Behind the Scenes of Simple & Delicious

You read about their favorite comfort foods in our January/February 2008 issue of Simple & Delicious; now learn about their biggest kitchen disasters, favorite meal to make at home and more!

Mary Spencer

Mary Spencer
Editor

Describe your worst kitchen disaster.
Just after I bought my new house, I decided to cook baked squash one night as part of my dinner. Unfortunately, as I was trying to work my oven, I accidentally locked it and couldn’t get it open. It took me 2 days to unlock the oven and pull out the squash—let’s just say the squash didn’t smell very good!

If there were just one more meal in your future, what would it include?
My mom’s brownies with her special chocolate glaze, lasagna and a really great salad with balsamic vinaigrette dressing.

What’s one treat you just can’t resist?
Chocolate! I think I dream of chocolate sometimes!

Fill in the blank: My favorite kitchen tool is:
My knife set. With a good set of knives, you can do just about anything in the kitchen!

What’s your favorite meal/food to cook at home?
I love to cook stir-fries and pasta dishes. I usually buy a bunch of vegetables and a few meats on grocery trips. From there, I just chop things up and get creative, adding fresh herbs—basil is a favorite—and coming up with my own sauces. I also love to bake. There’s something about fresh baked muffins on a Saturday morning that makes me feel good.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever eaten?
This seems crazy to me now, but it’s not really that crazy. Back when I was ice-skating several hours every day, my skating team could often be found out for breakfast after our 5 a.m. team practice on Saturday mornings. We’d often chow down on waffles with strawberries and extra whipped cream and large milk shakes. These days, that would definitely be cause for a nap, a stomachache or both!

S.K. Enk
Copy Editor

What’s your favorite late-night snack? 
Either a peanut butter (preferably chunky) and jelly (sugar-free) sandwich (on low-carb bread) or, as with so many other folks, cold pizza (with low-fat cheese).

If there were just one more meal in your future, what would it include? 
A gigantic helping of Cincinnati-style six- (or even seven-!) way chili and one of my specialties, blue-cheese-stuffed cheeseburgers.

What’s one treat you just can’t resist? 
Chili—in all its wonderful variety and diversity, from classic Tex-Mex recipes to Cincinnati, “white” chili with chicken or turkey, and so much more.

What’s your favorite ethnic cuisine? 
Thai—even though my need to watch my carb and calorie intake (due to type 2 diabetes) means I must either sharply limit my portions of the wonderful national dish of Thailand, pad Thai, or make it at home using as many low-carb ingredients as possible.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever eaten? 
As a child seeking to do the unconventional, I once had (and recommended to others) ketchup on breakfast pancakes!

Mary Hanson

Mary Hanson
Associate Editor

What’s your favorite late-night snack?
Oatmeal.

What’s one food you’ll never learn to love?
Lima beans.

What’s your favorite ethnic cuisine?
Thai.

What’s your favorite meal/food to cook at home?
Pork tenderloin with roasted veggies.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever eaten?
Lion steak at the old Frenchy’s restaurant in Milwaukee—it was gamy!

Tina Johnson

Tina Johnson
Home Economist

What’s your favorite late-night snack?
Chocolate pudding cake.

Describe your worst kitchen disaster.
My first month here, I was testing a peach cobbler in the Test Kitchen and had just taken it out of the oven and set it on the stove burner to cool. After a bit, there was a loud explosion, and my cobbler blew up. Turns out that at some point, my lab coat must have snagged an oven knob and turned the burner on!

What did you eat for dinner last night?
Nothing. I tested too many good salads…

If there were just one more meal in your future, what would it include?
A perfectly grilled steak, asparagus, a glass of cabernet and a slice of chocolate cheesecake (well, two slices of cheesecake if it’s going to be my last meal).

My favorite kitchen tool is: A bench scraper.

What’s your favorite meal/food to cook at home?
Anything grilled, but I really love grilled flank steak with a homemade grilled corn relish and chimichurri.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever eaten?
My great-grandma used to make my sister and me pork brains and eggs for breakfast. It was one of our favorites. Is that crazy?

Diane Werner

Diane Werner, RD
Food Director

What’s your favorite late-night snack?
Popcorn.
 
What did you eat for dinner last night?
Thai stir-fry.
 
What’s one treat you just can’t resist?
Frozen chocolate coffee ice-cream pie.

What’s your favorite ethnic cuisine?
Thai.

My favorite kitchen tool is: First, my mouth; second is a very good chef’s knife.

What’s your favorite meal/food to cook at home?
Thanksgiving (all of it); I’d do it once a month if people wouldn’t think I was weird.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever eaten?
Fried green-grass salad with a glass of dandelion wine.

Elizabeth Russell

Elizabeth Russell
Associate Editor

Describe your worst kitchen disaster:
I almost knocked myself unconscious with our slow cooker. We had been storing it on top of the refrigerator, and one day, I opened the refrigerator door, which the cooker had been resting on, and it came crashing down on my head. We now store the slow cooker in a cabinet. 

If there were just one more meal in your future, what would it include?
My husband’s company, my mom’s homemade potstickers, a fish fry with potato pancakes from Emily’s Restaurant in Cedar Creek, Wisconsin, and my mother-in-law’s sugar cookies with a piece of cheesecake. Then a nap.

What’s one treat you just can’t resist?
Ice cream or cheese.

What’s your favorite ethnic cuisine?
It’s a tie between Thai and Indian.
 
What’s your favorite meal/food to cook at home?
Anything I’ve never made before and that uses flavors in a new way.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever eaten?
Too many to mention! My dad thrives on getting my sister and me to try new things. With the best of intentions, he’s tricked us into eating cow’s tongue (“It’s a slice of ham,” he said), Czarnina, or duck-blood soup (“It’s cherry soup,” he said) and ostrich burgers (“It’s just ground turkey,” he said). It worked in our favor, as we’re pretty fearless eaters now.

Amy Welk-Thieding, RD
Food Editor

Describe your worst kitchen disaster:
One Thanksgiving, I made homemade yeast rolls and let the dough rise in a warm place near my stove (which happened to be on). Time had passed, and my husband, Kurt, asked me if I smelled bread. I checked the rising dough, and it had gotten so warm that it started baking in the bowl!
 
What’s one treat you just can’t resist?
Nachos or chips with salsa and guacamole.

If there were just one more meal in your future, what would it include?
Lasagna, garlic bread, a green salad, and chocolate cake or ice cream for dessert.
 
My favorite kitchen tool is: A chef’s knife.

What’s your favorite ethnic cuisine?
It’s a pretty close toss-up between Mexican and Italian.

What’s your favorite meal/food to cook at home?
Whole wheat pasta with roasted veggies and grilled chicken tossed in pesto sauce.

John McMillan

John McMillan
Associate Editor

Describe your worst kitchen disaster.
Early one morning, while I was working in a restaurant (after getting off work the night before at 2 a.m.), I was filling up the fryers with yesterday’s grease when I noticed a wetness on my shoes. I had forgotten to shut the grease trap in the fryers, so all 5 gallons of it poured on my sneakers. Since it was a busy day, I couldn’t go home to change them and had to work all day in grease-soaked shoes.

What did you eat for dinner last night?
Homemade fish tacos. Yum!

If there were just one more meal in your future, what would it include?
My mother’s cheese grits. Honestly, there’s nothing finer in the culinary world.

What’s your favorite ethnic cuisine?
Japanese. Without a doubt, sushi is a passion of mine.

My favorite kitchen tool is: My Henkel knives. Especially the vegetable cleaver.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever eaten?
Besides a chocolate-covered larva, the strangest thing I’ve eaten was grilled nutria, which is a giant Louisiana swamp rat. Not so good.

Marilyn Iczkowski

Marilyn Iczkowski
Editorial Assistant

What’s your favorite late-night snack?
Chips and dip or popcorn.

What’s one food you’ll never learn to love?
Spinach.

What did you eat for dinner last night?
Tacos.

What’s your favorite ethnic cuisine?
Italian.

If there were just one more meal in your future, what would it include?
A baked potato with sour cream.
 
What’s your favorite meal/food to cook at home?
Chili.

Nicholas Mork

Nicholas Mork
Art Director

What’s your favorite late-night snack?
If I get home late from working out, I’ll eat ANYTHING in the fridge. Otherwise, it’s my classic cheese popcorn, made with no less than a half a stick of butter and my secret ingredient: the powdered cheese from a box of mac ’n’ cheese.

What did you eat for dinner last night?
Elk steak, asparagus and some red potatoes.

What’s one treat you just can’t resist?
Bacon!

What’s your favorite ethnic cuisine?
I’m not sure that it’s a cuisine, but I really love sushi.

My favorite kitchen tool is: a 10” nonstick pan. I cook everything in it.
 
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever eaten?
I was at a taco stand in Mexico, and they had cow-brain tacos. I had two of them and got an A on my next college exam!