Yes, Joanna Gaines has a proverbial “bun in the oven” while expecting baby No. 5, but the Fixer Upper star clearly hasn’t stopped bringing actual pastries out from the kitchen. Aside from releasing her new cookbook Magnolia Table: A Collection of Recipes for Gathering this month, Joanna also hosted a luncheon full of hearty, home-cooked dishes from the book to some lucky editors in New York to sample. I’m happy to say that I was one of them.
Joanna, alongside her husband and co-star Chip Gaines, pulled out all the stops with a rustic, charming setup of long white dining tables, glassware from the couple’s Target line Hearth & Hand, and some gorgeous greenery for good measure. I’m not usually much of a gardener, but the pretty potted plants on display made me want to drop everything and immediately buy some of my own for my next holiday dinner party.
The pair, just as delightful in real life as they are on HGTV, kicked off the afternoon with playful banter about how the cookbook came about. “This whole cookbook journey for me, I’d say when we were first married, there’s this whole story I share in the beginning,” Joanna said. “I tried to make spaghetti for Chip, and he is a little bit of a brat.”
“My mom makes the best spaghetti,” Chip interjected.” And so I was all excited about this,” Joanna continued. “‘Oh, I’m gonna finally cook for my husband.’ We’d just moved into our house, and he was a brat and basically compared my spaghetti to his mom’s spaghetti.”
“That was a bad day,” Chip said. “I didn’t cook for a while after that,” Joanna admitted.
But four kids later, the couple found it was easier to cook at home for the whole family rather than to go out to eat. Inspired by her children’s love of recipes passed down by her mom and granddad, Joanna decided to study her kids’ palates closely in the kitchen, figuring out all the specific ingredients they loved. “A lot of these recipes you’ll see in the cookbook are recipes that took 10, 15 years of trying to tweak and make sure that for me, it was really about my family loving the meals,” she said.
She explained that in the last few years, she started craving more and more meaningful experiences with food around the table with her family. The biscuit recipe in particular sounded like a true labor of love. Chip had been trying hard to find biscuits that he really enjoyed, so Joanna made it her mission for months on end to create the perfect biscuit recipe for her family.
“What I love about it is my kids and Chip, every Saturday, were part of that process with me,” she said. “I felt like I was on Chopped. ‘Too crumbly!’ ‘Too dry!’ I’d say 9 to 10 months into it, I finally figured this out.” (Folks, this biscuit was so good that it made me want to apologize to any guest I’ve ever given a bowl of chips to in my home.)
“I added eggs to it, which kind of created this fluffier texture,” Joanna said. “And less baking soda, more baking powder. I think that’s one of my favorite recipes in the cookbook, because it was a family affair.”
Along with the biscuits, Joanna and Chip also served mini appetizers of peach caprese and quiches, tasty chicken salad sandwiches, pimento cheese, bowtie pasta, warm chocolate chip cookies, and mini lemon pies. Yes, it felt like a glorious Thanksgiving feast in the middle of April. And yes, all the editors — myself included — were way too full to move afterward.
Luckily, Chip and Joanna, being the ever-polite Texans that they are, came around to all of us, making a point to speak to every person at every table. Joanna was even kind enough to make sure that we felt full not only of food, but also inspiration — regardless of our skill levels of cooking or entertaining.
“Just don’t be so hard on yourself,” Joanna said to me. “You can’t compete with [Chip’s] mom. Be creative, and have fun modifying it to your palate, your kids’ palates, and just have fun with it!”
She added, “People who step into it with this idea of ‘I have to entertain, everything has to be perfect, the food has to be perfect,’ you kind of lose the joy in the process. So I think with this cookbook, my hope is when people read it, they feel inspired to be creative in their own ways.” But I’m still buying those pretty potted plants.