“Writing for the masses...”
Or just the dogs.
When I began my adventures in cooking, I mostly tried to steer clear of baking. I have fuzzy memories of attempting to bake “healthy” treats around 2009-2010 and how absolutely horrible they were. Yet I still forced myself to eat...
I stumbled upon The Kitchn via Facebook and found myself constantly saving links to various recipes everyday thereafter. I’ve made things like slow cooker burrito bowls, slow cooker chicken tikka masala and my ultimate favorite which...
THE BACKSTORY: Along with my newfound love for cooking has come a love for cookbooks. Prior to learning to cook the only cookbooks I owned were a 1970s cookbook on how to microwave anything (microwaved steak anyone?) and another 1970s cookbook...
When I began my adventures in cooking, I mostly tried to steer clear of baking. I have fuzzy memories of attempting to bake “healthy” treats around 2009-2010 and how absolutely horrible they were. Yet I still forced myself to eat the rubbery sugar free, fat free, (joy free…) “brownies.” Then there were some sort of vegan cookies I recall trying to sell people on that were equally as terrible. Also let’s be honest, baking is intimidating. If you delve into serious baking blogs, you suddenly want to buy the most expensive KitchenAid Mixer you can find, silpats, a very precise food scale so you can measure properly, and vanilla extract infused with unicorn horn powder. (Right? That’s a thing?)
With all the expertise that seemed necessary, I didn’t bake a thing until very recently. I started slowly, adapting this recipe for individual baked oatmeals so A and I would have some easy breakfasts we could both bring to work (ours are a bit different – let me know if you want me to go in depth on these!). I mean, it’s hard to mess up oatmeal. After the oatmeal, I moved on to bars making some apple butter bars, then some apple and pear cake, then suddenly I was just quickly whipping up a Vietnamese coffee cake with sweetened condensed milk frosting….and I realized hey, this baking thing, if taken slowly and carefully, is actually something I was pretty good at.
So good in fact, I am in charge of all desserts for Christmas at my house! And with my measly baking skills, I’ve got a few tips for new bakers to help and possibly take the intimidating-factor away
Obviously, these are just the few things I’ve learned in my very short time as a home baker. Tips from one beginner to another. If anyone has any idea how to not make a huge mess and keep your dogs from being covered in flour, please let me know.
Coming up later this week: a review of Joy the Baker‘s latest – with some pics of the cookies I’m baking from it!
I stumbled upon The Kitchn via Facebook and found myself constantly saving links to various recipes everyday thereafter. I’ve made things like slow cooker burrito bowls, slow cooker chicken tikka masala and my ultimate favorite which very recently disappeared in a 48-hour-period – cranberry cake! I absolutely love the site – I love how you can search for things by diet (low sodium, vegetarian, low sugar, etc), meal, a certain holiday and I really just love the recipes they have. So, when I got the chance to get The Kitchn Cookbook, I couldn’t help myself.
What I really love about this cookbook is that is truly covers your whole kitchen. From the best work flow, what tools you should have and even how to stock your pantry – it has everything. It’s also written in a non-condescending and useful way. Sometimes I find cookbooks to either expect you to know everything or are condescending (oh, you can substitute regular milk for almond milk? COME ON GWYNETH.) but Kitchn really balances the informative parts well. Since I just bought my first house with A in April, I’ve been working really hard to figure out the best setup for the kitchen. I’m lucky because I have a really beautiful work space and lots of cabinets for all of my cookware – but ever the organizer, I loved digging into this book. This is definitely the first cookbook I’ve sat down to really read. THERE IS EVEN A DAILY PLANNER FOR CLEANING YOUR KITCHEN. Anyone that knows me, knows how much I love to clean (and how often I clean…) so this really appealed to me. I know some may think this is a book for an “inexperienced” cook – but really, I think anyone could benefit from a book that has a lot of the basics in it – even if just for reference.
My only major criticism is the recipe portion seems a bit crowded. I don’t like having more than one recipe per page when I’m in the kitchen going back and forth between things – it’s hard to see them when they’re in the little columns. It’s hard to stop to find your place on the page – I wish they each had their own page and that the font was a bit bigger.
Overall, this is a great addition to my growing cookbook collection and with winter heavily upon us in the Northeast (HELLO SNOW!) I know I’ll be in the kitchen experimenting for many months to come!
Along with my newfound love for cooking has come a love for cookbooks. Prior to learning to cook the only cookbooks I owned were a 1970s cookbook on how to microwave anything (microwaved steak anyone?) and another 1970s cookbook devoted entirely to fondue. I mean those are both amazing in their own right, but one could not terribly useful. Or appetizing in the case of the former. Something had to be (fon)done.
The newest cookbook to arrive at my doorstep is the Skinnytaste Cookbook*, written by Gina Homolka, author of Skinnytaste.com. I chose this book more out of curiosity than anything. I’m not terribly calorie conscious when it comes to meals whatsoever. And I don’t believe in diets or this whole “low-fat” mindset. I eat full fat everything – yogurt, cheese, butter. And I try to use fresh, local ingredients (farmer’s market forever!) when available and try to stay away from processed food as much as possible. As long as a recipe adheres to those basic tenets, I’m all for it.
However, recently I’m been becoming more and more aware of the fact that there are two things in my diet that there definitely should be less of:
I’m a sugar junkie. I have been since I was a kid. My mom always called me a “junkfood junkie.” Luckily, she kept me in check. However, as an adult I suddenly realized,
Those two things pretty much sum up how I ate through most of my 20s. Now that I’m (ugh I can barely type this) nearing 30, I’ve realized it’s probably not the best idea to eat as much salt and sugar. And when I started looking up how much sodium and sugar are in so many unexpected things, I was a floored. So, when I saw skinnytaste, I thought it interesting to try out some lighter recipes and mix them in with copious amounts of avocado toast eaten regularly. MODERATION, MAN. MODERATION.
The Good: It’s a gorgeous cookbook. It’s absolutely enormous and has recipes for every meal. I was really excited about that – I like to play around with breakfast on weekends especially so I love cookbooks that cover everything. It also has a sandwich section. I love sandwiches. I love sandwiches as much as Liz Lemon and Joey Tribbiani combined. Sarah’s favorite food: SANDWICHES.
I also really dig that every recipe has all the nutritional info on the bottom of the page, including sodium and sugar. This saves me an exorbitant amount of time throwing my recipes into a recipe calculator to try to get nutritional facts for sodium and sugar. And I was excited to see that most of the recipes contain really reasonable amounts of sodium, instead of 1000s of milligrams!
Also, the recipes are all easily to understand – there is nothing in there that is so complicated that you want to toss the cookbook into the garbage disposal. And the ingredients are all accessible – you won’t have to hunt various grocery stores for that special type of cheese. And she also uses a ton of fresh ingredients – lots of vegetables!
The Not-So-Good: I had assumed the cookbook was going to be healthy recipes. Which in my mind doesn’t necessarily mean light on calories – it means fresh ingredients. I was wrong. A lot of ingredients I wouldn’t use: light mayo, fat free yogurt, fake peanut butter, canola oil. Like I said, I’m not about cutting fat, but I guess I should’ve known that “skinny” was going to be cutting calories however possible. On the flipside, I do appreciate that she advocates for real sweeteners and real dairy products (butter, cream.)
While the recipes are decent, none of them are terribly imaginative. My favorite cookbook (which I’ll be going into detail about soon!) has recipes that I see and think,
OH GOD I CAN’T LIVE ANOTHER DAY WITHOUT HAVING THIS IN MY MOUTH.
While a lot of these sound good, like the Chicken Pasta Caprese or the Butter Squash Lasagna Rolls, a lot of the recipes are just common meals “lightened” up, like chicken parm, spaghetti and meatballs, mac and cheese etc Don’t get me wrong – I like a new spin on an old classic, but these aren’t really new spins as much as classics with less fat. I was hoping for new, inventive recipes.
I’m going to try out a recipe or two this weekend and I’ll document the journey, so check back for updates! (It will probably include a sandwich, FAIR WARNING!)
I’m an incredibly impatient person. My mother has always said (ahem, complained) that I like things “done yesterday.” This is completely true. When I want something, I want it at that precise moment. A’s favorite thing is to give me a singsongy “Be Patient,” and then I want claw his face off, but unfortunately I bite my nails so I don’t have claws and A’s face is just too damn handsome to harm. I guess that’s fortunate for him.
When I started DIYing over the summer in my workshop (which is the garage under our house that we’re afraid to put the car in because it’s such a tight fit, so SARAH’S GOT A WORKSHOP! A even bought me my first drop cloth.) I discovered my instantaneous best friend:
YOU SPRAY AND BOOM YOU ARE DONE. AN HOUR LATER THAT MIRROR IS HANGING ON YOUR WALL! Well sorta. But you get what I mean, there’s no priming and waiting, and then painting and waiting. And then painting the second coat too early and ruining the whole thing and crying. That’s usually my last step. Crying.
For my first project, I found this mirror hanging out in the garage – we somehow inherited with our house. It was white, pretty disgusting, and took quite a bit of cleaning before I could even get it to the stage I could spray paint it. After some extensive grime cleaning, a light sanding (DIY PRO-TIP: it’s always good to lightly sand things that have a glossy finish, it roughs it up and then helps the paint adhere – just make sure you wipe it down with a soft cloth afterward to get all the dust off of it) it looked like this:
Since everything in my house must coordinate with my 1970s decor, I chose avocado green! We don’t live anywhere near a Lowe’s, which has the best spray paint by Valspar (amazing color palette), so I had to make do with what I found at Walmart. I got Krylon Color Master Enamel paint in Ivy Leaf Gloss. I only used one can for this project and I believe two coats in the end.
I tiny bit of paint got through my Price Chopper ad and painters tap, but it was nothing a razor blade couldn’t scrape clean off. This mirror is probably one of my favorite things in the living room now, and it cost me about $3.67, the price of the can of spray paint. Once I finished the project, my confidence grew and you’ll see next week the ugly mammoth I decided to upcycle!