On this installment of My Favorite Foodies series we are talking to MJ of MJ’s Kitchen. To me, MJ’s Kitchen, is a gem in the food blogosphere that everyone should know. It’s not only because we share a love for chiles and spicy foods, but also because the kind woman behind this delicious blog has amazing talent. MJ’s recipes are creative, full of wonderful (and healthy) ingredients, plus she makes beautiful photos to go along with them. It is a pleasure hosting her today as well as introducing to you another one of my favourite foodies.
Please help me give MJ a warm welcome and do stop by her blog to say hello.
Can you tell us a little bit about your blog, what can people expect to find there?
Easy recipes, spicy recipes and flavorful recipes.
The majority of recipes are made with ingredients that are mostly easy to find, and with lots of herbs and spices that will stimulate all of your taste buds.
I do use a few ingredients that may be hard to find outside of the southwest, like New Mexico red and green chile and fresh/frozen posole, but with the internet, those items can be purchased online pretty much anywhere.
Is there a special significance to your blogs title?
My husband, Bobby, actually suggested that name because that it what he has called my kitchen for years. It’s my space, my room, and I am pretty much totally in control of what goes on in it – thus MJ’s Kitchen.
Why do you like to cook/bake or spend time in your kitchen? Have you always liked spending time in the kitchen?
Spending time in the kitchen just feels natural to me. I basically grew up in a kitchen because that’s where my mother was and I’ve always loved hanging out with my mother. It’s the place where family and friends always gather. Even when I had a tiny kitchen, people stood in the doorway while I cooked.
In addition to the social aspect of being in the kitchen, the kitchen also is where I am the most creative. I love food and I love creating new flavors with the items I have in the pantry and fridge. It’s like the artist who uses the same paints and brushes to create completely different paintings on blank canvases. For those us who love to cook, our blank canvas is an empty skillet.
When you want to treat yourself or loved ones what do you prepare or splurge on?
As you can see from my blog, I don’t make a lot of desserts. However, for special occasions or for those “just because I love you” days, I’ll make a pudding, cobbler, or for a really special day, a pie. Neither Bobby nor I are cake fans, so I can honestly say that I’ve never made a cake.
If you had to pick a favorite sweet and one savory recipe from your blog, which would they be?
Sweet – New Mexico Style Chocolate Pudding (http://mjskitchen.com/2013/09/chocolate-pudding-new-mexico-style/#pudding) This is SO easy to make and we both love it!. It’s now our “go to” dessert.
Savory – (this is a hard one!) I have so many “favorite” recipes. I’m going to give you two if that’s o.k.
Red Chile Enchiladas (http://mjskitchen.com/2011/10/red-chile-enchiladas/ ), we have this for those dinners when I don’t want to cook, go out and get take out. It’s SO easy and I always have red chile sauce in the freezer, so we can both be sitting down eating in about 15 minutes.
Shepard’s Pie, New Mexico Style (http://mjskitchen.com/2012/12/shepherds-pie-new-mexico-style/), for when I have lots of time and we want comfort food.
What is your most memorable or most special kitchen moment, be it a happy or a disastrous memory?
It was summer, the peaches on some of our peach trees were ripe and I had a lot of work to do. Some friends came over to help. Tasks were assigned and everyone grabbed their tools. I had peelers and pitters, a chopper and another person to help make the jam – stirring, pouring, and sealing. But the person I appreciated the most was the one who accepted the task of keeping the peach daiquiri’s flowing. It was a fun day of endless chatting and laughing with the best music of the 70s playing in the background. By the end of the day, we had gone through a couple bushels of peaches and had made LOTS of jars of peach jam. Everyone left tired and happy, with fresh peaches and a jar of jam.
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?
It’s not a single ingredient – I couldn’t live without a well-stocked herb and spice cabinet. I grow and dry my own herbs, so I have a nice variety of herbs. In the spice section, I have an unusually large variety of chile powders that come from different areas of New Mexico as well as all around the world.
Yes, my herbs and spices do inspire me the most. With a good spice cabinet one can make white rice taste one hundred one different ways.
What food is your food vice? You know, one you sneak in a little extra of when no one is looking.
I know this is very cliché’, but it’s chocolate. Don’t tell Bobby but I always have a secret stash of chocolate.
Who is your favorite foodie?
I have to admit that I don’t have a favorite foodie. I just love to see what people do with food and ingredients so I watch a variety of shows (Top Chef Masters and Iron Chef being my favorites) and have a wide variety of food bloggers that I follow. It’s amazing what some people can do with very common, every day ingredients as well as ingredients that I would have ever thought of using or, in some cases, even knew about.
Why did you start blogging? Do you have a goal or what do you hope to accomplish with your blog?
Like many others, originally I was going to write a cookbook, then my husband asked,” Why would anyone buy your cookbook? Who are you?” He followed that up with the suggested of starting a blog. I pooh poohed the idea but then he started sending me links to food blogs and after seeing all of the great things that food bloggers were doing, I changed my mind. And the rest is history.
As far as what I hope to accomplish, right now, I’m just happy sharing my own recipes and introducing people to New Mexico, its ingredients and its cuisine. I’ve always been a teacher; therefore, what I’m doing with my blog is an extension of that. Am I still going to write a cookbook? Maybe someday.
Anything else you would like to say or share with us, tips or advice for fellow bloggers?
Yes, I do have a couple of tips for other bloggers – keep it fun and don’t be afraid to make your own food. Don’t let what others are doing move you in an uncomfortable direction that doesn’t feel right to you. I let that happen to me early on and the fun started to disappear. Way too much pressure! As long as I am sharing what I enjoy cooking and eating, I’m having fun.
Recipes for images in the graphic and photos can be found in the links below.
(Main graphic top L-R) Southwestern Migas (Scrambled Eggs, Green Chile and Tortillas), Swiss Chard Leek Quiche, Shrimp and Grits, Green Chile Chicken Mushroom Soup, Smoky Polenta with Aged Cheddar, Apple, Carrot, and Pecan Slaw with Curry Dressing
Recipes for photos used in article: Fiery Chocolate Shots, Southwestern Pork Stir Fry, Persimmon Cranberry Parfait, Red Chile Garlic Bread with Manchego Cheese, Chile Pequin Pepper Sauce, Shepherd’s Pie, New Mexico Style, Green Chile Pecan Cheese Spread
All images are the sole property of MJ Willis and MJsKitchen.com. (Graphic design by Spicie Foodie.) Please do not publish images or graphics on your website without prior written consent. Feel free to pin and share on social media. Thank you!