February, oh February. Short and sweet lil’ month. February was great. It was a good balance of productivity and relaxation, very rare in my world. I’m either going at warp speed or feeling weird and unproductive. Striking that balance is something I always strive for, but rarely accomplish.
I got really into skin care this month. I bought a lot of flowers, watched a lot of movies, listened to a lot of podcasts.
The month started with me drinking milky coffee in the sun. It was sort of chilly so the sun felt good.
I went to Ojai for a night. The Ojai Rancho Inn is pretty cute. I got a deal via Hotel Tonight. Have you used that app? You can book last-minute hotel rooms at a really good price. I think we only paid like $70 that night. NOT BAD!
I don’t discuss failures very often because a lot of the time, they’re sort of boring stories, i.e., my leavening ratio was off, the dish was bland, spices should’ve been toasted, etc. They’re not really all that exciting, but I think talking about them is important because probably from the outside it looks like I ace every single dish and the reality is that I don’t. AT ALL. And also, we all know perfection is dull. Is there anything more boring than perfection? No.
Today I was hoping to share with all of youse a beautiful silky smooth recipe for Homemade Yogurt. I started out hopeful. I did a ton of research and settled on the fact that there was no way I was going to buy a yogurt maker. Because A: I don’t need another kitchen gadget. B: I don’t make that much yogurt to justify the cost.
So, I did what a lot of people suggest: I mixed in a teaspoon of sugar into 2 cups of fresh milk (just to encourage the bacteria) and heated it to 170F-180F. At this time, the milk should cool to 110F. I did this. And then I mixed in about 1/4 cup good-quality Greek yogurt. (I wanted the two strands in there, so I used Greek.) I transferred the liquid to sterilized jars and left them out on my counter to sit. I’ll admit that it was drafty in my apt. It’s winter (ish) in LA after all. After around 8 hours, it was still super milky. I put it in the fridge thinking it would firm up. NOPE.
Ok, second try. I turned my oven on and set a baking sheet with the soon-to-be-yogurt on top. The oven was set to nearly 400F so it was really, REALLY warm in my kitchen. Six hours later, STILL LIKE MILK.
Tried it again just to make sure I didn’t mess up a step. NOPE. Still the same.
Josh came home, examined the yogurt and told me that at his restaurant they keep it out for longer, they move it from different places within the restaurant depending on the temperature and that it actually is fickle. It’s not an exact science.
UGH! As a person who writes recipes for da innanet, I can’t deal with the fickleness, especially when we can just buy damn yogurt for like $3. Why would we deal with the moodiness of yogurt?
If we’re DIYing something that we normally would just buy, my motto is that it needs to be less expensive than buying it at the store and the process needs to be easy because time is valuable. So, rather than attacking this for a fourth time, I decided to let it go. I decided that maybe I should just buy yogurt because making it at home was too dramatic and too uncertain and I don’t have time for dat. And I’m guessing neither do you.
So, here we are, first failure of 2015.
I’ll promise to share more failures in the future. I think they’re important. Also, if you’ve successfully made yogurt in the past, LET ME KNOW YOUR WAYS!
I’m back! Did you miss me? No, you did not. You were too busy with your families and reading books and lounging. I was doing this too. I needed the break. It felt good to go away for a bit. And it feels good to be back.
The end of the year and the beginning of a new one always makes me hormotional. I think too much, analyze everything to death. It’s one of my many talents.
This year taught me a lot. It was full of lessons, so to speak. I learned that family doesn’t let family fall. I learned that the harder I work, the luckier I get. And I learned that, for me and my work and my life, trying is really the thing that matters most. I hope to hold these lessons close in 2015.
December was a good month. It was crazed and went as quickly as it came, but it was solid.
It started with lots of rain, which meant super clear skies.
I borrowed this beautiful throw from Nocturnal Knits to shoot a possible cover for The Year of Cozy. Amelia and I thought it was the most beautiful thing in the world.
We went and bought a tree together at Home Depot. She (naturally) thought it was a pretty exciting adventure.
There was a trip to The Flower Market and peonies were in season? Sort of surprising since they usually hit the markets in January. A lil’ early but WHATEVER ALL THE WOMEN IN THE WORLD WILL TAKE THEM!
It rained some more. And Amelia got a raincoat. She hated the raincoat, the rain and me. But I thoroughly enjoyed myself that day.
November, November, November! One of my favorite months of the year, every year. I love that it stops being hot. I love that I can wear sweaters and drink tea and wrap a blanket around myself. I love turkey and mashed potatoes and the anticipation of the impending holidays.
November began with a restful weekend. There were clear skies and lots of walks.
I headed to the newly opened bakery, Gjusta and was so overwhelmed I didn’t get nearly as many things as I had hoped. But I did get to eat this lemon poppyseed cake and drank a cappuchino. Must go back!
The big T-Day is next Thursday and if you’re the organized cute person I know you are, you’re probably in big time planning mode. This week is Thanksgiving week on this lil’ blog. There will be sides. There will be a big bird. And of course, PIE will make an appearance!
To kick things off, we’re starting with the most important cooking aide: wine. Cooking is so much better, albeit a little more dangerous, when there’s a glass of wine in everyone’s hands. Wine has the ability to iron out all of the inevitable Thanksgiving woes like fun family tension, messing up the pie crust and maybe making the bird a bit too toasty.
I know most of you aren’t in Los Angeles, so I’m approaching this a few different ways. Two of these wines are available via Domaine LA and they can be shipped to you. If you’re in LA, you can obviously just stop in and pick them up.
We’re also providing tasting notes for each of these wines. The idea behind this is that you can go into your local wine shop and request a wine that tastes similarly.
So, for instance, with the wine just below, you can drop into a wine shop and say you’re looking for an orange wine that’s bright, a little chewy, and under $20-$25. And lastly, if the wine shop doesn’t have an orange wine, there are other alternatives listed that might be a good replacement.
2013 Folk Machine Jeanne d’Arc – (Chenin Blanc from California) Skin contact white wine, or “orange” wine, is so versatile with food because of its savory edge. A little chewy, golden and delicious.
Alternatives: Sherry, Chardonnay or Savagnin from the Jura, Bottle fermented beers, Cider.
NV Provenza Spumante Rosato ‘Turbian’ – (Gropello and Marzemino blend from Lombardy, Italy) Fruity but bone dry, refreshing and gulp-able. And a perfect example of why you shouldn’t buy wine based on how the bottle looks : \
Alternatives: Lambrusco, dry Italian or French rosé, Txakolina, Pink Petillant Naturel
It’s not every weekend when I get the opportunity to gather my friends together and host a dinner party, so when I was invited to be a part of the #BertolliGoldLabel Italian Progressive Dinner Party, I said a-ok!
I’m a pretty casual person; this means I like my dinner parties to feel very fuss-free. Here are some guidelines I like to follow:
1. I kinda start to stress out when I see the host get up a million times. I feel like I should help! I don’t want my friends to feel like this so I make sure everything is ready (entree included), on the table, served family-style. This means from the time they arrive everything is very laid back.
2. At least one course is completely store-bought. In this case it was the sauce from Bertolli (more on that later), cheeses, charcuterie, figs and grapes and olives. Easy breezy!
3. Wine matches the food. My friend Whitney helped with this, selecting the perfect, super affordable Italian wines to go with our Italian-inspired dinner.
This past Friday my manuscript was due, so I’ve been scurrying, testing last-minute recipes, shooting, and writing a whole lot in order to make the deadline. Turning it in felt epic. And this past weekend was the first few days I’ve had off in a while, and even then I was working. But there’s something about working from bed that doesn’t feel like it actually counts as real work, so I feel back to normal, refreshed and ready to have another busy-ass week.
This month was a blur. Lots of making food, shooting food, remaking food and shooting it again. The days were long but they left me energized. My body sort of started to ache after a few days but every day my mind was still going strong. This stuff makes me happy. I’m grateful I can actually call it my job.
These monthly round-ups are kind of my favorite because usually I think my life is super boring and plain and then when I go to write them and search through my photos, they make me stop and go, hey! this month was kinda kewl! But not this month. I took no photos on my phone. None. I was too busy with my head down.
I love cookbooks. LOVE. There’s a gigantic part of me that wishes I could edit cookbooks, that’s how much I love them. I want to read, gaze and cook from every single one that catches my eye. Most of the cookbooks you see above aren’t out yet, but they will be soon, so feel free to get your pre-order on!
1. Bar Tartine. I went last month for the second time (the first time was years ago) and it was incredible. Josh of course geeked out on the server and we ended up leaving with three loaves of free bread. I’m not kidding. The free bread isn’t want makes me want this book. I just know that the book will be full to the brim with perfectly written recipes that will wow anyone who comes over when I make them. Also, dat font on da cover.
2. Prune. Ions ago I read Gabrielle Hamilton’s memoir, Blood, Bones and Butter and loved it. Every single time I go to New York, I make a promise to go to Prune and then something happens and I don’t. Now I can just open up the book and be transported there instead.
3. Homemade Decadence. Joy was the first blogger I got an internet crush on. I was like, I want to eat all the baked goods she makes AND be her friend. I’m really excited about all the indulgent things I get to bake this season. And I imagine her witty sense of humor and heart will be in this book too. How can it not be?
4. Make It Ahead – Oh Ina. She can do no wrong, except when she bakes with extra large eggs and tells me to cook with fancy red wine. Why??? If it’s fancy then I want to drink it, not put it in my coq au vin. Besides that, she’s the queen. Her food is beautiful and simple. And I want to grow up to have that barn! Also, Jeffrey! I love Jeffrey.
5. Flour and Water. I have a dream and it is to be able to make pasta at home in a super legit way. Most of the pasta I’ve made (and it has been on very rare occasion), has been really awful. I went to a restaurant a few months ago, which will remain nameless, and their homemade pasta was so terrible that I compared it to my homemade pasta. Not ok. This cookbook should fix my issues.
6. A Kitchen in France. Mimi lives a life that doesn’t seem real. Me, over here in my one-bedroom apartment with way too much dog hair accumulating near the wall’s baseboards…very real. Mimi? Not so much. But who cares, that’s why I read her blog and am so fascinated with her whole shebang: life a farm, with a ton of kids, a handsome husband and even more animals than kids. It’s fascinating! I want to jump in the book and cook with her.
7. Ovenly – One lesson I’ve learned over the years is always go to meetings with treats. Always. It’s a really simple gesture that goes such a long way. It’s your way of saying, Hey you, Tuesdays suck, here’s a cookie. When I was in New York last fall for a few meetings, I went to Ovenly and picked up an array of cookies. Everyone loved everything! Luckily in the cab ride over, I was smart enough to eat a shortbread cookie studded with caraway seeds and dried cherries…bomb. P.S. I love the cover so freaking much.
8. Thug Kitchen. The f-word might be my most used word. It’s true. I love it. And in this space of lifestyle, food blogging, da internets, I feel like everyone is trying to be the next Martha Stewart. Everyone acts so dang perfect. And it drives me crazy. Really, it makes me want to say fuck. A lot. I’m excited about this book because apparently the f-word shows up a lot, along with some fun recipes.
9. Dominique Ansel. The cronut was the thing to eat in 2014. And apparently it still is in 2015. I never understood the fascination. Deep-fried croissant dough? Lots of people can do that…but then I visited his bakery last fall (pictured here) and can honestly say the rest of his pastries are really what’s special. They were magical, perfect and really, REALLY beautiful. It felt like I walked into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, except Ansel wasn’t some mad man tyrant, but instead an actual real pastry chef who constructs all these delicate little prizes of sugar. If anything, the cronut has brought attention to his bakery, but it’s his other pastries that really are worthy of the obsessive 5am hoards of people.
10. Heritage. This is on this list because I’m obsessed with his laugh. It’s this, like, southern laugh that reminds me of my uncle. I can’t describe it. Awesome laugh aside, Husk is at the very top of my must-visit restaurants. His episodes of PBS’s Mind of a Chef are my absolute favorite and his approach to food and story is what draws me in.
Am I missing any? Are there a few that are on your list?