Friends – can you believe it? With a little work and good solid use of a calendar, I was able to coincide my 500th post and my three year blog anniversary. I want to say a big thank you to everyone who has ever read my blog, recommended my blog, commented on my blog, told me you liked my blog, or had any positive interaction with me and my blog. I sound like I’m kidding but I’m not. Three years ago if you had asked me where I would be with this thing three years in the future, I probably would have said that I had given it up long ago, or I had a cookbook deal. Neither is the case and that is just fine with me. I like my little space in the blogosphere and I really do thank you for being here with me.
I know many food bloggers have FAQ pages. Truthfully, I don’t get that many questions through email but the ones I get tend to be the same. So here are the answers to those questions. I also get a lot of cooking related questions in my classes decided to share those answers too.
What kind of pans do you use?
I have quite a few pans. I have an assortment of All-Clad stainless steel pots which I have had for about eight years and I have had great success with them. They work well but they do not move me. I also have three Le Crueset pans that I am emotional about. I have a cast iron skillet which I need to season but I do love and I also have two non-stick pans which I use primarily for eggs or grilled cheese sandwiches.
What kind of oil do you use in your cooking?
Unless I am making Asian or Mexican food, I use olive oil in my cooking. Extra virgin olive oil. Now, to be clear – I don’t do a lot of pan-frying. There are no steaks or chicken breasts in my pans. I am mostly sautéing fairly quickly and olive oil works great for me. For Asian or Mexican food, I find I want a more neutral tasting oil so I turn to canola oil. Canola oil, in addition to being virtually tasteless, has a higher smoke point than olive oil which means you can cook at a higher temperature without your pan smoking. Other good high smoke point oils are safflower and grapeseed.
I buy my cooking olive oil at Costco. Although I use a light hand with oil in my cooking, I cook a lot and I go through a lot of oil. I need quantity and I don’t want to pay a fortune. I have found that the Kirkland brand that comes in a glass bottle, not the type that comes in two plastic jugs, is decent for cooking. I always have a finer and tastier olive oil on hand for salad dressings and drizzling. I don’t have a favorite – I just spend about $20-$25 on each bottle and taste all different ones.
What kind of salt do you use?
When cooking, I use kosher salt, Diamond brand to be exact. I keep a ramekin of it by my stove at all times. When baking, I use table salt, unless a recipe specifically says to use kosher salt. I use sea salt (and I have a variety of them) as a finishing salt only, like a garnish.
What kind of knife do you use?
I have an assortment. In my knife block, you will find Shun, Global, Wustorf, and various others. I believe that a knife is a deeply personal thing. Everyone’s hands are different and everyone’s style of chopping is different. The most important thing you can do is hold a variety of knives and see which feels best to you. Most people will tell you that you only need a chef’s knife, a serrated knife, and a paring knife. I believe this – I just happen to have a variety of chef’s knives. I also like having a tomato knife for cutting citrus.
Where do you shop?
I shop all over the place. I would love to say that I do one big shop per week but I find it next to impossible to accomplish that. I try to do one big basic shop in a regular grocery store (or using Amazon Fresh) and then hit up Whole Foods or PCC (a local Whole Foods-like store) for more specialized ingredients. In the summer time, I usually hit between two and four farmers markets a week. Consequently, the amount of time I spend in food stores is ridiculous and our grocery bill is through.the.roof.
Are your kids veg?
Yes, my kids are vegetarian. They have never eaten meat. They are now old enough to know that they are vegetarian and what that means. They also understand that other people eat meat and that is just fine. For now, they are happy with this arrangement. I assume that someday, they will turn to me and say, “Wait a second, I want a hamburger!” I will accept them making that choice as long as they understand that all the food I cook is vegetarian.
Does your husband eat meat?
Does that bother you?
How does that work exactly?
It works for two big reasons. One is that I am the cook in the house and two is that Randy is a good eater. He eats strictly veg at home (I never cook meat) and will eat meat or fish when we are out or at someone else’s house.
Do your kids eat all the crazy things you make?
I wish I could say yes but the answer is no. We are in the habit of feeding our kids first, around 6:00, and then eating our dinner together later. This habit started because for many years, Randy would come home from work after the kids were in bed. I found that I liked having dinner just the two of us. We are busy people with busy lives and I enjoy being about to carve our a quick dinner together before the chaos of boys’ bedtime ensues. Consequently, the boys usually eat something different, something more kid friendly than what we have. I feed them well and always try to introduce new tastes to them and in general they are very good eaters, especially Graham. We always ate together as a family when I was a kid and Randy did too with his family. We are committed to making that happen as the kids get a little older.
Did you go to cooking school?
Nope. I am a self-taught cook and baker. I have taken classes here and there along the way that have helped me refine certain skills but most of what I know I taught myself. Having over 150 cookbooks helps.
I hate my day job! I want to quit and do what you do! How do I get started?
I got this question a lot when I was working as a personal chef with regular clients. I still have people asking me how to break into personal chef-ing/catering/teaching cooking classes. For me, it happened very slowly. I had one young baby when I started and I didn’t have a lot of extra time or energy so I built my very small business very slowly. My very first client fell into my lap and I built from there. I always encourage people to do a lot of research – what are other people doing in your area, how can you set yourself apart? I have been fortunate in that the money I have brought in has been extra – not something we needed for our family budget – so I was never under pressure to make a living at cooking. In my experience, it would have been difficult to really make enough money for it to make sense as a full time job, but people do it. In general, I have worked very hard and have done the very best I can do with every personal chef meal, event I have catered, and class I have taught. It is easy to try hard when you love what you do.
I want to take a class with you! Have you added any more to the schedule?
Why yes, I have! I added another Thai class to June and I will be teaching two baking classes. Come join me!
With all the treats you bake, how do you not weigh 300 pounds?
There is a simple answer and a complex answer to this question. The simple answer is that although the baking I do is full-fat and decadent, most of my cooking is very light and healthy. I really like healthy food and don’t use a lot of oil, butter, dairy, or much cheese in my savory food. I do taste everything I bake but I don’t eat very much of it. I like to have something sweet after dinner but most of the time, I can be satisfied with just a bite or two. The more complex answer will come someday perhaps to this blog, after some soul-searching and some therapy. :)
Again, thank you to all of you for reading, emailing, commenting, and just being swell in general. Check back soon, I will be doing some celebratory giveaways.