In this edition of my Favorite Foodies Series we meet Priscilla of She’s Cookin’. Priscilla is a favorite foodie of mine because we share the same love of healthy, flavorful foods. Those of you that live in Southern California should consider Priscilla the go-to source for local restaurant reviews, local food events, and farmers markets. Priscilla’s recipes are delicious, try her Greek- style Eggplant Spread – Melitzanosalata, and her photography is beautiful. Let’s get to know Priscilla in her own words, it is with great pleasure that I introduce you to Priscilla.
1. Can you tell us a little bit about your blog?
She’s Cookin’ has evolved in the two years that I’ve been online. I think that happens to everyone – you find a niche, or it finds you :) Growing up on a small farm, we raised most of the food that we ate, and I’ve always had an interest in health and nutrition. I wanted my daughter to grow up eating all kinds of fruits and vegetables and being exposed to the foods of different cultures, which is easy to do in Southern California. Because of my daughter and my husband’s eleven year struggle with heart disease, I’ve always cooked fairly healthy and we rarely ate junk food. Although we live in crowded Southern California, we have a large yard with a garden, so it came naturally to focus on simple + seasonal food recipes for people that enjoy good food, but don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen.
2. What inspired you to become a food blogger?
I really didn’t start out as a food blogger – it kind of found me when I joined OC Family magazine as they’re food and cooking blogger. Until then I was writing about random stuff and about half of what I was posting was about our garden and cooking for my family. My blog began as a proactive approach to becoming an empty-nester, a compilation of what I cook, an online cookbook for my daughter, and a creative outlet. After my husband was forced to retire from the software company we founded due to his health, we both embarked on new careers. I chose teaching – what was I thinking?? I actually taught for about 4 years after earning the credential, but decided it was not for me.
3. Why do you like to (cook/bake) spend time in your kitchen? Have you always liked spending time in the kitchen?
As a teenager, it was my responsibility to start dinner when my mom was working. The first things I learned to cook for the family were spaghetti sauce and stew, followed by French bread when I was grounded. I spent a lot of time being grounded, I think my dad started implementing longer sentences because he liked the bread. So cooking was something I’ve always done and I get a lot of satisfaction from seeing people enjoying the meals I make. Chloe is in college now, but her friends still enjoy eating dinner at our house and talk about the spaghetti pizza I used to make them when they were kids.
4. What is your idea of a perfect meal?
A perfect meal to me is a fresh salad with an interesting mix of vegetables and/or fruits, lightly dressed – I love all kinds of salads and find my self craving vegetables when I’ve been traveling or eating meals that are mostly protein and carbs. Now that I’m featuring more restaurant write-ups on my site, I eat more rich food than I prefer, but focus on healthy dining options.
5. What is your most special or memorable kitchen moment, be it a happy or a disastrous memory?
Hmm, there are many – it’s not possible to narrow it down to one. I’m flattered when my daughter’s friends talk about how much they love what I cook. Also, I belong to the Five Star Makeover group and am always ecstatic when my “challenge” is successful and validated by the other members of the group because I admire their creativity and talent so much.
6. What is your favorite ingredient, the one you couldn’t live without, the one you use most often ? And is this ingredient the one that inspires you the most or is there another?
I can’t live without quality olive oil.
7. What is the most difficult thing you have ever cooked or baked?
I think I must have blocked that memory. In recent years, I guess it was a brined turkey, mainly because I didn’t have the proper “equipment” and it wouldn’t fit in the refrigerator, so I had to manipulate a huge bag full of liquid and a 15 lb. turkey, to and from the kitchen. The turkey turned out great, very moist and flavorful.
8. What is your favorite spice and why?
Red chili pepper flakes because I don’t add salt when cooking and it adds flavor and a little kick we both enjoy. Lemon is also great when you’re eliminating salt, but it’s not a spice.
9. What food or ingredient repulses you, and why?
Sea urchin because of its texture and color. I did try it recently as part of chef’s omakase at a Japanese restaurant and it wasn’t as bad as it looks.
10. When you want to treat yourself or loved ones what do you prepare or splurge on?
I take special requests from my daughter when she’s home from college; two of her favorites are mom’s cornbread and chicken pot pie. Since my husband has a strict sodium restriction, I cook nearly every night, so we splurge on dinner out with a great bottle of wine at a fine dining restaurant because they are more likely to make accommodations.
11. When you go out to eat what do you go for?
It depends on what I’m craving – could be chile rellenos, Vietnamese pho, sushi, Middle Eastern – I love it all. Fortunately, you can find it all here in southern California. Most restaurants are a danger zone for my husband and writing about restaurants gives me the opportunity to dine with abandon while sharing news about openings, seasonal menu changes, gluten-free and heart healthy offerings, etc. with readers.
12. What food is your food vice? You know, one you sneak in a little extra of when no one is looking.
That’s easy, dark chocolate. But I don’t have to sneak it – that’s our go-to dessert now, because dark chocolate and red wine, thankfully, are good for your heart.
13. Who are the people that inspire your culinary journey? (be it a professional, enthusiast or novice)
There’s really no particular chef or person that has inspired me. I enjoy learning about the food of different cultures and regional dishes and their origins. But really, my culinary journey is grounded in my childhood on a farm and inspired by my family. Cooking delicious, savory meals that are also nutritious is an expression of my love.
14. Besides getting to eat all of your delicious food, what is your favorite thing about being a food blogger?
I’m constantly learning more about photography, food issues, cooking techniques, technology, social media, etc. and challenging myself to be a better writer and more creative in the kitchen. Food blogging has opened up a whole new community to me and I feel privileged to have met so many interesting, talented, and generous people along the way.
15. What is your goal or what do you hope to accomplish with your blog?
My goal is to continue to learn and improve my writing and photography and provide interesting content that informs, whether it be about sustainable seafood, what’s in season at the farmers market, recipes that promote healthy eating, dining in Orange County, or the places I travel. Coming in April: adventures in Hong Kong!
Anything else you would like to say or share with us, tips or advice for fellow blogger?
My advice: it’s kind of cliche, but if you’re not having fun – change it, and it’s not all about clicks.
Recipes for images in the graphic and photos can be found in the links below.
– Salmon, Citrus and Sage
– Chicken Pate Truffles
– Nutted Rice with Apricots and Ginger Carrot Dressing
– Eleven Madison Park Granola
– Mushroom, Apple and Sage Stuffed Red Onions
– 5 Star Beet Salad
– Quinoa Tabbouleh with Endive
– Blini and Caviar
– Sweet Potato, Pork and Apple Skillet Hash
– Hoppin’ John
– Salmon Mousse and Champagne
– Roasted Tomato Soup with Manchego Crisps
All images are the sole property of Priscilla Willis and She’s Cookin’. Graphic design by Spicie Foodie. Please do not use images or graphics without prior written consent. Thank you.