In trying to keep a sense of normalcy around here, I thought I would take some time to do a cookbook review, this being Saturday and all!
With everyone being stuck at home, I know that many people have increased their cooking and baking. I've been thinking about why this is, but I think in part it's because there is an extreme sense of comfort to be derived from being in the kitchen. The world feels very overwhelming right now, and things feel a bit out of control. But cooking? You can control that. If you whisk eggs and cream and butter, you know what you're going to get. There's comfort in that.
For this week's review I've selected the Magnolia Table cookbook from Joanna Gaines. I am reviewing her first book as she has her second one coming out this week.
I remember helping my grandother clean up after Thanksgiving on eyear, and she instsisted on putting everything away herself. At first I thought she was being stubborn, but one year she admitted, "if I don't stack everything just so, it doesn't fit." At the time I didn't understand, but I now have a kitchen built at roughly the same time as my grandmother's. If I don't stack everything "just so" it doesn't fit.
Prior to starting this kitchen remodel, I made a list of all the "problem" areas in my kitchen and vowed to come up with solutions to fix them. One such area was the fact that our pots and pans were stacked and you had to move them all to get at the one you wanted. As I began building the cabinets, I knew their had to be a better way. I turned to an Ana White plan, and I'm thrilled with the results.
I'm in an awkward phase of home ownership that I'm sure many of you can relate to, we're going to renovate in the near future so I don't want to spend money on remodels that are going to be done again...but not so near in the future that I can live with it how it is.
Our hosue has not been updated since the 1950s, the kitchen is original. After emptying our savings to buy our house, there was nothing left for a remodel. So, I slapped white paint on eveyrthing, made faux counters, put some peel and stick down and called it a day. We could revisit in the future when we had more money.
Well, as the countertop slowly warps in and the cabinets no longer close, we're at a precipice. We're still a few years from a big remodel, but we can't live iwth it how it is. I was going over options one night when it came to me, let's just do it ourselves. I mean the whole thing. I could customize it to fit in the small space, make it functional in the mean time, and if/when we remodel I can use what we made here in our planned in-law. Once again the goal is to do it on a very small budget, so I'm going to layout my plans here and I'll let you know how it all plays out. We had planned this prior to social distancing, so we're going to try to make the best of being quite literally stuck at home and use this time to build as many components of the kitchen as possible.
This is not going to be my usual Sunday Coffee post, because these are not usual times. I have been wrestling for the past week with what to do with this little space. Would it be tacky to continue writing blog posts with everything going on in the world?
After much thought and discussion, I'm going to keep writing, as more and more people find themselves social distancing, or even quarantined, I think feeling connected is more important than ever. How lucky we are to live in a time when we can still find community through the internet, even when we may not be able to join it in person.
My husband is a Science teacher and has been trying to mentally prepare me that this would happen since the first outbreak in Wuhan. I have to admit that I didn't fully believe him. We are both social creatures, we meet up with friends several times a week and love to host gatherings. We love to go out in the city to dine and shop. It feels all feels so strange. So I hope that you see this, not as me ignoring what's happening in our world, but continuing to connect with the community here. Here are 5 things to do while you are social distancing.
I have an affinity for books, and for the past decade I've sadly relegated them to bins and boxes. I recently found an essay I wrote in high school on my love of reading and in it I said that I wanted the "finest thing in my house to be my library." I think high school me would be pretty proud of these book cases. My favorite feature is the lighting. It gives such a nice glow at night, and elevates the whole piece. I was able to find very affordable lighting that was easy to use. If you are illuminating a bookcase or adding under cabinet lighting in a kitchen, you'll want to read on. Here is all the lighting info!
I have been a Francophile since I tasted my first croissant in the second grade. The crusty outside, buttery flaky inside, and the novelty of such wonder at breakfast took my heart and forever endeared me to the allure of the French cafe lifestyle.
When I had the chance to visit Paris in 2015, I was so sure it wouldn't live up to decades of hype that I had built up. I'm happy to report it did. The cafes were charming and oh so French. The rows of bottles behind the bar begged to tell their stories.
The moment that I truly fell in love with Paris however was at the Place de la Concorde. It was a frigid February night and we had just savored chocolate crepes and been a bit touristy and taken a ride on the Roue de Paris. I was just soaking in all the Parisian magic when we spotted a stand selling Vin Chaud. The Parisian version of mulled wine under the city lights warmed body and soul and I have been seeking to recreate the magic since.
When I learned that David Lebovitz, one of my favorite cookbook authors (and the best source for Americans traveling to France) was publishing another cookbook all about the traditions of french cafes with 160 recipes, I knew I had to purchase it.
I've just finished devouring Drinking French, so if you'd like more information here it is!
Sunday Coffee, it's just so much better than Monday coffee! I'm sure you know by now how much I love coffee in all its many forms. One of my favorite Sunday indulgences is a good coffee shop style flavored latte. I am guilty of marking the changing of the seasons by the Starbucks menu (although if I'm being honest it always seems to be a little ahead for us in New England, I refuse to drink pumpkin until the leaves change). After purchasing my Nespresso and building my coffee bar, I've shifted to almost exclusively making my fancy lattes at home. This means that I've been on a quest to find the best products, the same products they use in coffee shops.
There are many ways to achieve flavor in lattes, some healthier than others. Coffee shops primarily use syrups. So when I'm hankering for a truly indulgent seasonally flavored latte, that's what I turn to as well. Now that I've tried allll the syrups, I'm going to share my favorites with you (as well as which ones I avoid).
So pour a cup and join me for some Sunday Coffee!
I have so many of Ina's cookbooks, and for the same reason. They are good. They are easy to follow, the photography is lovely and helps me to understand what the finished product should resemble, and I know if I go to the store and spend money on ingredients, it will be worth it. The recipe will turn out as it should. There's a wonderful confidence to be gained from that. It's like having a secret trick up my sleeve. Whatever the occasion, I know I can produce just the right dish to share. I could review any of her books and come to the same conclusion, that you need to have them. I thought though, I would start with her first book, Barefoot Contessa. It's the "OG Ina" if you will, and I return to it again and again when I need some inspiration in the kitchen.
It contains recipes from her specialty food store of the same name. These are crowd pleasing recipes that teeter the line between high and low in the most delicious and perfect way. The recipes are dishes that are familiar, you've made them before, but Ina's added a twist that takes the flavor and luxuriousness up a notch.
This isn't a difficult, time consuming, DIY. Not everything needs to be. In fact, sometimes the simplest change can have the biggest impact.
My living room's picture window has been half done for three years (cue the face palm). I started to paint it white and never finished. That's probably a good thing because I have recently fallen hard for black window panes. Yet the window remained unpainted. So this past weekend I finally decided, it was time.
I'm not dairy free in spite of the fact that I struggle to digest it. I just can't give up ice cream, cheese, and of course my decadent cafe au lait. I think this is kind of a "love hurts" situation. That being said I go through bouts where I like to take a break from dairy in my coffee. I also have friends who are dairy free, and up until now I have never found a good replacement for milk in lattes and cappuccinos. I've tried almond, soy, coconut, and potato milk and none of them could replicate the texture when frothed and heated. When I saw Oat Milk available in fancy schmancy coffee shops I had to try it for myself.