Kitchen Aids: Three talented bloggers share their cooking inspiration to help you find your own
By Lauren Wells
THE ALMOND EATER
Erin Druga experienced an “Aha!” moment when she finally arrived at the perfect name for her blog. “Almonds are my favorite snack. It just clicked,” says the author of The Almond Eater, which debuted last spring. Druga describes herself as a “kitchen experimenter,” spending much of her free time developing and perfecting her cooking and baking skills with a distinct focus on healthy, whole foods. While she faces no nutritional restrictions of her own, The Almond Eater’s recipe collection is suitable for readers of all dietary needs, and includes several vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options — think Edamame Dip, Lemon Basil Roasted Chickpeas, and Potato & Kale Soup. “I don’t follow any one diet,” she says. “I’m on the ‘Erin’ diet, which consists of 80 percent whole foods and 20 percent indulgences.” Much to our delight, many of these “indulgences” are essentially guilt-free. A serious advocate of snacking made healthier, Druga strives to incorporate as many nutrient-packed ingredients into her desserts and snack items as possible to complement her active lifestyle — and her sweet tooth. Her favorite treat? No-Bake Chocolate Coconut Bites, in which dates are the not-so-secret ingredient. “They act as a glue to hold the bites together,” she shares. This summer, Druga plans to take her passion for food to the next level by becoming a professional health coach, and is excited to be a part of Pittsburgh’s food revolution. “I’d like to help people become more aware of what they’re putting into their bodies,” she explains. Sounds like a recipe for success to us!
Connect on Twitter: @TheAlmondEater
THE GIRL IN THE BLUE APRON
Growing up in a “family of foodies” that was one part Sicilian and one part Bavarian had a positive, permanent effect on Elisa Becze’s zeal for cooking. As a child, she remembers vividly the unusual dishes her grandparents would prepare, ranging from head cheese, to various animal tongues, to squid ink pasta. Today, she juxtaposes the foods of her heritage with a more modern approach to cooking. “I like to use ingredients in a nontraditional way and to challenge my expectations for certain foods,” she says. This adventurous streak is perhaps what encouraged Becze to start blogging. The Girl in the Blue Apron — affectionately named after a beautiful blue apron she received as a birthday gift — emphasizes Becze’s love for experimentation as well as local, natural, and unprocessed ingredients. Though she’d always been a health-conscious eater, this self-proclaimed “food nerd” was prompted to shift to a more heavily plant-based diet after enduring a running injury in 2013. Now, her favorite recipes include fruits, veggies, and power foods, such as quinoa and chia seeds. Always eager to share her culinary creations with her readers, Becze explains that she most enjoys blogging “to show how easy it is to prepare and eat real food that doesn’t come from a box.” Indeed, The Girl in the Blue Apron’s recipes are simple, approachable, and never without a dash of humor. “Experts and I do not recommend eating the chia seeds that came with your Chia Pet,” she writes alongside a recipe for Dark Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding. Here in the Edible Allegheny kitchen, we were personally inspired by Becze’s Beet-Berry Smoothie, a superbly delicious and “sneaky way to add vegetables to your breakfast.”
“Mistakes happen, things burn, dishes break. But [cooking] is about moving on from those mistakes.” If there’s any self-taught chef who understands the trial and error required to master the kitchen, it’s Julia “Jewels” Panian, whose encouraging attitude guides the narrative for her step-by-step cooking and craft blog, Oven Lovin’. Though she’ll tell you that it all started with “a poorly photographed post on homemade beef stew,” Panian has certainly come a long way, learning, teaching, and inspiring with every recipe. At heart, she’s a traditional cook, and a firm believer that the more time you invest in a meal, the better it will taste. “I’ll always make pie crust from scratch, or knead the bread dough by hand,” she shares. “Something is lost when you cut corners.” This attention to detail, combined with a limitless ingredient list and willingness to experiment, makes for some seriously tasty dishes. For Panian, the proper use of alcohol can add a “comforting, exotic quality to any meal” — her original recipe for Maple-Bourbon Glazed Salmon, for instance, or something simpler, like pasta sauce with a splash of wine. Other Oven Lovin’ recipes, such as Parmesan Low-Carb Meatloaf and Sugar Snap Pea Salad, prove that this expeditious blogger is ready to take on the challenge of appealing to all palates — and all skill levels. “Anyone can cook,” says Panian. “It just takes invested time and practice. My goal is to make cooking accessible.” Mission accomplished.
Connect on Twitter: @jewelsy
+ Craving BBQ? Stay tuned to Oven Lovin’ for a summery series on classic favorites to bring to your next picnic!
Do U tweet? Connect with us @edibleAllegheny, and then, check in with these local accounts!
The Mac & Gold Truck
New to the city’s food truck roundup, Mac & Gold is fully equipped and ready to serve you with cheesy goodness. Tweets include updates on schedules, locations, and menu changes.
Chateau Café & Cakery
Craving coffee and pastries, or cheesesteaks and burgers? Located in the North Side, this charming café has it all. Send its “Sweet Geeks” a tweet to find out what’s cookin’.
Round Corner Cantina
This weather calls for sangria, and Lawrenceville’s friendly Cantina invites you to quench your thirst. Add to your Twitter feed to track events, happy hours, and other specials.
Big Y Patisserie
The only thing sweeter than The Big Y Group’s desserts is the fact that you can track them on Twitter. Follow for sweet treat updates at Sonoma, Seviche, NOLA on the Square, and Perlé.