It is no surprise that I’ve been in a state of foggy consciousness for a while now. My body seems to float in and out of moments, a smile on my face, while my mind is a million miles away. Part of my mental listlessness is due to having taken too much time off after the book finally went to the printer. I was so drained mentally, emotionally and physically that I decided not to focus on work until the New Year. It was a decadent move, but one I felt I both needed and deserved.
I’m slowly getting back into the swing of things, sowing my seeds for the year ahead. For starters, I did my first interview for Homemade with Love. I’m no stranger to interviews, as I did quite a few of them back in the day when I had my personal chef business. Still, it’s been over a decade since that part of my life, and I was admittedly nervous. The moment I got on the phone with the editor at HGTV magazine, though, my nerves calmed. I realized all I had to do was be myself, so keep an eye out for the June issue.
If you take a look at the top right of the page, you’ll see I’ve also made it easier for those of you who want to preorder Homemade with Love—just click the link! I’m starting to feel the realness of all this, and have been nesting so to speak. You know that last month or two before you give birth, and you feel the need to get your house in order. Well, that’s been me. I’ve been revisiting many of the recipes in the book, and cooking my way through my own cookbook is an incredible feeling. It’s been a five year gestation since the time I started writing the proposal, and in two and half a months, my baby will be in your homes, hopefully destined for many splatter marks and tattered page corners from bookmarking your favorites.
I go from moments of happiness about the book, to downright terror. Like waking up in the middle of the night fear. There is so much riding on this first book. First book sales establish you as an author to the publisher; the sales determine if you get to write more books, and how much you’ll be compensated. I am immensely proud of this book, and incredibly thankful I had a friend and partner who supported and believed in me enough to help make this happen. Mikey didn’t just believe in my dreams, he made them his own. My hopes became his hopes. My happiness became his, and vice versa. That is perhaps the best recipe for any strong relationship, be it a marriage or friendship. Our professional lives were never a competition of who did better, or whose turn it was to put work first. We always seemed to be working toward the same goal.
The last couple of years were more challenging. He felt the heat from an ever-youthful television business. He learned to edit by actually cutting real pieces of film together to tell a story. Suddenly, he found himself working alongside kids who grew up in a computer-age, and at times it exhausted him. He loved learning all the new software and tricks, but in this 24/7 DIY world, the respect for a craft has been lost. People specialize in being knowledgable of everything, and a master of nothing—does that make any sense?
Perhaps it’s because this is my last year in my thirties, but I’ve been very reflective on my life. Sometimes I wish I had gotten here earlier, to this point. I took a circuitous path in my culinary career, but constantly remind myself this is the path I was meant to travel.
My thoughts drifted far from where I meant this post to go. What I really wanted to do is share a few things I’ve been enjoying. I’ve been jotting them down in my mental post-its, and frankly I need some space in my head to start plotting publicity for the book (more on that soon!). So, here’s a glimpse at some things that have been making me happy these days. Hope you all enjoy and thanks for being such a devoted, loving group of readers. I’m nervous as hell about book signings, and the like, but eager to meet as many of you as possible.
- I’m eagerly awaiting the next collection from QUITOKEETO. Thanks to Heidi, I was introduced to the best honey ever a few months ago when she and Wayne started this online pop-up shop. I’ve since collected an amazing knife, a lovely vintage dutch oven, and my new favorite apron.
- I took a break from my cookbook collection while writing my own. I’ve spent the last month delving back into my favorites, and while I’m tempted to say Super Natural Every Day is a perfect choice for all those New Year’s healthy eating resolutions, that isn’t the case. This is simply a great cookbook for any time of the year. I remember when I first got the galleys for work, and I immediately fell in love with it. My copy has all the signs of a well-loved book—you know those splatter marks and such. I’m including one of my new favorite recipes from the book below, for oatcakes.
- Fresh-squeezed citrus juices—tangerine, clementine and grapefruit have all been in heavy rotation around here. Do yourself a favor and pick up a bag of whatever you find at your local market. Here in the northeast we’re getting some great stuff from down south and California. I should probably get an electric citrus juicer with as much as I’ve been squeezing, but am hoping my arms will benefit from an upper body workout with the hand juicer (please don’t burst my bubble folks).
- Another book that grabbed my attention the moment it was delivered is Weelicious, by Catherine McCord, who writes the blog by the same name. I must confess I haven’t had the chance to cook from it yet, but I can tell a good recipe—if it’ll work, how it’ll taste, just by reading it at this point in my career. I’ve read the book from cover to cover, and it’s filled with recipes for real food, for real families—no gimmicks or tricks, and they won’t take hours in the kitchen either.
- Merry-Jennifer has been doing some amazing writing, so check out The Merry Gourmet if you don’t already read her blog. Frankly, her writing has always been excellent, but in the last year she’s been sharing more of herself and the true challenges we confront every day as women, mothers, wives and daughters.
- Most people gushed about the amazing bread I’d get to eat in Paris. Truth be told, I’ve never longed for good bread because there’s an exceptional Italian bakery a few blocks from my house. Not one baguette made me think twice until my assistant came home with a loaf from Eric Kayser—mind blown people. My knees get weak just holding that man’s warm baguette (okay, bad choice of words…or maybe a good choice!). Last year I made regular trips uptown to get my fix at his first NYC store. I’m eagerly awaiting the opening of his other locations in Flatiron and Midtown.
- Space is always an issue living in a city. This vertical bookcase from DESIGN WITHIN REACH freed up much needed space in the girls’ bedroom, and I love that the books take center stage instead of being tucked away in their old bookcase behind the door.
recipe from Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson
Music Pairing: Silver & Gold by Neil Young
I was tempted to throw a handful of sesame seeds into these oatcakes, but decided to stick to the recipe “as-is”. I was not at all disappointed—they are perfect just as Heidi created them. The only comment I do have is this is a case where baking by weight is really your friend, so get a scale if you love baking and don’t already own one.
After years of recipe testing with the same set of measuring cups, I know for a fact mine yield 145 grams of whole wheat pastry flour per cup. This is not to say Heidi’s measurements are wrong, but two factors determine the metric yield of a measuring cup: 1) not all cups are created equal, especially older vintage ones which tend to be smaller than modern ones; 2) spooning in your flour vs. scooping & sweeping affects how much flour you’re actually using in the recipe. Baking by weight takes out all the guesswork! I love this digital scale from OXO.
3 cups (300 grams) old fashioned rolled oats (not quick cooking)
2 cups (225 grams) whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon (2.5 grams) baking powder
2 teaspoons (12 grams) fine sea salt
1/4 cup (45 grams) flax seeds
1/4 cup (85 grams) chopped walnuts, lightly toasted
1/3 cup (70 grams) extra virgin coconut oil
1/3 cup (85 grams) unsalted butter
3/4 cup (180 ml) pure maple syrup
1/2 cup (70 grams) natural cane sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Preheat your oven to 325F, with the rack adjusted to the upper third section of the oven. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin (don’t skip this step, or try to use muffin liners, greasing really is the way to go with this recipe).
Add the oats, flour, baking powder, salt, flax seeds and walnuts to a deep bowl. Stir to combine.
Add the coconut oil, butter, syrup and sugar to a medium pot over low heat. Cook just until the sugar has dissolved and the butter has melted, stirring occasionally. Pour over the flour mixture and stir with a fork a few times. Add the egg, and continue to stir until it comes together to form a wet dough.
Evenly fill each muffin cup. Bake until the outer edges are a deep golden color, 25 to 27 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer the oatcakes to a wire rack to cool further. May be served warm or at room temperature.