“Spending a big chunk of time in the kitchen is a luxury these days, and I am always renewed and refreshed when I can make it happen.”
City, State: Kirkland, WA
I cook for: myself, my husband of almost 4 years, and my 16-month-old son (and my 8-year-old pup, through scraps thrown from the highchair).
Outside of the kitchen: I chase a toddler, read whenever possible, study (I have a Master’s degree in English, but can’t stop taking classes!), explore the Pacific Northwest with my family, sew/knit/otherwise be crafty when time allows.
Being able to cook allows me to: know what we’re eating – I love knowing exactly what food is going into my son’s rapidly growing belly! It also allows me to find my center. Spending a big chunk of time in the kitchen is a luxury these days, and I am always renewed and refreshed when I can make it happen. I love to organize and plan our meals, try new recipes, and experiment with my own ideas.
Favorite Cook Smarts meal: Tough one! Either the Sesame Soy Salmon w/ Brussels Sprouts (two of my favorite ingredients!) or the Indian Spiced Roasted Veggies (I made one small tweak to these, but have made them a few times since…love!)
How did you learn to cook?
I first realized I wanted to cook when I was really little and would spend sick days from school with my grandmother. She introduced me to cooking on television (Graham Kerr, Julia Child, and Jacques Pepin!) and I was addicted. Both of my grandmothers cooked all the time for their big families and I spent a lot of time watching and helping them.
The first thing I remember learning how to cook was scrambled eggs – my grandma taught me her secret for making them extra fluffy and I will always remember that moment.
I also learned a lot from watching my parents cook at home and from more television as the Food Network grew along with my interest for cooking. I also devoured cookbooks and cooking magazines for quite a while (we are still suckers for Cook’s Illustrated!).
I considered attending the Culinary Institute of America, but decided I would rather focus on cooking for myself and my family at home. In college, a friend and I started the “Society for Culinary Arts” on the University of Kentucky campus, which was really a fancy way of saying “we find people who like food, we make food, we eat food.” I couldn’t stand living in the dorms and not having people to cook for, so I was always cooking for random groups of friends!
What’s been your biggest cooking challenge in the past?
I am very easily frustrated, so my biggest challenge is always keeping my cool when things are not going as expected. There is often a lot of cursing coming from my kitchen – not necessarily my finest moments!
“Watch, ask questions, don’t be afraid to mess it up. Once you realize you are comfortable making a couple dishes, you’ll find yourself doing more and more.”
How has your cooking routine changed recently?
After my son was born in December of 2012, everything changed! We are finally starting to get into a new routine (with the help of Cook Smarts!), but there is just not the time for lingering in the kitchen trying new things anymore. We need to be a lot more on top of things and we try to very consciously plan out an entire week of meals, have our grocery list extra organized, and be efficient every step of the way. Sometimes I miss being able to plan things on the fly and just experiment, but one of my favorite things so far has been watching my son discover and explore new foods. Totally worth the loss of spontaneity!
What new skill or dish have you cooked that you’re most proud of?
Hmm…not sure of a specific skill or dish, but one of my most proud moments recently was when I made 100+ mini cupcakes with roughly twelve trillion sprinkles for my son’s first birthday. It was crazy, the dog ate many sprinkles off the floor, and I thought I was going cross-eyed looking at those sprinkles for so long – but they looked and tasted great!
What advice would you give to other home cooks who want to be cooking more family dinners?
Start small – choose one or two dishes that you want to be really comfortable with. Maybe cook with a friend or family member who is good at those dishes and comfortable in the kitchen. Watch, ask questions, don’t be afraid to mess it up. Once you realize you are comfortable making a couple dishes, you’ll find yourself doing more and more.
You seem like you really have your hands full, Mallory! But you’re doing it all so admirably…definitely Super Mom in our book! Now where can we sign up for some cupcakes?