Q: What is your first cooking memory? A: I think I was about four years old. I can remember sitting on the counter (something I still do) and helping my mom mix batter in a big white bowl with a large wooden spoon. (She gave me that bowl when I moved out on my own after college, and I still use it regularly.) I also remember begging for her “last little bit” of coffee (yes, at age four). Love at first sip!
Q: Describe your cooking style in fifteen words or less. A: Experimenting With and Sharing Fresh, Organic Traditions with Plenty of Butter, Garlic, Passion and Joy.
Q: Do you have a favorite cookbook? A: My go-to cookbook is The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook (I have the 1989 edition). I love this one because you can find recipes based on food groups. Each food group is alphabetized, for example, in the “Vegetable” section, it will list Tomato before Squash. Each vegetable gets a basic “how to prepare” and a few recipes that include it. A new favorite is Simply Organic. This one has beautiful pictures and is fun because the chapters are based on seasonal availability.
Q: Any favorite chefs or food celebrities? A: Favorite chefs would be Bryan (my husband), my mom, and my Grandma Thompson. My absolute favorite food celebrity is Giada De Laurentiis. I especially love her “Giada at Home” show! I started watching her when I began my weight loss journey (it was one of the few things on TV at the time I would go to the gym every day). I love her style and that so many of her recipes are healthful. Plus, she obviously takes care of herself. I hope I look that great at 40! A close second would have to go to Ina Garten, “The Barefoot Contessa.” And runner-up would be a tie between Sunny Anderson’s “Cooking for Real” and Pat and Gina Neely’s “Down Home with the Neelys.”
Q: What is your go-to dish or meal? A: Breakfast for Dinner! Specifically, Egg Casserole and Fruit Salad.
Q: What culinary creation are you most proud of? A: My Turkey Feta Meatballs with Tomato Caper Pasta. I have a coworker that I shared this recipe with and she makes it for her family about once a week!
Q: Do you have a memorable kitchen disaster? A: I was about 7 years old, and mom had gotten my twin sister and I a Better Homes and Garden New Junior Cookbook (1991 ed.). I was making “Scrambled Eggs,” something no one really needs a recipe for, but I was a kid and making them on my own for the first time. The recipe called for 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 c. milk. You guessed it. I switched the two amounts. 1/4 tsp. milk and 1/4 c. salt. Trust me, it took forever to pour that much salt, but I was patient, because I was determined to follow the recipe exactly. The result: the saltiest eggs in the world! We didn’t even get a chance to chew or swallow. As soon as it touched our tongue, it went back to the plate! My family still teases me about that one!
Q: Is there anything else that gives you trouble in the kitchen? A: Anything sharp! Mostly it’s the microplane, but the cheese grater has been known to knick a knuckle or two as well! Speaking of knuckles, they always seem to find the bottom edge of the cabinets too. And, like any good cook, I have my share of scars from knives and oven burns. I would never be a hand model! Thank God for the food processor!
Q: Do you have any favorite kitchen tips that you wish to share? A: 1. Clean As You Go! 2. Wash your hands with salt and lemon juice or lemon-scented soap after chopping garlic, onions, or handling fish. 3. Clean As You Go!
Q: What’s your favorite dessert? A: Hands down, Grandma Great’s Oatmeal Crispies! (They’re also the cookie that I gave to Bryan during our “getting to know you” phase at camp, the summer of 2004, and one thing he still asks for (“The way to a man’s heart…”). “Grandma Great” was my Great Grandmother Kahler, my Grandma Thompson’s mother. Bryan’s Apple Pie a la Mode would be a close second though.
Q: What other kitchen memories stand out to you from your childhood? A: I remember in 1st grade, I got the chicken pox for the second time (at least they told me it was chicken pox again. It didn’t itch like the first time, but I didn’t care because I was a first grader and got to miss a week of school). I spent the whole week baking with my Grandma Thompson! We made pies and cookies and played with blocks and puzzles, and she showed me her secret stash of drawings she had done when she graduated from high school. I love her!
Q: Who does most of the cooking in your house? A: Growing up, my mom and I did most of the cooking, though my sister and brother would help on a regular basis too. I just always had more of a passion for cooking, I think. Now, Dad was the Grill Master, and he had a few other signature dishes that he’d make too: scrambled eggs (I watched him instead of following a cookbook after that first experience), sliced tomatoes with homemade Thousand Island dressing and sugar, and Pheasant Chowder (yes, he shot the pheasant himself). Now, Bryan and I share kitchen duties. His mom cooks, but his dad is the one with the culinary passion. Bryan spent several months on an out-of-town construction assignment with his dad before we got married and had him teach him several favorite recipes, my favorite of which is his made-from-scratch turkey ‘n’ dumplins. We love cooking together too! It’s fun to have like passions!
Q: Do you have a favorite kitchen quote? A: I can think of a few.
From the 1995 movie Sabrina, while eating Moroccan chicken on the floor:
Sabrina: “It’s really so much better if you eat with your hands.”
Linus: “It’s interesting. I’ll have to try it with soup sometime.”
From the 2007 movie No Reservations:
Kate: “I wish there was a cookbook for life, you know? Recipes telling us exactly what to do….”
Therapist: “Well, …you know better than anyone, it’s the recipes that you create yourself that are the best.”
And an anonymous poem called “Kitchen Joy” that always sat on my mother’s kitchen sink windowsill:
“Thank God for dirty dishes; they have a tale to tell. While other folks go hungry, we’re eating very well. With home and health and happiness, we surely shouldn’t fuss. For by this stack of evidence, God is very good to us.”