Sara cooking with her son, Tyler
Today, Sara Wells of the food blog Our Best Bites takes us inside her lovely Idaho kitchen...
Stuck in a cooking rut? Then you'd be wise to check out Our Best Bites, a joint-project by two moms who love to cook; their philosophy is that cooking really good food for your family doesn't have to be complicated. This week Sara shows us her kitchen, her two adorable sons, and where she hides her cooking appliances!
CM: Tell us about your family.
I was born and raised in the Seattle area, and my husband Eric grew up in Southwest Idaho. We met in college while both studying horticulture. I became a Landscape Designer, and he went on to study medicine (which is a great thing since I'm notorious for being klutzy in the kitchen. I once dropped an 8" carving knife onto my foot and got stabbed about a half hour before a dinner party! Good thing our guest bathroom doubles as a make-shift ER!
Eric and I got married after college, and we now live in Boise, Idaho. We just celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary, and we have two little blue-eyed blondies. Tyler is 3 1/2...
...and Owen just turned 1.
Two little boys keep us moving ALL the time! But we love it. Our boys are full of energy and personality, and I absolutely love that I'm able to stay home with them full-time. I spend a lot of time on my hands and knees pushing cars and trains around, pretending to be a valiant horse, and searching for bugs and worms in the mud.
How would you describe your cooking style?
Hmmm...I don't know if I can do it with one word, that's a tricky question! I guess I would say family friendly, and also approachable. One of the main goals of our blog is to show people that really good food doesn't have to be complicated, and "complicated" food doesn't have to be hard. I love creating recipes that anyone can make at home with everyday ingredients. I think sometimes families get stuck in a cooking rut and end up making the same things over and over again. So I like to introduce new flavors and new foods in a non-threatening way. Kate and I are everyday Moms so our blog and our food styles represent that. We know what it's like to try and cook dinner with little hands yanking you in every direction, so we really relate to our audience, which is made up mostly of people just like us.
Can we see the inside of your kitchen?
You bet. I love our kitchen. It's a great size for our little family and it's absolutely the heart of our home. We love cooking together, and we spend a lot of time gathered around the island in the middle. One thing I love is the black granite counter tops . Had I designed the kitchen my self I don't think I would have chosen black, but when we saw the house for the first time I was immediately drawn to it. It has little bits of color that sparkle in the sunlight, and I love that.
I also love that our kitchen table is surrounded by windows. The first thing I do in the morning is open all of the blinds and the light pours in. It helps wake me up since I am NOT a morning person!
One of my favorite little features is the bubble glass cabinet. I love the color blue, and I've collected a lot of cool kitchen pieces over the years. I love that I can put some of them in that cabinet and the bubble glass on the front is clear enough to let the colors peek through. A lot of those things are sentimental to me, so I love having them somewhere where I can see them and be reminded of the loved ones who passed them onto me.
My husband and I both have an issue with counter-clutter, so we hate having appliances and utensils sitting out. Fortunately we have a lot of storage so I can stow it all away but have it easily accessible. I have a ridiculous obsession with kitchen appliances, so I keep them all in big cabinets under the island. One day when my son's friend opened one of those cupboards, my son quickly scolded him and shut the door saying "No no no! That's my Mommy's toy box and she doesn't share." Haha, that cracked me up.
When it comes to cooking, where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration in a lot of places. My husband and I both lived in Brazil (before we met each other), so food and flavors from that region are constantly popping up in my cooking. One of my favorite things about living there was the amazing farmers' markets filled with unbelievable fruits and vegetables. I loved how the locals used those fresh ingredients and really simple flavor combinations to make amazing food. I also am always tasting things I love in restaurants or seeing something cool on TV and trying to figure out a way to duplicate it at home, especially in a more healthful way. And I read a lot of culinary magazines and browse tons of great food blogs.
What traditions or rituals do you and your family have with respect to food?
Food has always been at the center of my family. When I think about my childhood and growing up with my brothers and sisters, so many of my memories revolve around recipes.To this day I still make the same Christmas breakfast that my family has been making since I was a little girl. I have so many memories wrapped up in those things that Christmas just wouldn't be the same without it. My mom is a great cook and she always involved me and my siblings and made it fun. I credit her to instilling in me a love and appreciation of food and cooking. I consider that to be a big part my role as a wife and mother, so I'm happy it's something I really enjoy.
Also, I love how food has the ability to bring us closer to certain people or places because of the memories and emotions attached to it. One of the things I love about blogging is the chance to not only share food that tastes good, but explain why a certain recipe means something to me. I love food with a story. A couple of examples are my Black Bean Soup and my Smokey Ham and Bean Soup. I hope to create a lot of memories and traditions with my own children and we're off to a good start. My 3 1/2 year old is my little sous chef. When he sees me in the kitchen he immediately grabs his apron and "cooking hat" (a gift from Grandma and Grandpa) and wants to stir everything in sight!
What do you make better than anyone else?
Well I'm sure that for anything I make well, there's someone out there who makes it better. But I do make a darn cute sugar cookie.
That's something I get compliments on a lot. My husband says that's one of his favorite things that I make. I'm always looking for ways to reinvent them, because who doesn't love a good sugar cookie?
Also grilled pizza on the bbq. I'd say that's one of my specialties!
What is your one (food-related) indulgence?
Want to know one food-related problem? I give into my indulgences way too often! No, really I believe in a moderation in all things sort of lifestyle, so while do enjoy my indulgences, I try to do it in small amounts. Some of those things include creme brulee (my sister's is my favorite so I pretty much just eat it when I can get her to make it for me), real fatty creamy cream sauce on pasta, and loaded mashed potatoes. And I seriously eat a little bit of chocolate every single day. I'm a full fledged chocoholic, and I can't live without it!
How has your taste/cooking changed since you had children?
Well my overall consumption of chicken nuggets and fruit snacks has certainly increased, but overall my cooking style hasn't changed much. I know that some kids are going to be picky eaters no matter what, but I do believe that exposing kids to a variety of foods and flavors at a young age will help them have a pretty versatile palate. As soon as my boys were old enough to eat solids, we started using a little hand mill to mash up whatever the rest of us were eating for dinner. So they've grown up on the food I make and are pretty good eaters. We have an "eat what's on the table" rule at our house, and we don't make separate meals for the kids.
What are some ingredients/food items that you could never, ever live without?
I don't have to think about this one at all. Not even a little bit. In no particular order:
I'm pretty sure my life couldn't go on without those!
What are you favorite food blogs or Web sites?
I have way too many food blogs on my reader to even start mentioning them, but many of them are on our blogroll. I love Allrecipes, where you can find a recipe for just about anything your heart desires and I find a lot of inspiration from sites like Foodgawker and Tastespotting. I also love sites about gardening and landscaping, and more recently photography because I just got my first DSLR camera. Oh, and CafeMom, of course. :)
Of course! A big thank you to Sara for sharing her kitchen! Stay tuned next week when we feature her co-blogger, Kate!