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Sweet Nostalgia

Nicole Mondlock Conjures Memories of Her Childhood With Every Treat She Bakes

Nicole Mondlock knows first-hand how baking can help a person de-stress and contribute to a positive outlook. For seven years, Mondlock, who has a master’s degree in mental health counseling, worked as an outpatient therapist, case manager, grief counselor and crisis intervention specialist. “I loved being able to create a calm and safe space to empower my clients and advocate for them,” she says. 

However, when the pandemic forced her grief groups online, she experienced a toll on her own mental health. Grappling with the elusive work-life balance, Mondlock turned to what she loved most in life: baking. “Baking has always been a creative outlet for me and a way to de-stress,” she says. “My dad started making homemade banana bread with my sister and me when we were little and I still use the same recipe.” 

Mondlock’s other fond memory is of baking brownies with her mom when she was 14. They used a box mix but added special ingredients. “My maiden name is ‘Pepe,’ and from that day forward, my brownies became known as the ‘Nicole Pepe Brownies.’ They were requested at every gathering,” she says. “I’ve since tried out dozens of brownie recipes to get a similar brownie but without using a box mix.” 

She made cupcakes for friends in high school. In college, she made cookies to give to neighbors or bring to class. In graduate school, she made cakes for birthdays and parties. 

It was natural that in August 2020, she started Baked with Love by Nicole. Today, she offers a large menu of treats available to order for pick-up or delivery. “I make cakes, cupcakes, cookies, donuts, muffins, scones, breads, brownies, cinnamon buns and more,” she says. “Some of my favorite items are made with recipes from when I was growing up.” 

“Aunt Theresa’s Cookies” is a special family recipe that has been passed down. “It is a vanilla version of the Italian knot cookies that are sometimes made with lemon or anise extract,” she says. “The aroma from these cookies in the oven evokes wonderful memories of holidays with my family.”

Mondlock, who grew up in Monmouth County, recently relocated to Somerville from New York with her husband, Jeffrey, and Maggie, a Cattle Dog mix, and is enjoying getting to know the area. 

“One of my favorite things about what I do is bringing a smile to someone’s face through the simple joy of a sweet treat,” she says. “I love being asked to be a small part of special occasions or traditions and creating desserts that help make life just a little bit sweeter.”

Holiday Baking Tips

  1. Make your cookie dough ahead of time and wrap it in plastic wrap/store in the fridge for two days or the freezer for several weeks.
  2. If you don’t have a cookie cutter shape you need, be creative and use a few shapes that you do have to make the shape you want rather than buying more. 
  3. Check your baking powder and baking soda to make sure they are not expired as it can lead to flat cookies or treats.
  4. Stock up on ingredients like butter, eggs and sugar in advance to avoid the holiday rush. Butter can be stored in the freezer.
  5. Use plastic tablecloths for quick and easy cleanup when you are done baking.

Holiday Oreo Truffles
Makes 25 

Ingredients
25 Oreo cookies
4 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp coconut oil
Candy canes, crushed 

Directions
1. Using a food processor, crush the Oreo cookies into fine crumbs.
2. Beat the softened cream cheese and Oreo cookie crumbs in a stand mixer until a dough-like mixture has formed.
3. Roll into 1 inch balls. Place on baking sheet lined with wax paper and freeze for one hour.
4. Melt the semi-sweet chocolate chips and coconut oil in a microwave, stirring the mixture every 30 seconds.
5. Dip each Oreo ball into the melted chocolate using a fork and place back on the wax paper.
6. Sprinkle the Oreo balls with crushed candy canes and place in the fridge to harden. Store in the fridge until serving.

View Mondlock’s menu on Facebook at Baked with Love by Nicole. Order on Messenger, Instagram (@bakedwithlovebynicole) or via email (npepe21@aol.com).

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