When did you first get in to cooking and do you remember the first recipe you tried?
I’ve enjoyed cooking and baking since I was a child. I began cake decorating competitively when I was 8 and continue to enjoy the decadence of a beautifully-frosted cake. However, I didn’t really become serious about cooking until I got out of college and actually had a kitchen and some time away from homework and rehearsals. I remember making a really, really tasty chicken alfredo pizza and thought, I can eat like this every night if I want to!
What's your kitchen like and how do you keep organized when cooking?
I am very lucky in my current kitchen. It’s filled with windows and natural light, and I have a large island that make excellent counter areas for everything from chopping vegetables to rolling out dough. My biggest complaint is my glass-top stove: I strongly prefer a standard burner-range, I find that my pots and pans spin easily on the glass and that heat is more difficult to regulate.
When I’m cooking, I like to pull all my ingredients onto the counter to begin and then put them away as I go when time allows. And I am definitely that person that washes dishes as I go. I don’t have enough counter space (or sometimes, enough dishes) to afford to wait until the end! Plus, I like to have as little cleanup to do as possible after I’ve enjoyed the fruits of my labor, so I’d much rather clean as I go.
What tips would you give to someone wanting to become a better cook?
My biggest advice: keep doing it. The more you cook, the better you’ll become. I can’t believe how far I’ve come in just a few years, how many dishes I can now make with my eyes closed that once seemed daunting. You’ll learn to understand how flavors work together, how ingredients behave, which pans and knives work the best for you, and so much more. Yes, you are GUARANTEED to make some really gross meals. I’ve had many teary-eyed evenings where I’ve worked for two hours and have nothing to show for dinner. But those lessons are important, and they’ll make you a much better cook.
My second tip sometimes comes naturally from the first: learn from others. Whether it’s other people in the room with you or people who have written books or even people who have reviewed recipes online, cooking is a community activity. There is no sense in re-inventing the wheel. You can save yourself a lot of heartache by looking up how to cook something new rather than just trying to wing it the first time around.
Who would you invite to your dream dinner party and what would you cook for them?
Oh gosh. I would invite all my friends and family that love food. One of my favorite parts of cooking for people is the appreciation they give, the looks on their faces as they taste something they truly love. I love throwing dinner parties of all kinds, and I would cook every one of my favorite recipes for a smorgasbord we can all enjoy.
Do you do any other crafts and what are your hobbies?
As may be inferred from my blog, I very much enjoy writing and photography. I am also an avid gardener (as avid as I can be living in a third floor apartment) and reader. I also love to travel and to taste new things on my adventures. And if I had another 12 hours a day, I would also love to re-kindle old hobbies of painting, joining a choir, and playing the piano.
Which cooking blogs do you love to read?
The first food blog I ever read is still my favorite: the one and only Smitten Kitchen. It was one of the primary motivators for me to begin my own site. Other favorites of mine include Joy the Baker, Sweetapolita, Food in Jars, and Simply Recipes. There’s numerous others that I check from time to time, but these are my go-to sites for new foods to try, new inspiration, and a good laugh or story.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
I would nominate my grandma to be a cooking superstar. Though she is no longer with us to receive the honor, she spent most of her 97 years growing, preserving, and cooking food for her family and for community events. I take a huge amount of my inspiration from her, so it seems only fair that she would be a superstar as well.