The first thing I have to say is that Milk Bar Life by Christina Tosi is absolutely not the book I expected it to be. I have the book Momofuku Milk Bar, which she also wrote, and I expected something ... similar, but perhaps more homey.
Momofuku Milk Bar is a somewhat difficult book to cook from, because a lot of the ingredients aren't very common. And many of the recipes build on other recipes. So you can't just make the cake, you have to make the things that go into the cake. It's definitely a "project" book and not one that you open on a whim and start cooking from.
Milk Bar Life isn't a simplified version of Momofuku cooking, it's a complete 180 in terms of recipe ingredients. You'll find recipes calling for cake mix, canned soup, crescent rolls in a can, Cool Whip, and Velveeta.
Now, not all of the recipes use those ingredients, and some are completely from-scratch. But I was surprised at the number of recipes that included convenience foods.
And then I got off that high horse I was on and looked around. I realized that if you work in a restaurant all day long, a box of cake mix and some canned soup probably looks like a really good idea. And let's face it, a lot of people cook with those ingredients.
Yup, I said it. I have a few recipes passed down from my mom that include canned soups, and they're just not the same without them. And one of the best mac and cheese recipes I've made recently had Velveeta as an ingredient. We all have a few of those recipes in our closets, right?
The lemon bars in this book start with lemon cake mix, and Tosi says she hasn't found a lemon bar recipe that she likes better. It's her grandmother's recipe, and it sounds pretty darned simple. I might try it one of these days.
And, like I said, there are recipes that are completely from scratch, like a ranch dressing that I've bookmarked. Some recipes are decidedly strange, like the Tang Toast that calls for margarine (it specifically says not to use butter) and Tang drink mix. Some are simple, like the egg soup, which is essentially soft-boiled eggs in a bowl. And some are more complicated, like the enchiladas or jerk chicken.
There's something for everyone, although I suspect some fans of Momofuku and Momofuku Milk Bar will be ... not pleased with the simplicity of some of the recipes.