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In the Kitchen With: Kate Jones of Our Best Bites

by Kim Conte on May 21, 2009 at 9:15 AM
our best bites

Kate of Our Best Bites and her husband, Sam

Recently, we spoke with Sara Wells of Our Best Bites about cooking for her family in Idaho. In part two of our series, her co-blogger Kate Jones tells us about the dishes she makes better than anyone else and how every Louisiana kitchen needs a gator hot pad.

CM: Tell us about your family.

I was born and raised in Logan, Utah, where my dad was a college professor. My mom died when I was young, and my dad remarried, so I grew up in a real, true Brady Bunch situation. When I graduated from high school, I decided to rebel and not attend the university where my dad taught but rather head south to Brigham Young University and give dorm life a shot. After a few years, I met and married my husband, Sam, and then graduated with my degree in English in 2004.

My son, Clark, who was supposed to be a 7-pound, head-down girl named Olivia, arrived in January of 2005—9 1/2-pounds, breech, boy parts. My doctor was an idiot. My husband swears up and down we agreed to name him Clark, which is something I categorically deny. However, pregnancy hormones tend to not only remove the filter between my brain and my mouth, but they also seem to erase giant patches of memory. So it's entirely possible that the discussion of naming my first-born son after a superhero did actually take place.

son

Nearly two years ago, our daughter, Meredith, arrived by a very uneventful repeat c-section. While her brother was completely mischief-free (but full of sass), she's sweetness and snuggles, all while emptying jars of sprinkles, tormenting her brother, and coloring any and all surfaces with rogue markers she finds lying around. Daily, Clark offers to trade Meredith for another baby he likes better (his friend Ivy, his cousin Beck, his cousin Naomi, a puppy).

daughter

After my husband graduated with his degree in Manufacturing Engineering about 1 1/2 years ago, we moved to Louisiana where he works as a process engineer manager. I tutor English and essay-writing when I'm not busy cooking, picture-taking, blog-writing, mess-cleaning, and waiting in the carpool line at Clark's preschool. When I get a second, I love to read, dream of decorating a house that I'm not co-renting with mouse-sized cockroaches, and watch Chuck, Lost, The Office, and 30 Rock. Oh, and I have fantasies of starring on So You Think You Can Dance. Sadly, that will never happen because I'm a) 28 and b) I know I can't dance. I'm embarrassingly awful.

 

How would you describe your cooking style?

I'm a people-pleaser, what can I say? I tend to make things that seem to be enjoyed by most people. I also seem to have a serious dirty dish rule—if I have to use, say, more than two large dishes that are unlikely to fit in my dishwasher, it's going to have to be AMAZING to make it worth it to me. I like to strike a balance between updated, healthier, and easier classic comfort food and fresh, bright flavors that you get from citrus and fresh herbs. I firmly believe that bread products are infinitely better when they're fresh (as in baked today, not freshly stocked on the shelves at Kroger), and that pretty much any food tastes better when it's cooked over fire.

 

Can we see the inside of your kitchen?

We're currently renting the house we live in (you know, something to do with living here for six months before making a decision and then watching the whole housing market fall apart), and although the kitchen isn't my dream kitchen, I do love it. It's bigger, airier, and has far more counter space than any other kitchen had since I moved away from home.

kitchen

 

 

It gets a lot of natural light. There's a window over the sink and the glass door that opens to the back patio face east, and then there's another north-facing window also by the sink, so I love that I can open the blinds and leave the lights off in the kitchen all day.

window

 

 

In our last house, there was absolutely no room to keep anything on the countertops—the microwave was the exception, and it was wedged underneath a cabinet. I discovered that cooking was far leas fun when I had to haul the Kitchenaid and the food processor out of all the nooks and crannies where they were hidden, so I love having them right there at my fingertips. 

appliances 

 

Of course, it has its downsides. I'm pretty sure that a kitchen that could house all my small appliances, dishes, platters, and utensils would be a magical kitchen, so cupboard space is definitely at a premium. But the biggest drawback? Check out the washer and dryer in the corner.

washer

 

That's a major bummer, especially when my full-sized washer and dryer are idling away in our storage unit. On the bright side, it's always an interesting conversation piece when the dryer buzzer goes off while I'm talking on the phone and doing dishes at the same time. And hey, I guess I don't have to walk down into the scary basement to do laundry like I used to! Also, you never know what kind of lingerie will be drying in the kitchen when guests come over.  I just tell myself that not having exactly what I want means I always have interesting stories to tell!

gator hot pad

It wouldn't be Louisiana without a gator hot pad!


 

When it comes to cooking, where do you find inspiration?

Occasionally, I'll stumble across a cookbook that I'll just pore over for days on end. I'll read it again and again, marking recipes I want to try, knowing what I'll like (and what I won't). I find Cooking Light to have consistently wonderful recipes. The Internet has become an amazing, evolving source of inspiration—it's so easy to find everything from genuine ethnic recipes to copycat recipes from popular restaurants. When I was really learning to cook, the Internet was a HUGE resource for me as I gained my footing and discovered what I liked and what I didn't, what worked for me and what didn't.

 

What traditions or rituals do you and your family have with respect to food?

I would say that I have more food memories than food traditions from my growing up years. My dad is a wonderful cook, although he doesn't do it nearly as much as he should. In particular, he's really amazing at outdoor cooking or stuff that's a little "rustic." On Christmas or the 4th of July, he'll whip up cinnamon rolls and omelets in his Dutch oven. He's been known to roast suckling pigs in the ground or cook scones and omelets for hundreds of people at church activities. I think the earliest memory I have of being completely blown away by something I ate was his Chicken Cacciatore (although it was pheasant cacciatore, made from pheasants that he and my brother had hunted). In that spirit, I don't have many (or any) recipes that have been passed down to me, but I have versions of those recipes that have become traditions with my own husband and kids.

 

What do you make better than anyone else?

Like Sara said, for everything I make well, someone else makes it better. However, in terms of friend and family favorites, my dinner rolls and orange rolls are always a huge hit.

orange rolls

 

Like my dad, I make a mean chicken cacciatore...

chicken

 

...and I really do like my red beans and rice better than just about any others I've ever had.

red beans

 

What is your one indulgence?

My one indulgence? Funny! No, I love Coke—the real thing, caffeine, sugar, everything. Last summer, I went to a dinner party for my husband's job, and it was held in the amazing backyard of one of the head honchos from work. It was hot and muggy, but the late afternoon thunderheads were building and a breeze was blowing. I sat there, ice-cold Coke with a squeeze of lime in hand, feeling the warm breeze and thinking that was pretty much as close to heaven as I could imagine. As far as non-beverages go, I'm a completely gluttonous sucker for cookies and fresh Mexican food. But not together.

 

How has your taste/cooking changed since you had children?

It really hasn't changed all that much. I do eat way more Goldfish crackers than would probably be considered acceptable by polite society, but we're trying to adapt the kids to our tastes, not revert ours to theirs. Sure, they eat their share of chicken nuggets and Kraft Mac and Cheese, but they almost always eat what we eat for dinner.  Meredith's always been a great eater (in fact, the other night, she polished off Clark's jambalaya when he wasn't watching), but Clark has been quite picky for most of his life. He's now at peace with the age rule—because he's four, he has to eat four bites of whatever we're having for dinner. He usually ends up eating more. There's still a fair amount of coaxing involved, but it sure beats the Exorcist moments of dinners a year ago! 


What are some ingredients/food items that you could never, ever live without?

  • Butter, butter, butter.  And real butter—none of this margarine poppycock.
  • Cheese. All kinds. Recently, I've been having a dairy-related love affair with Mexican Cotija cheese.
  • Garlic. I almost always use at least twice what the recipe calls for.
  • Pasta. Noticing a pattern here? I'm pretty sure I would shrivel and die without pasta.
  • Fresh produce. Fresh limes, onions, cilantro, spinach, watermelon in the summer, oranges in the winter, and fresh apples in the fall.
  • Extra-virgin olive oil. I could die happy if I died while smelling garlic being sauteed in olive oil.

 

What are you favorite food blogs or Web sites?

Like Sara, I love www.allrecipes.com. I've gotten a lot of inspiration and ideas for recipes from that site. Recipezaar is another good resource, especially when I'm looking for something simple. I recently stumbled upon www.iheartcuppycakes.com and am blown away by her creativity. Leigh Ann at www.yourhomebasedmom.com and I have very similar tastes in food and cooking and she always has amazing ideas for food and family. Nola Cuisine has been a huge resource to me as I've been learning to cook like a Cajun. I also really enjoy The Homesick Texan.  Lest I forget anyone I love, there's a big old list of Web sites we love over here on our blog.


Thank you to Sara and Kate! And don't miss these other "In the Kitchen..." features:

Filed Under: food, food blogs, traditions

Comments

11
  • nattyb27
    --

    nattyb27

    May 21, 2009 at 1:29 PM

    I know exactly what Exorcist dinner moments you're talking about! We still have those on a regular basis.

    Thanks for sharing your fabulous recipes with all of us! And for answering an occasional frantic "help me!" phone call from someone who shall remain nameless. :)


  • KaraLM
    --

    KaraLM

    May 21, 2009 at 6:10 PM

    I am going to have to try your orange rolls (and regular ones).  Your kitchen looks so adorable!  I love it.  Love your site and your recipes.


  • teeny
    -- Nonmember comment from

    teeny

    May 22, 2009 at 1:19 AM
    Such a cute kitchen. You create wonderful food in it! Keep up the good work!
  • Darlene
    -- Nonmember comment from

    Darlene

    May 22, 2009 at 1:39 AM
    Kate, Teeny told me to read about you... how exciting... you and your family look wonderful! What a cute kitchen. I really want to try your rolls, especially the orange rolls... yummmm! Hope to see you and the family when you come out to Washington to visit... love, Darlene I.
  • Marjie
    -- Nonmember comment from

    Marjie

    February 2, 2010 at 10:03 AM
    I'm just curious how you girls keep your amazing figures considering how much you love food? I eat and enjoy the same things you do and I'm 100lbs. overweight! I'm faced with what I see as two very bleak options: eat like a bird and join Weight Watchers for the rest of my life -or- eat whatever the heck I want and hope that I never have to fly anywhere in a plane because they would make me buy two seats to accomodate my big behind.
  • Summer
    -- Nonmember comment from

    Summer

    May 26, 2010 at 12:01 PM

    Kate - Your sister, Heidi is my BFF and she sent me a link to your website.  I'm so impressed with your recipes.  I have a friend coming to stay with me in a few weeks and really want to impress him with my cooking.  Thanks for some awesome ideas!  Can't wait to see how they turn out.  I've been searching high and low for receipes but I like the ones I have found on your site because they are every day ingredients and seem very easy to follow. This little site is awesome...you guys are doing great!  Thanks again...


  • Trish...
    -- Facebook comment from

    Trisha Claunch Gray

    September 5, 2010 at 10:34 PM
    too funny!! I'm married to an engineer also and the "Key in the same place" talk occures all the time. I love your recipes in fact the zucchini cheese quiche is in the oven as I type. Trisha www.2muchfungrays.blogspot.com
  • Fred...
    -- Facebook comment from

    Fred Brodie

    September 19, 2010 at 3:35 PM
    Many great chefs are men so I guess it is OK to take a look at your site. Going to try some new things this week in the kitchen. I agree that good orange rolls are always a hit. Surprised about your one indulgence being Coke. Thought it might be green Jello. You are from Utah, right?
  • Kelly...
    -- Facebook comment from

    Kelly Adkins

    October 6, 2010 at 11:46 PM
    I basically live on AllRecipes.com and RecipeZaar.com And now I do believe your website has made the list! I keep fighting the irrational urge to spill the L-word on this website to you complete strangers. :) haha
  • Stephen
    -- Nonmember comment from

    Stephen

    June 1, 2012 at 4:41 PM
    Do you mind if I quote a couple of your articles as long as I provide credit and sources back to your blog? My blog is in the exact same niche as yours and my users would definitely benefit from a lot of the information you provide here. Please let me know if this okay with you. Regards!
1-10 of 11 comments

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