A few of you asked me some questions about food and I thought I’d answer that today as I make a HUMONGOUS list of groceries preparing to feed some amazing people who are coming tomorrow for a week or so to help us clean up our crazy flattened-barn-mess. The absolute truth is that somehow, even though we are technically empty-nesters, I am almost always feeding a crowd. And just when I think I’ll have a break from that, there are more beautiful people to nourish. There’s definitely a drive I have to feed people well. It feels like answering something in me to make the lists, plan the meals, and have them smile in satisfaction at their meal. This is where I thrive. What challenge do you thrive in?
Here are some of your questions and my attempt to answer:
- From Jessica — How do you balance love for food with a healthy weight experience vs. appearance? I love this question so much! Because I am always thinking about food and have had to address the balance for myself all throughout my life. I used to have big issues with the number and counting side of eating. Had to let all that go in order to share my body to grow healthy humans. :o) I really think it’s all about balance. I enjoy a portion of what I love and try to really consider my portion size and eat slowly to enjoy each bite. I really do cherish the experience. I do believe this has allowed me to not let things get out of control. And when I don’t like what I see, I do what I’ve been doing and pretend it’s 1995 and do step-aerobics like it never went out of style. I try to keep moving, always, which has to help. I don’t have it all together by any means and have pounds I could drop, but I refuse to make eating an issue and find my balance in the quality of what I ingest, eliminate snacking, and choosing carefully what I spend my bites on. And then I enjoy a big, ol’ ice cream cone if I want!
- Jessica also asked what some of my favorite cooking experiences with my family have been? I LOVE when we all get together to can produce! My kids have all helped me (mostly since we’ve moved here) can tomatoes, peaches, pears, pickles, meat, applesauce, plums, salsas, jams, and whatever else we’ve dreamed up! We’ve even had what we call meat parties where we’ve worked together to process a deer (not my favorite)! I love when we have dip nights and we make all of our favorite dips ( click HERE for some of our favorites!). I love collaborating on holidays when everyone brings their favorites and we make turkeys for days so everyone has everything to bring home. I love our seafood boil we used to do for Christmas with no silverware or plates and everyone is happy and grateful for crab legs and shrimp and such. This last year we did a pasta bar for Christmas with all the sauces and veggies and meats. I love campfires at the beach and on Justin’s mountain with The Cheesy Potatoes and Antipasta Salad and Potato Salad because food always tastes better outside! I love soup on Sundays with my whole crazy crew where I make a big, ol’ pot of soup and someone brings bread and someone dessert. I love baking days with my granddaughters where I have one-on-one time and they create something they’re so proud of.
- Jessica and Melissa asked what some of my favorite restaurants are: I have had such amazing experiences in so many places that this is a hard question for me to sum up. When we travel, I love to choose the number one rated restaurant in that area. Each place has its things their proud of, and I love to sample whatever that is. I do not like fancy, schmancy (fine dining), but I do love a chef cooking his/her passion so it has to be creative or it was a devastating waste to me. My sweet man knows that we simply do NOT waste a food opportunity on a trip. I also search farm-t0-table restaurants when we are somewhere new. I just love creativity and fresh ingredients. I get perturbed with a restaurant that makes things that I could make better in my own kitchen. I miss the amazing pizza in West Michigan (Fricanos, Bernie-O’s, Scribs). I long for Lee’s Chicken Strips (!!!!!). I am always thrilled to go to Green Bay and eat at Plae Bistro. I miss Hearthstone in Muskegon. If I have to eat at a chain, I will be thrilled with some chicken from Chik-fil-A and pretty much anything at a Cheesecake Factory :o). I love food truck food!!!!! The Woods restaurant on Mackinac Island has perfect food and ambiance. Of course, there are some stand-out places we’ve been that have provided experiences and food I’ll never forget. Fresh Barramundi and freshly picked passion fruit in Australia’s rainforests. Shave Ice and Teriyaki Burgers in Kauai. A chef’s house with ingredients cooked entirely from his farm prepared in his kitchen while we waited at a table in a room upstairs on Prince Edward Island. Some pork dish in a haunted house in New Orleans. Japanese Steakhouses on holidays with my family. That little Cuban/Fusion place in some scary place in downtown Miami. BBQ in Texas. That ribeye a cowboy made for us on an outdoor grill in Amarillo at a dude ranch. That freshly caught halibut in Maine. The world is so full of amazing food!!!
- Sarah asked what I cook when I don’t feel like cooking. I love, love, love, making a couple over-medium eggs from my sweet hens, some hash browns with onions in butter, some bacon and cheese over the whole thing. (Basically Breakfast Skillet) but for one or two. I also love a dressed up grilled sandwich — often with turkey, cream cheese, spicy jelly, and cheddar. A tuna melt is a standby for me — I like it open-faced with avocado on top (perfection!). Nachos with ground beef seasoned with Homemade Taco Seasoning, cheese, salsa, and occasionally jalapeños makes me really happy. And I’m a sucker for good leftovers — so many are better the next day!
- Sarah also asked what started my passion for cooking. I think I’ve answered this a bit before, but to quickly recap…My mother was an awful cook and as I got older she didn’t have much food in the house. This led me to start being creative with few ingredients. Then, I got a job at a restaurant with a boss who was creative and encouraged us young girls to assist with food prep for big, beautiful catering jobs. I fell in love with the way food looks and tastes when someone is passionate about making it excellently. Being married young, I was determined to learn this skill and remember making my first meal for Christian and planning all the ingredients and elements. We began entertaining soon after being married, and that only ramped up as time went on. My mother quickly realized I could do something she didn’t want to have to attempt anymore and began hiring me to cook for her events which gave me practice cooking for groups. She also quickly handed me holidays which meant I dove into making the entire Thanksgiving meal around age 20! It is art, science, nourishment, and a way I can give and share and make folks happy. So I continue to do it and love it.
Thank you all for your super fun questions. I’d love to hear any of your answers to these questions! It is one of my favorite subjects to be sure!