The theme of Jessica Maher’s food blog is “fearless in the kitchen.” That’s why I never miss a new post that she writes. There is always something intriguing, delicious or mind blowing coming out of this woman’s kitchen. Her blog is Kitchen Bellicious and I urge you to visit and get to know Jessica. You’ll be glad you did.
When I asked her how she got bit by the cooking love bug, it started back when she was in college. She’d go to the bookstores with a notebook and pen and copy down recipes or look up cooking methods and then dash home and cook. You might think she was a nerd back then but I promise you, she’s no nerd. I suspect she’s a wild and crazy woman during fun time. Like all food lovers, cooking and recipe creation ARE what we love to do.
Once college was over and her married life had begun in their first home, nothing made her happier than cooking for her new husband, family and friends. When they asked how she made each dish she either said, “Uhhh, I don’t know, I just tossed things together and it worked.” (I believe this is where fearless in the kitchen was born!)
After being asked over and over for recipes, the idea of writing down how she made things and creating a blog to share with her friends seemed like the way to go. I’m so glad she did. I’ve learned a lot from her blog. I have learned that I need to make my own crackers. I look at her recipe for Whole Grain Cheese Crackers with Sea Salt and I get all weak in the knees. Then there are her Dill Soda Crackers that make me want to be a cracker maker. Don’t get me started on her homemade goldfish crackers.
Like all of us, she has made a few oopses in the kitchen. If I make a recipe and it’s a flop, I’ll make it again and tweak it to how I think it would work better. If that is a #fail, then I move on to something else. Jessica has been known to make something five times just to get one recipe right. What do folks say about perseverence? She’s got it in spades.
Jessica is a true foodie at heart. She thinks about food from morning til night and if you present her with a dish and don’t give her the recipe, she’ll get in her kitchen and work at it until she can recreate it. That’s true passion for food.
I asked her why she makes a recipe over and over, tweaking it just the tiniest bit. She asked me if I’d ever tried her chocolate chip cookies! Okay, ’nuff said. I get the point. She loves seeing smiles on the faces of her family and her friends. Jessica has a gorgeous smile but she’ll admit that she’s a bit shy when meeting new people. Food breaks the ice for her, either creating things for people to eat or just talking about food.
When American kids grow up, potatoes are one of the first vegetables we learned to eat. Until recently, Jessica didn’t like mashed potatoes and didn’t eat them fried or stuffed til she was a teenager. Now that’s fussy. 🙂
Strolling through Kitchen Belleicious and seeing all the wonderful food, I think about how difficult it must be with a home to look after, a husband to care for and a 2 year old and a 9 week old infant to look after and nurture. I work and do my blog and I’m exhausted.
For her blog inspiration she looks to Ree Drummond at thepioneerwoman.com before looking at Giada or Ina. Why? Because Ree started with nothing but her love of food and cooking and turned it into the biggest blog and a career. I have to agree with her on this one. Ree is definitely amazing and down-to-earth real.
When asked what part of her blog she likes best, she’s quick to admit that it’s definitely NOT the photography because she doesn’t feel she’s mastered the art of food photography yet. I can so relate to that. One of these days we’ll both have to take a course in photographing food. The cooking is what she enjoys most.
If I could just have someone video me the whole time where I didn’t have to write or take pictures that would be great! Any Takers?
I would if I got to eat it when she was finished. Maybe we could draw straws?
She waxed romantic when I asked where she’d go to eat anywhere in the world if she could. It’s to Baton Rouge, Louisiana to a small Italian restaurant where she and her husband had their first date. All together now.. Awwwww. Not only that.. it was on Valentines Day. My eyes are welling up.
The best enchilada you could ever eat comes from Jessica’s kitchen. If you don’t believe me, ask her. She’ll tell you that her Green Chicken Chile Enchiladas are known all around town and it’s t he recipe she’s most proud of. She mised together different flavors and spices with green chiles (one of her favorites) and lo and behold, the best enchilada ever.
Jessica would be most at home having dinner with her heros Bobby Flay, Michael Simon and Tom Colicchio. I can see her batting her eyelashes at these three giants. Not to flirt with them but to get their recipes!
Her cuisine or culinary style she would most like to be known for is, well, you probably guessed it — fearless. “I wish to be known for my fearlessness in the kitchen. Not caring whether I know how to do a recipe or if I have the ingredients but just doing it and improvising along the way. I think of recipes as a blueprint. That is my motto!”
Take away Jessica’s spice drawer she’d grab paprika, garlic powder and papper before you got out the door and when you checked the rest, the Cajun seasoning would be gone too. She doesn’t want to cook without these. I’m not sure which of them would go into her quick, easy and delicious go-to meal of lasagna rolls but they are her favorite to cook. “If you have lasagna sheets then you can make lasagna rolls. Just use whatever ingredients you have on hand as long as you’ve got ricotta, you’re good to go!”
A new food writer could take good advice from Jessica when she advises a new food blogger to take your time. She said when she first began her blog, she’d cook really fast and take one shot at the end for her blog. She only wishes she could start over and take her time and photograph each step of her recipes. “Take LOTS of photos – good ones too. I get embarrassed when I see my pictures from the start.” I think every food blogger can relate to that feeling. I certainly can.
She’s also a clean as she goes cook. She can’t go from one step to the next without cleaning up and putting away. “I’m really OCD about it to the point where my family makes fun of me.” I need to be more OCD, obviously.
I asked her how she sees food writing on the net evolving and she said when she started blogging everyone was making easy classic dishes and now heaps of people are doing crazy things with crazy ingredients and she loves it. She loves the variety she can find by visiting other blogs. It gives cooks of all ages and levels the inspiration to try new things. “My favorite new trend is the different blog hops – the ones where you get a secret ingredient to use in a dish. It makes you step out of the box and gives you a challenge. I love a challenge.”
Many of you know that my focus is about food memories and how they last a lifetime. Sometimes a meal or even an aroma can trigger the best memories. Jessica’s best food memory is another “awwww” moment because the recipe she has the best emotions from is Bananas Foster. She had it on her first date with the man she now proudly calls husband. Jessica told me that he was amazing company but she likes to joke and say that the bananas foster was the highlight of the night. “Seriously, it was amazing!” This is her recreation of the classic dessert – Banana Foster Bars. She says they are out of this world and now her little boy is in love with them. It’s cute that a dessert that brought his parents together is one that he loves. Okay maybe the dessert didn’t bring them together but it must have urged a second date!
- 1 stick of butter, softened
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 egg, slightly beaten
- 1 tsp rum extract
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup flour
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp salt
- 3 very ripe bananas
- 2 tsp vanilla
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ¾ cup brown sugar
- 4 TBSP butter
- In a large bowl mix together the butter and sugar and add the egg and vanilla.
- In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients.
- Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.
- Pour all but ¼ of the batter evenly into a greased 9 inch square pan. Bake at 350F for 20 minutes.
- Set aside to cool.
- Meanwhile let’s make the banana layer for the bars.
- Over low heat, melt butter, sugar and cinnamon stirring until almost dissolved.
- Add in the bananas and sauté for another 3-5 minutes until all the sugar has been dissolved.
- Mash the bananas with a potato masher and spread evenly over the cooled cookie bars.
- Top with the remaining dough by crumbling it over the banana filling.
- Bake at 350F for an additional 10 minutes until the top is nice and slightly golden brown.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 day before cutting into 2 inch squares.