Stephie from “Eat Your Heart Out” on Cooking!
Stephie from Eat Your Heart Out sounds like one amazing cook! Check out her cooking tips and ingredients she thinks all moms should have in their kitchen!
Can you tell us more about yourself, your family, and why you decided to start your blog, Eat Your Heart Out? How do you come up with your name?
I am a 20-something single girl living in the Chicago suburbs. I am currently working as a volunteer coordinator at a local university, though I will be transitioning into a new job this fall. While I am not a mom yet, I do spend an awful lot of time trying to keep up with the antics of my little monster of a cat. I also have quite a collection of houseplants that I attempt to keep alive in my windowsill. I have always loved to cook and really started reading food blogs during my senior year of college. Sometime after I graduated and got my own place, I realized that a.) I was spending most of my free time in my kitchen or reading food blogs and b.) every time I posted a picture of something I had made on Facebook, someone was asking for the recipe. It was at that point that I decided to take the leap and start my own blog. The name “Eat Your Heart Out” came up partly because it was fun, but also because one of the reasons I cook is to show people how much I care about them. When I cook, I really put my heart and soul into it, and I wanted to share that with people. I want them to enjoy my food and to feel free to eat as much as they want; I made it for them, after all!
How did you learn how to cook? What are your favorite recipes?
I learned to cook from my momma, who learned to cook from her grandmother. While I have picked up a few things over the years from watching Food Network or reading food magazines/blogs, I will always consider my mother to be my primary source of knowledge in the kitchen. She is the woman who taught me how to make a top-notch pie crust (consequently, her chicken pot pie is one of my all time favorite meals), how to get the most bang for your buck at the grocery store, and what kitchen gadgets are truly essential, versus just nice to have. I call her at least once a week with a cooking question or in search of an opinion. Several of my favorite recipes are ones I remember watching her make my whole life: Rice Pudding, Pecan Raisin Pie, and Maureen’s Rice Krispie Cookies all come to mind.
What key ingredients do you think moms should always keep in the house?
As someone who has only to think about feeding herself and her boyfriend (who, aside from disliking bananas and tomatoes, is not a picky eater), some of my current pantry staples are perhaps a little odd (sun-dried tomatoes…white wine…ground flaxseed…), but you can do some truly awesome and surprising things in a pinch by keeping a variety of things on hand. Rice (white and brown), quinoa, and pasta (smaller, shaped pasta and long noodles) are always must-haves. Canned beans (of all types) and eggs are great for bulking up just about any meal in a pinch. An assortment of frozen veggies (usually peas, corn, and green beans or broccoli for me) and canned tomatoes are great to have on hand, especially in my part of the country where good fresh produce is hard to come by year-round. And I always keep a jar of good spaghetti sauce in the pantry for those nights when even boiling water seems like a stretch.
Do you have any fun on-the-go snacks that you like to cook? What snacks do you recommend moms keep with them for their children?
When I get the munchies, I tend to reach for a piece of fruit, granola bar (I love the ones from Kashi) or a package of almonds (Trader Joe’s has them in little individual serving sizes that are perfect for grabbing on your way out of the house). If you are looking for something a little more exciting to feed your kids for a snack, muffins are a great thing to make and keep in the freezer – you can pull out as many as you need and microwave them for just a few seconds. I also love keeping a batch of quinoa breakfast cookies in the freezer for a quick and satisfying snack. They’re crazy delicious while sneaking in a good dose of protein and other good-for-you things. And what kid doesn’t love a cookie?
What other activities do you like to do in your free time?
Like any proper old lady stuck in a 20-something body, I’m a book nerd and I love to crochet. Since moving closer to Chicago, I also enjoy occasionally exploring the city and the many things it has to offer. But mostly I am content just hanging out with my friends, maybe grabbing a drink or a bite to eat. I’m not too hard to entertain!
What are your top 10 tips or tricks that you have for moms while they’re in the kitchen?
1) Get your kids in there with you! Even if all they are doing is “stirring” (or, really, just making a mess), the experience and the memories you make will stick with them long after the meal is over.
2) Throw leftover hamburger buns in the freezer – they make great garlic bread in a pinch.
3) Pancakes and/or eggs are a perfectly acceptable meal any time of day.
4) Bags of baby carrots are not only great for snacking, but are also great to cook with; cutting out that peeling and chopping is a real time-saver.
5) Make-ahead breakfasts are a great way to save time in the morning and make sure everyone gets a healthy start to his or her day. Make a big batch of baked oatmeal at the beginning of the week and have quick, satisfying breakfasts available all week long.
6) The slow cooker can be your best friend. Seriously. $20 at Target will be just about the best money you ever spent.
7) Along the lines of #1, getting your kids to help you in the kitchen is a great way to get them invested in eating what you are making. I’ve seen kids turn up their noses at the idea of spinach, but after helping to make a meal using it, they were suddenly dying to try what they had made.
8) Ground flaxseed is my new favorite ingredient. It is packed with all sorts of vitamins and minerals and sunshine and rainbows (ok, just kidding on those last two), and can be snuck into everything from oatmeal to cookies to muffins to smoothies.
9) Buy up fresh fruit in bulk when it is cheap and in season. Buy more than you can eat; fruits like strawberries, blueberries, and peaches are perfect for stashing in the freezer. Slice them up, toss with a little bit of sugar, and then store them in quart-sized freezer bags. You will love them during the winter when you can pull them out and use them in smoothies or on shortcake. Freezer jam is also a great way to use up ripe fruit (and it is much easier than regular jam since it doesn’t require cooking the fruit or crazy complicated jar sterilization).
10) Cook what you love. I feel like with all of the food blogs and magazines and shows out there, a lot of moms feel under pressure to always put together a perfectly balanced gourmet meal. But if you are making a meal that your family loves and gets them around the table together, you are already doing something right. And remember, what you see on food blogs is the best of what we make – there are so many kitchen mishaps and nights of popcorn for dinner that you don’t see! What it really comes down to is making real food for real people – sharing what you love with the ones you love.
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