One of my favorite quotes from Jessica’s cookbook refers to her cooking philosophy. “There is no exact science as to how I began cooking my own recipes—but that’s just it: I started,” she says. ” If you want to learn how to cook and how to put your own spins on dishes, like anything else you just have to START.”
Well said, Jessica.
Anyone that’s discovered the deliciousness that IS the blog How Sweet It Is is very familiar with it’s creator’s obsession with neon, 80’s pop culture trivia and that all things are better with browned butter, bacon, and sprinkles.
I featured Jessica on my first list of 5 Food Blogs I’m Following Now, and my respect and devotion hasn’t strayed. Known among her legions of fans as an inspiring creator for recipes, beauty and simply all things fun, Jessica Merchant can now add author to that list with the release of her first cookbook, Seriously Delish: 150 Recipes for People Who Totally Love Food.
Need she say more? I don’t think so. Her book pretty much says it all.
Jessica’s cookbook is jam-packed with family favorites and homages to her grandmother, nicknamed Mother Lovett, with many recipes featuring her inspiration and tutelage and where her love for cooking began—in the kitchen for Sunday dinners.
Most recipes in her book clock in at 20-45 minutes of prep time making time in the kitchen totally doable for newbie cooks to those that want to spend the time but simply don’t have it, including this Obesessed-With-Cheese Mac & Cheese. And you can enter to win a copy of Seriously Delish for your very own at the end of this post.
Behind the Scenes of How Sweet It Is
What inspired you to create a book? Have you always wanted to be a cookbook author?
I definitely haven’t always wanted to be a cookbook author—but I have always wanted to be an author. If you look in my 8th grade yearbook, it’s what I wrote that I hoped I was doing in 15 years. I am much more interested in writing fiction, though. I was mostly inspired to do the cookbook from my readers and the community on my site that wanted a tangible book in their hands. And with how much work I put into the blog, it just seemed like a natural progression.
What was your favorite part about the book, and your favorite part about the process?
Hahaha—um… finishing it? I am definitely someone who is never happy with my own work, so I still struggle to find a favorite part of the book. My favorite part is probably that it is a true extension of me and my blog. When I sat down to write the book, I literally acted as if I was writing 150+ blog posts. This wasn’t a natural feeling at first but it was definitely necessary because it was “me” and what works for the blog so well. Favorite thing about the process? Definitely finishing it. The process was a nightmare and not something I enjoyed at all. It included a TON of self doubt!
What did you discover about yourself while writing it?
That if I’m not given a deadline, I will never ever ever ever ever make a decision. If I didn’t have a deadline for those recipes, I’d still be sending my editor 15 new ones every month to swap out of the book.
How is impending motherhood playing into your expectations on blogging?
I’m trying not to have ANY expectations since it is something totally new to me. Not only am I trying not to verbalize expectations—I’m also trying to not even think about them. I know it’s going to be a huge change and something I have never done before—probably the biggest challenge of my life. I plan on just taking it day by day when the time comes!
You’re on a whirlwind book tour to promote Seriously Delish. Do you have any other goals / direction / events / happenings in the near future besides welcoming your new baby to the fam?
I really don’t! Looking forward to being finished with the book tour so I can get home and NEST!
Jessica and husband Eddie
From Browned Butter Banana Bread to Mushroom, Leek and Brussels Pizza with Fried Eggs, to her 3 Bean Crispy Quinoa Skillet and Mother Lovett’s Obsessed-With-Cheese Mac and Cheese (recipe below) Jessica’s cookbook serves up breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner and desserts in signature Jessica style. “If I could cover my entire life in brown butter, I would. Heck, I think I already kinda do.”
I’m truly a fan. Thank you Jessica for taking the time to be our foodie crush. You brown my butter and make everything more funfetti.
And now, my list of 10 Q’s for Jessica.
1. Describe your blog in 3 words:
engaging, authentic and… trashed-up?
2. If you could be one food blogger other than yourself, who would you be?
mandy from lady and pups. she makes the MOST incredible food – and I always want to devour all of it.
3. Which 3 blogs do you follow/are obsessed with/can’t live a day without?
4. What is the one kitchen tool you could never give up?
My food processor! I use it for EVERYTHING.
5. What dish are you obsessed with mastering that you just can’t get quite right?
Pies and pie crusts. I am getting better at it, but it doesn’t come easy for me and the result never seems to be the same. Plus I just really don’t have the patience.
6. What did you have for dinner last night?
Pinkberry in an airport. (P.S. get the 50-cent extra toppings of milk chocolate crunch and nutella. WORTH IT.)
7. What’s one secret talent outside of the kitchen nobody knows about you?
I would necessarily call it a talent, but I have a very real obsession with american history – especially presidential history. Maybe we can consider my excellent memory as a talent? It’s a terrible thing for all of the men in my life.
8. You’re happiest when cooking/eating:
With family and friends. (and obviously when the meal includes brown butter.)
9. Your blog started out featuring food and recipes, but has evolved into so much more with fashion, beauty and life musings that are all trashed up or sprinkled with glitter. Your blogging style and tone inspires a devout legion of fans and has become a model that is sometimes imitated and I’m sure that’s flattering, but what advice do you have for other bloggers on how to interject their own personalities into their blog?
I think it’s a matter of being yourself and being consistent – but also being honest with yourself about who you are. Sometimes it takes writing everyday to figure out who you are – some people discover it in their twenties and others not until much later. I can’t imagine the work that would go into trying to emulate someone else and be a different person than you actually are. So I think it’s key to try your hardest to be yourself – and for some people it takes days to gain a following while for other it takes years. Be natural. Stop comparing yourself to others, stop worrying what others are doing! Putting on an act would get old very quick, which is why I think it’s so imperative to put as much of yourself into your own blog. You can never be the same person as someone else, which is actually amazing.
10. The one secret ingredient to your success is:
It’s so cliche, but… being myself. I am a very all or nothing person – and while this is not necessarily a good quality – I absolutely cannot and will not do something unless I 500% love it and feel like it’s me. It can’t be an unnatural fit. It’s kind of a blessing for being self employed but a curse in many other aspects. (Like the D’s I got in accounting and economics in college. Oops.)
Win a Copy of Seriously Delish
Seriously Delish is one of those cookbooks you’ll refer to time and again for classic recipes with a twist / healthy favorites / and classic cravings. And with over 150 of those recipes, you’ll be happily cooking in the kitchen for a good long while.
Just fill in the info in the widget below with one or more entries to be entered to win your own copy of Seriously Delish.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Obesessed-With-Cheese Mac & Cheese Recipe
And now to that Mac & Cheese recipe…with soooooo much cheese!
Choosing just one recipe to make from Seriously Delish was a feat upon itself. I finally chose Mother Lovett’s Obesessed-With-Cheese Mac & Cheese. It’s in the section of her book titled, Celebrations: For Times When Calories Don’t Count. This is NOT a light dish, but oh my word, it is heaven on earth.
The aroma of the garlic studded roux that is the base for the sauce is reason enough to make this mac & cheese. Four different cheeses combine to create a thick sauce that clings heartily to the elbow macaroni. Don’t be alarmed if the sauce starts to feel like play dough, it’s meant to be thick. Bacon and panko bread crumbs top the whole creamy dish for an alternate crunch that is the perfect balance.
Jessica’s right. This mac & cheese is truly the best.
Got much cheese?
- 1 pound elbow noodles
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- ½ cup mascarpone cheese
- 8 ounces Gruyere cheese, freshly grated
- 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, freshly grated
- 8 ounces Fontina cheese, freshly grated
- 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ⅓ cup panko bread crumbs
- 2 slices thick-cut bacon, cooked and crumbled
- Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F. Spray a 9 X 13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and prepare the pasta according to the directions, shaving 1 to 2 minutes off the cooking time. Drain the pasta once it's finished and set aside.
- For the cheese sauce, heat the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Once it is sizzling, add the garlic and cook for 15 seconds, then whisk in the flour to create a roux. Stir the roux until it is golden in color and fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour the milk in slowly and stir constantly until the liquid is slightly thickened, another 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and add the mascarpone, Gruyere, 6 ounces of the cheddar, 6 ounces of the Fontina and the Parmesan cheese. Stir the sauce constantly with a heatproof spatula until the cheese is melted, then add the pepper, salt, and nutmeg. Stir to combine.
- Add the pasta to the baking dish and pour the cheese sauce over the top. Mix to combine and disperse the sauce throughout the noodles. Cover the top with the remaining cheddar and Fontina cheeses, the bread crumbs, and bacon. Bake until golden and bubbly on top, about 30 minutes.
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