Featured Chef – Cook With Jam Recipe Winner
Jam is a great addition to many meals and dishes and based on the many entries we received in our “Cook With Jam” recipe contest, our home chefs have shown us all the different creative ways to use JAM as on a key cooking ingredient! You can use jam in this Blackberry Chick Wings recipe, you can use jam in a Chocolate Cake, but the one that made our sponsor, WeLoveJam.com drooled the most was a Strawberry Almond Custard Pie by Chef Maiah03. Here’s her story about her winning recipe and she shares with us some of her cooking tips!
How old were you when you started cooking and what was the 1st dish you made?
The kitchen in my parents’ house has always been a warm, comforting room that my family and friends tend to gather in. Some of my earliest memories are of my parents cooking in the kitchen, and I distinctly remember being about 6 or 7 when my twin sister and I started “helping” my mom bake cookies. We’d make oatmeal cookies with chocolate chips instead of raisins–we were adamant that raisins did not belong in oatmeal cookies and surprisingly, she agreed–and my mom let us mix the dough with a large wooden spoon, a task I took very seriously.
What does cooking mean to you and what are your fave dishes to cook?
I personally follow a vegan and gluten-free lifestyle, and enjoy making treats that taste great and are good for the body. I have a pretty rockin’ recipe for espresso oat cookies, and my vegan take on my mom’s chocolate zucchini cake is to die for. I take great pride in baking desserts that are indistinguishable from desserts made with traditional fats, oils and animal products. Cooking and baking is a way to channel my creativity, and produce something I can be proud of. I love creating things that are healthy and visually appealing, and the compliments and feedback I get is very rewarding. I hope to open my own bakery one day, with both traditional and vegan and gluten-free options, so that there is something for everyone to enjoy.
What’s the inspiration behind your winning recipe – Strawberry Almond Custard Pie?
I had a bunch of strawberries I needed to find a use for, and was trying to think of a dish that was unique and healthier than a traditional pie. I love finding ways to sweeten things without sugar, and the combination of fruit, jam and honey seemed like a good way to sweeten a pie naturally to keep it fresh and light. Get Strawberry Almond Custard Pie recipe here.
Any kitchen blunders or nightmares that still haunt you till this day?
One time I tried to make cookies with garbanzo beans (I found a recipe in a cookbook so I figured it would work fine) but they tasted terrible! I like healthy things, but a cookie that tastes like a bean was too much, even for me. My younger brother Colin will still not let me live this down. I’ve honed my baking skills primarily through trial and error, and I’ve made some pretty big errors with trying to be too healthy. My brother-in-law won’t eat my baking without making sure first that there is no tofu involved.
What are your go-to time-saving & budget-friendly cooking tips?
Buy things in bulk! I buy a sack of oats at a time, and if a recipe calls for quick oats, just throw some old-fashioned oats in the food processor or blender. If you don’t have oil, use applesauce or mashed banana–it’s healthier and tastier, too. Also learn when to splurge and when to save–good quality chocolate is a must; name brand baking soda is not. And the best time-saving tip is to read a recipe, at least once, if not twice, fully before even starting the recipe. I’ve skipped steps or had to dash over to a neighbor’s for flour too often; making sure you know what’s ahead and what’s in the recipe is a huge necessity.
What are your fave kitchen tools or gadgets?
I adore my stand mixer and food processor! I use the processor to flavor sugar. Process lavender or even basil with sugar and them store them to infuse the flavors. The infused sugar lends a nice touch to desserts.