Braised Lentils with Mushrooms //

The book (Date Night In, for those who are fairly new around these parts) came out just over a year ago and it’s only now that I feel as if I have the perspective to speak clearly about the entire process. Enough time has passed that the emotions I wrapped around it with a tight, almost life arresting grip, have eased up enough to give me a view that is a bit more, well, rational I guess.

Before jumping into actually writing the book I had always planned on taking you all with me on the journey and then I started and I just poured all of me into the book. I was in too deep but now I have more clarity and still would love to share a bit about the process and how I experienced it.

Let’s start from the beginning.


The proposal

This part of the process took the longest but most of my time was spent wrestling with my own self-doubt. It was of course very exciting to be working on a document that could have the potential to launch one of my biggest life goals, I think you can also imagine the pressure that came with that. I’m not naturally a sales person and that is the task that is required when writing a book proposal. This is your chance to sell your concept and tell people why the world is lacking without this book. It’s a huge ask and for me that looked like 80 pages of photos, sample recipes, statistics, my career history, and book comparisons. (Check the resource section at the end of this post for more of an in depth understanding of what the book proposal is).

I started seriously working on the proposal when my babies were 5, 3, and 1. Setting aside the time I needed to write, think and plan for the book was not only difficult to manage as I constantly battled the maddening voice of my internal critic but it felt like a huge sacrifice for my family. One that left me feeling incredibly guilty. Looking back I’m disappointed that I wasted a moment of my time feeling guilty about working on the book, but I get it, I’m a woman and a mom – guilt comes far too easy.

My husband and biggest pom pom holding cheerleader was always the one to push me out of the lego cluttered and dirty diaper littered house to go write. But I still struggled with the hour here and there writing chunks. I mean it would literally take most of that time to silence the inner voice long enough to be brave enough to put pen to paper. I struggled with the “what if’s” with the biggest one being “what if nothing ever comes of all this work?”

It wasn’t until Gabe gifted me with two nights in a hotel room alone for my 30th birthday that I was able to finish. In that room I gave myself the permission, freedom and space to write and I got it done. I now ask for a hotel room alone for my birthday – book proposal or not.

If you are at this beginning stage in the book process or quite frankly starting any new project, do this: Put the pen to the paper. Silence any and all voices that tell you that you are wasting your time or that nothing will ever come from the work you are putting in at this stage. Just start. Create the time you need to put in the work and if that means putting yourself in a hotel room for two days then do it.

My good friend Tara recently wrote about the writing/creating process and she says “It will never be perfect—nothing ever is. Do it anyway.”. I love that. Don’t be paralyzed by the “not good enoughs” be satisfied in the “I’m doing it!”. The refining and fine tuning will come later. Although perfection will never come so just throw that concept out. Be your own biggest cheerleader and commend your bravery for simply doing it. The first step is the hardest but you will be so glad you took that step when you look back at yourself much further down the path.

Braised Lentils with Mushrooms //

The book.

(the writing/shooting/recipe development part)


I’m going to spare you the nitty gritty here but if you like that sort of thing and are interested in hearing about all the details I would be more than happy to share. Feel free to ask a question in the comments and/or I’ll set aside a space on my Facebook page for a nitty gritty book related conversation.

What I do want to say about this part of the process is that I loooooooved it. Like giddy, jump out of bed in the morning, can’t wipe the smile off my face loved it. I mean, I was working on something that I had desired for so long. All my life I’ve had a great respect for books and I was given the opportunity to add my very own to the pile. It felt surreal, magical, and big.

I have a terrible memory but this scene is forever embedded in my mind: I was sitting at my parent’s kitchen table – away from the distractions of my towering laundry pile and sink of dirty dishes. As I sat at the table, first draft recipes surrounding me and fingers pounding at the keys of my laptop when I heard/felt a whisper. It wasn’t audible but I sensed its truth deep in my bones. It said “Right now, this is exactly what you should be doing.” Tears splattered the ink on my paper while a feeling of peace, confidence and joy overwhelmed me.

Now, don’t be fooled – that confidence vanished almost as quickly as it came but I continually clung to that moment when the inevitable doubts crept in.

So many friends of mine paved the book writing path ahead of me. I overwhelmed them with questions which led me on my own path with very realistic expectations of what the process would be. In one word: hard. But please allow me to be a hopeful voice on this subject: I LOVED writing this book. It was incredibly hard but the sort of hard that pushes you to be better. At the end of it all I was a better writer, photographer, and recipe developer.

On a very personal level, with a signed book contract and people depending on me to do the work I finally took myself and my work seriously. I wish it hadn’t taken other people’s expectations of me to take my work seriously but that was what I needed. Now I no longer needed Gabe to push me out of the house to go write, I did it on my own. I felt free to pursue this project with my whole heart. Sure, the laundry suffered, the state of the house suffered, I made very rare appearances in my kid’s school rooms but I was and am a better person, wife, and mom when I am living out of freedom instead of guilt.

Trust yourself and the path you are on. If you have the desire to write a book let that be enough permission you need to do it. Honor the desire. If you are willing to struggle through the epic workload and time required to make a book than you are the perfect person for the task. Follow your curiosity and try it on. You never know where it will lead especially if you don’t follow its lead.

The most practical lesson I learned in this phase is to surround yourself with people who are good at the things you are not good at. The final book will be much better if you simply focus on your strengths, acknowledge your weaknesses and bring in help when needed. I loved the quiet moments of cooking, tweaking recipes and coming up with the menus but organizing the recipe testers, refining the recipes further and keeping me on schedule, that was all thanks to my my spreadsheet loving friend, Julie. She helped to break down the enormous task of creating a book into three parts; the writing, the photography and the recipes. Each of these parts had specific deadlines.

I kept our date nights sacred during the whole process, wanting to write about how those evenings changed our marriage from a place of genuine honesty. From there we worked seasonally, sending out recipes to the testers on a 6 week cycle. I photographed no more than two menus at a time so that I didn’t get too visually exhausted, keeping the images vibrant and fresh. It was also important to me that the light in the images matched the light of the season so that summer really felt like summer and winter, with its cool grays and blues, felt like winter.

Find a rhythm and routine that works for you or find the right person to help get you on that rhythm. It takes a village to raise a child and make a book. Find your village.


Releasing the book.


This is the part where I had to share my book. Time to release it from my tight grip and let you all see it; see me. This. This was the hardest part. This phase is why I’m a year post publication and am just now writing about it. This is where I began to understand when my friends warned me of the difficulty in writing a book. Some people love this part – the events, the stage, the signings, the press. I thought I would love it too but I made a terrible mistake somewhere in the process – I didn’t separate me from the book. The book was me and I was it. I wore every critique or failed press mention or empty seat at a signing as a personal failure. Don’t do this.

The first time I saw a copy of my book I shrieked in delight. We were right in the middle of filming the trailer for the book when my brother, coming in from grabbing a piece of camera equipment, nonchalantly handed me the book. He handed it to me the way a two year old passes off a spent candy wrapper then he stood back and laughed as I simultaneously started shaking, crying and laughing.

I will never forget that moment; what it felt like to hold a tangible object that represented three years of work. And more than that, it represented my marriage and my heart for encouraging others to pour into their relationships at the table.

It’s a rare moment in an artist’s life when you are fully and completely satisfied with your work. I wasn’t simply satisfied, I was thrilled, proud even. I’m learning now that that is enough.

I let every empty seat and less than wonderful review hit me like a punch in the gut failing to remember pleasing everyone is not only impossible, it’s not my job. While I was busy remarking on the failures of the book I was neglecting the fact that the first printing sold out before the book was even released or when the New York Times praised the book and most importantly to me, the amazing emails I received about successful meals and relationships healed. I was far too busy worrying if the book was enough – if I was enough.

Next time I will attempt to be a better cheerleader for myself; praising the success and quick to overlook the critics. I will work hard to create another book that I am proud of and release it without me wrapped up in it so tightly.

I will read this (and believe it) again and again:

“Recognizing that people’s reactions don’t belong to you is the only sane way to create. If people enjoy what you’ve created, terrific. If people ignore what you’ve created, too bad. If people misunderstand what you’ve created, don’t sweat it. And what if people absolutely hate what you’ve created? What if people attack you with savage vitriol, and insult your intelligence, and malign your motives, and drag your good name through the mud? Just smile sweetly and suggest – as politely as you possibly can – that they go make their own fucking art. Then stubbornly continue making yours.”

― Elizabeth GilbertBig Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear


I will be satisfied in the creation of the work, content to have created and let the work have the life it needs to live.

Make it and move on. Then do it again.

Braised Lentils with Mushrooms //


Doing it again.


At so many points in the process I felt like I was blindfolded, walking about a room stubbing my toes on the coffee table and bumping chairs in my path. I had no idea what was in front of me and couldn’t see the whole picture. Some of that brought blissful naivety and sometimes it made me overly cautious.

As I think about starting the process again it feels like a second pregnancy. Some of the excitement is lessened because I actually know how this whole thing will go down. When I was pregnant with my second and third I knew all gory details; how little sleep I’ll get, how many diapers I’ll be changing, how many fits I’ll have to attempt to calm. But with that also comes the reality of really knowing how quickly those sweet smelling and sausage-legged, snuggle bombs become tantrum throwing toddlers. I understand more deeply that the joy is in the process and the release is simply to let it go and live the life it was created to live.

It may not ever be a number one all time best seller but if we work hard to create something we are proud of I have confidence that it will find an audience. And even if it doesn’t let’s let the joy of the process and the fact that we created be enough. It is enough. You being you is enough.


I do have a favor to ask of you as I finish this epic post. So I’m thinking about writing another book. This is scary, exciting, terrifying, and thrilling. But before I get too far into the process I would be so delighted to hear what you would like to see. I recognize that there are thousands and thousands of cookbooks already born so it can be a bit daunting to think about adding another one to the mix. All I know is that I have more to share, more to give and so much more to cook. But I would love to hear what you enjoy in a cookbook. Simple food? Celebration food? Both? Menus? Seasonal?

Ultimately the book will be what it needs to be from me but some input in this stage of the game feels right.

I hope you found this glimpse into my process helpful and again, please, let’s continue the conversation. Ask your questions. I’m happy to help.


ME! I’m happy to answer any and all questions to the best of my ability. Leave a comment below, email me directly ( – although this may take me a bit to respond), or head to my facebook or instagram pages to ask questions. I’m really excited to get a great discussion going.

Talk to your friends who have already walked this path. Have them share their proposal with you. I have found that cookbook authors are a generous bunch and are totally willing to share their journey.

101 Cookbooks: Writing A Book Proposal 

Will Write for Food: The Complete Guide to Writing Cookbooks, Blogs, Memoir, Recipes, and More This book and Dianne Jacob’s website is an amazing resource for those interested in writing a cookbook. She regularly interviews editors, agents and other cookbook authors. She is a kind, sincere and very honest person who paints a realistic picture of what the entire process looks like.

David Lebovitz is always so generous with his time and words. He’s an amazing resource.

Dianne Morgan has a great slideshow presentation from IFBC about the specifics of a book proposal.

Books on facing your fears and creating in spite of them:

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles


Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead


Rising Strong


Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear


Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life


Braised Lentils with Mushrooms //

Braised Lentils WITH Mushrooms AND Kale

The number one question I was asked while promoting the book, “What is your favorite recipe?” I get it. I always want to know the author’s answer to that question too but the thing is every single time I couldn’t think of one. Sometimes I would talk about the fried chicken and biscuit sandwich and the pretzel crusted ice cream pie with bourbon butterscotch and smokey chocolate covered pecans. Other times it was the Pozole or the cookies or the chilaquiles or the Flemish stew with frites or the Raclette date with hot chocolate so thick you may want a spoon!! Perhaps people thought my most common answer insincere: “I really love them all!” But it was the truth. My answer varied with the seasons, my mood and my cravings. Today I’m sharing another favorite from the book because the current weather demands it.

It’s the sort of dish that is perfectly suited for date night or weeknight (as are many of the recipes in the book quite frankly). Lentils, mushrooms and kale lean towards the ever popular and necessary nutritional side while the cream and frilly edged, runny yolked egg remind us that a little comfort is needed along with the nutrition.

Before writing this book I had kept this recipe in my back pocket, keeping it off the pages of the blog so that one day I could tuck it into the pages of a book. And now we’ve come full circle because I want you to have it here and in the book. It’s that good.

Recipe from Date Night In


1⁄2 cup / 80 g dry French green lentils

3 cups / 710 ml low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 small shallot, diced (1⁄4 cup / 40 g)

8 ounces / 230 g assorted mushrooms (such as cremini, porcini, and button), cleaned and diced

1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

3 garlic cloves, minced

1⁄4 cup / 60 ml dry white wine

3⁄4 cup / 180 ml heavy whipping cream

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 eggs

1⁄2 bunch kale, stems removed and chopped into quarter-size pieces

Parmesan, for finishing (optional)

Rinse lentils thoroughly. Place the chicken stock in a medium pot with the lentils and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 25 to 30 minutes, until al dente. Drain, and if you’re making the lentils ahead of time, pour them out onto a baking sheet to cool quickly. This step can be done 1 to 2 days ahead, and the lentils can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the butter and brown it (see page 11). Then add the shallot and cook for 1 minute.

Add the mushrooms and 1⁄2 teaspoon salt in an even layer to cover the bottom of the pan. Cook the mushrooms until deeply caramelized, about 7 to 9 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Deglaze the pan with white wine, scraping up all the flavorful brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Reduce the wine until no liquid remains.

Decrease the heat to medium-low and add the cream. Bring to a simmer and reduce for 2 minutes, then add the cooked lentils and remaining 1⁄2 teaspoon salt. Cover the pan with a lid and simmer for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare your eggs. I like mine sunny-side up so the yolk helps to sauce the lentils. In a nonstick skillet over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon oil. When the pan is nice and hot, crack in the eggs and sprinkle with salt. Turn down the heat and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the whites are set. The eggs will do some carryover cooking, so turn off the heat before you think they are done. Remove the eggs to a clean plate to wait while you finish the lentils.

Add the chopped kale to the lentils. Cover and cook until tender but still bright green, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Taste and add more salt, if desired. Divide lentils into two bowls and top each with an egg. Finish with freshly grated Parmesan, if desired.

74 Responses to “Braised Lentils + Writing a Cookbook”

  1. Aurora Satler

    This post is so beautiful. I love your cookbook as a new mom and have given it as an engagement gift and also a pick me up for friends with a toddler. Its a really great book no matter what stage of a relationship you are in. The recipes not only work but are extremely tasty and the writing and photography are honest and beautiful and make me smile. Thanks for sharing about your process, the doubt the delight and the full journey. Funny how the creative process so mirrors bringing a child into the world 🙂

    • Ashley Rodriguez

      Wow, Aurora. Thank you so much for your kind words and for helping spread the book love! That means so much to me! And you are so right, raising kids and raising a huge project are so similar. It’s hard not to compare.

  2. Bridget O.

    Hi Ashley! I loved this blog post so so much and wanted to say thank you for sharing your experience with us. I have always assumed you needed to be approached to write a cookbook and already have thousands of followers. In the vast and ever-growing ocean that is the food blog world, this has been discouraging, but your story gives me hope. Thank you and good luck on your next cook book baby. 😉 p.s. I think a celebratory menu style book would be amazing! Bridget

    • Ashley Rodriguez

      Bridget, while having a following definitely helps it’s not necessary to the process. A great idea can sell itself! I was approached by an agent but I still had to go through the process. Although I did have friends whose proposals were a one page document that took them 15 minutes to write. I cursed them a lot during my proposal phase. But I’m so glad I made such a thorough proposal. It acted as a map and whenever I needed to refocus I referred back to it. Very helpful.
      I’m so glad I could give you a bit of hope. It is a vast huge world and even I get overwhelmed by it all sometimes (a lot of times!), I just have to continually remind myself to keep my head down and do the work.

  3. Molly LeGoy

    Dear Ashley,

    For years now, I have read your posts and I was so proud to be one of the people who got your book in its first wave of publication. And actually, your blog was one of the first that made me want to start writing one of my own. (I am happy to say that my re-designed blog, The Hungry Dater [], is set to be re-launched at the beginning of March.)

    You ask what your readers would like to see. Speaking as a religious reader, as much as I love your recipes and your photography, the honest, life stories which accompany your recipes have always been my favorite part of your writing. I love that you allow your readers a small window into your life and your experiences in relationships–the ups AND the downs–with such an innocent honesty. It has given me hope.

    I write about searching for love through food. However, I believe food really embellishes ALL relationships in our lives–our relationship to each other as people, as lovers, as spouses or as families; and even our relationship with a greater something–out earth, our universe or our lives…

    I do love your recipes! They are interesting and seasonal and always lovely. But the thing I loved so much about Date Night In is your writing. I love that you have related your cooking to your struggles and triumphs, in relation to your marriage, your family, and your self. It’s part of what makes your writing so beautiful and fun to read. I really hope I can get there eventually.

    So, in answer to your question, I love the idea of a seasonal or a celebration book for your next endeavor. I love holidays and celebrations. I love how they allow us to let our food shine in its exalted position of being one of the reasons a family comes together during a celebration–more of that relationship stuff you are so wonderful at capturing. That being said, please don’t lose your voice. Always know the personal experiences you share are a big part of the reason I keep coming back. I love knowing there are others who communicate in their relationships through the preparation and sharing of delicious meals made and consumed with love. If you keep that voice, I have no doubt you will create another wonderful hit with your next book–no matter the specific subject matter.

    • Ashley Rodriguez

      Molly, Thank you so much for this encouraging and thoughtful comment. I am so, well, encouraged by your words. My writing is the most vulnerable and hardest part of it all and honestly what was attacked the most once the book came out. I’ve wanted to quit sharing so much through my words because I was hurt by the critics. But you know what? I’m not willing to be silenced and it’s comments like these that give me the push I need to continue to fight through the vulnerability and fear. So thank you. Thank you so very much.

  4. Laura

    Ashley, I loved this peek into the process of writing a cookbook; it’s something I’ve thought about and would love to do. I absolutely loved your book. Your writing is so beautiful and sincere. I keep “Date Night In” on our coffee table and pick it up often. I’d eagerly look forward to a new cookbook! I think a celebrations one would be fun!

  5. Amy

    I think you should write a book about taking a road trip across Europe with your family and include recipes from each country you visit.

  6. Andrew

    Hi Ashley!

    Thanks for the taking the time to write such an in depth post. My question is, once you finished your proposal and got it sent out, how long did it take for a publishing house to say yes?

    Also, what did the timeframe look like in calling your book 100% done once you agreed on a publisher?

    • Ashley Rodriguez

      Andrew, great questions.
      Once I handed the proposal off to my agent and she started shopping it around it all happened pretty quick. I think mid-February I it went out to publishers and by early March I had landed a deal. In the in between time I flew out to NYC to meet with 5 different publishers who had expressed interest. In the end two publishers offered me a deal.
      Every contract looks different but mine gave me 8 months to finish the manuscript – recipes, writing, photography. All of it – no, wait. I think I had one extra month to finish the photos. That was enough time for me. Some are longer and some are less. I have heard of 4 months – which is crazy!
      It took a year of back and forth editing and then the printing takes a long time. For me the entire process took 3 years – 1 year to write the proposal, 1 year of writing and developing the book (roughly) and 1 year to edit/print.
      Hope that helps!

  7. Michaela

    For your next book I would love to see more of what you do best: your flavors and personal stories. All of your recipes (from book to blog) have an out of this world quality in taste that is truly unique. YUM! I would love to see an every day look at how you feed your family – on the good days of course, we all make frozen pizza every once in a while. Keep up the great work and thank you!

  8. Am

    As parents of a toddler (with another on the way!), we found your book extremely relatable and amazingly helpful. We can’t always bring in a babysitter because of the cost (plus good help is hard to find when you’ve just changed cities), so weekly date nights – whether we follow your recipes to a “t” or make something else instead – are so necessary and looked forward to. Thank you so much for introducing this concept!!! It’s definitely helped keep us close.

    I’d love a cookbook that’s kind of like Canal House’s cookbooks (ie seasonal and not too fussy), but for families. Lots of family cookbooks seem to have just your standard chicken nuggets, pizza, burgers, etc. I’d like one with more vegetables and pulses/legumes, featuring components that are familiar to kids but with other ingredients that stretch their horizons (like bitter vegetables and different spices). With, of course, celebratory cakes and holiday foods thrown in (again, love the seasonality of Canal House books). If all of that makes any sense?…

  9. Sina

    I have your book and I think it is so well written. The recipes are delicious and the photography is amazing. You’ve really grown as a photographer.
    I would love to know about your writing. For me, extracting the right words that naturally flow in my brain onto the screen or paper is so difficult. What helps in the writing process? Not in terms of recipes but in the text. It makes me quit before I even start (again fear of stopping short of perfect)

    • Ashley Rodriguez

      Sina, thank you so much!
      Ohhhhh man, the writing. The hardest part for me. A few things I’ve learned: 1. The more I read, the better I write. 2. The more I write, the better I write. 3. Rough drafts are terrible but give them a bit of space and good hefty tidying up and they can turn into something quite lovely. 4. I need silence. No distractions, nothing, in order to write. Fight for that quiet if that’s what you need too. 5. If you want to write, write. There’s no other way around it. Sort of like how I want to get in shape but I end up sitting on the couch and not exercising. That’s not really going to help me get in shape. I spend so much time thinking about writing. Wanting to write and lamenting over how little time I have to write but really it’s all part of procrastinating. Just write. 6. Read The War of Art. Seriously. and Bird by Bird. That feeling of wanting to quit before you even start?! Totally normal, natural even. I find that reading about other authors struggling with the same issues makes me feel better and brave enough to write.

  10. Natalie

    Thank you for writing this and thank you for pouring your whole soul into your book. Your book was the first one I have ever read cover to cover like a novel, and I found myself in tears at the end. (I was also pregnant at the time, but I think I would have cried nonetheless.) I was so thrilled and touched by it that it is my go-to wedding gift now. I do have a question for you — do you have any advice on procuring an agent? And do you think having an agent is absolutely necessary? I’m in the middle of writing a cookbook myself (I love the process, too, and I’ve gone through similar feelings during the process) and after talking to a few other bloggers who had written books with that particular publisher, I decided I could manage on my own. I feel good about my current contract, but now I’m thinking I should find an agent for future projects. Any advice would be wonderful. And I would happily buy any book that you write. I like the suggestion up there about a celebratory book! Thank you, Ashley!

    • Ashley Rodriguez

      Natalie, Thank you so much for your kind and encouraging words. That was so one of my hopes for the book – that people would read it like a regular book. That it would both be used in the kitchen and on the couch. I’m so happy to hear that was true for you.
      Okay, so for the agent. My story is a bit unique in that I was approached by an agent. Actually an editor put me in touch with the agent and then that editor ended up turning down my book because I didn’t have a big enough personality. ha! If you have friend’s who have done this before a personal connection is the best. Otherwise you are going to want to create your proposal and shop that out to agents. And yes, having an agent is really great – they know the biz and will fight for you. She really helped when it came time to choose a publisher and sign the contract. I hope that helps. If you have more questions I’m happy to follow up with email if that is easier. And congrats on the book deal! That’s exciting.

  11. Brooke @ Chocolate and Marrow


    This is such a beautiful post. Thank you for pouring your heart into it (even if it took a year, it’s well worth the wait!) I just wanted to comment on a few things I loved the most since we’re on the topic of writing:

    – The fleeting moment of confidence in your parents’ house; sounds like your gut speaking to you. A powerful thing that’s too often ignored or shushed by insecurities. I’m glad you were wise enough to remember it.
    – The words about trusting yourself and the path you are on. I’m the absolute worst at this. I think it’s the fate of those of us who are perpetually anxious to question our choices, even daily. But, in some weird way, it helps to know that others whom you admire struggle with it too.
    – The resources at the end. That Elizabeth Gilbert quote, in particular, is one I really needed to read this week. I have many of the books on your list and hers has been on my “to buy” list for a while. I think it’s a sign–I need to go buy it.

    As for what I’d love to see in your second book? Well, I’m pretty much going to buy anything you put out because I believe in your photos, writing, and taste buds. But, I saw you make a post the other day on IG — I think it was somewhere snowy but I can’t remember for sure — about family adventuring. I’d love to see some family-inspired recipes in there. Not just like “this is fun to cook with kids” but recipes that are just inspired by y’alls everyday life.

    I loved gifting your first book to some of my newly engaged and married friends; and I imagine one that focuses on family life could be similarly fun to give to friends that are starting to form families of their own, showing that even through all the diaper changing and the dishes and the laundry, there are still adventures to be had for the whole family around food, some in the kitchen, some around town, and some in the great outdoors. 🙂

    Looking forward to whatever you do next. And thanks for such an honest, informative post.


  12. kristy

    Your post was very encouraging..and inspirational. Thanks for sharing. I love baking during any season and for any type of celebration. I would always buy a cookbook that had great pictures, ideas and creative ways to celebrate those special occasions and holidays!!

  13. Meghan

    Ashley! I love your blog and follow it religiously, and I absolutely love your cookbook. I’ve made MANY of the recipes in it (and repeated by request many of the recipes in it) as well as your recipes on Food52, so really, I’d be thrilled to buy your next book no matter what the theme/topic/slant! I feel like I can trust any recipe of yours to turn out well and to suit my taste. Personally, I think it’d be neat to have something with more of a family slant since your first book was date-centered! I’d love to know what you cook for your family, both in the day-to-day sense as well as the celebratory sense!

    • Ashley Rodriguez

      Meghan, you’re the best! Thanks for those amazing words. You basically just described the exact book I want to write. Wahoooo! Thanks so much for reading the blog. I appreciate it so much.

      • Meghan

        Wahoooo indeed! I can’t wait for your next book!! In the meantime, are there any cookbooks you’d recommend? I know you are also a Nigel Slater fan, so I trust your cookbook suggestions as well!

  14. Renee {The Way to My Family's Heart}

    There is something fortuitous with the timing of this post to my life and world. It comes not long after one of those conversations in which I was forced to really think honestly and earnestly about what I want out of my life. My husband and I were discussing the future and what our lives will look like after he retires from the Navy (which currently has us hop-scotching around Europe) and he asked me point blank “What do YOU want to do?”. After years of putting my aspirations on the back burner to support his career and trying to satisfy my creative desires with a small blog and an Etsy shop that couldn’t follow me on our current journey, I had no answer to the question. But after much thought I feel like I have an inkling- I was a recipe tester for the book Food Gift Love by Maggie Batista and I absolutely loved the experience. I stumbled upon the opportunity by reading Maggie’s blog post at just the right time, but I honestly have no idea how to dive deeper into this world. So I suppose my question is this- how did you select your recipe testers? Did you just find a trusted group of friends? Is there some secret list of testers out there that I should try to get my name on? I’d love to try my hand at it again. I felt it helped me with my own recipe development and writing and it is something I can do in any kitchen anywhere in the world with my three kids running around upstairs or outside. I would love to be brave enough to try my hand at book writing one day but for now I think getting my foot in this particular door would be quite satisfying.

    Oh, and I think that your open, honest style of writing and the food that I’ve come to know and love from Not Without Salt would lend themselves beautifully to a seasonal, family-style cookbook. Since you’re asking.

    • Ashley Rodriguez

      Renee, I love this, all of it. First of all I love that your husband asked, “What do YOU want to do?” That’s a good partner right there. And I loved that you helped Maggie, she is beautiful and so is her book.
      For my recipe testers I sent out a mass email to friends and friends of friends. I had a few people who read the blog, knowing that I was working on a cookbook, email to ask to test recipes. So that’s a great way to do it. I don’t know of a secret group or list somewhere but doing what you are doing right now – putting your desire out into the world – is a great first step. I know I will definitely keep that in mind when I need testers. And you are absolutely right, testing recipes is a great way to learn and will totally help you when it’s your turn to write the book.
      You are brave enough. Don’t ever think otherwise.
      And finally, thank you so much for your feedback. That is just the sort of book I would love to write.

  15. Anna

    Thank you for sharing this! I have an idea for a book that I really care about, a few pages of notes and ideas, and 2.5 year old with baby #2 due this spring. I really want to make this happen, it might take another year or two before I am really in it but I appreciate your inspiration and positive encouragement. And I love your book!

    • Ashley Rodriguez

      Congratulations on number 2! It’s so hard during the little years. You will make it happen, you’ll just have to get creative finding the time to do it. Having the idea can sometimes be the hardest part. I’m so excited for you.

  16. Brittany


    Your book is amazing, and I am sure whatever you write next will be equally fantastic. One thing I love about your book is cohesive menu style and the timeline and shopping lists. It makes creating the menu 100% less stressful, and really allows my husband and I to enjoy the process of shopping/prepping/cooking together. I would love another book with those elements!

  17. Lael

    Ashley, thank you for writing this post and sharing these resources! I just had a group of friends over on Saturday and we used your pizza dough from the book with fabulous results…a great one to now have in my back pocket. 🙂 And thumbing through the book to find that recipe reminded me how many other recipes I still need to try! I get so much satisfaction from looking at the pictures and reading the words…but there is much I want to bring into the kitchen and share with my husband and loved ones! (So glad the roasted tomatillo salsa has already made the list. wow, such deliciousness.) Anyway, I’m your cheerleader, and you have reminded me today to do a better job at being my own cheerleader, too.

  18. Eve

    Thank you for this illuminating, inspiring post. Whatever you do next will be what I want to read – I’m positive! But since you are asking, I always want a collection of healthy-ish family dishes (i.e. limited hands-on time and dishes) that make great leftover work lunches and are ideally freeze-able at some stage. I like subbing whole wheat flour into everything and that takes practice (or recipes!). Seasonal and veggie focus also plusses. So in essence, wholesome, money-saving, and mostly vegetarian. This doesn’t sound as exciting as the ‘Date Night In’ theme, but your magic can fix that.

  19. Amanda

    I love reading about the process. Thanks for sharing it. As for what is next, I love cookbooks that I might actually use to help me feed my family (school age + toddler +husband with a less than curious palate + two working parents + commute). Recipes that won’t take more than 40 minutes, are heathful (ish) and have interesting flavors. I love things that are all in one dish–bowl meals, entree salads, or casserole-type things. Your recipes never fail to be rewarding! Excited you are considering diving back in!

  20. Hannah K.


    I was planning to make your lentil recipe when I saw your blog post pop up. Quel coincidence, as the French say. It was awfully delicious and super easy to make. I think I’m going to make it again, because my husband loves it so much. Thank you for your wonderful book and for sharing your journey. Warm greetings from a neighbor in Portland, Oregon

    • Ashley Rodriguez

      Good thing I’m studying French currently. 🙂 I’m glad you loved the lentils – they were what was for dinner last night! Even my pickiest eater ate them up (minus the kale).

  21. Aimee @ Simple Bites

    Oh, how I needed to read this. today. When I’m 4 weeks out from delivering a manuscript for book 2 that is nowhere near finished, and I’m still constantly asking myself what I could POSSIBLY contribute.
    And thinking of the 101 lists of best books of 2015 that didn’t mention my first book – instead being thankful for the few that did. I get it, girl. Oh and how.

    For the record, I love your book, it’s in my kitchen now, and the only reason I’m not dog-earing the pages is because I’ve been developing 100 new recipes of my own. 😉 My sister just had a baby and I’m planning to give your book to her at her shower, since they will be going out a lot less.

    And that Elizabeth Gilbert quote? Printing that baby up right now to hang over my desk…with a little language editing of course, because, kids. 🙂

    Thank you, for all you do, share, for opening up like this.

    As for Book 2…this probably comes as no surprise, but I’d love to see real family friendly recipes, that are simple, healthy, and loved by all. Sure it’s close to what I write/develop, but I’d gobble up your take on it and I’m sure others would, too. Like… what comes after date night in? Soon our boys will be old enough to stay home on their own (crazy, right) and maybe date nights out will become more common (gosh I hope so). Does that mean more cooking together? I know over here we’re guarding our family dinners closely now that the teenage years seem closer than ever.
    I dunno. Something to think about!

    { hugs }

    • Ashley Rodriguez

      See that over there, Aimée?! That’s the finish line!! You got this. And those silly lists!! I mean, yes, it would be so nice to be on all of them, but that shouldn’t take away from how we feel about our books, right? It’s so hard isn’t it? Well, I am so excited to see your second book (I can’t believe you’re almost done with number two already!). And thank you so much for the feedback. It is so encouraging to hear that so many people are asking for the very book that I was hoping to write. I feel very validated and motivated. Thanks for your support and kind words. I real like you. 🙂

  22. Vicki Tunell

    I love your cookbook, and I would love more menus for your next one. I love having a menu plan and ideas for an entire meal. Thanks for your great recipes!

  23. Robin | CaliGirl Cooking

    Ashley – Thank you SO much for this post. It nearly brought me to tears. It has been a longtime dream of mine to write a cookbook and as I’m considering the transition to blogging full-time, the idea has once again come to the forefront. I loved your heartfelt explanation of the process (including the emotions, because so many of those rang true to me, even just for my blog.) I am definitely going to save this post so I can check out all of the resources you recommend. Congratulations and thank you again!

    • Ashley Rodriguez

      Robin, thank you SO much for your comment. I do hope you pursue that path and trust your desires and dreams. They are there for a reason. And I think the emotions I described are really present in every and all creative process. Please do read the War of Art. I read it every year. Sometimes every six months. The best sort of ass kicking one could hope for.

  24. Brittany

    Hey! Love this post and can’t wait to try this recipe! Holy yum.
    It makes me so happy to hear that you are thinking about another book! Date night in is freaking amazing. Like everything is so so so good!! So thank you so much for sharing it all with us!
    I love the idea of you doing something a little more family based. For example, I’d love to see both celebration style meals, and everyday stuff. We all can’t cook elaborate meals everyday, but what do you feed your family on a more regular basis. And your stories, don’t leave anything out! Love the glimpse into your house. And the photos!! Photos of everything!
    And, like many people mentioned above, I too give your book away to friends as a baby shower gift… Since we all know going out to dinner becomes a whole lot harder with tiny people in your household!
    Xoxo. You are the best! Can’t wait for it!

  25. Allyson

    This was such a fascinating post. I loved hearing about all the nitty gritty of making it work and I can’t imagine the fortitude it took you to get from start to finish. I love your book, and am very excited to see whatever you come out with next. Personally, I’m inclined towards celebration food, but I’d buy any book you write.

  26. MB @ Bourbon and Brown Sugar

    Loved your book… and I can’t imagine how you possibly pulled off such a wonder with your trio of little people so young… Now that my kids are nearly launched, I’m still struggling to find the time to write and be creative as I’d like 🙂 To answer your question – one of the elements I liked best in your book were the menus… I would love to see another of your menu-focused books (be sure to include the cocktails!)

  27. Brenda

    Hi Ashley! In your next book, I’d like to see how you stretch leftovers…or do you cook dinner 7 nights a week?! How do you serve leftovers in a new way so that both husband and kiddos are happy? I, personally, am not a huge leftover fan, but time and budget restraints are a reality.

  28. Tessa

    Thank you so much for writing this post! I have to admit, I haven’t purchased the book, but I have been following along since you released it because I love focusing my recipes on planning a whole menu and I just love menu planning in general. Everything in here is so quotable, and even though it’s intimidating, I think I’m admitting to myself that I want to, someday, write a cookbook. I’m definitely playing catch up on 10 years spent going to school for and practicing accounting, so I think it’ll be a while, but I’ll return to this post in the meantime. As a fellow menu-planning lover, that is just the type of book I like to see! Any cookbook with a menus section or that incorporates them throughout the book usually can easily persuade me to pick it up. And more lentils, of course 🙂

  29. Sabrina

    Thanks so much for sharing this process with us! Very interesting to hear your perspective on writing a cookbook…Also your lentil recipe looks great 🙂

  30. John

    Is anyone else disappointed that Ashely is ALWAYS trying to sell a product?

    Food is about family. Not about making money.

    • Ashley Rodriguez

      John, I’m so sad that this is your impression as that is so far from my intention. This post was created to be a resource for those interested in learning more about the book making process and to tell others about my experience. I also wanted to hear from my readers what they would like to see in another book from me. I agree with you that food is about family, relationship, life and connecting.

    • Molly

      Nope. As for Ashley personally, I think it’s pretty clear this post (and all of her posts) are centered around food and family and never about making money. Just because she’s thinking of writing another book, doesn’t make her greedy.

      Not only that, but why would any of us begrudge Ashley the opportunity to make a living by sharing her craft with us? If she wasn’t able to make a little bit of money on her craft (I.e. Her book), the rest of us probably wouldn’t be able to enjoy her wonderful recipes, stories, and her encouragement on bringing together all of our families. That would be a huge shame, In my opinion. is one of the biggest companies in the world for a reason. Books are a wonderful way for all of us to widen our human experience. Ashley just helps with that. Hopefully you can come to see that eventually.

  31. Deborah Baron

    I absolutely loved this post. So much of the process that you write about can be applied to any form of art and resonates with me. Thanks for sharing your process with us!!

  32. Brooke

    I made this when is first got your book but made it again tonight and it is amazing!!!

  33. Kate

    Hi Ashley,

    How exciting to be starting a new book! What I love about your work is that you write honestly about family life and how food works its magic on it and vice versa. Whatever you write, I would be excited to see that come out in it.

    All the best,


  34. Dianne Jacob

    Thanks for the shoutout, Ashley. The new edition of Will Write for Food features an expanded section on writing book proposals and another on the cookbook process itself and what to expect. And as you say, there’s lots of info about writing proposals, getting agents, and writing cookbooks on my blog.

    Congrats again on your cookbook — you’ve done a heck of a job. Best wishes for your continued success.

  35. Anna

    Whatever you do….Keep the “Make ahead” and the “grocery” and “pantry” list. I personally love those features about Date Night IN. I also love that they are Menus, makes it easy to pull together a really nice meal without having to piece together recipes from different places (and potentially not having the best pairing or side dish)…

  36. Katie

    YES! You writing a second book is the BEST NEWS. I love, love, love Date Night In and it has been so good for my husband and I. Honestly, I hope that your next book is exactly the same but with new food and more marriage stories. Kid-related stories and recipes would also be exciting, but there seems to be such a dearth of cookbooks in your particular marriage loving, husband valuing niche. More, more please!

  37. dee

    This is my favorite recipe from the book! I personally really like books arranged by meal, but it seems like the menu format worked great for you. Whatever you do people will use it how they want so do what speaks to you.

  38. Penelope

    Ashley, this post is brilliant! I feel like you wrote it just for me. A little voice in my head said, “Hey! Check out Not Without Salt this morning!”

    Thank you, wise little voice. 😉

    I LOVE writing and recipe creating and the dream is definitely, absolutely to write a cookbook. The kind of book that becomes stained, and has warped pages, because it’s always out in the kitchen. Thank you for giving me a needed boost, and reminding me that my shortcomings (photography, organization) are just opportunities for others to help!

    Thank you for the crucial reminder that I just need to do the work, without fear. What if all this time away from my kiddos yields “nothing?”

    Also, for your next cookbook (YAY!), I have been loving seasonal recipes lately. Living in Michigan, ours are distinct It’s nice to have the option to flip to the season I’m in as I look at a cookbook and know I’ll likely have the ingredients on hand.

    Thanks again for this thoughtful, helpful post. I will definitely come back to it as I work. xo

  39. Karen

    Mmmmm! Have meant to make this for a few weeks, and finally got to it tonight. I knew it would be delicious, but oh my.
    My husband said that I should make it for guests, and that he would be happy to have this served to him at a fancy restaurant. Then he proceeded to tell me that it was very, very good more times than I could count. I think I convinced him to get me your cookbook (finally – it’s been on my wish list for a while now).
    Thanks for another fantastic meal!

  40. Shannon Douglas


    I’m sure you can guess I thoroughly loved this post through and through. As with all your writing, you are so honest, heartfelt and so insightful. I loved when you spoke about your dream of writing a book and the challenge of it versus everyday life and self-doubt. It’s so unnerving to put something like that out into the world! I think people often forget how hard it is to do that and how easy it is to critique it from the sidelines. I’m so glad that you did! Thanks for sharing your lovely thoughts & recipes with us.

  41. Shannon Douglas


    I just have to comment again because I’ve read this post three times now over the last couple days and I just can’t explain how much it resonated with me. This is a lovely, beautiful story Ashley and I just want to say thank you again for sharing your thoughts, hard work and insight with us- we are quite lucky!


  42. Sara @ Cake Over Steak

    This post makes me really happy. I teared up reading your words about the joy your book brought to your life and how happy it made you to create it. And I’m so glad to hear that you’re extremely proud of that book. I’m a cookbook hoarder – but Date Night In is one of my favorite cookbooks of last year and one of my favorite cookbooks of all time. When I see it in a store I want to tell strangers to buy it. I’m not sure that I have a specific request for your next book at this time; I’m just thrilled to hear that you’re considering it. I’m sure it will be as much of a gem as your first one. Bravo!

  43. Michelle

    Honestly, I would buy any cookbook that you put out. I literally bought over 40 cookbooks last year, all published at the end of 2014 or sometime in 2015, and Date Night In was, by far, the best. (Admittedly, there are about 6 or 7 books I have yet to make anything from, and there were others that I ended up returning as soon as they arrived. But, I have made at least a handful of recipes from the rest, and I have made about 2/3 of the recipes in Date Night In plus a few additional ones I found on your blog. All of your recipes have been huge successes and total showstoppers when I cook for guests.) The menus and the organization of recipes by season are so WONDERFUL and make deciding what to eat and when to eat it soooo easy. I would love to see a sequel to Date Night In, or, if you’re looking to do something slightly different, I would love a special occasions cookbook — which could include any occasion you might want to celebrate with a special menu, such as a Spring brunch, a job promotion, or hosting a neighborhood happy hour/BBQ. But, again, I’d buy any cookbook you author.

  44. jesse collins

    So I’ve been thinking about what kind of cookbook I would like since you posted this! Your Date Night In book has a special spot in our kitchen and in our hearts. (so cheezy). We have 3 kids under the age of 6..I’ve emailed you before about how much I love your book and the bottom line is…anything you write, I will buy!!! I love your writing and I especially love the variety of recipes..
    from fritto pie to fancy salads and cocktails and just a mix of new recipes to try. After 5 years of popping out babies, your book got me excited about getting in the kitchen and cooking again!
    Thank you for that!

    • Ashley Rodriguez

      Jesse, Thank you so much for this comment. It’s so encouraging. Maybe the title of the next book should be called from Frito Pie to Fancy Salads?! haha. That’s so my life. Congrats on popping out those babies AND getting back into kitchen – both of which are not an easy feat.


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