In this edition of My Favorite Foodies Series we meet Liz of That Skinny Chick Can Bake. Liz’s blog is one of my favorite blogs to browse through when I crave something sweet. Her collection of baked goodies is extensive and one that will surely inspire you to bake. The evidence of Liz’s baking awesomeness is here in this small collection of photos. She is proof that we can all indulge our sweet cravings without going overboard. Yes, she is skinny and yes she CAN bake. Liz is just as sweet as her baking, and truly an inspiration. Let’s get to know this sweet “chick” in her own words, it is with great pleasure that I introduce you to Liz.
1. Can you tell us a little bit about you and your blog? And how or why you choose this name.
I started my blog two years ago this month. My mom was a fabulous cook…and our house was full of cookbooks and recipe clippings from magazines and newspapers. I grew up in a small university town which afforded us an international grocery store. How else would my mom have been able to find filo dough, orange blossom water and chorizo in a town of 30,000 surrounded by farm land?! She was not much of a baker, but she’d work her magic for the holidays. She and her dear friend would deep fry rosettes in lard each Christmas. Even though the house had a lingering odor for days, we savored every bite of these delicate, crisp cookies dusted with powdered sugar. There were also the elaborate gingerbread house decorated with chocolate roof tiles, and colorful hard candies…my mom was an accomplished artist and this was visible in what she cooked, too. I started baking as a teen with the red and white checkered Better Homes and Garden’s cookbook…I remember my mom praising my pie crust when I baked my first lemon meringue pie. Her compliments and encouragement are what jump started my love of baking. There was no recipe too intimidating for her to try, and that inspired me. It was after a visit back to my hometown, when all three sisters were home, that I decided to start chronicling my cooking and recipes in a blog.
My blog’s name came about when every single option I typed into blogger was already taken. I’ve always been thin, and when I’m introduced to a new people as a fabulous baker, I often get looks of disbelief. But I’ve always exercised and practiced moderation. The name made sense…but I do laugh when I get offers from companies focus on healthy living and recipes. They obviously haven’t read past the title of my blog!
2. Why do you love to bake or spend time in your kitchen? And have you always liked being in the kitchen?
I come from a family of wonderful home cooks…I have loads of recipes from my mom, grandma and even my great-grandmother…not to mention my sisters and aunts. Whenever we gather we bring recipes, talk about food and cook together. I am the baker…and baking is therapeutic. Whether someone is hurting, ill or celebrating a baby, a wedding or engagement, I love to offer my support by baking cookies or a meal to share.
I started baking in elementary school…cookies mainly, but advanced to pies and entrees by high school. The kitchen was always a gathering place for our family and for friends who came into our home. It was a warm and welcoming spot in our home…I don’t recall ever getting any criticism for experimenting or making a mess when growing up. My parents were wonderful about giving us independence.
3. Do you have professional training as a baker ?
I am completely self taught. Food TV, though, was a huge help. In fact, we got our first computer so I could print off recipes from Cooking Live and Martha Stewart’s website. I soaked up every tip or lesson given by some of those early shows.
4. What is your favorite baked goodie and your favorite non-baked treat?
As far as baked goodies go, I have a huge weakness when it comes to cookies…from chocolate with toffee bits to oatmeal with dried tart cherries…I love so many varieties. They come together quickly and can be easily shared.
Non-baked, I adore English toffee. This is one candy I make every Christmas….for friends and neighbors. I try hard not to sample much, but I feel it’s my duty to eat all the little shards that are too small to give away.
5. What is your most memorable or most special kitchen moment, be it a happy or a disastrous memory?
The most memorable moment occurred one morning when I was making bubble roll for the family breakfast. I used an angel food pan with a removable bottom instead of my solid pan to bake up this treat. Much of the sugar and brown sugar glaze leaked out of the pan and onto the bottom of my oven. After I removed the rolls, I started the self cleaning cycle without a moment’s thought. Before too long, the inside of my oven was filled with flames as the sugar caught on fire. Smoke filled the kitchen, then smoke detector went off, and the fire department was automatically contacted. The young boys across the street were so excited when this huge hook and ladder truck came blazing down our street with lights on and sirens blaring. I had tried to convince the alarm company that the fire was contained, but protocol prevailed. I spent the next week explaining to neighbors that I was just baking :/
6. On those occasions when you want to treat your family, friends and yourself to a special dish/dinner or dessert, what fabulous food do you prepare?
Celebratory meals typically involve beef and chocolate. Hubby Bill mans the grill so he can get the beef as rare as he likes it, and I make a decadent chocolate dessert….like a flourless chocolate cake, chocolate lava cakes, chocolate mousse or a mousse cake. As sides, I keep it simple…a veggie, potatoes, bread and a green salad topped with nuts, berries and cheese.
7. What is the most difficult thing you have ever cooked or baked? Have you or would you do it again?
It was definitely one of my early Daring Bakers’ Challenges: Joconde Imprime/Entremets. The challenge was to make a beautiful, very thin, decorated sponge cake which was used to contain a filling. I had grandiose plans, but ended up with a simple stripe which was both elegant and delicious when filled with chocolate mousse. There were dirty pans, bowls and measuring tools strewn across the kitchen. It took two attempts to get a decent pattern for the cake…but I felt validated when it turned out beautifully. Once was enough!
8. What is your favorite spice and why?
My favorite spice is ginger...hands down. I adore ginger cookies…I make chewy gingersnaps every Christmas for friends and neighbors. Plus I love ginger in my savory cooking…in stir fries, pork bolgoge, and many marinades. It’s such a versatile spice.
9. What is your favorite ingredient, the one you couldn’t live without, the one you use most often?
It’s a toss up between chocolate and butter…but I’ll go with butter. I buy pounds of it at a time…adding a little to the olive oil used to sauté, and of course, in cookies, cakes, pie crusts and an array of other desserts.
10. What food or ingredient repulses you, and why?
I was brainstorming…and could only come up with the typical offenders: liver, brains, that sort of thing. I have dislikes, but nothing of ordinary fare repulses me.
11. What food is your food vice? You know, one you sneak in a little extra of when no one is looking.
I love adding extra vanilla…good homemade vanilla or a high end brand. As a baker, it’s hard to tweak too much on the chance of unbalancing the formula of food chemistry.
12. When you go out to eat what do you go for?
Seafood for sure. My hubby has graduated from his childhood loves of tuna casserole and salmon loaf to actually enjoying a well prepared salmon steak and even shrimp. When we were first married, all fish was off limits unless it came from a can. So I always ordered fish or shellfish when we dined out…and it’s become a habit.
13. Who is your favorite foodie (be it a professional Chef, enthusiast, novice, friend or family)? Have they, do they or how do they inspired you and your baking/cooking?
I grew up watching Julia Child with my mom and sisters on PBS. My first taste of paella was after my mom wrote in to the local station for Julia’s recipe and made it for a party…we thought it was the most marvelous entree we’d ever eaten. When I need a classic French recipe, I tend to search out Julia’s…and I’ve never been disappointed.
14. What is your goal or what do you hope to accomplish with your blog?
I doubt anyone will be offering me a cookbook deal or that I’ll be raking in the dough from advertisers (though my hubby always jokingly asks me when the big money is coming so he can retire!). I just want to share good food and recipes with those looking for them. It brings me such delight when local friends stop to tell me they had success with one of my recipes. So in that respect, my goal has been met.
A new goal is to balance my family life with blogging. I love to share all I cook and bake, but there’s just not time enough in the day to do both well…and home comes first. I’m coming off a crazy stretch of 13 consecutive posts…I usually take weekends off, but had a blog hop and another group blog event. I’d love to cut back to 3 days a week soon as I’m taking on some bigger responsibilities in a couple charitable organizations for which I volunteer….a Decorators’ Showhouse that benefits our county hospital and a prom for the children receiving chemo/cancer treatments at our local children’s hospital.
15. Anything else you would like to say or share with us, tips or advice?
I frequently get asked how I can bake so much without being huge. Even though I love a sliver of something sweet after dinner, I balance it out with healthy eating the rest of the day and generally an hour of exercise. I use my treadmill at least 5 times a week and practice hot yoga 2-3 times a week. I don’t use artificial sweeteners or “light” products…but I do practice portion control. It’s about quality not quantity.
Thank you so much Lizzy, it has been a pleasure. Now everyone head over, say hi and pick out one of Liz’s recipe to try tonight.
Recipes for images in the graphic and photos can be found in the links below.
– Chocolate Sheet Cake
– White Chocolate Cupcakes
– Cream Puffs with Whipped Cream and Berries
– Ganache Topped Chocolate Tart
– White Chocolate Yogurt Mousse
– Mussels with Chorizo and Pasta
– Chocolate Brownie Cookies
– Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake
– Spaghetti Pie
– White Bread
All images are the sole property of Liz Berg and That Skinny Chick Can Bake. Graphic design by Spicie Foodie. Please do not use any of the images or graphics without prior written consent. Thank you.