Hi hi! I’m writing today for no other reason than I’ve been missing you guys and this space and wanted to keep you updated on everything that’s been going on in the Piece of Cake kitchen and beyond, lest you think I’ve been trapped under something heavy. Of course there’s the business of that behemoth called cookbook number three, which, if you’ve been following on Twitter or Facebook, you’ve heard about plenty already. Sometimes I share actual details specific to the book, other times I just reveal personal neuroses:
Writing a cookbook: 25% writing, 40% dishwashing, 10% floor mopping, 10% shopping,15% staring out the window, worrying about the book.
— Shauna Sever (@shaunasever) March 14, 2014
In any case, I am officially in the homestretch of creating this third title, all baking and sweet treat making with natural, unrefined, and lower-refined sugars. No white sugar, no corn syrup. Basically a complete 180 from my first book, which ran completely on the white stuff. But for me, baking is about playing with all kinds of ingredients and every type of sugar, and it turns out that stepping away from the usual suspects can make all kinds of delicious things happen.
The title of this post is a bit misleading, I admit. Because truthfully, the bulk of what I’ve been into lately involves not very exciting things like nursing nonstop (so sitting in a chair, then?), thinking of things to eat that can be prepared and shoved into my face with one hand (which evidently doesn’t leave much time for the baking or taking pictures of food), and trying to find time to pee alone. But what I really wanted to do was pop in today, say hello! and we’re still all alive! and sometimes even bathed!, and share a few things that have made my days a little brighter while careening through the Newborn Tunnel of (Sometimes) Hell.
I’ve managed to get back on track with exercise, which has been key in maintaining my sanity. In an unexplained bout of inspiration (and a longing to get back into my regular clothes), two weeks ago I decided to take up running again after nearly a year. To be kind to my post-pregnancy joints and bones, I’ve decided to take it allll the way back to 2003 when I first started running, and ease back into a running routine with the Couch to 5k program. Of course now, instead of obsessively glancing at a watch to track intervals while listening to the very first Maroon 5 album on a CD walkman, there are fancy things like this Couch to 5k app that does all the thinking for you, and features voice cues that gently interrupt your iPhone’s playlist to tell you when to run and when to walk. Awesome. I love technology when it’s idiot-proof.
I ordered this book recently and have bookmarked the bananas out of it. I’ve got mad kitchen plans, believe you me.
I’ve been making this recipe for dinner probably once a week since the baby was born. Add some broccoli and instant brown rice (cooked with chicken or veg stock instead of water), and BOOM. Ultimate easy-yet-satisfying meal. So simple, cheap, kind of old school, kid-friendly, and unreal delicious. And good for two night’s worth of dinners–hallelujah!
We also got a few awesome meals out of this fantastic take on Spanikopita from one of my favorite people, The Wednesday Chef. No better way to get your greens, people. Just add wine.
In the “I’ve made them 100 times, but never blogged about them” category, here are some of the world’s best cookies. In fact, I have a Ziploc full of these frozen cookie dough balls in my freezer right now. It’s how I’ve been keeping my family in freshly baked cookies all these weeks like some kind of deranged June Cleaver.
I haven’t bought any new clothes just yet, but when I do, I’m using this resource. The concept gives me a major case of “Why didn’t I think of that?!”. I’m getting all into it within the next couple months, which is to say when I get a bit more weight off of my maternal midsection.
Okay, so, I lied on that last point. I have purchased these flip flops in Light Gold, which add a little bit of something special to my Dreary Mom Outfits.
To further celebrate the fact that I’m no longer retaining water and my feet have stopped looking like Shrek’s, I got a glorious pedicure with this nail color, which is always my Happy Color. It makes me feel more together even when I’m in pajamas. I have decided that it’s my Forever Toenail Polish. I’ll be working it into my will.
Unlike my strategy with my first child, I’ve had this new kid on the move and out in the world since day 4. It’s saved my sanity. But it’s a bonus when the days involve more than marathon trips to Target. Like lunch at the perfect restaurant with an amazing friend, and making it a double with a dessert pitstop at one of San Francisco’s best bakeries. Now that’s a good day, even if you’ve got a sweaty baby strapped to your chest.
Add to that an actual, in-person meeting (at a new-ish, and completely perfect SF bakery) with a heretofore strictly online friend, during which you find out that she’s as fabulous as you’d hoped, and every bit as lovely as her website. Again with aforementioned baby strapped to chest, but a magical meeting nonetheless. Big ups for real people in an unreal world.
It can only mean one thing around these parts–Sir Baby has arrived, bringing with him much love, joy, and one serious brow. Be back soon!
Know what’s super fun? The influx of emails, tweets, comments, and Facebook messages I’ve received from folks working through the recipes in Marshmallow Madness! in recent weeks–lots of sweet stories and photos of fluffy, puffy successes that warm the cockles of my heart. ‘Tis the season for homemade mallow making and gifting!
But I’ve also gotten some requests for a few marshmallow-making tips and troubleshooting help for the recipes, which I also happen to love. Happy to help. For those new to mallowing, it is most certainly wacky, leaving plenty of room for self-doubt and simple mistakes. But don’t freak out! It’s just sugar! Everything will be okay. Keep in mind that the following tips refer specifically to recipes and techniques in MM, but some will cross over into any homemade marshmallow recipe you might try.
So here’s what’s happening right now: Today I am buzzing about the kitchen with the Reality Bites soundtrack on repeat, prepping a whole lotta mini versions of Twinkie Bundt Cake, in preparation for a most excellent event celebrating Pure Vanilla here in San Francisco tomorrow. If you’re in the Bay Area, I hope you’ll come by to say hi, watch me attempt to bake and talk at the same time, and pick up some mad vanilla knowledge. I’ll also be signing books immediately afterwards! I may end up dressing like Lisa Loeb. Or Winona Ryder. Who knows? You’ll just have to come by and find out. Here’s the details:
Macy’s Union Square
Cellar Demo Kitchen, Lower Level
170 O’Farrell Street
San Francisco, CA 94108
Hope to see you there!!
We’ve known each other for long enough now that I don’t need to tell you that I’m a bit of a square. Okay, except for that one summer abroad in college. Other than that, I’m really a square. So it might not come as a total shock when you find out my second cookbook is called ‘Pure Vanilla’. But! Here’s the thing: the world of vanilla is vast. It is rich, complex, and insanely delicious. And as it turns out, every single person who hears that I wrote an entire cookbook about vanilla replies breathlessly “Ooh! I looove vanilla!”. Vanilla rules, people!
The more I dug into the topic, the more I realized that vanilla is anything but ‘vanilla’. It’s not just heavenly on the tongue–the journey of this underappreciated spice from flower (yes, from an orchid, true story!) to market is full of drama and intrigue. This stuff is sexy, people. Trust.
I received my first advance copy of the book a couple weeks back, and am so, so excited about the whole thing. Like Marshmallow Madness!, this book was shot by the completely incredible Leigh Beisch, and we were once again so lucky to have Sara Slavin on board for prop styling and art direction. For my part, I flapped around the studio like a crazy person for several days, prepping and baking and tweaking as food stylist. We’re covering everything from Breakfast to Cocktails and even some savory in this book. It smelled dang good up in that place during the shoot, I’ll tell you that much. The day we shot the Vanilla Cloud Cake was especially epic–it’s once of my favorite recipes in the book, encompassing everything that’s awesome about vanilla. It looks like this and it’s the sort of ethereal thing I’d be happy to attack, alone in a quiet room, wielding a large spoon. Vacant stare, drool.
The official release date is October 2nd (you can pre-order now–whee!!), and I’ll have more of a preview for you in the coming weeks. But for now, I wanted to check in with you all and see if there are any bloggers who might be interested in nabbing a review copy. The hope is to spread the vanilla love far and wide, so that no one will ever, EVER! shove Vanilla aside for her sexy sister Chocolate again! (Well, you know what I mean. Just get into it, is what I’m saying.)
If you want to check out a review copy, send an e-mail to Eric Smith at Quirk Books–he is adorable and funny and loves vanilla as much as I do. Send him your name, blog name, and URL and he’ll take it from there.
eric (at) quirkbooks (dot) com
You can also check out my Book page for more info on upcoming tour dates and Vanilla Tasting events! I hope to meet more of you on this tour, so we can wax poetic over vanilla and compliment each other’s skin and hair in person. It just feels so right, doesn’t it? More dates will be listed in the weeks ahead, so stay tuned, friends.
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