OMG I can finally tell you that the entire kitchen is done done DONE. It’s an amazing feeling and I love the way it turned out. As you know, I started this process a long time ago!! There are a lot of bases to cover so I’m not going to cover everything in this post, instead I’m going to separate the posts into three or four posts.
This one is all about the reveal! I love dramatic before and afters and I have to say, the before photos show a pretty intense makeover.
This was my first ever renovation and I learned a lot. I also designed this space myself, which was another huge learning experience.
Let’s start with the inspiration. The house itself is an English-style cottage so I wanted to be true to the house. I wanted it to fit within the style of the house so I went with shaker cabinets. What I didn’t want? Was an all-white kitchen. I wanted something with a bit more style but at the same time, I wanted to make something that would be sellable and not too custom.
Here are some BEFORE photos that show the dramatic change:
Were at t-minus nine days before Thanksgiving and the countdown is very real. I’m crossing my fingers that everything for the kitchen renovation will be in tact so we can have our first quiet, small Thanksgiving. It’s been a slow and arduous process that has tested my patience. But everything looks awesome haha.
Let’s talk about DIYs. I have lots of opinions about them. When I did The Year of Cozy, I really wanted to make DIYs that were doable and that people would actually make. The Thanksgiving nametags were one of the most instagrammed DIYs! Because they consisted of things you could easily find with minimal amount of supplies.
I wanted this DIY to also be like that: easy to do, no crazy skill required and not stressful. I like to delegate things like this to people. Give people jobs! That’s the only way Thanksgiving is not crazy. I feel like this would be a great thing to delegate to kids and it is also something you can prep WAY in advance since the corn is dried.
For this post, I teamed up with French’s®! I love their mustard (obviously) and I buy and love their Crispy Fried Onions every single year. This year they sent me the Crispy Jalapeños and omg they are so good. I ate them by the handful and had to stop myself because we actually needed them for the shoot.
We’ve lived in our beloved lil’ Echo Park apartment for a long time but we’ve been kinda outgrowing it and looking for a new place for a while so when Josh’s dad moved out of state (for a new job) and asked us to move in to takeover his house for the next 5 years or so, the timing was perfect.
Before we officially move in, we’re renovating the kitchen. And by renovating I mean tearing every single thing out, knocking down a few walls and starting from scratch. I have never done a renovation before so it say it is a bit of a dream is an understatement. It’s also a bit overwhelming because there are SO many choices and decisions and I fully understand why people hire a designer to help them.
Initially we were gonna start the renovation back in June but I’m so happy that we waited because it really gave me time to understand what would look best in the space. I really believe that kitchens, and frankly any renovation, should complement the house itself.
The house is a bit like an English cottage. It’s cute with red brick, built in the 1920s. There are beautiful green vines growing on the outside and SO many roses in the front yard and in the backyard. It’s quite adorable and it’s the perfect size (not too big, not too small). It has charm like no other but it does need a bit of love in the kitchen department.
At the beginning of this whole venture, I thought a lot about what I wanted from a kitchen and I kept coming back to super modern, clean style cabinets with cozy, sweet colors.
This is what I had in mind:
I was really into completely flat cabinets with little leather handles (we all know those can’t be durable, I was picturing myself with frosting on my hands ruining those things).
But this felt too sterile and new for the house. I’m so happy I came across Devol Kitchens, a kitchen designing duo in England, because they create the perfect kitchens for this house.
I’m absolutely obsessed with the inset cabinets (spoiler alert: custom cabinets were way too expensive so we’re going a cheaper route) with calcutta marble, sage green, warm tones.
All my Scandinavian kitchen dreams flew out the window when I came across their kitchen designs. Every single one of them made me want to bake and cook in these spaces. None of them looked too fancy or fussy.
They looked durable and sturdy. They have a bit of an old feel while still feeling relevant and new.
The layout of the kitchen has been formatted. Demo starts today!! WOOHOO!!
And of course here are the before photos. Two walls are coming down. The original windows are going to be peeled and restored with new hardware. The old 50s tile is going to be scraped off the walls and ceiling and the laminate floors are going to be ripped up and trashed.
I can’t believe that last year, around this time, I was in Copenhagen ! WHAA! Time goes so quickly.
Before I took a flight to Copenhagen, I was on the ol’ Instagram scrolling away and saw a girl’s Insta Story that featured the prettiest sprinkles evrrrr. I was super pumped to see that she was in Copenhagen so I figured it must be the land of pretty sprinkles.
When I landed, I told Yossy and Michelle that we needed to hit up a grocery store to get those bomb sprinkles. All of us bought some and ALL of us regret not buying way more than we did. When I got home, I flew through them very quickly (this sheet cake features Danish sprinkles).
So, after I used up my sprinkle collection, I realized I’d probably have to make my own.
I always feel blessed that I have a career where I get to make things every single day (basically any creative person’s ultimate goal). Sometimes it doesn’t always feel all that romantic, particularly when I’m wiping grease off my kitchens’ walls or washing an absurd amount of dishes, but even in those moments, if I think kinda hard, I’m pretty happy.
Another plus about this creative world called blogging, I get to meet other creative people, too. Last week, I drove like five minutes away to hang out with Alana and make this cake.
She makes the most unreal cakes. A lot of them are just total pieces of art that I would be shy to eat. A bonus, her cakes taste SO good. I was at a friend’s bbq and she brought some corgi cupcakes and they were so fluffy and so soft. I was in love.
SO, we thought it would be fun to make side-by-side dog cakes. I did the corgi, inspired by that feral beast I own, Amelia. And she made a pug cake, inspired by her two baby pugs.
It was also nice to have some emotional guidance and support from her because I had never made a corgi cake before and it definitely required some planning and sketching.
It was also nice to have some emotional guidance and support from her because I had never made a corgi cake before and it definitely required some planning and sketching.
If you’re on the west coast, you’ve most likely been asked that dumb question that everyone loves to ask: “In-N-Out or Shake Shack?”
It’s not really a fair question because the price point on a Shake Shack burger is WAY higher than an In-n-Out Burger AND most diehard LA people will never, ever say Shake Shack. They’d almost rather root for the Yankees.
And while I love LA, I will admit, I always choose Shake Shack. The meat at In-N-Out always makes me feel kinda ill. I once got the grilled cheese and I didn’t feel sick at all so it’s def the meat. So, for me, I’ll always go with Shake Shack because the quality of ingredients sits with me a bit better. But In-N-Out will always be near and dear to my heart and remind me of young childhood and driving up the coast of California.
BUT, we’re not making a copycat In-N-Out burger, we’re making a Copycat Shake Shake burger. WHY?!
BECAUSE THEY ARE DOPE. There have been some good posts on this subject, notably here and here. But luckily, for me, and you, Shake Shack has come out with a book, giving us all a better idea of how things should be constructed and made. Most importantly: the special sauce.
The first step is to butter your Martin’s Potato Rolls. If you’re unfamiliar with Martin’s potato rolls just know they are soft and luscious and so very delicious. You can buy them on the east coast at a whole lot of places and if you’re psycho, or you order them online here.
I searched very far and wide for Martin Potato Rolls in LA and couldn’t find them. It was really annoying. A big part of me even thought of being crazy and buying eight burgers at Shake Shack, hold the meat and sides, so I could get the buns for this post…but then the normal, frugal part of me kicked in and immediately told my-sometimes-irrational-self that she was psycho for even thinking of that.
If you’re lucky enough to live on the east coast, go get them. If you’re a west coaster, you can order them online or just use white buns that are small. 🙁
Either way, you gosta butter them and then pan-fry them. This is what dreams are made of.
Then there’s the meat.
So we made our own blend, with the guidance of their book. BUT you don’t need to. Just go to your grocery store (that has a meat counter) and ask for a blend. OR you can use ground chuck that is 85/15. It will still taste good.
But I did as follows:
I got one pound of sirloin and one pound of chuck.
I chopped them up into cubes and fed them through the meat grinder with the largest opening. And then I put them through again with the smaller opening.
And then we formed round pucks. Not patties. Pucks.
Another thing that I found interesting was that you want the meat COLD. When the fat hits the pan you need it to be cold so it makes a really nice crust.
We pan-fried them on a cast iron with a bit of oil. We also used ghee on one patty and it was a bit too rich for me. But I’m also a baby when it comes to foods with too much fat.
When you flip the patties over, you then flatten them. You will feel like a short order cook. And immediately feel like you should be wearing a hairnet and have a cigarette hanging from the side of your mouth, just like Paula Deen.
You then drape slices of American cheese over the burgers. And that American cheese will melt gloriously.
And then you assemble in this order:
1. Special sauce on toasted, buttered bun.
2. Green leaf lettuce
3. Two slices of roma tomatoes, cut a lil’ on the thicker side.
4. The patty with the cheese
5. Two slices of pickles
And there you have it, a copycat shake shack burger.
A month ago or so I got a friend from my old friend Chris who was like, “Hey I’m getting married, will you make a cake for us.”
Of course, I responded with OMG YES!
Not only was I excited because making stuff for friends is fun–especially for such a super cute and special occasion–but because it liked the challenge of doing something I’d never done before: making an important cake and then driving up and down the hills of Echo Park with it in tow. SO STRESSFUL!
Josh’s mom was a pastry chef and early in her career she made a lot of wedding cakes. He told me that one time she delivered the cake, decorated on the wedding site and then it fell over when they wanted it moved to another table! LIKE STRAIGHT UP ON THE FLOOR.
I would cry. I’m sure she did. Josh told me she eventually had to stop because the stress of transporting the cakes just didn’t end up being worth it and I completely understand now—it’s a lot. Luckily this was a small lil’ cake so transporting it wasn’t that hard.
I’ve known Chris for a long time and as of last year, he’s kind of become Amelia’s babysitter when we go out of town. He is so very patient when she wakes him up at 6am for breakfast and he takes her on long walks and last year, when we went to Seattle, they packed her up and took her to Malibu to eat oysters.
I feel like this week is my week of giving you practical thangs to eat (see: Monday and Wednesday)!
I love gawking at those crazy cheese boards all over Instagram but realistically most of us won’t make one of those. Or maybe we will but it’ll be for a big party or around the holidays when we have twenty people over.
But sometimes I want to eat a cheese plate for dinner but it’s just Josh and me. Or maybe it’s just for a girlfriend/dude friend and me. Or just me and my mom.
I could eat appetizers for dinner and do all the time (especially when Josh is working late or out with his friends and I’m on my own).
Seriously, me wanting to eat an appetizer for dinner is Josh’s worst nightmare. Nothing makes him give me a gigantic eyeroll more than when I tell him, “I’m not really that hungry, I kinda just wanna snack.”NO. He is a meal person. I understand. Most of the time I am too but sometimes I just wanna eat this!
For him, this type of situation constitutes as pre-gaming.
Regardless, I figured I’d share how I build a cheese plate perfect for two:
Ok, so the main objective when I go to the store for something like this is to NOT spend a million dollars.
1. Two cheeses. I like to pick two cheeses that are complementary but opposites. One soft cheese and one hard cheese.
For this plate, I went with a an awesome Irish cheddar (for an affordable/delicious option, I love Kerry Gold cheddar—so good!).
The one soft cheese is from Boursin (it’s another affordable/delicious option). But you could also do brie, goat cheese, camembert. (If you’re feeling baller-istic, I love Epoisses.)
2. Nuts. You only need really one kinda nut snack situation. My favorite are macrona almonds. They’re Spanish and fancy and delicious. The bulk-bin is perfect for the right amount of nuts.
3. Carbs. You need a vehicle for that cheese. On this particular day I had grissini/breadsticks so I included those. But these rosemary salted crackers were also a great option. I think one cracker and one bread item is good.
4. Something pickled. Or sweet. Or both. I went pickled on this particular day so that meant corichons, olives and sweet drop peppers (they’re SO GOOD!). The olive bar at a grocery store is your best bet because you can buy exactly the amount that you want/need.
Some sweet options would be dried apricot, honey, dried cranberries, fresh fruit (apricots, pears, etc.) and/or jams.
Ever since I cleaned up this blog and brought it from 2012 to 2017 (!!), I’ve also been on the lookout for new surfaces and props. I am that weirdo that has one plate of something I like vs. a set. I have lots of one-offs and usually I buy glasses in sets of two. Having a food blog can be weird, I admit, but also SO COOL.
Here are some things that have been catching my eye around the internets! I’ve purchased some, others are on my “make dat money to splurge” list.
Also, if you’ve been eye-ing something and want to share it, I think we’re all interested!
I purchased two of the smaller bowls and one small bowl from Herriott Grace and they are BEAUTIFUL in person. Like, the most perfect matte, delicious velvet colors. Love them. I really wish they came in plates because I’d spend all my rent money on them.
Farmhouse Pottery is so simple and elegant. Their work really has the ability to bend with all sorts of styles: minimalist cozy (hi that’s me, I think), country-chic, farmer, etc. (you get the idea!).
Anthropologie Simea Mugs. I was watching Big Little Lies and I loved that they were drinking wine out of mugs. This is kinda something I could see myself serving in place of glass wine glasses.
Matte Black Flatware. One thing I’m in constant search for are things that compliment mauve. That color is my blog 100% but using it over and over and over gets redundant and bores me so I like to edge it up a bit and I love how black looks with it. These are super awesome and relatively affordable (if you buy one to two sets).
Two-Tone Pink Glasses. These are so pretty and so spring! I thing these would be great water or rosé/white wine glasses.
Anthropologie Mineral Mug. I don’t need anymore mugs in my life but I want this one because it’s so simple and looks like something I’d actually want to drink out of in the morning (not just a pretty prop).
I’m really in love with these small porcelain gourds. I feel like they’d be perfect for soup or a scoop of ice cream.
These bowls are a bit of a splurge but I feel like I’d use them in every.single.blog post ever so I’m thinking about it. They look sturdy enough to be useful and function but pretty enough for photos.
I bought this pie/cake server and it is so beautiful in real life. I was super timid to use it because I thought frosting or fat would stain the wood but it hasn’t so far–it looks amazing and I’ve actually used it for cake!
I’m so excited about rough puff. Ideally 2017 would include a whole lot of laminated dough.
A few years ago I put making puff pastry at home in the silly category. Why would we make it when we can just buy it?!?!?
I’m still an advocate for store-bought pastry, especially when you’re in a bit of a jam. It’s so nice to have in the fridge/freezer when you want to serve up a tart or something last minute.
But lately, I’ve been experimenting with rough puff (isn’t the name fun?), which is basically EASY AF puff pastry.
It is puff pastry that is made a lot like pie dough with some additional “turns” (more on that later).
I figured I’d give you a step-by-step of this process since once you see it all broken out into steps it seems SO MUCH easier.
The whole process begins by combining your flour and salt. Just like how I make pie crust, I find it easiest to use a cheese grater to get the butter the perfect-sized bits.
I used the ratios from Gordon Ramsey and I found them perfect every single time. (The first time I made it, I cut the butter because I found the measurement sort of annoying (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) but that extra tablespoon is important so we’re going to use it!)