Home » Entertaining » Expert Interview Series: Becky Brown of My Utensil Crock About Cooking Options For People On the Go

Expert Interview Series: Becky Brown of My Utensil Crock About Cooking Options For People On the Go

Cooking options for people on the go

Becky Brown targets her smart writing to busy professionals with an interest in healthy, easy, delicious recipes. Becky sat down with us recently to share her thoughts on cooking trends, cooking classes, and cooking options for people who have hectic schedules.

Tell us a bit about your cooking background. Why did you choose My Utensil Crock as the name of your blog?

I started cooking for myself when I had my first apartment by myself during law school – chicken stir-fry, lasagna, that sort of thing. Once I graduated, I loved how cooking and entertaining translated to creative time by myself and social time with friends.

The ceramic crock on my kitchen counter filled with my most-used gadgets is where I first turn when I need something in the kitchen; so when I was looking for a functional way to organize my most useful tools in the kitchen – recipes, tips, tricks, and more – my mind’s eye kept falling on … My Utensil Crock.

It seems like everybody wants to eat healthier these days. What’s your approach to cooking healthy foods and meals?

My philosophy is that if I eat healthy at home, I have more leeway to splurge a bit when I am out. I try to be realistic and not attempt to plan a healthy homemade meal for every breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

On My Utensil Crock, I share some easy, healthy, fast breakfast ideas. It sounds so trite, but I have to start the day with a healthy filling meal, or else it’s all downhill from there.

The easiest weekday and weeknight lunches and dinners are often a lean meat like roasted or poached chicken, with a grain and a vegetable or a big kale salad. I like to make comfort food like casseroles and chili – with healthy twists and ingredients – in larger batches to have throughout the week and to freeze some portions for lazy nights.

As someone who teaches cooking classes, how should a novice chef choose from the numerous different cooking classes that are offered in their area? What should they realistically expect to get out of one of these classes?

There are two types of cooking classes: demonstration classes, where the instructor makes all the food and serves it to you (a few people may be called up to assist with small tasks); and hands-on classes, where the students make everything themselves (a small subset of this type of class might have different students making different dishes). Demonstration classes are cheaper (and some would say more relaxing!), while hands-on classes offer the opportunity to learn by doing and ask the instructor questions that arise while you are trying it out.

A good cooking class description will spell out the menu in detail before you reserve your seat. To me, it’s important to be excited about the entire menu, because cooking classes can be expensive and I want to be able to enjoy all of it that night and potentially make the menu again after the class.

When I give legal training in my day job at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, I tell my law enforcement officer students that I will be thrilled that if after the presentation they can articulate just three things they learned. The same is true for cooking classes. No matter if you are in a basic class or one that seems over your head, you should aim to finish the class with three takeaways, whether they be new cooking preparations, tips on how to hold or use certain utensils, or information on ingredients with which you were not familiar before.

What are some of the current food or cooking trends that you’re seeing right now?

I love that cooking itself is a trend right now and serves as a conversation starter for many people you wouldn’t have suspected. I love bowls – grains, vegetables, protein, and sauces. I’m working on getting into spiralizing. I just bought a spiralizer attachment for my stand mixer, and can’t wait to get started with zucchini and sweet potatoes. Oh, and s’mores everything. Who doesn’t love s’mores?!

For someone with a full-time job, is it possible to make weeknight meals which have a “foodie flair?”

Sure, but for weeknights, I find it is helpful to manage expectations. Maybe try a recipe you are comfortable with, but change or add one ingredient. Try “fried rice” with a different grain, like quinoa. Or add sautéed kale to your meatloaf. Food delivery services often provide you with “foodie” angles, but some people feel like prepared kits are “cheating;” it’s really a personal preference.

What about leftovers? Should the words “foodie” and “leftovers” ever be in the same sentence together?

If you liked it when it was first served, you shouldn’t turn your nose up at it the next night or if it’s reinvented. I mentioned fried quinoa above; I make that dish with all sorts of leftovers, like chicken or shrimp and odds and ends of vegetables. Remnants from a charcuterie and cheese board will make a delicious topping for a flatbread. And my bets are on your leftover steak and veggies stealing the show in a delicious weekend egg scramble or quiche filling.

Let’s say someone is having a small dinner party with foodie friends, and he or she wants to serve a meal that’s not too difficult to prepare but that will still impress them. Do you have any ideas?

Something I have learned over the last decade-plus of entertaining is that people are actually pretty easy to please. How about a slow-braised brisket (made and cleaned up the day before and just placed in the oven to heat before dinner), roasted potatoes, and a kale salad, with indoor s’mores for dessert? Or mixed-grill kabobs – shrimp, steak, and chicken – made on your grill or under your broiler in just a few minutes? Providing options is appreciated by guests and looks impressive as well. Try serving the skewers with a cold gazpacho made in your food processor, rounded out with brownies and ice cream.

Finally, do you have a favorite foodie treat or dessert recipe that you’d like to share with us?

It is so hard to choose! How about these Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies made with Coconut Oil and Whole Wheat Flour? Try making and portioning the dough in advance, and popping them in the oven when you have company to serve warm cookies fresh out of the oven!

Cooking options for people on the go

INGREDIENTS
.5 c packed brown sugar
.5 c sugar
.5 c coconut oil, softened (not melted)
1 egg + 1 egg white
.5 t vanilla
1.25 c whole wheat flour
.5 t baking soda (heaping)
.5 t kosher salt
.75 c quick oats
.5 c rolled oats
.5 c chocolate chips {or more}

INSTRUCTIONS
1. Heat the oven to 350.
2. In a large bowl using a mixer, mix the brown sugar, sugar, and coconut oil until they are creamed together and the color starts to lighten (1-2 minutes).
3. Add the egg, egg white, and vanilla and mix for a minute.
4. Stir or mix in the flour, baking soda, and salt.
5. Add the oatmeal (both kinds) and stir until barely combined. Add the chocolate chips and mix until combined.
6. Scoop the cookie dough into 1-inch balls and place 1-2 inches apart on a lined (with parchment or a Silpat liner) or greased baking sheet.
7. Bake for 11-13 minutes, until the edges start to brown. The middles can stay soft – yum.
8. You may want to let the cookies sit on the pan for a minute or two before removing them to a cooling rack. I usually just leave mine on the pan, but if you are worried they will overcook, remove them to cool.

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