For months now, I’ve been preparing myself and my business to transition into a new chapter, and today it happened. I’m so happy! It feels amazing to have reached this small goal. I feel like I’ve come so far and still have a long way to go. This business and I have done a lot of growing-up over these last six years as Mili’s Sweets.
The cool thing about “growing up” is that every day, I’m still becoming who I’m suppose to be. Everything put in front of me, is an opportunity to keep going, to not compromise on myself – to enjoy being myself. And I honestly don’t want to stop growing and learning until the day I’m done living.
Part of the awesomeness of being myself is focusing on what is important to me. Focusing on my priorities and doing whatever it takes to be sure I get done, what I said I would for my family, for my faith, for myself, and even to fulfill the promises I make through my business and to my customers, all rule my daily schedule. I care a lot about these things. They are all incredibly personal because they involve my time, love and life.
I am who I am, because I am part of my family. Here I was behind the scenes with my mom in the kitchen last weekend and today, at my free sampling event, with my daughter. There’s a lot of hard work, dedication and love going on when we are together. We laugh and talk a lot and we take little breaks for a hug and kiss. This is precious to me. I am blessed to have these wonderful people by my side and as long as they are proud of me, I’m good.
Many of you have been friends with me and have followed me on this Mili’s Sweets journey since day one, so some of this is new and some of this is old news for what I’ve done to switch things up.
So, last night, my husband and I took down my custom bakery case from the dessert shop counter, bringing my daily-retail to an end and bringing my updated pre-order /catering/custom dessert business back to the center of what I do. It was liberating and yet another note-worthy moment for my business.
It was January 2015, when I first dove into selling exclusively at retail with my friends at MiaBella Yogurt & Desserts. It was fun, exciting and crazy-challenging. I never had employees before. I have never been so busy, trying to fulfill all of those things on my priority list and taking care of the extras that always come along (this past year has been wonderful, but has come with life-challenges, especially being by my side with my dad during treatments for his cancer).
I’m thankful for my current employees – Maria and Esperanza. They are a blessing too. I care a lot about them and consider them a very important asset to what we do each day. And of course, I can’t stop constantly thanking my dear friends, Marty and Amy Clow, for letting me into their kitchen and giving me this amazing opportunity in the first place. They are incredible on so many levels. Their MiaBella employees behind the counter and behind the scenes are great too. This is an awesome and truly loving, family-run/local business.
Today I celebrated my updated business model, by offering free samples to anyone who came into either MiaBella shop. It was so great! Here was the sampling table in Vista. I made hundreds of mini cupcakes and lots of cookies for the Vista and Escondido MiaBella shops. I had classic, vegan and gluten free options, like I always do. It was fun and I loved stopping to speak with everyone who came by.
So now that I’ve taken the step, here is the deal for how my updated business-model will work going forward:
Since the day I started the exclusive partnership with MiaBella, I always wanted most of my business to be pre-order since my core strength is making desserts for my customers, exactly how they like them and according to their dietary preferences, so that no one misses out on dessert. It has always been my mission since I decided to make peanut and tree-nut free desserts because of my son’s severe allergies. However, at the end of the day, I was missing the personal interaction I had with friends and customers when a majority of my time had to be focused on daily retail sales. I couldn’t give that personalized and custom aspect of my business the time that I wanted to, as there was simply not enough time in the day. I had to take the leap and work it out, so that I could do this my way and get back to my core business.
The cool thing is that now that I am all pre-order, customers can get exactly what they want, when they want it. No more disappointment when I sell out of a flavor that a customer came in for and really wants. I’m a small operation on purpose because I really love the quality control of small batches, so I don’t think I could ever do what big bakeries do. Customers can pre-order as few as 4 cupcakes, and I’ll have it waiting for them at either MiaBella counter! If they want more services, I offer delivery and full dessert table setting and styling services too.
Another cool thing is, in a way, I’m still at retail! Most every Friday, I’m offering my catering-extras at MiaBella for only $1-$2 each. It’s a crazy-awesome offer because I don’t want anything to go to waste and I do want to give my wonderful customers who just want to come in, something to look forward to most every Friday. I’m excited about it and most of all because it’s the best of both worlds for me. (To see my calendar of events, availability for catering, set pre-order menu, and when I’m offering my discounted extras, please go to milissweetstogo.com, and visit my calendars.)
Through all of this I can be proud of nothing but progress: I gained the experience of running my business at retail, I gave myself the gift of insight to stop, sit down and analyze my life and goals to do what is best for me, and I gained a lot of new and wonderful customers who have come through the two MiaBella locations over these many months to enjoy my desserts.
My friends and customers have been asking me to come back to catering, setting and styling dessert tables and so I am back to that too. Many of the new customers who have come through the doors of MiaBella for a treat, have no idea about the services I have offered and now offer, so I created a look book to be viewed in the shop and online, via my pre-order website.
Here a link: Mili’s Sweets LOOK BOOK
There you have it! This is how it has all come together. I’m beyond thrilled and now I feel like I can take a deep breath and then the next deep breath. I appreciate you, and my awesome friends and customers for being present, allowing this dream-opportunity (for me to be able to bake for you and share with you) to be a reality.
If you have questions, comments or notes for me, please feel free to email anytime: email@example.com.
Thank you and take care, Mili
My catering mission, was to bake 1,000 cookies from scratch in one day. The easy part would be styling and setting the dessert tables. It was the first and only time I have ever catered cookies as the only dessert. It was a hit!
I was asked by two very generous women to treat the parishioners of St. Thomas More to a cookie-buffet, to be enjoyed after the ground-breaking ceremony of their new church-build.
On the menu: Oatmeal Raisin, Chocolate Chip, Lemon Tea, Chewy Ginger and Snickerdoodle.
It was a very good thing to have my mom by my side for all of this work! I simply could not have done this without her. I was also fortunate to have scheduled the time needed in the commercial kitchen I was renting. My momma and I rolled out more than enough dough and baked 12 or so dozen at a time. It was awesome! We are a good team and made it fun.
The floral arrangements made the dessert tables so lovely! The small arrangements had orange roses with ivory and green hydrangea. The larger arrangements were beautiful as well, with more greenery and lilies in both yellow star and white cala.
I loved the white plating, placed on brown and wood-toned pedestals. The set-up squeezed in nicely onto three, 6′ tables.
It didn’t take long at all to plate the cookies, since I was organized and knew exactly how I wanted to lay them out beforehand. The best part was meeting the sweet parishioners and knowing how much the enjoyed the cookies.
I have always loved to cater weddings. It’s even more wonderful when the client is a decisive bride who has a really good idea of the look and feel of her reception. I set, styled and catered this dessert table, for a wonderful bride and groom who didn’t want the every-day dessert table, but something colorful and fun surrounding their main color of peach and lots of cupcakes.
(This is a repost of a dessert table that I catered, set and styled years ago. It’s still beautiful and relevant.)
She handmade a “love is sweet” sign for the dessert table, with lace and ribbon streamers. She left doilies and small floral arrangements for me to include.
At the center of the table was the cutting-cake. The bride chose ruffles in a peach-ombre pattern. I made sugar-succulents as decorations.
I rented much of the pedestal plating from a friend who no longer rents her dessert table pieces. She had a lot of beautiful items, with different colors that all worked really nicely together. On the left, I used warm tones of plating of yellows. On the right, there were cool tones of blue. In the center, I used plating in tones of green.
I made custom labeling to match the look, feel and design of their wedding invitations.
The cupcake menu included Mexican Hot Cocoa, Gluten-Free Coconut Dream, Red Velvet, Lemonade, Vanilla Velvet and Churro.
The outdoor reception was held at the lovely Keys Creek Lavender Farm, located in Valley Center, California.
It was an incredible event and I felt very honored to have been chosen as a vendor, but there were some challenges. First, it was 115 degrees outside. Then, there was the wedding coordinator. She was extremely rude to me and unorganized. I wasn’t thrilled about the situation, especially considering how hard I had worked before even arriving. I was on-time and confirmed to set the dessert table in a specific window of time. She told me I had to wait, and that I could not set the table. She didn’t tell me when I could finish the job I was hired to accomplish.
After I unloaded my packed SUV, I tried to find a shady spot. There is no refrigeration or indoor-space on the premises where I was told to step aside. I was nervous for how well the cake and cupcakes would hold up in the heat. After standing and stressing in the background for 40 minutes or so, I was given the go to start setting the table.
It was a bit awkward for me to work, since I had to take all of my bulky bins of desserts and plating onto the reception area where guests had already been invited to celebrate. With all of this plating and 100 cupcakes or so, I needed a little elbow room. I didn’t have much. With that much pressure and that much heat, I was perspiring with a full-blown audience of guests that watched me work. I worked hard and as quickly as possible.
Fortunately, the table was placed under some trees, that kept the cupcakes and cake shaded.
If it were up to me (and almost every other wedding plan I had catered in the past years) the dessert table would have been set before the guests arrived to the reception. It’s all right. Sometimes you have to roll with whatever happens (and whomever happens) and it will get done. I was just happy that the bride and groom entered the reception to a completed dessert table, and that they were thrilled.
I can’t get enough of desserts with fresh berries and citrus. I wanted to make something extra special for our Easter celebration, so I made two different tarts to complement one another, in one of my favorite fruit and berry combinations: key limes and raspberries.
The crust is an incredibly important part of the tart. I’m really excited to share my super easy and delicious shortbread tart crust recipe and how-to. I love this recipe so much, that the ratio of crust to curd/fruit filling is a lot higher for my tarts. It’s just what I prefer. This recipe is also perfect for making lemon bars. If you prefer less crust, I recommend you cut the shortbread tart crust recipe in half.
I’ve been loving fresh curd/fruit fillings in my desserts for spring. So far I’ve made lemon, orange, key lime and raspberry. If you’re a big fan of lemon, simply use my lemon curd/pie filling recipe from my lemon meringue pie post. The recipes will be exactly the same, except for omitting the citrus zest when using berries. Below I’ll demonstrate the raspberry curd/filling.
All right. Let’s make a tart! You will first need to prepare the crust.
Shortbread Tart Crust Recipe by Mili’s Sweets
Here’s what you’ll need:
18 tablespoons of butter (2 sticks, plus two tablespoon)
2 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour
6 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Here’s what you’ll do:
Place all of the ingredients into the bowl of your standing mixer. Use the paddle attachment and mix on low until all ingredients have literally lifted from the bowl, forming the dough.
Before handling the dough, prepare the pan with a light amount of cooking spray and set aside a small amount of flour to powder your hands. (The spray is probably not necessary with a non-stick pan, but I tend to be overly careful use it anyway.)
I used a 7″ x 11″ rectangle tart pan. The dough will form a ball in your hands within seconds. Place your formed ball in the center of the pan and arrange it so that it completely covers the pan and goes up to the top of the sides. To have a beautiful finish, where the tart will have the ridges of the pan, use your hand and thumb to push the excess dough away from the top edge of the pan.
Next, use a fork to make an edging and a toothpick to poke holes at the bottom of the dough (so that when you bake it, it doesn’t misshape). Cover with plastic wrap and allow to chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes. You can have this prepared in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. When you are ready, bake at 350 degrees for 22 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to completely cool before pouring in your fruit curd of choice.
Mili’s Sweets Raspberry Curd/Filling Recipe
Here’s what you’ll need:
1/2 cup of salted butter (two sticks), softened
1 cup sugar
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup raspberry puree (blended fresh berries, with seeds strained/removed)
(For Key Lime Curd/Filling, use the zest of 6-8 key limes, along with substituting the puree with 1/3 cup of freshly-squeezed lime juice. Place the zest, after your butter has been creamed to the bottom of your standing mixer bowl. It will take about a dozen key limes, depending on their size.)
Here’s what you’ll do:
In a standing mixer, with a paddle attachment or scraping paddle attachment, on medium-speed, cream the softened butter until it completely covers the bottom of the mixing bowl. (If you are making the key-lime version, you’ll now mix in the zest.)
Add the sugar and salt. Mix until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, until all are incorporated. Mix in the raspberry puree last.
Pour the mixture into a saucepan at medium heat. Use a whisk to constantly stir the ingredients. Use a timer to keep your time of 10 minutes. In 6-7 minutes, you’ll notice that it will start to bubble. It will also be turning a deeper pink color. At that point, lower the heat to medium-low and continue whisking. By the end of the 10 minutes your arm might be a little sore but it will be worth it. Once the 10 minutes are up, remove the pan from heat.
Pour the hot mixture directly into the cooled, prepared pie crust. Use an offset spatula to spread the filling evenly. I don’t like to use plastic wrap to cover tarts before I refrigerate, since it creates snags in the filling. Place the tart into the refrigerator as is, for at least 2 and a half hours, or until you are ready to serve.
When you are ready to serve and the tart has been removed from the pan and plated, decorate and garnish by placing fresh berries and slices of lime at the top of the tart. It would also be beautiful if the tart was completely covered with only slices of key lime or only fresh raspberries.
The end result is a vibrant, delicious and memorable dessert. I hope you’ll be able to make one of these tarts or any of the fresh curds this spring. If you do, and use my recipes, please let me know how it goes!
At this point in my life, I get to put on quite a few different aprons. Before I start my day’s work, it’s a must that I hang up any ego since it would just get in the way.
If at any time, I’m feeling slightly proud of myself for what I had accomplished in a day, my triumphs are mini and only done for the sake of giving what I can give at that very moment. My uniform shows me and others that I am a sort of servant. I embrace it. I love that I can contribute. It brings me to my true self who somehow has God-given gifts, despite my many current and eventual limitations.
For example, it feels amazing when I am able to do all of the laundry, without making a mountain of clothes to iron. However, while I’m in the zone of doing my least-favorite chore, I’m thankful that I have the strength and health to make it happen.
When I gave in, against my motto, and signed up for too much after school with the kids, and wake up early to get dinner prepped by 6am, it feels like my apron has suddenly turned into a crown, that only my family can see. If it’s hard and I’m tired, I just switch up my thought process and give thanks that I have this beautiful family to help take care of.
Sometimes I miss the old jobs that I once had, like changing diapers and making baby food but those days are gone. I do, however, appreciate those who are in-deep with these difficult jobs and try to hold a baby (even crying) whenever possible. I’ve learned that having older or independent kids doesn’t mean easier work, it is just a different (but still very good and rewarding) time in this life.
I often find myself, not in a hurry, but with desire to do as much as I possibly can, as if I won’t have many tomorrows. I really don’t over commit anymore and be sure to only say yes to what I can handle. Sometimes I daydream of accomplishing more. . .
And then there’s the apron I wear when I’m a baker or doing what’s needed to run my little business. This one is a blessing too, because it is a special opportunity to create and to do what I enjoy. It is fun and rewarding, but it’s also extremely humbling.
I remember making pumpkin pies years ago as a fundraiser for the youth group at my parish. An elderly woman ordered a few for her family. She told me that she admired my work and that there was a time when she could cook and bake, but she couldn’t physically do it anymore. She could no longer lift a pan. She didn’t have the strength to mix ingredients by hand. She was sad about that fact, but fondly remembered the time when she could. She told me that she was glad that I could be her hands.
Her words left an impression on me. I do think of her sometimes, as I work, and I understand my place. I find it an honor to be anyone’s hands. I also understand the possibility that one day, I might be in her position. While I can do what I do now, I want to do it.
Once some of my little jobs are done, it’s nice to relax with those who love me most. Whether this time is spent during some much needed quiet and reflection at Mass, or at home, with my loved ones (all in my face the way I like them to be) – laughing, playing or helping – the time is my reward.
I love this vintage pic of these ladies in their aprons. (I happened to crop out the pumps they were wearing.) If they had a bun on top of their heads, and no red lipstick, it might be a little more true-to-life.
For more of my personal writing, please see the “my stories” link in the ABOUT section of my blog.