It’s a funny thing, making friends on the internet. And as I’ve learned over the years, it doesn’t take much. In the case of my friendship with Molly from the universally-loved blog My Name is Yeh, it started with a tweet. I found her blog in late 2013 because apparently I was living under a rock. I remember finding her site, falling in love with the photos and recipes, reading her “about me” section and being all like “OMG I JUST FOUND MY NEW BEST FRIEND.” So obviously I tweeted something to that effect to share my newfound love for her site. This was shortly before I launched Cake Over Steak and my old personal website with my illustrations was still up on my Twitter profile. (It is now gone because it mysteriously disappeared from the internet along with the hosting company I used for it, although it had wonderful timing because it happened about a week after I launched this site.) Molly tweeted back at me and said how much she loved my illustrations, so I told her to stay tuned because I was launching an illustrated food blog in a few weeks. When that day came I made sure to let Molly know the site was live, and she was the first person to comment on my first blog post. Ever since then Molly has continued to be incredibly kind and supportive of my blog.
Then in 2014 I met Molly IRL at that blogger picnic I attended. Afterwards a smaller group of us headed to a bar to hang out and I got to know her even better. Molly is the real deal: warm, funny and inviting. She and I are both percussionists, which is an odd thing to have in common. If I had decided for some weird reason to pursue that instead of art for my career and was super talented like Molly and went to Juilliard for it, I bet we would have been besties and thrown weird dinner parties together.
I always say Molly is the blogger you want to hate because she makes everything seem simultaneously effortless and magical. She’s like a unicorn of the internet who farts sprinkles. But you can’t hate her because she’s unbelievably kind and encouraging and the sweetest person ever. I’ve enjoyed watching her success grow with her blog, and her gorgeous photography helped inspire me to dive into doing the photography for this site on my own about two years ago. She got engaged, she got married, she got chickens, she wrote a book …. It’s been fun to watch.
Her first cookbook, Molly on the Range, takes us through her journey, much like her blog has. Her life is basically a mashup of two of my fantasies: I’ve always wanted to live on a farm or a similarly remote rustic house with animals (I attribute this to reading Little House on the Prairie too many times as a kid), and I’ve wanted to live in Brooklyn ever since college. These are two very different fantasies, but now Molly has lived both of them. After college she moved away from NYC to live on her now-husband’s family sugar beet farm in North Dakota, aka the middle of nowhere. (Although she has a Target, so in my opinion she’s doing better than I am.) I was lucky enough to receive one of her review copies of the book, which came with some fun #mollyontherange-themed temporary tattoos. For the day of this photo shoot I wore the sugar beet one and then I got to feel like a cool person when I went out with my friends in Lancaster later that night.
The book takes us through her transition from the Chicago suburbs (where she grew up) to NYC (for college) and now to Grand Forks, ND. It’s peppered with mini essays in Molly’s hilarious conversational tone and her signature food like Funfetti Cake (made from scratch) and her spins on the Midwest “hotdish.” I’m now dying for the height of summer to roll back around so I can make her “Everymorning Breakfast for the Summer” with Israeli salad and tahini. Other things I love about this book: mentions of fart attacks on her first date with her husband due to too much hummus, and a reference to Stars Hollow in the intro. (I actually just served this dish at a Gilmore Girls-themed dinner party I threw … stay tuned for more on that in a couple weeks.)
It was extremely difficult for me to decide what to make from her book. Should I make something sweet and fun, like Molly? How about cake? She and I both love cake and she makes some of the cutest ones I’ve ever seen. Or what about a hotdish? She’s so good at savory stuff, too. But then I was also intrigued by making some mac and cheese with the help of her mac and cheese flow chart. The struggle was real, you guys; I wanted to make it all.
I settled on a bit of a mashup: I went with mac and cheese but I really wanted to put tater tots on something so I gave this mac and cheese a tater tot lid. (It’s not a true hotdish but I’m calling it a “tot dish.”) I, unlike younger Molly, have a hard time eating meals that are entirely brown and orange in color. So I couldn’t help myself and added a decent helping of broccoli to the mac and cheese. Please don’t hate me. (Feel free to sub in brussels sprouts or something else that might be more up your alley if you’re not a broccoli-lover.)
The tots on top make it seem super special even though it doesn’t take much time at all to add them. They offer a different texture to the dish, which I thoroughly enjoy. Once they get mixed in it kind of reminds me of a mac and cheese/hash brown casserole. My mom makes a particular cheesy hash brown casserole a lot for family holiday meals and she always has to make like 3 pans of it because it’s so popular. Does anyone else’s mom make something like this? It feels like a real mom move, to make a hash brown casserole. If that casserole was like the North Dakota of casseroles, then this mac and cheese tot dish could be like the Brooklyn of casseroles. Maybe? (All of this cheese is going straight to my brain … I’ve eaten this a lot in the last few weeks …) I particularly enjoy it with a glass of white wine; it gives it a very high-brow-low-brow feel.
Anyway, moving on – I think Molly would approve of this, despite the broccoli. Her book is one of the coolest and most unique cookbooks I’ve seen in a while, and it would make a great gift for someone. Congrats, Molly! I can’t wait for book 2. (There’s going to be a book 2, right?)
Illustration at top created with pen and Photoshop.
Prints of my illustrations (plus other products with my work on them) are available in my Society6 shop.
- 8 oz dried pasta (Note: NOT A FULL BOX! I used cavatappi.)
- 3 cups chopped broccoli
- 4 tbsp butter (salted or unsalted is fine)
- ¼ cup flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 12 oz cheddar cheese, shredded (I prefer a mix of mild and sharp cheddars)
- 2 tsp dry mustard
- ¼ tsp paprika
- pinch of ground nutmeg
- 1 - 1½ lb frozen tater tots
- Heat your oven to 375°F.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Generously salt the water (I used a couple tsp kosher salt) and add the pasta. After 5 minutes toss in the broccoli. Remove and drain everything 2 minutes later. (The pasta will have cooked for a total of 7 minutes.) Rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.
- Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Mix in the flour and cook for one minute, while whisking. Stir in 1 cup of the milk until thickened slightly. Add the other cup of milk and continue to stir until thickened again.
- Add the cheese, dry mustard, paprika and nutmeg. Stir until the cheese is melted and everything is incorporated together as a smooth sauce.
- Combine the pasta, broccoli and cheese sauce in a casserole dish. I used an 8x8 which made for a deeper casserole, but it also works in a 9x13 pan if you want it to be a thinner casserole with a higher tot-to-pasta ratio.
- Cover with the frozen tots.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes until it's bubbling and the tots are warmed through. You can also broil it for a few minutes at the end if you want to. (I do this.) Let it cool for five minutes and then enjoy!
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