Lucky for me, they're wonderful enough to share their wisdom here on Near and Far.
First up is the lovely Rachel of De Ma Cuisine. Check out her amazing recipes and online cooking shows where she shows us how it's done. Then go follow her on Twitter. And on Facebook. And Instagram. Do it. She's awesome.
A: I do. I just love it. It's relaxing, invigorating, enjoyable... One of my favorite pastimes. There are photos of me cooking as a child, but I don't think I really fell in love with it until I got married. I took on that role of the cook because it seemed fun and just kinda happened naturally. I'd done a bit of cooking in the past and had learned a lot from a roommate who was a great cook (Sheila). When I got married and started cooking every day I started to get more comfortable being creative and using what we had. I learned how to not follow a recipe exactly and began to make up my own dishes based on ideas I saw. It eventually grew into something that I was really passionate about.
Q: It sounds like you prefer organics and/or natural foods, what are the benefits in your opinion of fresh and natural food?
A: I love to eat seasonal, fresh foods. I think that foods that are picked when they're ripe, that aren't traveling as far to get to me, are going to retain more nutrients. Vitamin C, for example, found in foods like broccoli and oranges, dissipates very quickly. As someone who would rather get my vitamines and minerals from food rather than a supplement (if possible), I want to get the maximum amount from the source.
I'm not a fan of ingesting chemicals. So, if at all possible, I try to stick to organic foods (and products for around our home). I feel better about what we're eating and the products we're using that way. But, I would say that if a person was debating between eating organic and not eating fruits and veggies at all, it's probably still better to eat the fruits and veggies. ;)
Q: Your cooking show episodes cover a range of foods and ingredients, what are the things you enjoy most about experimenting in the kitchen?
A: I love making a recipe my own. I love using the things that we have to create something new. I love being inspired by an ingredient and having an amazing meal come out of it. And, I love love love when my husband takes a bite of his dinner and through his mouthful yells, "WOW!" because he likes it so much. I couldn't ask for a better compliment.
Q: How is your garden coming along? Do you taste a difference when cooking with foods you grew yourself versus those you purchased?
A: Something is eating my plants!! Mostly I garden for fun, since we get such amazing produce delivered each week. This year I planted green beans, tomatoes, cucumber, basil, parsley, quinoa, carrots, lettuce (and some other stuff that didn't come up, like peppers, I've never had any success with peppers!). Last year, the tomatoes, green beans, and carrots were amazing! We had a garden when I was growing up, so picking a tomato still warm from the sun brings me back to my childhood. They taste so good! The carrots were pretty great too. I hadn't had any that I'd planted taste as good as these did. I don't know what I did differently, but I'm hoping they're as good this time around. :)
I definitely taste a difference compared to most produce bought at the grocery store. But that's because I've been so spoiled by the produce that we have delivered. I'd say that the produce we get from Abundant Harvest Organics is better than what I'm growing, because they sure know what they're doing. Maybe when I have a few more years of gardening under my belt I'll feel differently... Maybe not. ;)
Q: As a culinary whiz, I'm thinking you throw awesome dinner parties. They say breaking bread brings people together. Would you agree? What would your ideal dinner party look like?
A: Yes. Definitely! My ideal dinner party would be with good friends/family who enjoy food as much as I do. It would have mismatched china and our fanciest stemware (which we use everyday). I would probably prefer to make the main course and appetizers and let others bring things like dessert (I'm not a great baker, so I'm happy to let others do this part), salad, and wine. I don't mind making those other things, but the main course and appetizers are the most fun. And I'd love to do a really long dinner, like the French do, with course after course, if we had all day. Maybe with 4-6 guests and lots of time to prepare before they'd arrive.
Q: What/who are your culinary inspirations?
A: One person that I wish I could have met is Julia Child. She is one of my biggest inspirations and favorite people (of those that I don't actually know personally). Of those that I know in real life, there are many... My Mom works in the food industry. She has a passion for cooking, recipes, and feeding people that I understand and admire. She was a stay-at-home mom and such a great influence on us kids as we grew up with family dinners and homemade lunches. My Oma (Grandma) was one of the best cooks I've ever known. She made simple foods amazing. She died a year and a half ago. I treasure the memories of making Zwieback with her as a child (and as a grownup), of many dinners at their table, and the recipes that I have framed in my kitchen, written in her hand. I like to think that my love for cooking was something that couldn't have happened by accident. With these two amazing cooks in my family, it's in my bones, part of my heritage, something I was, in a sense, born to do.
Q: Who/what are your favorite food/cooking bloggers and blogs?
A: Joy the Baker was one of the first blogs that I started reading. Joy has become a friend and is someone I look up to. I really admire Aimée from Simple Bites. I love how she approaches cooking, family, and their urban homestead. I'd love to have that someday, if/when we have kids. I also really enjoy Shauna, from Gluten Free Girl. I'm not GF, just love the way she writes and the amazing recipes that they share.
Q: What recipe, if any, intimidates you or strikes you as especially challenging? I'm thinking of that moment in Julie & Julia and the duck recipe.
A: Honestly, most of Julia's recipes do. :) I've made her Boeuf Bourguignon twice. It was the most amazing meal I have ever made. But it was terrifying. I (who don't often follow a recipe) poured over that cookbook, making sure each step was absolutely perfect, in an attempt to make the dish as close as possible to what Julia would expect.
Q: What would you want people to know about you and your cooking?
A: Cooking is my art. I might say that I feel about it the way some feel about Van Gogh's pantings. It moves me, it challenges me, it inspires me, it fills me, it delights me. It is one of the ways I show love. If someone has a need, my first thought of how to meet it is with food. For me, food isn't just to fuel the body, but also the heart and soul. It's part of who I am. And because of that, my passion, my goal, is to not only share this love through food at our dinner table, but to empower people to eat well by sharing my recipes and video. I don't mind if not everyone loves food as much as I do, but I want people to know that they can, they can, they absolutely can eat well every day!
Q: Anything else I didn't ask that you'd want to add?
A: I love to get creative with food. That includes leftovers. Last year I made this amazing Summer Chili on A Cooking Show with Rachel O. Then this year I used it again, but this time to make Crispy Potatoes with Chili and Cheese (oh man, was that ever good!!!). I'm all for heating up the leftover chili, but this was so tasty that I may have even liked it better the second time around!
Author: Rachel Oberg – De Ma Cuisine
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 60 mins
Total time: 1 hour 10 mins
Chili gets summer-ized with summer veggies. Oh so good!
- 1-2 lb. ground beef
- 4 C beans, cooked
- 2 carrots, grated
- 1 lg. summer squash, grated (squeeze to remove excess water if needed)
- 1 C green beans, diced
- 5 cloves garlic, diced
- 2 T tomato paste
- 3 T olive oil
- 2 T balsamic vinegar, divided
- 1 T dijon mustard
- 1 T honey
- 2 C water (or red wine, or stock, or beer)
- ½ C decaf coffee
- 2 t salt
- 1 t pepper
- ¼ t allspice
- pinch cayenne
- 1 T sweet paprika
- 2 T chili powder
- 1 T smoked paprika
- ½ t ginger
- fresh basil, torn (for serving)
- Heat soup pot. Add beef and cook. Drain fat and return beef to pan. Add olive oil, veggies, and seasonings. Cook about 5-7 minutes, or until veggies are tender.
- Add tomato paste, stir in, cook 1 minute. Add 1 T balsamic vinegar, stir, cook 1 min.
- Add honey, dijon, water, beans, and coffee. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook over med-low heat for about 55 minutes.
- Add 1 T balsamic vinegar and cook 5 min more.
- Serve topped with fresh basil.