I need the Care Bear Stare, no joke. The past couple of weeks have been rough, and I know the trouble I face is nothing compared to what others are going through around the world. I feel a little jaded.
I don’t have any fancy belly power (unless you count dessert-making), but I can compile any bits of joy into a salve of sorts: my list of things that make me hopeful. I hope it’s as helpful to you as it is to me.
Things That Make Me Hopeful
1. I ran out of toothpaste and toilet paper this week but miraculously found that I had more of both in the cabinet. This never happens.
2. One of my students has decided her passion is kindness, and she is currently trying to complete 101 Random Acts of Kindness. She’s blogging about it on her adorable blog.
3. Beautiful dishes. Rosanna sent me (for free) the gorgeous pink cake pedestal you see here to review, and now I kind of want to buy out the whole store. I can’t get enough of it. In fact, I don’t actually put pretty dishes like this away — I use them to decorate my living space.
4. I locked myself out of my bedroom and somehow managed to pick the lock with a bobby pin. Profuse self-congratulating (and God-thanking, because I’m not totally delusional) ensued. Please call me MacGyver.
5. I was gifted two beautiful bouquets of flowers when I moved into my new apartment. They’ve long since died and dried out, but they’re still too gorgeous to dispose of. I decided one of them should make an appearance in the background of these photos.
6. My friend Jessie, a current senior at my alma mater, Davidson College, writes a beautiful blog, Eating Aarti. She’s about to move to Seattle and work at a crumpet shop, and I can’t really explain how happy that sounds to me.
8. Spring is here and to enjoy it, I walk to the gym each evening instead of driving. I’m going to buy a couple of plastic chairs and some ferns for my balcony and create a little outdoor workspace. I’ve been excited about doing this all winter, and now I finally can!
9. One of my students has been working very hard on an absolutely stunning short story. When he finished, I gave him a series of revision challenges, but he came up to me with a very serious look on his face. He said, “Ms. Ruble, I really don’t want to change my story. I really want it the way that I have it.” I read him a stirring passage from a novel and asked if he wouldn’t like to use a similar extended metaphor in his work and he said, “Maybe. I just feel like it will mess it up to change it.”
His resistance was clearly not due to laziness or a desire to be finished; he just loved his story and felt strongly about how he had arranged things. I had him make a copy so he could experiment on one without risking his perfect draft. And then I sat down and thought about how priceless it was that he was proud of his work.
10. Brave New Voices is a collection of organizations that support young poets. I’ve been clicking around on YouTube watching teams of these kids who are so passionate about being heard and so worth hearing. I cry every time I see this one.
11. Girl Scout cookies. Actually, I’m just going to say it. You’re going to act like I punched a kitten, but I’m going to say it anyway. I don’t really love Girl Scout cookies. Couldn’t the Girl Scouts sell cake? Or pizza or pad thai or something? But Girl Scout cookies nevertheless give me hope, because nothing can unite a group of people like pulling out 8 or so of those brightly colored boxes. Suddenly everyone’s all Do-si-doing and Samoaing in harmony.
This Samoa Monkey Bread will have a similar effect, but with a little more panache, perhaps. It’s a riff on regular monkey bread — which is already the bee’s knees — except that each nugget is stuffed with melty chocolate and the whole thing is covered in coconut with a ganache drizzle. I added an extra bowl of ganache for dipping and it did not go unappreciated. I’m not going to lie: it’s tedious tucking chocolate into each little dough ball, but it’s also beyond worth it. This is one of those “must make” recipes. And I hope it makes your “Things That Give Me Hope” list!
One year ago: Pure Insanity: Pumpkin Oatmeal Cake Ice Cream Sundae
Two years ago: Rich Ice Cream and Coffee Cheesecake
Three years ago: Chocolate Tart with Pretzels
Samoa Monkey Bread with Ganache Dipping Sauce
Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking, heavily adapted from Pillsbury
Yield: 12 servings
Samoa Girl Scout cookies are good. Monkey Bread is good. Samoa Monkey Bread is INSANE. You have to make this one! It’s a little fiddly filling each dough ball with chocolate, but so worth it.
4 (7.5-ounce) tubes of refrigerated biscuits
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon coconut extract
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cup shredded coconut
3/4 bag of Hershey’s Baking Melts* for stuffing
1 cup chocolate chips (I prefer Ghirardelli 60% cacao chips for this ganache)
1/2 cup heavy cream
*Karly turned me on to these and they’re perfect for this application, but you can use chocolate chips or even chocolate kisses if you need to.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 12-cup tube or bundt pan. Toss sugar, cinnamon, cocoa powder, and 1/2 cup coconut in a gallon-size plastic zip bag to mix. Cut each refrigerator biscuit in half and place a baking melt on it. Pinch the dough around the baking melt to close completely. Put the dough balls into the prepared bag and toss gently to coat. Then place the coated dough balls into the greased tube pan. Once you get a full layer of dough balls in the pan, sprinkle on about 1/2 cup of shredded coconut flakes. Keep layering dough balls and coconut until the dough balls are all in the pan. Sprinkle a little more coconut over the top.
Mix melted butter, coconut extract, and brown sugar carefully and pour over the dough balls. Bake for about 45 minutes or until well browned (so the middle won’t be doughy). Remove the pan from the oven and cool for 5 minutes before (carefully — the hot butter might splash) inverting it onto a plate.
While it cools slightly, put the chocolate chips in a medium bowl. Heat the heavy cream in the microwave for about 1 minute — long enough to make it hot, but not enough for it to boil. Pour it over the chocolate chips and let it sit for 2 minutes. Then whisk in small circles to form ganache. Drizzle a little over the top of your monkey bread before pouring the rest into a bowl. Serve the ganache with the warm monkey bread for dipping.
BeckyApril 15, 2013 at 12:35 pm (10 years ago)
As a Girl Scout leader, I second the motion of ‘why can’t they sell something else?’. My troop doesn’t sell cookies and I’ve gotten quite a bit of heat about that over the years. No one wants to be cookie mom – it’s a ton of work. So, we just don’t.
I can’t wait to try this.
MomApril 15, 2013 at 12:54 pm (10 years ago)
Looks delicious! Make sure when you buy a fern you get the “Kimberly Queen” or something like that. They are very hardy (9.99 or so at Home Depot or Lowes) and last all season without much care. Ours sit on the porch all year and we just let the rain water them. (Boston ferns die on us every time!!)
Why can’t Girl Scouts sell chia seeds or almond milk? Ha!
Lisa @ Who Stole My Baby?April 15, 2013 at 1:10 pm (10 years ago)
I can understand your student’s reluctance to change much of his story. That’s half the reason I blog – cause once it’s out there, it’s out there, whether it’s perfect or not, and I don’t have to torture myself with constant editing like I do on a book/story. It’s nice to see some typos in my posts here and there!
Jenny @ BAKEApril 15, 2013 at 1:38 pm (10 years ago)
This is a lovely post! I can’t believe you picked a lock that’s incredible! this monkey bread looks like enough to put a smile on my face on the worst of days!
Stephanie @ Girl Versus DoughApril 15, 2013 at 2:45 pm (10 years ago)
Love this post, and LOVE that monkey bread! Just looking at it is making me happier. 🙂
Katrina @ Warm Vanilla SugarApril 15, 2013 at 4:12 pm (10 years ago)
This is stunning! And so tasty looking. Love this idea!
Amy | Club NarwhalApril 15, 2013 at 4:22 pm (10 years ago)
I maybe cried a little bit reading #8–it’s the former teacher inside of me doing all sorts of joyful backflips for a student who has the confidence and pride in his work that I wish I could access more easily. What an amazing moment. And I’m glad that you were able to find 11 awesome things in the midst of a very hard week. Plus, Samoa monkey bread? Takes it to the next level of genius 🙂
Amy | Club NarwhalApril 15, 2013 at 4:24 pm (10 years ago)
Oops–I meant # 9 but you got what I was saying, right?
lynn @ the actor's dietApril 15, 2013 at 4:32 pm (10 years ago)
I’m going to die. Why can’t you live next door to me?!?
Mari @ Oh, Sweet & SavoryApril 15, 2013 at 5:09 pm (10 years ago)
Melty chocolate on the inside and chocolate ganache on the outside? Sounds divine! Thanks for sharing!
Tracy | Peanut Butter and OnionApril 15, 2013 at 5:43 pm (10 years ago)
I love that your student is doing this.. I read and I will be follow it to see what other RAOK they perform.
I must also make this bread, I see it everywhere.. although yours has chocolate…Mmmmmm.
Amanda @ Once Upon a RecipeApril 15, 2013 at 6:33 pm (10 years ago)
How precious is your student’s blog! It warms my heart.
And this bread! Well, if it can’t give someone hope, or if it at least doesn’t help you forget your problems for a short while, I don’t know what will! Here’s wishing you a better week ahead! xo.
Cookbook QueenApril 15, 2013 at 7:10 pm (10 years ago)
Sooo..the bobby pin thing works, then? I always thought that was a myth.
Also, I am now obsessively perusing that site for cake stands.
Also, that monkey bread. Are you even serious with this? Need.
AlaApril 15, 2013 at 7:11 pm (10 years ago)
Your students are wonderful, and it’s even more fantastic that you’re finding silver linings wherever you turn. What an inspiration you are, Julie! I particularly loved the anecdote about your student with the “perfect story”–it’s definitely something to keep in mind when I next teach creative writing for my middle schoolers, but I especially love his pride in his work. Thank you, as always, for sharing! It’s good to see you back and writing.
PapaLos @ The Man, The Chef, The DadApril 15, 2013 at 7:56 pm (10 years ago)
Wow, MacGyver.. I don’t know if you did it on purpose, but this is quite the inspirational post. From the Humans of New York link (which I got stuck on for a while) to the kid who wouldn’t change his story to the video of the 2 powerful poets – this post is so full of muse-filled win it’s incredible.
I used to do a poetry blog so I know how powerful the spoken word can be. They remind me a lot of Yellow Rage. Check them out if you never heard of them.
Oh yeah.. and the monkey bread! Freaking icing on the cake! And as sad as it may look, I loved the picture with the dying bouquet. Not only is it beautifully taken, it really compliments the tone you have in the post.
Which, by the way, I hope that whatever caused you to compile such inspirational stories is just a bump in your road that you will be over soon. Thanks for the amazing post.
BeccaApril 19, 2013 at 5:15 am (10 years ago)
I love this post. Just the kind of thing I needed to read today! It looks delicious too!
LeAndraApril 19, 2013 at 11:42 pm (10 years ago)
The timing of this post is one of those coincidences that removes the doubt I sometimes let creep in about whether or not there is something bigger out there guiding our actions. Things That Make Me Hopeful…
It’s amazing how many things we can find to be thankful for or look forward to or just plain enjoy in any one day. Thanks for sharing this glimpse into the good things going on all around us.
Julie RubleApril 19, 2013 at 11:45 pm (10 years ago)
I kind of couldn’t believe the timing, myself. God knows what we need and when we need it. I’m really glad this encouraged you, too. <3
judith q stewartApril 21, 2013 at 9:34 pm (10 years ago)
…hello, sorry to be such a novice but i do not understand what a “…Place a baking melt on it?…
what is a baking melt?
i’d love to prepare this for my grandchildren but i am stuck on the 2 nd sentence of directions.
thank you for your help.
Julie RubleApril 22, 2013 at 1:51 am (10 years ago)
Hi Judith, If you click the words “Hershey’s Baking Melts” in the recipe, it takes you to a page that will show you. They’re like big chocolate chips that melt easily in your recipe to give you a gooey chocolate middle. They should be in the chocolate chip aisle near the chocolate chips. You can substitute a few chocolate chips in each dough nugget if you can’t find them in the grocery store!
judith q stewartApril 22, 2013 at 3:08 pm (10 years ago)
Oh Thank you so much Julie for your time and information, it was very kind of you. Judith
Julie RubleApril 22, 2013 at 5:17 pm (10 years ago)
Sure thing! I hope you love it!