At The Table With...Sarah Coates of The Sugar Hit

An interview with food blogger Sarah Coates of The Sugar Hit | www.paperplatesblog.com

Today we're rolling with Sarah Coates, the 24-year-old blogger behind The Sugar Hit. First things first: Sarah lives in Brisbane, Australia. That is awesome. Also awesome is her blog, where she shares creative, high-volume recipes for baked goods, desserts and — my personal favorite — street foods. I mean, just look at that Vietnamese iced coffee below. If that weren't enough, Sarah is also a fellow banana-hater. I think I have a girl crush.

Read on to get to know Sarah!

What is your all-time favorite book, and why?

This question is HARD. There are so many different books that I absolutely love and would feel completely lost without. But since you’re making me pick one, it has to be How to Eat by Nigella Lawson. It’s such a beautifully written, deeply personal book, and it’s all about my favourite topic, food. It’s a recipe book, definitely, but it’s so much more than that. I have read it cover-to-cover more times than I can count. A life-changing read. 

What meal do you love to cook, and why?

Hmmm. One of my absolute favourite things to cook is something I call ‘Christmas Ragu’. I don’t have a recipe for it published anywhere, and it changes a little every year. It’s a slow-cooked lamb ragu with sage and rosemary and white wine, served over fresh pasta. It’s what my boyfriend and I eat on Christmas Eve every year, just the two of us. And then we watch Wayne’s World. It’s a weird tradition, but it’s our tradition.

What is your favorite food scene from a book, and why?

It has to be a scene from The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. The Faraway Tree books were already very old by the time I got to read them, but they are completely enchanting and I absolutely loved and still love them. My favourite of the many wonderful scenes with food is the chapter where the children and their friends climb up the tree into the Land of Goodies. There are plates of jelly that grow on trees, and bushes of strawberries grow their own dollops of cream and dustings of sugar, and they feast on tomato soup and poached eggs and ginger buns. 

Coffee or tea?

Coffee – black, two sugars.

What is the last book you abandoned, and why?

I’m sorry to say, it was Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne. Not through any fault of the book, it was just that there were so many marine terms that I kept having to look up — donaciae, porphitae, asterophytons, etc. — I got sick of it.
Sarah's Vietnamese iced coffee, in the corner by the window where she does much of her reading.

Sarah's Vietnamese iced coffee, in the corner by the window where she does much of her reading.

Author you'd most like to meet for dinner, and your order?

It’s an incredibly close call. Of course, Nigella, or Tina Fey, but just to mix things up I’m going to say Nora Ephron. I think she would have been an incredible dinner companion. And I would make sure to order plenty, so that we could stick to her ‘rule of four’. Nora said that most people always serve three things; some sort of meat, some sort of starch and a vegetable. Nora learned to always serve a fourth thing, something unexpected and delicious, just to keep each bite interesting.  

Where do you go to find new recipes? 

The question is where DON’T I go! Everywhere! I’m totally unashamed of asking for recipes in restaurants, at friend’s places, or at markets. I am all over blogs, left and right. I love food magazines, and you can find me in the cookbook section of my local bookstore, pretty much every Saturday.

Where do you go to find new reads?

Now this one is tougher. I’m verrry picky when it comes to books. I’m not a huge fan of popular fiction. My most favourite thing to read is memoir, which is why I love Nora Ephron’s writing so much. What I tend to do is find an author who I love, and then find out who they read, and who their friends are or where, and then read them. 

Tell us about your blog — the inspiration for it, why you blog, and your favorite aspects.

The Sugar Hit is all about kick-ass, totally delicious, sometimes unexpected and always amazing food that is reasonably simple and affordable. Food that gives you that excited, exhilarated ‘sugar hit’ feeling, even if there’s no sugar in it! I’m inspired by all of my cooking heroes, Nigella, Jamie Oliver, Gizzi Erskine, Joy The Baker, and so many others, and I just love to be creative with cooking in my home and then get to share that with anyone who’s interested!

What are your favorite blogs, and why?

For sheer style and a new way of thinking about food, I love Dine x DesignHungry Girl Por VidaGirl Versus Dough [ATTW], Take a MegabiteBlogging Over Thyme and Jessica from How Sweet It Is all do incredibly creative, original work that never ceases to inspire me. I love to read SugarHero, because she creates things I never could. Wit & Vinegar is absolutely hilarious, and Billy is very left of field with his recipes, which I love. Top with Cinnamon because Izy’s raw talent speaks for itself. Also, Joy the Baker, because she’s Joy the Baker.

Connect with Sarah: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest


Get more Amina by following PAPER/PLATES on Twitter and Instagram.

"Women in Clothes" & Strawberry-Blackberry Turnovers

Women in Clothes is a book for gifting, not sharing. Pair it with a dressed up strawberry-blackberry turnover.


I was originally drawn to Women in Clothes because one of my best friends moonlights as a professional stylist. She devotes an incredible amount of time, analysis and energy into how she helps people dress like their best selves. I bought this book thinking I’d send my galpal this copy as soon as I was “done” with it. But after reading: no way! I’ll order her a copy of her own — this little lady is staying with me. 

Women in Clothes isn’t something you hit and quit. 

Don’t be discouraged by the forced, self-aware introduction by the authors (Spoiler alert: it’s a transcribed video chat in which authors Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits and Leanne Shapton talk about themselves and their project. Oof.). What you’ll find in the following pages is modern ethnography meets conversations with your best girlfriends after a few glasses of wine meets The New Yorker. Like a killer outfit, this book’s composition is what makes it great. It samples a smattering of forms: surveys, conversations, poems, projects, essays on dressing, collections (photos of garments), wear areas (maps of what individuals think about their bodies), and compliments.

The authors engage a wide swath of women in this work — we hear from some fashion “experts,” but for the most part the women who respond to surveys and projects are normal (albeit artistic-skewing) people from all over the world. They weigh in on everything from thoughts on breasts to how smell affects their attire. This is not a book about dressing “right.” Even the experts seem totally non-judgmental. In one conversation, fashion designer Mona Kowalska is quoted:

“Rarely do I give advice like ‘You should wear this with this,’ because I don’t know. I don’t know what people should wear. You don’t know about people’s lives.”

Revelations here range from serious and self-reflective to quirky and light-hearted. One prompt asks women to send in pictures of their mothers and describe what they see in that photo. We learn things like how one mother wouldn’t dress her daughter in chartreuse because it reminded her of the vomit she experienced when she worked as a stewardess. On the other hand, we read many regrets that mothers didn’t stay as optimistic and unburdened as their were in their youths.

The lighter details and the heavier ones all ladder up to some real, nuanced insights about female behavior. What we wear matters — whether it’s from Urban Outfitters or our grandmothers’ jewelry boxes — because it encapsulates part of who we are and who we want to be. It’s impossible not to think about your own wardrobe, history and quirks while reading Women in Clothes — I thought about my inflexible philosophy that underwear should be crazy colors, I wondered why some t-shirts are crafted so much better than others, I recalled the floral print I wore the first time I met my dude, and that later that same evening it was complimented by a Playboy bunny. I even got a little teary. I’m telling ya, this is a great book.

In one survey a woman describes meeting some girls in China who spent days upon days embroidering gorgeous belts and coats. She notes,

“Before, I’d always thought being overly interested in fashion and spending a lot of time, money, and effort on looking good was frivolous and to be avoided. After that…I decided that dressing up was an essential, human, female behavior and that it turned life into a celebration.”

Amen to that!

At 514 pages and about 225 pieces of individual content, this is not a book you need to read cover to cover or even linearly. Just peek in and you’ll enjoy a sampling of prose as diverse and beautiful as a street full of storied, unique women.

-Women in Clothes- & Strawberry-Blackberry Turnover - www.paperplatesblog.jpg

For Women in Clothes, I decided it would be appropriate to “outfit” a beautiful canvas. My boyfriend Dan and I visited our favorite famers’ market this weekend and got quite a haul. One highlight included the season’s last blackberries. They are delightful but need to dress sweetly to complement their extreme tartness. Here we’re softening them up with some other berries and wrapping them in a luxurious, flattering pie crust.


STRAWBERRY-BLACKBERRY TURNOVERS

Makes 4 turnovers

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 1/2 cups strawberries
  • 1/8 cup sugar (perhaps a bit more depending on your sweet tooth)
  • 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup blackberries
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 refrigerated pie crust (store-bought or you can make your own!)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Instructions:

Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add strawberries and cook until soft, then mash up a bit with a fork or potato masher.  

In a little bowl, mix together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt.  

Add the blackberries, lemon juice, and sugar mixture to the skillet. Bring to a gentle boil. Stir slowly and consistently for about three minutes, until the juices have thickened. Feel free to give your blackberries a slight mash.

Take piping-hot fruit mixture off the heat and pour it on a plate. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Cut pie crust into quarters.  

Divide fruit mixture evenly, placing about 2 tablespoons into the center of each pie-crust quarter. Fold the crust in half over the filling. Seal the edges with a fork.  

Arrange turnovers on an ungreased baking sheet, then brush the top of each with a little bit of beaten egg. Slice a 1-inch slit (you can get creative if you like — lightning rods or x’s) in each.

Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Let cool a few minutes (not optional — ouch!), then serve with ice cream (optional but encouraged).


Get more Katie by following her on Instagram.

The TBR List: Textured Covers

I'm going to start out by saying I'm pro e-book. It's really hard to argue against the convenience of e-book readers, both in terms of speed and weight.

But.

When I pick up a book like Barbara Kingsolver's Flight Behavior — which I'm currently reading and obsessed with — my feelings for e-book readers suddenly turn sour. It's not the scent, the heft or the texture of the pages that changes me (though those are nice). It's the cover. The gorgeous, reflective, textured cover.

On the shelf, Flight Behavior looks nice enough. The warmth of it draws my eye, even though I don't love yellows much. But in my hand, up close, the movement of the leaves — or are they flames? — is striking. They flicker up the page and bring the title to life.

My favorite thing about the cover is that the leaves are embossed into the page. This makes them shimmer, but also turns holding the book into a tactile experience. It's borderline interactive. Perhaps this sounds crazy, but I am so attracted to textured covers — whether they delight me like this one or repulse me like Alissa Nutting's Tampa, which I stroked in a Barnes and Noble after hearing from Kate how creepy the velvet casing was.

I think we sometimes forget how much information our hands take in but these cover designers, evidently, did not.

PS: I'm fiddling around with an events listing page for cool literary and culinary happenings around Chicago. Is this of interest? What would you like to see here?


LINKIN' LA VIDA LOCA

- A secret bookstore.

Book-sharing on the CTA.

- Kids' books don't need pictures.

- An "L" map of Chicago coffee shops.

Postage stamps featuring famous chefs.

- Cafes that are actually literary landmarks.

- The Gone Girl movie is almost here! Will you go see it?

- Recovered? More like re-covered. Classics get a new look.

- Forget e-books, how do you feel about 3D-printed books?

- Cool Kickstarter alert: The Bite-Sized Book of Bite-Sized Recipes.

- In honor of Banned Books Week, eight banned books worth reading.

Beer-flavored lattePumpkin spice-flavored Greek yogurt? No thanks.

- I finally watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi! So much to learn from a talented yet humble master.

- We've created pairings for two of these indie books that might deserve to be considered for National Book Awards: The Empathy Exams and Painted Cities.


Get more Amina by following PAPER/PLATES on Twitter and Instagram.

At The Table With...Maris Callahan of In Good Taste Mag

At The Table With Maris Callahan of In Good Taste Mag | www.paperplatesblog.com

Today we're hanging out with Maris Callahan, a Chicago-based PR professional and bosslady of In Good Taste Mag. This young blog is a treasure trove of ideas for entertaining simply and deliciously. Maris and her team shares recipes, DIY ideas, restaurant reviews and even some fashion and beauty. I enjoy entertaining but find it daunting at times, so Maris' ideas for menus, decor and outfits are fun to consider. She makes me think about creating an experience rather than simply creating a dish. It's a fun exercise.

Read on to get to know Maris!

What is your all-time favorite book? 

I Know This Much Is True, by Wally Lamb

What meal do you love to cook? 

I love to try new recipes and create my own, so this is a tough question! One of my favorite things to make is my avocado pasta sauce [pictured below], which is so easy and tastes indulgent, but is really full of good fats and fiber. Paired with a salad or veggie and some crusty bread it's an easy crowd-pleaser. I've also been loving experimenting with Safest Choice Eggs. The company sponsored an event I did recently and because the eggs are pasteurized, they're safe to consume raw or undercooked. We created a cocktail recipe using the egg whites along with a thyme simple syrup and lemon juice that were delicious. It will be up on In Good Taste soon!  

What is your favorite food scene from a book? 

I don't have one specific scene in mind but I loved Cooking for Mr. Latte by Amanda Hesser, a food columnist and former editor at The New York Times [now co-founder of Food52]. She chronicles her love for food throughout her courtship and engagement with her now-husband and really shines a light on how much food and dining plays a role in the social aspect of our culture. Some really cute stories and anecdotes along with great recipes, too! 

Coffee or tea? 

Coffee. All of the coffee. 

What is the last book you abandoned? 

I could never get through The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I've probably started and stopped it five times because everyone raves about it but I just couldn't get hooked and I finally gave up. 
Creamy Avocado Pasta Sauce a la Maris Callahan.

Creamy Avocado Pasta Sauce a la Maris Callahan.

Author you'd most like to meet for dinner, and your order? 

I would have to go for French food with Julia Child. I know that isn't the most original answer but I can imagine it would be an experience of a lifetime — and she seems like a lot of fun!

Where do you go to find new recipes? 

I create a lot of my own recipes but I'm consistently inspired by what I read, be in it in cookbooks, on blogs or in magazines. I'll see something that looks amazing and then figure out how to do it on my own. Sometimes I'm just inspired by the ingredients.

Where do you go to find new reads? 

I ask friends and family for recommendations. I'm always searching for a good book to read and I love memoirs and biographies

Tell us about your blog — the inspiration for it, why you blog, and your favorite aspects. 

I've always loved to cook and I've loved to write. Working in PR, my clients were asking about whether we should work with bloggers and I was charged with researching them and getting to know some of the blogs to see if they'd be a fit. I quickly realized blogging was something I could do too and started one in May 2008. I've shifted focus back and forth over the years, doing freelance writing for other sites and running a local online magazine here in Chicago. At the end of the day, I want In Good Taste to be a resource for people who love to cook, dine and entertain as much as I do but are short on time or resources. 

What are your favorite blogs, and why?

Can I have ten favorites? My reader is constantly updating week to week but I have always loved reading my friends' work on Chez UsA Sweet Spoonful and Dunk and Crumble

Connect with Maris: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Pinterest

Photos by Leigh Loftus.


Get more Amina by following PAPER/PLATES on Twitter and Instagram.