Andrea Meyers (of the eponymous food blog) takes us inside her Virginia kitchen and tells us about growing and cooking food for the four hungry guys in her life...
Whenever I read Andrea Meyers (previously known as "Andrea's Recipes") I want to run out and grow my own food and take stunning photos of food. That's because this stay-at-home-mom of three makes it look so easy (even though it's anything but.) If that isn't enough to convince you to keep reading, I've got three words for you: Homemade Stuffed Pizza. Enjoy!
CM: Tell us about your family.
My wonderful husband, Michael, and I have been married for almost nine years. We have three boys ages 6, 5, and almost 3; two of our boys have special needs. I decided to stay home with my children until they are all in school but still occasionally take freelance work in instructional design or food writing when projects allow me to work from home. Michael and I both share avid interests in edible gardening and preparing good food, and in fact one of the things that impressed me when we were dating was that he had a real deep dish pizza pan and made excellent Chicago-style stuffed pizza. He's very supportive of my work on the blog and the opportunities that have come along because of it, and of course he enjoys being my primary taste-tester and understands my need to experiment.
How would you describe your cooking style?
My cooking style depends on my mood. Some weeks I have the menu planned out and all the ingredients ready to go; other weeks I plan and then have to modify when I can't find an ingredient I want to use; and then sometimes the events of the day overcome my plans, and I have to come up with something fast. Some weeks I just wing it, but no matter how we decide on the menu, we focus on healthy cooking using fresh ingredients with occasional indulgences.
Can we see the inside of your kitchen?
My husband's job moved us to Northern Virginia about two-and-a-half years ago. Our home was three years old when we bought it, and it had been used as a model. We'd never had a kitchen this big before, and we love it. It's our favorite room in the house and is where we usually congregate with family and friends. Having the extra cabinet space is helpful for a food blogger because it gives me room to store the plates, bowls, and other props I use for shooting photos. The boys and I spend lots of time in here, so there's usually kitchen and photo gear, toys, crayons, Lego blocks, Play-Doh, cars, and books all about, especially in the summer when school is out. Plus, in the summer we often have fresh foods from the garden taking up counter space as I cook and preserve, so I had to do some serious work to get the kitchen ready for these photos.
My favorite spot in the kitchen is the baking center, a floating island we added in January. Believe it or not this kitchen has a tiny, tiny pantry that could barely hold baking supplies, let alone other staples, so this extra cabinet has really come in handy. I keep all of the flour and baking supplies in the bottom, the drawer is wide enough to hold baking pans and rolling pins, and the butcher block surface makes a good spot for shaping dough.
My other spot is where I keep my favorite cookbooks and write. This area doesn't hold my entire cookbook collection, but there's room for the books I refer to most often.
There is a sun room just off the kitchen, and that's where we eat our meals and set up any projects the kids are working on. It's the sole source of natural light for this part of the house, so I usually shoot food photos in there, though I also I set up some photo lights in the dining room for taking night shots or for winter when I need extra light.
Where do you find inspiration?
My parents and grandparents are from the South, so traditional Southern foods played a big role in my childhood. My first teaching job abroad was in Saipan, a small island in the Pacific, and I learned to love island and Asian foods. From there I went to Colombia, then on to Saudi Arabia. During my years abroad I had opportunities to travel to many other countries, and each region added new tastes to my palate. I have a strong interest in authentic, regional foods and enjoy learning how to prepare them.
What traditions do you and your family have with respect to food?
Christmas is a big celebration for both our families, and we usually make lots of cookies and other treats for that time of year. Birthdays are also important to us and my husband is carrying on his family tradition of designing and making special birthday cakes for our sons. In addition my family has a 100-year-old recipe for coconut cake that has been passed down and remains a favorite for our family gatherings.
What do you make better than anyone else?
I don't think of food in that way, as something competitive. For me, food is something to learn about, share, and enjoy, and the things I enjoy making the most are pizza from scratch, Ajiaco Bogotano (a soup from Colombia), ice cream, bread, Asian food, and cocktails.
Most of all I enjoy cooking with fresh foods from our garden. This year we are growing 12 kinds of tomatoes, 18 kinds of hot and sweet peppers, garlic, lettuces, chard, herbs, scallions, leeks, beans, as well as other things that we tried and lost to weather or garden pests. This spring we planted cherry and apple trees as well as blueberry bushes, but they won't produce for a few years. It's not always easy to grow our own food, but we try and usually have some success.
What is your one indulgence?
Ice cream. It's by far my favorite dessert, but I only have a scoop once a week.
How has your taste/cooking changed since you had children?
I can't say my tastes have changed, but we've adapted our cooking for our three little people, all with different palates. My husband and I enjoy spicy foods, and he's a fire-eater, so we had to tone down the heat quite a bit, though our 6-year-old son has started showing interest in spicy things, too. The boys each like different fruits and vegetables, though our 3-year-old still avoids vegetables despite our best encouragement. Two of my boys adore pizza but the other one won't touch it. It's such a game of roulette trying to plan meals around picky eaters, and we hope they will outgrow that phase sooner rather than later.
What are some ingredients/food items that you could never, ever live without?
I can't imagine cooking for my family without tomatoes, basil, cilantro, olive oil, garlic, and avocados. Many of our favorite dishes have one of more of these ingredients.
What are you favorite food blogs or Web sites?
I enjoy keeping up with Todd and Diane at White on Rice Couple because they share my love of edible gardening. Culinary Media Network with Chef Mark and Jennifer fuels my passion for travel. My favorite bakers are Susan of Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy, Helen of Tartelette, Zoe of Zoe Bakes, and Susan of Wild Yeast. Lynda of Taste Food makes beautiful food, and her writing inspires me to be a better cook. And Jen of Use Real Butter inspires me with her beautiful photography and passion for life. My favorite magazine sites are Saveur, Food & Wine, and Epicurious.
Thank you to Andrea for sharing her kitchen! And don't miss these other "In the Kitchen With..." features: