food rituals: author, editor, and food blogger luisa weiss

by Nicole on November 17, 2014

I’m so glad you guys enjoyed the first food rituals post! I’ve got many more installments in the works, featuring a wide variety of people. All of the interviews have been super interesting and different so far, and I can’t wait to share them all with you!

Today I’m featuring Luisa Weiss of The Wednesday Chef. I always discover the best cookbooks through her, and am in awe of the beautiful foods she posts. There’s something that feels very genuine and honest about her food; you really get the feeling that she cooks for love, and so her meals are always simple, comforting, and nourishing all at once. Yet they also retain this elegance or charm that shows she really takes cares with what she cooks.

First off, tell us a little bit about you.
I live in Berlin with my husband Max and our 2 year old son Hugo. I’m the food columnist for Harper’s Bazaar Germany, a freelance editor, and food blogger. (Added by Nicole: Luisa is also the author of My Berlin Kitchen and is currently working on a second book about German cooking.) My life is busy! I get up early with my son, we see my husband for a few minutes before he leaves for work, and then spend a few hours hanging out, playing, reading books and eating breakfast before I take him to daycare. That’s when my working day starts and it’s a total blur at the moment: manuscripts, recipe testing, video shoots, article deadlines, answering emails, and a million other things that work-from-home people are stuck doing, like laundry and grocery shopping. In the later afternoon, I get to pick up Hugo for a few more hours together. We take a long walk or play, make dinner, maybe take a bath, and then it’s time for reading and bedtime. At that point, my husband usually comes home and we have a few hours together to eat dinner, talk, watch a show and collapse, catatonic, in bed.

What does a typical day of eating look like for you?
The first thing I do in the morning is make myself a cup of Earl Grey tea with milk. That has to happen within the first 20 minutes of getting up. Essential. That usually tides me over until I come home after dropping Hugo at daycare. I’ll have breakfast (buttered toast with jam, or a bowl of oats, fruit and nuts with milk, or my latest obsession, Turkish bread stuffed with salted, sliced cherry tomatoes, dried oregano and oil) and get to work.

I always have these grand plans of cooking myself a hot lunch, but 50% of the time, nah, 70% of the time, I’m so busy with work that I realize too late that I’m starving and then I can’t possibly wait the time it would take to make a meal, so I’ll eat a sort of cobbled-together cold lunch picnic from the fridge: salami sandwich, sliced peppers, a yogurt, something like that. If I’m lucky, there will be leftovers from last night’s dinner that I can doctor somehow (with an egg on top or with hot sauce, for example). If I’m really lucky, I cook myself a fresh meal. Doesn’t happen as much as I would like, though.

Then, in the afternoon, I always end up scavenging for something to nibble on with my second cup of tea. I’m trying to stick with nuts or a piece of fruit, because I have totally sedentary lifestyle at the moment, but I’ll be honest, that doesn’t happen as much as I would like. There’s always some kind of chocolate that sneaks its way into my mouth. Still, life’s too short to freak out about your afternoon snack.

The next and final meal of the day is dinner. This part is all over the map for me. Sometimes I make spaghetti with tomato sauce and a boiled vegetable with olive oil and lemon (what I grew up eating 5 nights of the week and my version of “fast food” that I can do in my sleep. Sometimes I do some elaborate recipe for the blog. Sometimes I’ll make a veg, a protein and rice in the rice cooker and feel very Suzy Homemaker about it. It sort of varies widely. Lately, I’ve been so busy and so tired come dinner time that I’ve gone for the really easy meal again and again. I’m becoming quite a pro at it – quick, tasty and something both child and adult will eat. And then, of course, sometimes we just eat cold sandwiches in front of the tv because I am just too damn tired. (Luckily, this is considered a normal and traditional dinner in Germany.)

How often do you dine out, and what do you eat?
We go out maybe once or twice a week, almost always on a weekend when my husband is home. We’ll go to our favorite Chinese restaurant where we order the same three dishes every time (smoked tofu salad, dry-fried Sichuanese green beans and dry-fried beef with Sichuan pepper) or to a Korean place on the other side of town that my husband is obsessed with (the first with child, the second without). We’re definitely still in that phase of having a small child where leaving the house seems to be an almost insurmountable thing or at least, not always entirely worth it. But that’s okay – we’re both homebodies.

What are your favorite foods–those ingredients you always cook with, or the things that you see on a menu that you always end up ordering?
In restaurants, I always end up ordering artichokes, because I hate cleaning them and never make them at home.

At home, I would be lost without canned tomatoes and onions. They’re not sexy or glamorous, but they are the basis of so much of what I make.

What do you eat when you’re alone?
see above

How do you take your coffee/tea?
My black tea is always with milk, no sugar.

Condiment of choice?
Olive oil

Are there any foods you dislike?

Do you have any weird food quirks?
I really like ketchup. Is that weird?

Favorite cocktail/beer/wine?

Sweet, sour, salty, bitter, or umami?
Sour, salty and bitter forever!

*Note: All pictures are from Luisa’s blog and Instagram.

monochrome triangles dress: my plantain dress hack

by Nicole on November 14, 2014

I really love the Deer & Doe Plantain pattern and have made it up five different times now, all unblogged (one solid, two florals, and two stripes). I love the neckline, and I really like the fit though the shoulders. I’ve made the Moneta once, but after many wearings, I just don’t love how it fits in the shoulders/arms, and I don’t think the gathered skirt is all that flattering on me. So finally it dawned on me… Plantain bodice + full circle skirt = knit dress love.

And yes, I reallllly love this dress. So much so that I’ve already bought a drapey black knit and some black stretch lace to make a “fancy” version. And really, this is a dress I could never get sick of, so I’m sure I’ll eventually have like 10 different versions in different fabrics, sleeve lengths, and skirt combos.

To make the dress, I slimmed down the side seams of the Plantain pattern and cut the bodice around the waistline instead of at the usual t-shirt hem. I then drafted a circle skirt using BHL’s app. I attached the circle skirt to the bodice and stabilized with clear elastic. I did end up taking in the bodice seams about an inch or two on each side after sewing it up, because I was initially trying to be conservative and didn’t really account for negative ease. And I confess that I haven’t hemmed it yet. Hemming is my least-favorite part of knits, and this hem is miiiiiiiles long. It doesn’t look too bad unfinished, so I’ll probably wait a while.

Oh, and the fabric! Isn’t is awesome!?! I bought it a few months ago from the Austin Fabric Co-Op, and I felt a little bad because the shop owner told me she had actually planned to purchase the end of the bolt that night, but I beat her to it. It’s a little meaty, but has great drape, softness, and spongey-ness, and is the perfect weight for a knit dress, in my opinion. I love how the triangles look hand-printed too! I bought it fully intending to make a sleeveless Moneta with it, but I’m so glad it stayed in my stash for a while, because I like it much better as a Plantain!

I totally intended for this dress to have a contrasting Peter Pan collar. I read some tutorials, drafted my pattern, cut, interfaced, sewed, pressed, and then… I hated it. The collar just didn’t lay right and it cheapened the dress. I’m thinking I screwed up the drafting somewhere in the process, but the collar also just might have stretched as I sewed it since I can’t adjust the pressure of my presser foot and the knit was pretty thin. Two hours down the drain, but at least I tried, and at least I learned something. I think failures are good every once in a while, even though I don’t particularly enjoy them. Keeps me well-adjusted.

So yeah, simple dress, but very very cute and wearable. And I feel pretty proud of myself for my first hack, even though it was dead easy and probably shouldn’t even count as hacking!

Oh, and what’s a post about a circle skirt without a blurry twirl pic?!?


food rituals: nicole

by Nicole on November 10, 2014

I’m sort of a nosy person, so I’ve always loved hearing about people’s food rituals. I’m not really sure why I find it so fascinating. I guess I feel that it’s an aspect of people you don’t really think about very often, since when you share meals with others, it’s usually at a restaurant or something. But “the everyday” is infinitely more interesting to me.

So with that, I’m starting a new series on the blog called “Food Rituals”, all about different people and their eating habits. This first installment is all about me. I figure if I’m going to be nosy, I’ll at least let you have a peek into my life too.

If you’d like to be interviewed for a future post, please leave me a comment! I’d love to include a variety of eaters!

What does a typical day of eating look like for you?
Without a doubt, breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, and I never skip it, even on workdays. My favorite and most-frequent is eggs, in pretty much any form, although I usually do scrambled. I typically add spinach/kale and chives, always chives, and I cook my eggs softly in butter or olive oil. If I have any good leftovers, like beans or potatoes or taco meat, I’ll add those to the eggs too. Other frequent breakfasts include smoothies, simple omelets, and breakfast tacos. With the exception of smoothies, I really don’t  care much for sweet stuff in the morning.

I typically bring my lunch to the office. These days, we often do bento boxes filled with nut crackers, deli meat, cheese, vegetables like carrot sticks or cabbage salad, and seasonal fruit. Other times, I just take leftovers from dinner. I also keep a stash of Kind Bars in my desk, so that’s sometimes my quickie lunch if I didn’t have time to pack one.

In recent months, our dinners have been pretty simple. Lately, we like to prep a lot of food on Sundays and we’ll eat on it throughout the week. Tacos are probably one of our most-frequent meals, usually made with braised meat or a picadillo-style filling or a bean/vegetable mix. We’ve also been eating a lot of meatless “bowl meals”, so you’ll find often find some variation of grain + legume + veggies + fried egg.

I wouldn’t call myself a health nut, but I definitely do aim to have either fruits or vegetables in every meal. I like mixing easy comfort foods with good nutrition, so I’ll find ways to “healthify” things and still make them taste great (like baked sweet potatoes topped with a fried egg, black beans, sauteed greens, onions, peppers, a teensy bit of cheese, and avocado, in place of the usual baked potato).

I’m not much of a snacker, with the exception of sometimes wanting dessert late at night. Many weeks, Darius and I will each buy a really good bar of chocolate like Mast Brothers, and we’ll savor it all week long. And I usually allow myself one “special” dessert once per week like a cupcake or ice cream or something really indulgent. But I have a habit of easily letting dessert become a habit, so I try to keep it to once per week only!

I carry a little pink water bottle with me everywhere so I can drink good ol’ water all day long. In the evening, I often have one or two La Croix sparkling waters because I like a “fun drink” at night. I don’t drink sodas anymore. I drink coffee maybe a few times a week, but it’s not a daily habit.

How often do you dine out, and what do you eat?
On average, we eat out two dinners per week–often Asian for one and Tex-Mex for the other. We both love all kinds of Asian; Schezuan, Korean, Vietnamese, and Japanese are our favorites. At Asian spots, I’ll usually order something like mapo tofu (Schezuan), soft tofu soup or bibimbap (Korean), banh mi or pho or vermicelli (Vietnamese), nigiri or okonomiyaki (Japanese). I like Tex-Mex places that serve breakfast all day, and if they do, I’ll probably order huevos a la mexicana.

We also usually eat breakfast out on Saturdays and Sundays. Usually we have tacos or juice/smoothies, but other times we’ll go someplace more hearty for things like eggs benedict or biscuits & gravy. On the weekends, we usually just do a big breakfast and then don’t eat again until dinnertime.

What are your favorite foods–those ingredients you always cook with, or the things that you see on a menu that you always end up ordering?
Without a doubt, my #1 is eggs. After that, beans of any kind, avocado, potatoes, chives, mushrooms, garlic, onions, greens, broccoli, kale, really good rice, toast, chips & salsa & queso… a lot of the things you actually see in my daily eating! If any of those things are in a dish, there’s a pretty good chance I’m going to want it.

Less frequent, but just as loved: Biscuits. Raw seafood, especially oysters. Perfect fries with aioli. Mashed potatoes and gravy. Stuffing. Buttercream icing. Hollandaise or bearnaise sauce. Fried chicken (dark meat, please). Artichokes and asparagus in spring. Corn on the cob, and tomato & mayo sandwiches in summer.

What do you eat when you’re alone?
My go-to “lonely meal” is toast. I might top it with some sauteed mushrooms and goat cheese, or some sliced avocado, or some softly scrambled eggs, or I might just it eat with butter & salt.

How do you take your coffee/tea?
For the “everyday” coffee, just black. If it’s the weekend, then often a mocha or a milky iced coffee. I do enjoy tea, and I have a ton of it at home, but it’s still never my go-to.

Condiment of choice?
Cholula. We go through a bottle in a few weeks!

Are there any foods you dislike?
Pretty much the only food I will not eat is blue cheese. BLECH. I also don’t care much for Mediterannean flavors like olives, feta, balsamic, etc.

Do you have any weird food quirks?
Anytime I’m eating something like a a sandwich or hotdog, I usually take off any meat when there’s just a few bites left, and finish the rest with just the toppings and bread. I guess I just get sick of the main component and want everything else on its own sometimes?

Also, I almost cannot eat something like a PB&J without adding chips to the inside of the sandwich. I was actually quoted in the Austin-American Statesman once for this little quirk!

Favorite cocktail/beer/wine?
I like really bright cocktails with lots of citrus and gin and some kind of sparkling element (like a French 75). I also love a good, bracing Corpse Reviver #2.

I drink a lot of craft beer too. My favorites are floral IPA’s (Lagunitas and 512 are my favorites), and I also love a lot of saisons/tripels/wheat beers/etc.

Not much of a wine drinker these days, with the exception of sparkling wine. There is almost nothing better than a sparkling rosé on a summer day, or a good dry Champagne with oysters.

Sweet, sour, salty, bitter, or umami?
Umami. Although these days I’m starting to like a lot of acid/pickle-y flavor, so I’ll throw in sour too.