto the tray, allowing each a little space.
  4. Roast the chickpeas for 30 minutes. If you want them crispier, allow them to cool in the oven with the oven door slightly ajar.
  5. While the chickpeas are roasting, prepare your kale by rinsing it well, removing the woodiest stalks and roughly tearing the leaves.
  6. Pop the kale into a skillet/frying pan with a little splash of olive oil. Saute the kale for around 5 minutes over medium heat until vibrant green and tender.
  7. In a small bowl, mash the avocado with a fork, adding a squeeze of lemon juice and a squeeze of lime juice. Mix through some diced red onion and some chopped fresh parsley if using.
  8. Toast/grill 4 thick cut slices of sourdough bread (I like to use a griddle pan for this).
  9. Spread with the avocado mix and top with the kale and chickpeas. Season to taste and serve immediately.

 

2018: HERE’S TO A GOOD YEAR! (my annual visualisation mood board)

Despite feeling too tired to write coherently just now, my annual New Year’s ritual (which also includes meditation) would not be complete without the creation and sharing of a vision board. 2017 was a huge year in every way for us; big overseas trips, massive personal and professional changes, great new opportunities. If I’d ever doubted the efficacy of vision boards (which I haven’t), this year would have made me believe. At the same time I have felt very pressured to say yes, to push myself beyond the limits of what I know is sustainable or to find a place of stillness in amongst all of it.

This coming year I want things to be different. I don’t just want the “happenings”. I certainly don’t want “stuff”. I want space to breathe, to be, to create, enjoy and go with the flow. So this year’s vision board doesn’t feature images. Rather, I used a colour picker to select a random group of colours from a photograph (one that I took of Lillian on the beach eating watermelon on a happy day). Unlike its predecessors, this year’s board is simply this; no images, no “plan”, just intention infused with happiness:

 

Do you set intentions on New Year’s Eve? Or reflect on the year that has been?

Wishing you a peaceful and truly Happy 2018. Here’s to a year that is kind… and one that feels good.

❤ Marisa x

PS I used the typeface Futura. Apt, no? 😀

 

 

Just in case you’re interested, my previous mood boards:
2013

2014
2015
2016
2017

SEASONED OVEN ROASTED POTATOES- easy, comforting & absolutely delicious

When I was little, roast potatoes were probably the thing I most looked forward to seeing appear on the family dining table (well, other than sweets!). To this day, I still believe that nothing beats my mum’s version of roast potatoes, however these come a close second in my estimation. My children love them too. And that means a great deal, now that I carry the roast potato-making mama torch and, by default, find myself in the lofty position of being one of two grown-ups in our household responsible for creating comforting food memories for the children.

We had these very potatoes for dinner tonight as an accompaniment to veggie (no)meat balls and beans. And these days it’s a rare thing that I blog about a recipe on the same day that I make it, but I feel like comfort food is in order as the seasons change. And, as I comfort myself with cinnamon-y/pumkin-y/parsnip-y/potato-y recipes and stave off early autumn anxiety and melancholy with daily meditation, I am aware that I am not alone with my feelings about this time of year. It always seems the way that as soon as I have fully committed to/accepted a seasonal change, then I can really enjoy it for what it is. But while I am in the transitory mode – with one foot in summer and one in autumn – I am not quite comfortable with myself or the world around me. Knowing that this is the way I seem to “operate” at this time of year is, in itself, a comfort of sorts.

But, yes… Back to comfort food. If you are in need of some, do try these potatoes!

And stay cosy, friends!

❤ Marisa xx

 

SEASONED OVEN ROASTED POTATOES

Prep time: 15 mins | Roasting Time: approx. 30 mins

INGREDIENTS
8-10 small-medium roasting potatoes
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp sweet paprika
Salt and black pepper to taste
Sprigs of fresh rosemary to garnish

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat your oven to 210°C and line a baking tray with aluminium foil or baking parchment.
  2. Wash, peel and cut the potatoes into rough cubes around 2.5 cm in size.
  3. Pop the prepared potatoes into a large bowl, drizzle over the oil, season with spices and toss the potatoes with your hands to make sure they’re evenly coated.
  4. Spread the potatoes evenly around the baking tray, ensuring none are stacked on top of each other.
  5. Roast potatoes for around 28-32 minutes, or until they are soft in the middle and turning golden brown.
  6. If your oven has known hot spots, turn your potatoes after the first 15 minutes of roasting.
  7. Remove tray from oven and place some sprigs of fresh rosemary over the hot potatoes (they will impart a gentle flavour and fragrance that’s pleasant and not overwhelming for little ones).
  8. Serve hot.

50 THINGS ABOUT ME (part 2)

Almost a year to the day after I shared part one of my ‘5o things about me’ post, I return with the remaining facts, in all their randomness… though some are in direct response to questions I have been asked via Instagram.

Again, I was initially tagged to participate in this blogging “challenge” by Cassie (aka superfitbabe) when I read her ’50 things’ post. So I’ll follow suit by tagging any interested parties who happen to be reading this post. And thank you to Mon of monsflavors for tagging me in a far shorter 10 facts about me post, which I’ll respond to tonight (for anyone who hasn’t had their fill of randomness here! 😛 ).

If you feel so inclined, you’re welcome to join in and share your ’50 things’ (or 10!) via a blog/social media post too!

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As a child I was a sugar fiend. My brother and I would receive pocket-money, he’d save his and mine would be immediately spent on candy (or as we knew it back in the day in Australia, ‘mixed lollies’).

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In 2006 I was working in Salzburg. The house where I stayed (which belonged to an Austrian artist) was gorgeous, overlooked a massive field and had a backdrop of mountains. But the highlight for me was that it was located five minutes away from the von Trapp family mansion of The Sound of Music fame.

Staying in Salzburg took me back to a time in 1996, when I forced a couch-surfing Swiss punk boy who stayed in my post-apocalyptic rental abode in Collingwood to sit through the 3 hours + of The Sound of Music on the promise that, upon recognising all the landmarks, he would feel less homesick . Throughout the viewing (which he found painfully tiresome) I kept asking, “Do you know that fountain?… What about that church?…”

He appeared genuinely confused, repeating exasperatedly, “No, I don’t know any of these places!”. As the movie continued he became increasingly more resentful and agitated. Unfortunately, it was only at the very end that I realised the characters had been in Austria all along and would cross the border into my friend’s motherland during the last 10 seconds of the film. He may or may not have used the “b word” at that point, believing me to have maliciously tricked him, when really my pitiful geographical knowledge of Europe was to blame for the innocent incident.

Regardless, I have always felt a special connection to Austria. 😛

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30

What was once a rather painful memory has now become a pleasant one, on account of my brother. Always the sporty and helpful type, he took me to his gym in order to help me straighten my life out (in some small way) back in 1999. I still remember the smell of Deep Heat, the fact that I was the only girl there (with bright pink hair, no less), feeling weak and light-headed, feeling like a bit of a failure… and giving up to go outside for a smoke! My brother actually came out to check on me and, rather than being judgemental, was very kind and even a little proud of me for taking a tiny, tentative step in a healthy direction. It wasn’t the most successful of work outs 😛 , but many years + several (well-used) gym memberships on, I can safely say that physical activity is one of the greatest joys I know. So, Robin, sorry if I embarrassed/worried/frustrated you all those years ago. And thanks for the #fitspo!

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31

Many years ago, my then-boyfriend/now-husband and I were island hopping in Fiji. For some reason I developed a wildly adventurous (for me) approach to exploring. I had never been sea kayaking in my life, but upon spotting some kayaks that were free to use, a young Californian girl and myself decided that an island we’d seen didn’t look too far away (and we’d heard tales of a spooky deserted resort that had once been owned by a Mafia boss). Minutes later, we were off on our adventure. We were all energy and giggles at first. Then suddenly, as the sea started to get choppy, it hit me that I had no idea what I was doing- NO idea. And that we were out in the sea in little pieces of floating plastic. And that there were things swimming around below us. And that we were nowhere near land. And that the island was a LOT further away than it had seemed to be. And that my upper body strength was not as good as I had imagined. My companion was apparently hit with the same notions/sense of panic at the same time as me. Miraculously we both made it to the island without capsizing.

My folly was repeated when, on the same trip, I signed up for a rainforest trek which involved jumping off a waterfall at some point. I am terrified of heights. Terrified. Number 1 worst fear. Did I mention I am terrified of heights?

Me. Waterfall. Jumping. Not a good combination.

But, guess what? I did it*! And it was exhilarating!

And I will never do it again. 😛

*Because I had to. It was the only way to get to the boat!

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32

Those of you who happen to be familiar with the cult television series Thunderbirds, may also be familiar with Tin-Tin Kyrano; the fictional character introduced the mid-1960s. What you definitely do not know is that the hands of Tin-Tin belong to my mum. Newly arrived in London, she’d found herself working in the same office as a puppet creator named John Brown (who was also responsible for sculpting Cliff Richard). If I recall the tale correctly, he was passing my mum’s desk and noticed her hands, immediately offering her the opportunity to be a hand model for a character on a television show starring puppets.

As a teenager I frequented art house cinemas to watch cult classics on the big screen. Thunderbirds Are GO was one such film. And my friends at the time were amazed not only that my mum (or rather, her hands) appeared in the film, but remarked that Tin-Tin’s overall appearance bore a striking similarity to my mum’s. I still believe strongly that she inspired the look of the character in more ways than one (I would post a photo of her to back this claim, but I don’t think she’d appreciate it!).

When questioned about this, her memories of being a model for John and the show in general, my mum simply said that it was all “silly”.

I still think it’s cool!

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33

My first job was in a hotel/pub. My duties involved setting up tables, the odd spot of housekeeping and some kitchen hand work of the most basic kind. I will never forget the chef nor how he interacted with those around him. It’s safe to say, he was not the most gentlemanly of gentlemen, nor sharpest tool in the shed. A co-worker gave me tips on how to “get on his good side” (in short, “praise him, do as he says, laugh at his jokes and don’t share your opinions”), but I couldn’t bring myself to play the game. As strange as it seems, I think he actually liked me in his own way. Which, I suppose, was lucky as he was known to have quite a temper and to hold grudges.

In order to ingratiate me into his world, he said he had to come up with a nickname for me. At the time I had long, straight dark hair, with two white streaks and was rather pale and slim. Ok, you got me. I had goth leanings.

“You look like that chick”, he informed me. “You know, the one… with the hair… from the Addams Family? Sounds a bit like your name…?”

“Morticia…”, I mumbled half-heartedly.

“Morticia? Ha, ha. Yeah, that’s what I am gunna call you…”

And so, I began the first shift of many as Morticia Addams, waitress and kitchen hand.

Years after I had left that job, I found myself on a weekend break in the town of Bruthen in country Victoria, sitting by a campfire next to a member of the local football team who had been hitting the booze a bit too hard.

“You look like that chick”, he informed me. “You know, the one… with the hair… from the Addams Family? Porticia…?”

“Um… I think you mean Morticia…”, I tried to interject, utterly unimpressed.

Not hearing me, he continued, “Yeah… that’s it! Porticia. Your name is Marisa and it rhymes with Porticia, so that’s what I’m gunna call you. Porticia.”

Sigh.

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34

I am quite possibly the worst skier living in the Scandinavian region (the kid below is seriously far better than me, if that’s any indication of my skill), yet I love going on ski trips*.

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*As long as I don’t have to ski.

35

My oldest and best friend and I used to create imaginary worlds to inhabit when we were young. One such place was known as Metropolis Water City. In my mind it was something a little like this…

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In reality it was a pool in my parent’s garden.

36

One of the times I felt the healthiest and had the most energy was on holiday in Crete in 2007. The way that I ate (local “real food”, mostly), the sunshine, the sea, the daily physical activity (running, swimming, hiking) and the joy of being somewhere beautiful doing things I liked with someone I love all played a part, I am sure! I still love the Greek Islands. Interestingly, I was there as an unborn baby in my mum’s belly. No wonder I love Greek food, hot weather and island life.

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37

Speaking of the Greek Islands, if you happen to watch a retro Greek musical and spot a guy in the background pretending to talk and eating carrot sticks, it may well be my dad. This story deserves its own post, so I’ll reserve the rest of the tale for a later date!

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38

I really used to wish I could play it cool socially. Now I realise I am just far too enthusiastic about life and connecting with people with common interests (Game of Thrones, anyone?! 😀 ).

I have also come to terms with the fact that I should never, ever play poker.

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39

The first day I experienced snow in Sweden, I was walking back to my in-laws’ place in Sollentuna, and it felt like I was strolling through the pages of a childhood storybook. I held my hands up to catch it in wonderment. I basked in the stillness of the street I was on and relished the quietness as the magical flakes of glittery whiteness floated down.

The following day it continued to snow. “Oh”, I thought, “still snowing…”.

It continued to snow the next day… and the next.

After a week, the “magic” of snow was wearing thin. It’s been wearing thinner ever since.

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40

When my first son was born, we marvelled at the roundness of his head and the fullness of his cheeks. Then my daughter was born and it was clear that the roundness of Louie’s head had been superseded. Little did we know that Oliver would arrive with the roundest head of them all. It’s safe to say however that there’s a red thread of round-headedness running through the family (and I am pretty sure it comes from my side of the clan)!

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41

To this day it amazes me that the precursor to my career path (which in turn led to my marriage, my life in Europe, my children…) started with a visualisation meditation I was introduced to while sitting on a plastic chair in a community hall in an Adelaide suburb, during which I envisaged myself wearing a painting smock, standing in front of an easel with a paint palette in my hand.

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42

I love challenges. L.O.V.E. Be they structured and “led” by someone else (Oprah’s Vegan Challenge, 31 Days to get Organised, I Quit Sugar, the Chopra Center 21-Day Meditation Challenge™, etc., etc.) or of my own volition and design (e.g., running the Stockholm half marathon), I adore experimenting with all things lifestyle related if I suspect they might improve my quality of life short or long-term. In fact, that’s how this blog began; as a series of posts (really just for myself at first) about my own little domestic projects and undertakings. Some of the things I have tried such as juicing and oil pulling I did not end up incorporating into my life longterm, but I truly believe I have benefited from everything I have tried in some way. Even if the main benefit was discovering that something wasn’t for me.

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43

I used to have a huge passion for belly dance, attending classes, workshops and events in Australia, Europe, Turkey and Egypt. On New Year’s Eve 2005/6, during a river cruise on the Nile, I was asked to accompany the belly dancer hired to entertain us during dinner in a little performance. A similar incident occurred the year before when we were at a dinner show in Istanbul.

The last time I practiced belly dance was during my first pregnancy when I took prenatal belly dancing classes. I never aspired to be a professional dancer myself (and I don’t really miss it, to be honest), but it was something I really enjoyed when I was doing it and it was a favourite form of physical activity for a few years (along with Pilates).

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44

The book that inspired me most when I was a girl was my mum’s copy of The Complete Book of Herbs- A Practical Guide to Growing and Using Herbs by Lesley Bremness. I read and reread it, each time finding myself transported by the recipes, images, illustrations and all the possibilities. And I planned my future dream herb garden. To this day, when I think about that book, I feel moved. And although my very urban life in Stockholm is far from the life I once imagined as I turned its pages, I somehow feel a step closer to realising the dream of a quieter, slower-paced, lavender-scented life with my family. On our recent visit to Australia, I asked my mum if I could have the book and she agreed.

It is now the only book on display in my bedroom. It sparks joy, as Marie Kondo would say.

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45

And on inspiration and gardens, if you read part 1 of this post you know that I’m no natural green thumb by any means. In fact, as I sit here and type this, I am a little too proud of myself for managing to take care of the three gorgeous indoor plants (which I cannot name) my parents entrusted me with. But there was a time when the acquisition of knowledge of all things botanical was incredibly appealing to me (and I believe it is still in me, only quieted by the passing on of too many indoor plants and many years of living an urban life!).

One thing that has remained a constant is my love of botanical gardens. My favourite in Stockholm, for example, is Bergianska and I usually buy an annual pass. My children love it there too. Once, whilst on a visit to the US with my parents, we purchased Sarah Ponsonby’s The Garden Game, which is probably my favourite board game of all time. In fact, on our next visit to Adelaide I will be sure to see if my parents still have it and ask whether it can join The Complete Book of Herbs- A Practical Guide to Growing and Using Herbs in finding a new home with us in Stockholm.

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Game image: acultivatednest.com

 

46

I have 3 tattoos. One is something I doodled on paper as a teenager for some time before I realised that I wanted it on my arm for the rest of my life. Turns out it’s a Nordic rune. And, more interestingly, that its meaning is ‘fertility’ and/or ‘new beginnings’; two of the great “themes” of my life. Another is my mum’s name written in Chinese characters (it essentially reads “you are beautiful”). The last is an amalgamation of the Celtic tree of life and the ancient symbol Ægishjálmur, also something I doodled on paper, which again references my family (but on my father’s and husband’s sides).

Thanks for the question rainbownourishments!

47

On Instagram thehealthyfoodheaven asked me what the funniest thing that has ever happened to me is. That is truly hard to say! But one occasion featuring a government office, a queue and paperwork (traditionally “unfunny” things) springs to mind.

On the day I went to register myself as a Swedish resident, I waited impatiently for two and a half hours in a queue. It was a warm day and the stuffy office was due to close at 3 pm. I resented the back of the head of the man in front of me as every minute dragged painfully on and the shuffling of papers and asking of questions continued. I made it to the front of the line at 2:58 pm. While I was filling out my forms I noticed a crowd congregating behind the person assisting me and, weirdly, reading my responses over his shoulder. Some of them had cameras. As soon as the paper work had been processed, a woman stepped forward and enthusiastically exclaimed, “Welcome to Sweden!”. Someone else called out “Congratulations!”, and a photographer pulled out a camera to capture my baffled expression.

I thought to myself, “Sweden is known for its generous migration policies, but this is all a bit much!”. Then a woman introduced herself as a Swedish radio reporter and requested an interview. Why? Because statisticians had calculated at 3pm on the 12th of August 2004 the 9 millionth Swedish resident would come into existence (either by birth or through the process of migration).

In commemoration of this fine occasion I gave the lamest radio interview in Swedish radio history. When asked “So, do you feel Swedish?”, I responded “Well, I’ve only been here for a few days… I think I feel more confused than anything.”
My newspaper interview with Aftonbladet (the evening news) was no better.
The headline was “Marisa helped us cross the line”, but the subheading was “She sings in Swedish!” (this on account of me getting nervous and mentioning that I knew how to sing the advertising jingle of a famous Swedish headache tablet brand).

According to Aftonbladet, I came in as Swedish resident number 9,000,001 (a baby was born in Stockholm 3 minutes before my paper work was processed).

I have thusly remained here ever since, playing my part in averting population decline!

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Rani of You Totally Got This asked me what I wanted to be when I was little. The first thing that I can remember being truly passionate about was design. From the time my memories start (around the age of two) I loved to draw. As a school-aged child, I’d make my own books, design clothes, make collages, etc. I told people I’d be a designer when I grew up. After many diversions, side street career moves and periods of lost and angsty unproductivity, I ended up applying for art school, eventually graduating with a Bachelor of Visual Communication before going on to work as a designer and then, for the past decade, as an art director.

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My veins are notoriously “tricky” and even the best nurses and medical professionals struggle to find them. As a result of many painful experiences, bruises and apologies, I hate, hate, hate needles.

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So, why “Miss Marzipan”?

This is one of the questions I am asked most.

In primary school, when I was around 10 years old, I had a friend who liked the idea of the girls in our group having funny nicknames. She referred to herself as Julie Jellybean and to me as Marisa Mars Bar. Later, as a teenager, the nickname Mars/Marz was resurrected and has stuck in some variation since then.

When I started blogging in 2011, I intended to do so 100% anonymously. I told neither my friends nor family members about this blog and I used the name Miss Marzipan in lieu of my real name. As a bit of a sweet tooth and a lover of baking I also thought it was fitting.

I actually hated marzipan as a child. But 13 years of living in Scandinavia eating semlor and princess tårta has cured me of that!

 

 

 

If you’ve made it this far, kudos! You’re a reading champion! 😀
But seriously, thank you!

Have a wonderful new week… and if there’s a question you’ve wanted to ask me that you’ve not had answered by my two rambling posts of random facts, ask away.

❤ MM xx

REFLECTIONS ON CONNECTICUT (food, images, gratitude… with a side of Cowboy Caviar)

It’s safe to say we’ve travelled more this year than we ordinarily do (and we ordinarily travel quite a lot!). From our several thousand-kilometer Aussie road trip, to our last Royal Caribbean cruise in the Bahamas, and our most recent trips to Swedish Storsjön and Turku in Finland, it’s been a year of discovery… both internal and external. For this edition of Wellness & Wanderlust Wednesday*, I thought I’d share some personal reflections from one of the stand-out family trips we’ve done along with a recipe inspired by it.

I can’t count the number of pleasant surprises we have had in amongst all the meeting of new people/making of new friends/having of new culinary experiences/immersing ourselves in new environments. But somewhere near the very top of the ‘pleasant surprise’ list is Connecticut. I’ll admit, my geographical knowledge of areas of the U.S. I’ve not previously visited is limited. And, having never ventured to New England before, I knew absolutely nothing about Connecticut. Rather than hoping for big things of the place itself, I concentrated my pre-trip thoughts on being up to scratch in terms of the work I was there to do.

We arrived in Hartford in an exhausted daze after a connecting flight from Detroit (via Amsterdam) at around midnight. By the time we came to our hotel it was 1:30am and we’d been traveling for close to 24 hours. It was cold. Very cold. And we were beyond tired.

I cannot tell you what a comfort it was to enter the lobby. The warmth and charm of Saybrook Point Inn was not lost on my tired eyes and our room was picture perfect, with its open fireplace and invitingly sink-inable beds.

 

I am still a little mystified as to how we mustered motivation to head out on the morning of on our first day rather than stay in and rest. I can only assume it was the sound sleep we’d all had combined with a hearty room service breakfast, an enticing view from our window and crisp Connecticut air. Our first stop was Food Works, a local answer to Wholefoods with an impressive selection of healthy and free-from foods, fresh produce and organic products. We then drove to Overabove to ensure we’d be able to locate it easily the next day.

We ate lunch at Mystic Market, a drive-by discovery that my intuition told me would make for a worthwhile stop (thank you, intuition!). High on my list of recommendations are their Falafel & Hummus Roll, the Eggplant Hero, the Roasted Portobello Panini… And, lest I forget, the outstanding Cowboy Caviar!

Fuelled and energised by our wholesome, ample lunch, we embarked on an easy afternoon trip to Gillette Castle State Park, located between the towns of East Haddam and Lyme. Originally a private residence, the castle was commissioned and designed by William Gillette, the American actor most famous for his stage portrayal of Sherlock Holmes.

We didn’t stay long, but the outing was enjoyable, giving us an enticing overview of the magnificent countryside of the area and some absolutely charming towns en route from Old Saybrook. Back at the hotel, the children made good use of the indoor pool. The pool area was a highlight of our stay, of course, and time spent relaxing in the warmth evoked serious summer holiday feelings… despite the fact that it was January and at times snowing heavily outside.

Monday rolled around and we headed off with excitement to the Overabove studio in Essex. I can’t speak highly enough about our experiences with the Royal Caribbean team, Ralph Guardiano and the crew at Overabove (including make-up squad Linda and Valerie Gengras). Their professionalism and their kindness (and the amazing catering, thanks to Coffee’s!) was so appreciated by all of us.

Having not worked on a project of this scope and nature before, I’ll admit to walking into it with some trepidation. However, when you are in the hands of consummate professionals, working with something that you genuinely love, in the very worst case you’ll have a fun experience. And in the best case, you’ll be part of something over which you end up proud. 🙂

Most of our days at the studio began in the morning and ended after lunch. The children were kept entertained by my husband, volunteers from the Overabove crew and our beloved Von Family when they were around. Afternoons and evenings were largely free for us to rest and explore. And this meant more visits to Mystic Market, pizzas from Pizza Works, a spot of shopping in Old Saybrook, and time spent in the pool, spa and gym.

We took advantage of the offer to have fires lit in our room too. Such a luxury! There couldn’t possibly be a cosier end to a busy day than one spent enjoying the warmth of a crackling fire after a bubble bath.

I have a confession to make. I have been more often disappointed than impressed by the salon/spa experiences that I have had over the years. And yet, being the diehard optimist I am, I still persist in making bookings and hoping for the best, especially when visiting a new locale. I am thrilled to report that my massage at Sanno Spa did not disappoint. In fact, I count it amongst the better experiences I have had. My massage therapist (Sarah, I believe) was excellent, the staff at the reception desk were very friendly, and spa premises themselves were wonderful.

On one occasion we were generously given the opportunity to experience a private banquet room for a spontaneous pizza party organised with our good friends, the Von Family. On several mornings we put the room service menu to good use, and I can heartily recommend everything that we tried (most of the menu, I believe!), but especially the granola pancakes.

The staff at Saybrook Point Inn’s restaurant, Fresh Salt, went above and beyond to accommodate our family, cater to our children and make us feel welcome. If you dine there, do yourself a favour and order the sweet potato fries!

On our final free day in Connecticut we visited fabulous Mystic Seaport, America’s leading maritime museum meets research and education centre. Located by Mystic River in Mystic, Connecticut, it features a working shipyard, exhibit halls and more. With more than 500 historic watercraft and lovely recreated New England coastal village, visitors can experience maritime history in an immersive and interactive manner, and our own mini historians loved the Children’s Museum, where they played ‘swab the deck’, cooked play food in the galley and asked questions about ship life.

We ate brunch at Somewhere in Time, a thoroughly unpretentious cafe diner with an extensive brunch selection that is clearly hugely popular with locals. I can recommend the veggie sausage, waffles, pancakes and banana bread French toast (all delicious). Despite being very full and not particularly buggy-friendly, it most definitely is a family venue, and the children loved choosing from the incredibly appealing menu options and colouring the activity sheets they were given while they waited for their food to arrive.

After a little more exploring, we returned to the hotel to get ready for the wrap party at fabulous Cafe Allegre, owned and operated by award-winning Executive Chef, Silvio Suppa. As popular with locals and families as it is with celebrities, Cafe Allegre offers a true farm to table experience starring delectable, authentic Italian dishes. The restaurant itself is charming and elegant, and the service welcoming and warm. It’s everything you could want in a dining experience, especially if you appreciate true Italian flavours!

Hearing that Lillian’s 4th birthday was a few days away, Nathalie most kindly organised a cake and present for her, and the entire gathering sang happy birthday for her. Ralph made a thank you speech which was incredibly generous, and humble Chef Silvio made a heartwarming appearance. The food kept coming and the celebration rolled on into the night. As a gift, I received a copy of Chef Silvio’s book (as if I wasn’t emotional enough already!) and I am waiting for a special occasion to try out one of the truly delicious looking recipes in our new kitchen.

We said goodbye and thank you to our new friends and drove back to the Inn knowing that 3 hours of sleep awaited before we’d be heading to the airport and ultimately California. Abby Von had made farewell gifts for us all. Rachel Von and I promised to stay in touch (and we have!). As I packed our belongings and watched my children sleeping in their cosy beds, I was struck by a deep sense of gratitude for our time in Connecticut, the people we’d encountered and all our experiences (both with and without food involved!). We truly had the perfect home base in Saybrook Point Inn. With its unpretentious yet luxurious appointments, excellent service and stellar location, it offered us what I imagine to be the quintessential New England shoreline experience. Every sunset and sunrise framed by the marina (with the sweetest lighthouse ever in the foreground) was a work of art.

Who could ever tire of this view?

And we’d recommend Connecticut heartily to anyone interested in visiting New England. To quote John Mariani, “Connecticut is Hollywood’s ideal of New England at its prettiest, its richest and its smartest—rather like Hepburn herself… Such idealization is not without foundation, most beautifully evident in eastern Connecticut towns like Essex, Old Lyme and Old Saybrook…”

Have you visited Connecticut? Or would you like to?

If you have no immediate plans to travel there, here’s a recipe that teleports me back to Mystic Market and maybe you’ll like it too…

❤ Marisa xx

COWBOY CAVIAR

Dip meets salad in the best way!

Inspired by one of the tastiest yet most simple take-away meals I have ever eaten, I decided to attempt a recreation of Cowboy Caviar. Delicious with corn chips or sweet potato fries, perfect in place of salsa, a fabulous side dish and a great addition to any buffet table, this humble dip-meets-salad is a new favourite at Marzipan HQ!

INGREDIENTS FOR SALAD

2 ripe avocados, diced
2 large ripe tomatoes, diced
250 ml sweetcorn kernels
1 tin black beans, drained and rinsed well
1 tin black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed well
2 spring onions, sliced finely
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
80 ml parsley (or coriander), finely chopped

INGREDIENTS FOR DRESSING

60 ml olive oil
2.5 tbsp apple cider vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
A squeeze of lime juice
A squeeze of lemon juice
A dash of maple syrup (optional)
1/4-1/2 tsp garlic salt
Pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Combine all dressing ingredients in a small bowl.
  3. Pour dressing over salad and toss. Serve immediately or keep for a day or two, covered and refrigerated and serve as required.

 

*For a baked version of sweet potato fries, check out this old post for Crisp(ier) Sweet Potato Fries

 

THANKS & CONNECTICUT LINKS

We’d like to extend our thanks to our talented and amazing friends at Royal Caribbean for the opportunity to visit Connecticut in the first place, to Overabove for being the generous, professional and excellent people they are, to Saybrook Point Inn for exceeding every expectation, and Mystic Seaport for offering us the perfect day out and some fascinating lessons in local maritime history.

This post is unsponsored and all views expressed are my own, as always. As I have mentioned several businesses, I’ll include links to them below:

Saybrook Point Inn: 2 Bridge St, Old Saybrook, CT 06475

Overabove: 8 Railroad Ave, Suite 110, PO Box 8 Essex, CT 06426

Food Works: 940 Boston Post Rd, Old Saybrook, CT 06475

Mystic Seaport: 75 Greenmanville Ave, Mystic, CT 06355

Cafe Allegre:  725 Boston Post Rd, Madison, CT

*It’s now officially Thursday here as I post this, though it’s still Wednesday in Connecticut 😉