So happy its Wednesday. My favourite day of the week. Each Wednesday I get to share one of my fave bloggers with you. So I look forward to Wednesdays so I can bring you another edition of Burning Down The Kitchen. For those unfamiliar with the series it’s a weekly post where I feature another blogger and interview them. It’s light-hearted and meant to give us a glimpse into the lives of our fave food bloggers.
The series started when I realized I had a rather large list of bookmarks for recipes. I wanted to start trying out some of the recipes and this seemed like a way to really have fun with that idea. I also invite them to do kitchen/cooking related dares which is always a riot. So sit back, grab a
coffee Pepsi and enjoy!
BURNING DOWN THE KITCHEN WITH JESSICA FROM OH CAKE:
Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to Jessica from Oh Cake. Jessica is a talented baker and cook. She does it all, and she does it well. Every recipe on her site is impeccable. I met Jessica through Foodbuzz which is site where lots of us foodies meet. I’ve learned over my time knowing her that she is incredibly kind and helpful. She started a group in March called the Food Bloggers Network. I am a member myself and love the group. It’s a place to go to connect with other bloggers without the pressure of promotion. We’re all just there to help each other and that’s an amazing thing. I asked Jessica what she wanted people to know about the group and this is what she said:
“I started the Food Bloggers Network in March of this year because I really wanted to get to know other bloggers beyond the scope of their recipes, photos, and blogs. I wanted to interact with real people, not pageviews. I’ve had incredibly rich and rewarding experiences in professional development groups in my past careers and I know that the people I met there, several of whom are still friends, were fundamental in helping me grow and learn in my former industry. I’d like to think that as time went on I was able to pay it forward to other junior members of that industry. That experience was the inspiration for creating the Food Bloggers Network; an anti-spam venue where members can discuss topical issues, problems, and best practices without being inundated with self-promoting links to outside pages. In addition, there is no blog snobbery allowed. We’re all on an even playing field at FBN – whether we have 7 pageviews or 70,000 pageviews per month. There are bloggers who focus on vegan cooking, from scratch cooking, and there are those who hunt for game, or who create semi-homemade recipes. It’s not about being a certain type of blogger, but rather learning to develop oneself professionally through best practices and networking. I am so proud of this group which is not only incredibly supportive of other members, but eager to help co-members achieve their goals. No blogger is an island in FBN! There are plans in development to continue to grow the group but in the meantime there is more information on my site under the Food Bloggers Network tab and in the article series, The Butcher, The Baker, The Blogger.”
I can tell you from my experience spending time with the group that is the most supportive group of people you will ever meet. There’s no promotion going on in the group which takes the pressure off. We’re all there to help each other learn, bounce ideas of each other and share what we’ve learned about blogging. It is a peaceful and enjoyable environment. I really encourage all bloggers to join this incredible community. It will give you a place to share, learn, and grow. It’s a wonderful thing, particularly for new bloggers just starting out. If you like to join you can find more information on Jessica’s blog about how to do that and what the group is all about.
Jessica makes some amazing meals on her site. I’ve actually bookmarked quite a few of her recipes. I love her recent Eight Layer Coconut Lemon Cake with Raspberries and Toasted Coconut, not only beautiful but I bet it tastes out of this world. Her Flower Berry Angel Cake is absolutely gorgeous. She made Boozy Brownie Truffles for Valentine’s Day, I mean who wouldn’t love that right! I have her Blood Orange and Strawberry Jam bookmarked because I howled with laughter when she admitted she falls into the category of people who make jam because it’s “mm, yummy jam”. She made a Plum Tart that makes my heart skip a beat. The American Beauty Cupcakes she did were completely adorable and made me want to whip up cupcakes immediately. There are Fleur de Sel Cookies that made my chin hit the floor when I seen them. She did a Chicken Enchilada Lasagna that won her the Boston Globe’s Superbowl Recipe Rumble. Her Herb Roast Chicken looks like total perfection to me. She recently did a post called The Best Grilled Cheese I Ever Ate that blew my mind. Jessica is incredibly diverse in her cooking and baking. To me that is really appealing. I like blogs that tackle lots of different recipes. It tends to be how we eat here at the Bee household so those are usually the blogs I am drawn to.
I really hope you enjoy getting to know Jessica better today. She really is a class act. In today’s world it’s rare to find someone so kind and genuine, but Jessica is those things and so much more. Plus the girl loves Rolos more than me and well, that just makes me love her even more. I never thought I’d met anyone whose obsession with them out Lunatic’d me. So join me in welcoming my Rolo Soul Sister, Jessica from Oh Cake.
Rapidfire Q & A with Jessica from Oh Cake:
1. How did you get started blogging?
I started a personal blog on LiveJournal way back in the dawn of time (2003). If a Gen X’er could be emo – it was totally emo. When I went to culinary school in 2008 I started a blog for friends & family called Oh Cake that eventually (Sept 2011) morphed into the blog as it is today.
2. What is the most enjoyable part of it for you?
I was going to say developing recipes and the actual cooking; but an unexpected pleasure has been making the time to reminisce about my grandmother. She gave me my first cookbook when I was about six years old and still guides my hand today. My Mom and I refer to this as “channeling Grammie.”
3. Is there a downside to it, anything you don’t enjoy about it?
Writer’s block. Not feeling like there is enough time to do everything I want to do. The ever-growing “to-do” list.
4. How do you balance blogging and life?
I’m sorry, what was the question? Er… working on it?
5. Take us through a typical day in the life of Jessica.
Awoken by husband as he gives me a kiss goodbye (he leaves early for work); breakfast; then respond to emails, check in on my Food Bloggers Network peeps, work on posts, cook, photograph, ignore the mess that is my apartment, go to my part-time job, make dinner, relax on couch with Thom, respond to more emails, get sent to bed by husband because he can tell my retinas are burned out and I need to sleep. Lather, rinse, repeat.
6. Do you plan out your meals ahead of time as well as blog posts or are you a fly by the seat of your pants kind of gal?
I like to have an idea of what I’m making but I don’t keep to a strict schedule. If I had no spontaneity it would get dull pretty darn quick.
7. What’s your fave meal that you make? How about hubby, what’s his fave?
I am a big fan of roast chicken with roasted Brussels sprouts and carrots served with white wine and dessert. Any kind of dessert. Thom loves all things Austrian. He once came home and told me he wanted to make schinkenfleckerln(a traditional ham & noodle casserole). I was so tired I looked at him, burst out laughing and said, “Fahrvergnügen.” He tried to get me to say it correctly and I just said, “gesundheit!” We still joke about it (and I still can’t pronounce German).
8. Is there a particular holiday you just love to cook for?
Easter. I get to be creative. Thanksgiving and Christmas are deeply rooted in tradition for my family so we tend to make the same meals year after year; but at Easter I can do my own thing.
9. Any cooking disasters stories you’d like to share with us?
My worst disasters actually involve injury; my first job in the industry was as a line cook in a hotel, I’ll spare you the gory details but I was pretty badly injured on the job one day. Um, at home I have burned caramel to smoking ash because I went upstairs to the neighbor’s apartment and completely forgot it was on the stove.
10. Do you have a food you just won’t eat?
Shrimp. Ick. Blech. Gross. I have a “try it five times” rule. I’ve probably had shrimp 15 or 20 times by now and we have agreed to leave each other alone.
11. Sweet or savoury?
Yes, please! I’m leaning towards savory as I get older but I have a vicious sweet tooth.
12. Nutella, Biscoff or Peanut Butter?
13. Milk chocolate or dark chocolate?
Either really, but I’m preferring dark chocolate the older I get. I mean, the more sophisticated and refined I become (with age).
14. Fries or bake potato?
I hate to admit it but… Fries! Fries! Fries! (Maybe I’m not that sophisticated).
15. Dressing on the salad or on the side?
At home: on. In a restaurant: on the side. I don’t like a lot of dressing and restaurants tend to glop it on. Blech.
16. What is your favourite kind of cake and why?
I want to say chocolate, but I’m getting more into lemon and fruit flavored cakes. I do love a layer cake with buttercream of any flavor!
17. If you could have dinner with anyone from the past who would it be and why?
Real life: Grammie. She passed away 17 years ago and I’d really love to catch up. Famous: Julia Child. I feel like you could just eat, enjoy, and let it all hang out with her.
18. If you were deserted on an island with hubby and could only pick one thing from your kitchen to get washed up on shore with you guys, what would it be?
Cheese & crackers. We eat them almost every day. It’s a sickness.
19. Apron or no apron?
I love aprons but almost always cook without one. Unless it’s holiday baking and then I’m covered in flour.
20. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Is blogging still a big part of that picture?
In five years I hope Thom and I are still the same happily “old married couple” we’ve been since… oh… about a month into dating. I hope Oh Cake and the Food Bloggers Network are my fulltime job. I hope I’m able to find that aforementioned balance so I can spend more time with Thom and family and I hope Thom and I travel to Europe so we can see my best friend Gaby who married a Frenchman and is never coming home – sob! (and eat), so I can show Thom my former life in Italy (and eat), and so I can meet his Austrian aunts, uncles, & cousins (and eat).
Dare Portion of Burning Down The Kitchen:
Dare Option #1:
Show us one or more photos of your kitchen.
Thanks to Jessica for sharing more about herself with us. I always enjoy getting to know my blogging friends better. It is really interesting to take a peek into their lives and their kitchens. I also have to try this counter trick. It’s genius to use the white boards like this. This lady is not only gorgeous but a smart cookie. Thom is a lucky guy. I love the photo of Jessica and Thom together.
I chose to do Jessica’s Mascarpone Meatballs and Farmer’s Market Pasta. I typically go farther back in people’s archives to make a recipe. I do not like to post anything similar to a friend too close to when they made it. I try really hard to avoid that for the most part. But I am making an exception in this case simply because it looks so darn good I just cannot resist making it. I hope you’ll forgive me but once you see this pasta you’ll know why I broke my golden rule. Jessica made this about three weeks ago and I’ve been chomping at the bit ever since to try it out.
- 28 oz ground beef
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 1 tablespoon basil
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (if you don’t like spicy, leave out)
- ¼ cup mascarpone
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup panko
- ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon whole milk
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (more if needed)
- 2 cups shallots, chopped
- 1½ cups green peppers, chopped
- 2 heads of roasted garlic, cloves removed
- 1 can (28 oz/796ml) of San Marzano Tomatoes
- 1 to 2 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 1 can (5.5 oz/156ml) of tomato paste
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- To get everything to come together at the same time I suggest you put on a pot of water for your pasta first, then make and shape your meatballs. While the meatballs cook, start your pasta. This should ensure it all times out right. If you plan on simmering the sauce to thicken then start that first!
- Mix your panko and milk together in a bowl and set aside.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
- Mix your ingredients, adding the panko mixture last.
- Form into small balls, I used a small ice cream scoop to get them all similar in size.
- Place on cookie sheet.
- Pop them into the oven and cook for about 25 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of your meatballs. Turn over half way through.
- Remove from oven and set aside if everything is not done at the same time.
- Cut up your veggies.
- Put olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat and bring it to the point where it shimmers, then add your shallots. Cook until they are just starting to brown.
- Now add your peppers to the pan and continue cooking until both are browning and the shallots caramelize a bit.
- In a blender mix you tomatoes, roasted garlic, sugar and oregano. Give it a quick whir. Pour into pan with the shallots and peppers. Bring to a quick boil, then reduce to a simmer.
- Add tomato paste. Continue to simmer.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Pop your meatballs in the sauce once they are done.
- Stir with a little pasta water so help everything stick. About ¼ to ½ a ladle full should do great.
- Choose your fave spaghetti noodles and cook according to the package.
- Reserve a little pasta water for your sauce.
- Do not rinse, just drain.
- Place some noodles on a plate or bowl.
- Add sauce and a few meatballs.
- Enjoy with a big old saucy smile!
Roast your garlic ahead of time. If you don’t have roasted on hand you can just fresh and just press some to add. Or chop it. You could even add minced garlic if you like.
The thing about this dish is you can adapt it to your own liking so have fun with it. Add what you love, leave out what you don’t.
A word of warning. Don’t let your family grate the cheese for this. If you have a family like mine they are constantly in “pizza mode” so when you ask them to grate some cheese for the pasta they grate it way too big. I should have had said “zest” the cheese in order to get the right response. *giggles*
You can learn how to roast garlic in tinfoil in your oven, or you can learn how to roast garlic in a dutch oven with some broth. Either way is super good and there is nothing quite like roasted garlic in sauces or just spread on a baguette like butter. I am telling you it will change your life. For realz!
Okay so I’ll admit to go off in an Italian direction with the meatballs. I couldn’t help myself. I’ve been watching too much Mario Batali lately or something. I think Jessica’s is way better for summer. But our Farmer’s Markets open so much later here in Ontario. I checked the Ontario website and I think they are all officially open as of this weekend so really excited to get to one and make this again following the recipe to the letter.
I’d like to thank Jessica so much for allowing me the pleasure of interviewing her. She is the sweetest lady you could ever meet. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know her better and hope you have as well.
Please head over to Jessica’s blog Oh Cake to say hello. If you are not already following her you should change that as soon as possible. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. If you are a fellow blogger I highly encourage you to read up about the Food Bloggers Network on her site. It is so worth joining if you looking to learn more about blogging without the pressure of people trying to promote their own blogs. It’s such a wonderful environment and I can tell you from my own experience I love spending time there. The members are so helpful and there is very useful information being shared. Jessica give us bloggers a safe place to just talk shop. It’s an amazing gift. Just like Jessica herself.
Toodles and smoochies! xx