Yah, its Wednesday. My fave day of the week in the blogosphere. Why you might ask? Well because that's the day I get to do Burning Down The Kitchen of course. For those unfamiliar with Burning Down The Kitchen it's a weekly series where I pick a recipe I bookmarked in my Lunatic Loves These Links series and make it. Whichever recipe I pick I do a fun interview with the blogger whose recipe I bookmarked. I also challenge them to do some kitchen related dares. It is so much fun to do this series. I am always nervous to ask the blogger in question, worried they'll say no. Then I worry they won't like the questions. Then the dares. Then the post. So basically I worry my butt off. Remind me again why I like it? Okay, I know why. It's because I love my fellow bloggers and have a riot spreading the love. I think it's important we stick together and support one another. So this is my way of doing that. Plus I get to ask people to do stupid dares and I mean who amongst us doesn't like acting like a child and dragging others down with us on a weekly basis. Good times!
BURNING DOWN THE KITCHEN WITH CHRISTIANE FROM TAKING ON MAGAZINES AKA THE MOM CHEF:
I am beyond thrilled to have Christiane here today. She blogs at Taking On Magazines, most of you probably already know her. Those who don't should get to know her. Christiane makes recipes from cooking magazines then tells us what she thought of those recipes, what she would change or not change. It is incredibly useful to check out her site if you're looking to make something from a cooking magazine. She breaks down what went right, and let's face it sometimes what went wrong. I have to say I feel like part of the family when I read Christiane's blog and for me that's the draw of reading a blog. You want to feel like you connect with them. I adore her stories of Dudette and life around the house. Reading about Dudette (her daughter), she reminds me a bit of mini-me (my daughter for those who aren't regulars) which makes me laugh. Christiane is a talented cook and I love seeing what she whips up every week. If you leave a blog feeling connected, hungry and have a smile on your face that blogger has done an incredible job. Christiane does that every single time.
I always ask the people I interview if there is anything special they would like to get the word out about. Whether it's business or personal. I like to highlight what they do not only with blogging but in life in general. Christiane is involved with some incredibly interesting and unique sites. I'll let her tell you in her words about them:
"Our business Internet technology business, Beacon Systems, Inc. (www.beaconsystemsinc.com) has been around for over ten years. In addition to doing web site design, we also build and maintain complex databases and applications. It's also given us the opportunity to create several sites that are very important to us.. First, we developed Sophie's Foundation (www.sophiesfoundation.org), a non-profit that provides financing to adoptive families. When we adopted Dudette we were appalled at how expensive it was. We could understand all the paperwork and hoops we had to go through, but to make it so costly made no sense. We've also created The Spattered Page (www.thespatteredpage.com), which is one of my favorite things. It's an online 'storehouse' for all my recipes. It's private, which means that no one can grab a family secret, adapt it a bit and call it theirs, but it's still online so I can use it whenever and wherever I want. It has menus, shopping lists and all kinds of features that help me keep the meal plan working smoothly at home. Of course, it's not just for me; anyone can use it. I just claim it as mine because I use it for all my stuff."
So you can contact Christiane regarding website design if you were unaware that she did that. Or for any web business you need help with. I am truly moved by their fund to help adoptive families. We have family that has adopted so it hits close to home that they've done something so worthwhile. I encourage you all to have a look at that site. I have not personally used spattered page yet but I know people that are who say great things about it. Check that out as well when you have time. It's nice to support each other and do business among the community.
I have really enjoyed getting to know Christiane better. She is an amazing woman and multi talented. There's the fact that she has a twisted sense of humour like myself that draws me to her. She's also an amazing mom and I love hearing about her life with Dudette. Please take the time to get to know her yourself. You will adore her as much as I do.
Rapidfire Q & A with Christiane from Taking On Magazines:
1. How did you begin blogging?
I began blogging with the words, "The first recipe," as a result of my aunt giving me a stack of old Gourmet Magazines. I'd never looked at one before and I fell in love with it. I was enthralled by the photography and complexity of the recipes so I decided to challenge myself to make everything in one issue. Blogging was my way of keeping myself accountable, even though no one was reading what I wrote (there are a total of 12 comments for all the recipes I made from that magazine). Unfortunately, after 24 dishes my family was begging for some 'normal' food. At that point I morphed into what I do today, choosing magazines every month and making a selection of dishes from them. It was either that or watch my loved ones stage a kitchen mutiny.
2. Tell us a little about how you decide which magazines and recipes you are going to test out?
Before I choose for myself, I'll pick up magazines that have been requested by readers. If I have an open spot or two once that's done, I try to mix it up according to the type of food the magazines are highlighting for the month. Cooking Light has fewer desserts and baked goods, so when I use them I supplement the sweet stuff by picking up something that is spotlighting cakes and breads; recipes like that. Fine Cooking provides more complex meals, so I may grab Rachael Ray or Martha Stewart's Everyday Food for some easier-to-prepare recipes. Yes, there's actually a method to the madness.
3. How has the reaction been from the magazines you cover?
100% positive. In some cases even more. Cooking Light, for instance, has included me as a member of their Bloggers Connection group (http://www.
4. What is a typical day like for you?
NPR wakes me up at 6:30. I listen to the news and weather and then head to Dudette's room to wake her up. She crawls in bed with me for about 10 minutes so we can cuddle and talk and she can have a slow, happy beginning to her day. At 6:50 she's in her room getting dressed and I'm in the kitchen making her and Hubby their breakfasts and lunches (don't get thinking I'm June Cleaver, breakfast is just cereal or Pop Tarts on weekdays). Once they clear the house (by 7:30), I ping pong between cleaning, cooking, blogging, web work for our Internet biz, chicken care and other miscellaneous stuff.
Dudette's bus shows up mid-afternoon and from that point on I'm her mom. We play outside, inside, at the park, with friends, whatever whim carries us until either it's time to make dinner or go to Tae Kwon Do (today we'll be heading to the library). Dudette goes to bed around 7:30pm and then Hubby and I enjoy the rest of the evening watching tv, reading (we both read a lot), etc. I'm usually in bed by 11:30. Bet you weren't looking for anything that specific, were you.
5. How do you balance blogging with being a mom?
I break life down into majors and minors. A major is whether Dudette is a kind person. A minor is whether her clothes match. I concentrate on the majors. In my life, blogging is (sorry everyone) a minor. I love it and would be very sad if it were ever removed from my life, but it will never, ever usurp Dudette in any way. Ever.
6. Is your daughter, Dudette, a good eater?
Oh my gosh, yes. The first word out of her mouth when she gets off the bus is, "HiMommyI'
7. Does she help you in the kitchen?
It depends on her mood and what I'm making. If I'm working with meat, she'll help for sure, especially if there are bones involved. She has a thing about skeletons. She also likes to 'wash' dishes so sometimes I'll put some plastic stuff in the sink and let her go at it. At this age (she just turned 6) I don't encourage her participation a lot because she's the type to pick a thing up and then ask if she can. Even if she knows she can't.
8. You have an interesting cultural history, do you think that impacts how and what you cook?
Absolutely. What impacted it even more was knowing that my mom, who's Belgian, learned all the Armenian dishes by watching my grandmother (her mother-in-law) after she married my dad. Mom's an incredible cook who proved that she could make anything she wanted to make. She was raised with Belgian cooking (with the exception of waffles and chocolate can you name any famous Belgian foods?), mastered Armenian cuisine and then moved to the U.S. and can also turn out a mean apple pie. She's amazing.
9. What is your favourite holiday to cook for? Tell us what you typically make during it.
I hate to admit it, but I don't have an answer for this. We're usually traveling to visit grandparents during the major holidays and I end up not cooking. In an imaginary world where I was in my own home on a regular basis, however, I'd probably say that Thanksgiving is my favorite to cook for simply because I can overdo it without anyone rolling their eyes at me for going overboard. As far as what I'd make; it would depend upon what magazines I was going through. 🙂
10. Do you have a signature dish you are known for and get lots of requests for?
My moussaka is the one that wows people outside the family on a regular basis. It's one of those dishes that I learned from my mom without using measurements. I know when the meat is seasoned properly by the aroma. Once it has the right amount of cinnamon added, it's amazing. That being said, Hubby can't stand it. He'd pick an Asian-spiced chicken with a soy-lime dipping sauce that I found years ago.
11. Sweet or savoury?
Savory, hands down.
12. Thai, Chinese or Curry when ordering out?
Can't I just answer yes? Ugh. Curry would probably edge out the other two, but just barely.
13. Pizza or pasta?
14. Peanut butter or biscoff?
I've never had biscoff so I have to go with peanut butter by default, but I don't eat it very often.
15. Coke or pepsi?
Coke (Diet preferably). I always ask at restaurants and if they serve Pepsi, I order water.
16. Do you wear an apron when you cook? I'm always curious whether cooks do or not.
I don't, but I should. I keep a towels at strategic spots on the counter while I'm cooking just for me to wipe my hands while I work. An apron would make more sense, but no one's ever accused me of having sense.
17. If you could cook with one Iron Chef who would it be and why?
Masaharu Morimoto. Have you seen his knife skills? Wow. I also like his respect for the art of cooking. I remember him going up against Bobby Flay before Bobby was an Iron Chef. Bobby won and proceeded to jump up on his cutting board in celebration. Morimoto was appalled at the disrespect he considered that to be. I never forgot that. (Just so you know, if Mario Batali was still an Iron Chef, I have no idea how I could have chosen between the two of them.)
18. If you could write for one cooking magazine which one would it be?
Oh, you would have to ask me this one. I love them all for different reasons. Ok, ok. Fine Cooking. I love their writing, the photography, the articles, the features. I'm enamoured with the Classic/Classic Update section. I adore the Cooking Without Recipes bit and the Test Kitchen has helped me in all manner of ways. I want them to hire me.
19. If calories and health did not matter for one day what would have you at your all you can eat buffet table of sin?
Oh I don't know (I'm lying, yes I do). Crab legs with drawn butter. Shrimp cooked in every conceivable way. Barbecued baby back ribs. Porterhouse steaks; rare. Fried chicken. Loaded baked potatoes. Corn on the cob. Sauteed mushrooms. Eggs benedict. Bacon. Our family potato salad and green salad. Cheesecake. I think I'll stop there. I'm full.
20. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Is blogging still a big part of that future for you?
Have you ever heard a saying, "If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans"? We had originally planned to live in the mountains while we built up our business, then move to Italy. Then the tech industry crashed, Dudette appeared and we moved to a kid-friendly neighborhood and settled into mid-American life. Who knows how much more normalcy will invade our lives between now and 2017. Dudette will be eleven then. I'll be grinding my teeth at night over pre-teen attitude. If blogging is still helping me find my 'happy place' and it still fits within the bigger scheme of the family, yes, I'll still be doing it (and I hope that's the case).
Dare Portion of Burning Down The Kitchen:
Dare Option #1:
Show us your kitchen after you cook.
Dare Option #2:
Show us the inside of your oven, without cleaning it.
Dare Option #3:
Show us a photo of all your magazines (with you sitting nearby or on top of the stack would be too adorable for words!).
Thanks to Christiane for getting fully into the spirit of Burning Down The Kitchen. Not only was the interview fantastic but she did all the dares. I love when people really enjoy the dare portion. It's so much fun to peek into other people's lives and kitchens. I love the little guy sitting on the window sill, how adorable is that.
I chose to do Christiane's White Wine Smashed Potatoes from Fine Cooking Magazine. Can I just say OMG, so good. I made a couple of smallish tweaks and actually took Christiane's advice about the chicken broth. Bang on with the advice girl. These potatoes were incredible. I had to Lunatic it a bit so I added bacon. Yup, I live on the edge. Can I just say shallots and bacon cooked together is heaven. I mean seriously, just beyond amazing. I have a new fave potato folks. Thanks to Christiane and Fine Cooking for the recipe. This is the bomb...with bacon. So it's a bacon bomb. Yummy!
Smashed Potatoes with Bacon
- 3 pounds Russet Potatoes cut into 1½ inch pieces
- Water to boil
- 1 cup chicken broth
- Himalayan Salt to taste
- ½ cup olive oil
- 1 pound shallots peeled and thinly sliced
- ½ pound of bacon cubed
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 8 tablespoons butter cubed, and divided
- Parsley to taste
- Place potatoes in a large pot and cover so water just almost covers them, now add 1 cup of liquid chicken broth. Also add salt to taste.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium-low heat and simmer, partially covered. Simmer for about 40 to 45 minutes. Add more water if needed.
- While potatoes are cooking, take your bacon and shallots and cook them in a pan with the olive oil. You want the bacon crisp and the shallots golden brown.
- Drain them and then add back to pan.
- Add your wine and cook it down over medium heat so it’s reduced by about half.
- Add 4 tablespoons of butter. (trust me!)
- Now let it all come together and the butter melts and it will form a kind of bacon reduction sauce. Set aside.
- Drain potatoes and place in a large bowl.
- Take a potato masher and whack them lightly a few times. You want them broken but not mashed, hence the term smashed.
- Add butter and parsley, more salt if desired and mix lightly.
- Now toss some bacon sauce over top.
- Serve with a big old smile…and 911 on speed dial.
Um, yah. I got a little carried away with the butter and bacon. I know you are probably disappointed in me. But it's like potatoes with a ...a....a...bacon jam kind of thing. It's so good. The original recipe uses the white wine in the potato water so feel free to do that if you like. We don't drink so I had to go searching for a bottle of wine in our cellar. Really is lovely with bacon, who knew. Yes I know, I have issues. It's okay though, my therapist says I'll be completely normal one day. Until then I say cook bacon and shallots in wine. And top healthy potatoes with a bacony jammy kind of thing. Cuz life is short...er...especially for those of use who eat bacon jammy stuff on potatoes. But hell, you only live once! So eat bacon! Lots of bacon. *um, totally not responsible if your butt gets bigger or you get heart palpatitions, seriously don't eat this if you have heart problems, if you have heart problems or sugar problems or problems of any kind please don't read my blog, I tend to use butter, and sugar on everything. Just warning ya! I'm sort of mental. Just ask my therapist!*
I would like to thank Christiane so much for allowing me the pleasure of interviewing her. She is such a wonderful person and I am so happy to have met her through blogging. If you don't already follow her please go check out her blog, Taking On Magazines. While you are there please take a minute to follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. You will adore as much as I do.
Thanks for reading and check back tomorrow. I have a post to share with your folks about the hidden danger of photos on google+. You will not want to miss this one. I wish I had known about it before it happened to me. Never delete albums from there. More information coming at you tomorrow.
Toodles and smoochies! xx