More Meyer Lemon Madness for you today. I whipped up some incredibly tangy and delicious Meyer Lemon Bars.
Then I ate the whole batch.
Okay, okay, so not the whole batch....
I left 1 bar for hubs to try...
And 1 bar for mini-me to try...
I'm a giver people!
Today I also have the distinct pleasure of sharing an interview with you. The amazingly talented Valerie of From Valerie's Kitchen agreed to be my next willing victim in the Burning Down The Kitchen Series. This lady is truly wonderful and I really enjoyed getting to know her better. One of the perks of these interviews is getting to know the people behind the blogs I love. Valerie's is one I've read for quite some time, and I love stopping by to see what she's been up to in the kitchen. She's a mom to 4 gorgeous boys, no lie, go check out her about page and you'll see I speak the truth. She also has a couple of cutie patootie puppies. And her hubby is a cutie patootie too. She even reveals the secret to marriage on her about page. The three P's, she's brilliant I tell you.
So sit back, grab a cup of joe, or pepsi if you're like me, and enjoy getting to know one of my favourite peeps.
BURNING DOWN THE KITCHEN WITH FROM VALERIE'S KITCHEN:
1. How did you get started blogging?
I was constantly photographing our meals and was a big contributor to Allrecipes.com for years. A few of my recipes were chosen to be published on the site and then one day a couple of years ago, I was contacted by the producer of their “What’s Cooking” web series and she asked if I’d be interested in being featured in an upcoming webisode. I had felt so anonymous but someone was watching and noticing my contributions. This blew my mind! It was thrilling and the experience was absolutely life changing. My oldest son convinced me I should be blogging as time went on and I published my first post in August of 2011. My voice was originally geared towards my boys and others who may not have a ton of cooking experience, which is why I do step-by-step. The boys aren’t exactly following me around in the kitchen but as they move out and cook more for themselves, they will want to know how Mom made the dishes they grew up eating. I’ve had so much praise for the step-by-step from people, including experienced home cooks, it has encouraged me to stick with it.
2. What is your favourite part of it?
This is a hard question because I love so many aspects of blogging! First, I’m going to say the amazing food bloggers that I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with. Their level of expertise in photography and recipe development never ceases to amaze and inspire me. There also seems to be a common thread of intelligence, humor, collaboration, and support that runs through this community that is a unique and wonderful thing.
I also love the connection with the folks who frequent my blog. I truly believe I have the nicest group of people reading my posts and making my recipes. Their comments brighten my day and make me want to work harder to provide the very best content I can.
I think one of the most unexpected aspects are the cool things that have come about as a result. I’ve had opportunities to travel, to pair with great brands as a Brand Ambassador for Allrecipes, and was asked to film a couple of cooking videos for McCormick Gourmet which was one of the most nerve wracking but also one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had.
3. Are there any downsides to it?
My kids might say that finding threatening notes like “DO NOT EAT! I need pictures” on a freshly baked lasagna might be a downside. All kidding aside, I think they love that I do this because it just means a constant stream of food coming out of the kitchen. They are happy taste testers.
Sometimes it can be hard to find balance in my schedule between running a small business and creating blog content. But hard is good. I like the challenge and look forward to times when I know that I can hunker down and cook. It is such a luxury.
4. How would you describe your cooking style?
I like straight forward, simple dishes with fresh ingredients. Wholesome family meals for people who are BUSY are my specialty. I cook for athletes but try to balance the big hearty meals that are necessary for them, with healthy choices that make more sense for us non-athletes.
5. Tell us a little about your family.
Oh boy…after boy, after boy, after boy. We had four of them. I met my husband when I was just 16 and got married when I was 21. We work together running our family owned business. Our oldest son is 26 (how did that happen?) and my youngest is 18. We are a big water polo family and three out of four of them played and our youngest is still at it. We’ve still got two of them at home and the other two live very close by so we frequently have fun gatherings and big family dinners. My baby will be graduating from high school this year and heading off to college.
6. Does the family cook with you, or sometimes for you?
NO, gosh darn it! I’m typically alone in the kitchen. Boy #3 is a natural but has not yet offered to cook dinner for us. I get a kick out of watching him throw together delicious omelets and paninis for himself. There is a feeling of relief knowing your kids can cook something and not just microwave stuff from the freezer.
7. How do you balance work, family and blogging?
Balance is really, really hard to accomplish when you have a big family, work full-time, and blog. Sometimes it is impossible and one or more of them suffer. Up until a couple of months ago I was lucky enough to be able to work out of my home office but now I’m out of the house most days from morning till the dinner hour. Since we are so dependent on natural light, I end up doing most of my cooking and photography for my blog on weekends and leave the photo editing and writing for evenings. Occasionally, if I’m super inspired to do a post, I’ll squeeze some cooking into a weekday morning before work.
8. What's a typical day like in the life of Valerie.
This has just recently changed now that I work out of the house but here’s a rough rundown of a typical weekday.
7:00 to 7:30 am – Wake up and throw on my workout clothes
7:30 to 8:30 am – COFFEE and a light breakfast while I check email, social media, blog comments, yada yada yada
8:30 am – Jump on the treadmill and watch TV while I run a couple of miles.
9:00 am – Shower and get ready to head off to work.
10:00 am – Arrive at work and hunker down in my office. One of the benefits to working with my husband is that we can run out and have a nice lunch together most days. I love to sit outside in the sun and relax with him for a few minutes in the middle of the day. Aaahhhh.
5:00 to 6:00 pm – Arrive back home, wash the stack of dishes that magically appeared in the sink while I was gone and get dinner started.
7:00 pm – Sit down with the boys and Paul for dinner.
7:30 pm – Most nights Paul cleans up after dinner (love him) and I settle in on the couch with my trusty laptop and try to get a little blog work done.
8:30 pm – Catch up on TV – American Idol, The Bachelor (sorry), Dancing with the Stars, Modern Family, and a slew of other shows. I’m completely obsessed with Downton Abbey and Mad Men. I can’t talk to anyone about either of them since I’m still catching up. Don’t tell me anything!
11 pm – Beddie bye
9. How much time do you typically spend in the kitchen each day?
It depends on if it is a blogging day. If I’m cooking for the blog and cooking for the family in addition, it can be as much as three hours or more. If I’m just feeding the family, I’m not usually in the kitchen for more than a couple of hours which includes clean up.
10. How much time do you spend blogging each day?
Again, this is all over the place. I do something every day, even if it is just responding to comments, commenting on other blogs, and checking social media. On weekends, I spend a lot more time cooking, photographing, writing, and promoting posts. I would say at least an hour and up to six or seven hours per day, depending on the day.
11. Are you a sweet or salty snacker?
Both! Chocolate in one hand and pretzels in the other.
12. If you had to pick would it be milk chocolate, dark chocolate or white chocolate?
Kim, this question is impossible! I love them all. But, if you are going to make me pick, I guess I’ll take the milk chocolate.
13. Do you prefer fruits or veggies? Or a mix of both?
I love fresh produce of all kinds. I’m a farmers’ market girl from way back.
14. Beer, wine or cocktails at the end of the day?
I consider a glass of red wine to be the perfect ending to any day. We live in Northern California and can drive a couple of hours in several different directions and end up in some of the best wine regions in our country. We love good wine but I won’t walk away from a nice Cosmopolitan or a Dirty Martini with blue cheese stuffed olives.
15. Apron or no apron when cooking?
Apron. Especially if we have people over. I’m clumsy and will inevitably splash something all over myself.
16. Are there any foods you or your family won't eat?
My kids have amazing palates and very adventurous eaters which is so great. There are a few things I don’t like that I wish I did – sashimi, oysters, mussels; I think it’s a texture thing. My least favorite spice is tarragon. Weird, but true.
17. Do you have a dream foodie vacation you'd like to take one day, or have you already done one?
I’d love to travel to Italy one day and eat everything! Although it wasn’t a vacation, I attended IFBC in Portland last year and I think that would count as a great foodie experience. I tried so many delectable things in one weekend my head was spinning.
18. Are you a cooking show fan, do you have a favourite celebrity chef you'd like to cook with one day?
I’m slightly totally in love with Tyler Florence (who isn’t?). There’s just something about a man in the kitchen, you know? Oh, and I also love his recipes. If not Tyler, than I’d have to say Paula Deen. I think she’s an absolute doll and she cracks me up. I wish she lived next door.
19. If you could recommend one cookbook to someone just learning how to cook, which one would it be?
My first cookbook was The Betty Crocker Cookbook. I still have my vintage copy and it holds a special place in my heart. It has all the basics that might not be covered in other more advanced cookbooks. Definitely go with something that lots of information and guidance in addition to the recipes. This is why blogs are such a great resource for beginning cooks. For the new cook who wants to venture into baking, The Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum is a must.
20. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Is blogging still a big part of the picture?
I see our family moving into the next stage. The boys getting married and starting families. I absolutely see myself blogging and hope to have more time for it as time marches on.
DARE PORTION OF BURNING DOWN THE KITCHEN:
Dare Option #1:
Show us your kitchen in the midst of baking or cooking up a storm. All the better if you and/or your family is in the photo.
Dare Option #2:
Show us a photo of your favourite section of the grocery store. All the better if you are in the photo. (or the family)!
Dare Option #3:
Show us a photo of your family dinner table. All the better if the family is in the shot. If not a shot of a typical meal at your house would be fabulous.
Okay can I just say how much I love Valerie's kitchen. Look at the counter top. I am seriously jealous right now. And look at the spread she puts out for dinner. I need to move, like next door preferably.
I was beyond thrilled Valerie did all 3 dares. The dares are always optional and I try to tailor them to each person. I get a kick out of it when folks do them all. It makes me beyond happy.
I also have to say I love Valerie's hair. I think I sent her a note like a year ago telling her she had the best hair in food blogging. Ya, I'm a dork and do things like that. But seriously, she has such a thick, gorgeous mane of hair I couldn't help myself. Sometimes Lunie doesn't come with an edit button.
The choice of which dish of Valerie's was easy. I actually planned Meyer Lemon Madness around her interview as I had seen her Mom's Lemon Bars a couple of months ago and knew I had to make them. They were the bomb. I mean I have such a weakness for lemon desserts, but these are over the top good. Just check out the photos and tell me if you wouldn't eat a whole pan of them all by your lonesome.
I did not change anything fundamental about her recipe. So to get the recipe for these delicious Meyer Lemon Bars you need to head over to From Valerie's Kitchen. She'll hook you up. I love that it was her Mom's recipe. Sentimental old me gets drawn to recipes such as this one.
Since there's only 3 of us I did half the recipe, and cooked it in an 8 x 8 pan. Since B-Dude moved out we've noticed lots of food being thrown out. Apparently B-Dude really did eat us out of house and home. This realization lead to a family meeting wherein we discussed halving recipes, and the family also talked over what I've been making as of late. Let's just say when you food blog you tend to join a lot of groups, and you love them, but you end up making dishes you might not really love in order to fit in with themes. So the family asked me to return to blogging what we eat, and not eating what I blog. Hopefully that makes sense. I dropped out of some group stuff so I'm not tempted to make things we don't typically eat. I'll still join Sunday Supper when the theme fits my cooking style. Sometimes you have to look at things and see them clearly. We can't afford to waste food, or give food away, so a return to normal blogging seemed in order. Eat what you love, blog what you eat. Makes good sense to me.
What else makes good sense...
Visiting Valerie's blog, From Valerie's Kitchen. You will love spending time there as much as I do. She is a talented cook, and a genuine person. I encourage you to subscribe to her blog, and you can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.
Some of my favourite From Valerie's Kitchen recipes:
Thank you so much to Valerie for allowing me the honour of getting to know you better, and sharing that info with everyone. You were a pleasure to work with and I look forward to working together again. And hopefully one day getting to meet in person.
To my readers, here is a quick sneak peek at what is coming up next on the blog:
Keep tuning in for more Meyer Lemon Madness. Tomorrow is potatoes with Meyer Lemon & Garlic Salt. Friday is Meyer Lemon Sugar. There's a Meyer Lemon Chicken Bake next week. And a Meyer Lemon Pasta. Plus the coolest Meyer Lemon Dessert ever coming your way. It's a big surprise, and was inspired by my visit to see Lidia Live with Izz of Crumb, courtesy of Aurora Importing. So keep coming back for more Meyer Lemon recipes. And remember ANY recipe using MEYER lemons can ALSO be made using REGULAR lemons. There's also a MASSIVE meyer lemon roundup for you on the 20th. I cannot wait to show it to you. It's spectacular!
More Meyer Lemon Recipes from yours truly:
Meyer Lemon Parfaits (pictured above)
See you tomorrow for the new recipe and giveaway. If you want to make sure you remember all the cool stuff happening here make sure you subscribe by email. You get great content delivered right to your inbox. You'll never miss a recipe again!
Toodles and smoochies! xx