Meet Joelen from What’s Cooking Chicago?
Tell us more about yourself, your family, and why you decided to start your blog. How did you come up with your name, What’s Cookin’ Chicago?
I grew up in the kitchen at a very young age since my parents are retired caterers. Being surrounded by Asian food everyday and entertaining every weekend was what I was accustomed to. As I got older, I was introduced to different foods and it soon became a way for me to learn about other cultures. When I moved from the far north suburbs of Chicago to downtown Chicago, food was my comfort zone and I slowly learned my way around the city through the plethora of cuisines and cultures represented. To document my experience of living in a huge urban city with food as my guide, I created my blog. It captures recipes I made at home and of the food scene of Chicago. Hence, What’s Cookin’ Chicago? was born.
How did you learn how to cook? What has inspired you to make a lot of your meals?
I learned by hands on interaction in the kitchen with my parents. They both cook extensively with a specialty in Asian cuisine (Filipino and Chinese).
Since I grew up eating primarily Asian cuisine, I explored recipes of other cultures and that has allowed me to learn a whole new world of recipes and techniques.
What are your favorite recipes? Which recipes do you think our mom readers would like to cook for their families?
These days, my favorite recipes are those that are quick, easy, healthy and don’t require a lot of effort. Having a 2 year old toddler to keep me on my toes adds a whole new perspective to my culinary point of view. And as a single, working mother to a toddler, I’m also mindful of my time and budget. I like to also incorporate ethnic flavors in my dishes to help expose my son to different cuisines. We rarely eat the same dishes on a rotation because I like to encourage my son to learn through food while ensuring it’s healthy and nutritious for him
Your site has a fantastic section, ”Living Gluten Free”. Have you found it difficult to omit gluten from your diet? What have been your favorite foods to eat that are gluten free?
I’ve been gluten free since September 2011 and it was a serendipitous discovery. In the beginning I was overwhelmed with the negatives – foods I can’t eat, foods to avoid, foods I’ll never eat again… But over time, I realized I don’t have to completely ban those recipes and foods from my diet. Instead, I just needed to learn to make substitutions for ingredients and adaptations to recipes. I’m lucky in that the market has boomed with gluten free options in pretty much every gluten laden food imaginable!
Leaning towards my fondness of ethnic cuisines, I’ve been able to embrace the foods of Latin, Mediterranean, and Asian cuisines. These cuisines have naturally gluten free dishes that make it easy to have a gluten free lifestyle.
Your site lists a variety of places where you can find Copper River Salmon, including Whole Foods and Costco. Why is it important for moms to include salmon in their diet? If kids don’t like salmon, do you have any suggestions for how moms can prepare salmon so their kids will like it?
Salmon is full of omega 3s, healthy fats and is an excellent source of protein for children and adults. My toddler son enjoyed salmon grilled or baked, but his favorite way is in the form of salmon patties or salmon nuggets. Here’s a recipe for salmon potato cakes that can be made into various forms (patties, nuggets, cakes, logs, etc) that the family can enjoy.
Are there any other blogs that you follow? Which blogs do you think moms should check out?
I recently added a tab on my site labeled “Blog Love” which lists a slew of fellow food bloggers who I’ve met in person over the years and appreciate the effort they’ve put into their blogs even more. They run the gamut of various focuses – baking, techniques, gluten free, family, etc.
When you are able to find the time, how do you relax?
Finding time for myself to relax or even to blog can be a challenge.
Thankfully my son and I have a pretty good routine that’s fairly consistent.
I will either have time early in the morning before he wakes up or late at night after he falls asleep to enjoy some me time.
I’ve also been a fan of late night baking – especially in the cooler months!
As for relaxing, I spend a good amount of my time after dinner just relaxing and winding down with my son as part of our bedtime routine. Who knew reading children’s books and singing songs could be calming even more me?!
Site: What’s Cookin, Chicago