One Blogger Explains Why He Loves to Cook—and Shares His Favorite Brunch Recipe

Derek Campanile, father and blog owner of Dad with a Pan, walks us through his culinary journey and shows dads why cooking is so important.

Being a dad is a lot of work, but that doesn’t mean he can’t get busy in the kitchen! Derek Campanile, creator of pro-dad cooking blog Dad with a Pan, wants to help dads get their foodie start and spotlights the values of cooking, family and spending time around the table.

Taste of Home: Where are you from?

Derek Campanile: California. Born in Northern California, then made my way down to Southern California when I was a kid. I’ve been here and there in SoCal, constantly moving, but we’ve (hopefully) planted our feet in Orange County.

TOH: Who or what in your life sparked your interest in cooking?

DC: My earliest memory cooking was when my mother taught me how to scramble eggs. After that, I’ve always seemed to enjoy cooking and would take any opportunity available to grow. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s something about sizzling food on a pan that is highly satisfying to me.

TOH: What do you love most about cooking? The “why” of why you cook!

DC: I love the feeling I get when what I made is really good and others enjoy it. I normally have a sense of a meal being a success, but I feel I’m probably biased to my own cooking. So, whenever I cook for others, I’m always peeking out of the corner of my eye to see if they’ve eaten it all or are going for more. That’s when I know I’ve done a good job.

TOH: What advice would you give to new dads starting out in the kitchen?

DC: Start with easy to follow recipes and tweak 10% of it to make it your own and go from there. Also, have grilled cheese on deck if that recipe was a disaster!

TOH: Does your family have a favorite dish they request at dinnertime? Which ones?

DC: My wife loves my posole and chicken and dumplings, so if I don’t have those in rotation at least once a season, I’ll be sure to hear about it! Brayden loves my enchiladas, and Kenzie really loves my string cheese. She doesn’t know those come from the store.

TOH: What is your all-time favorite dish to cook?

DC: I love making a fresh batch of marinara sauce on Sundays for spaghetti nights. It’s something I grew up smelling all day on a Sunday and have fond memories of it. So any time the house is smelling of marinara all day is a good day!

(Craving a Sunday spaghetti night of your own? Try these fork-twirlin’-good spaghetti recipes.)
why-i-cook-Derek Campanilecourtesy Derek Campanile

TOH: Have your kids shown any interest in cooking? If so, how do they help out in the kitchen?

DC: Brayden has a passive interest where if I ask him if he wants to help, he always wants to and really enjoys helping with tasks like stirring the pot or helping pour ingredients in. He always asks “Dad, when are we going to do Brayden and Daddy with a Pan?”

Kenzie is a whole other ballgame. Whenever I’m in the kitchen, she tells me she wants to cook, bringing her stool in to come up to the stove and help. I totally look forward to having them both in the kitchen helping with Sunday dinners, but it’s not something I want to force on them.

(If your little one loves the kitchen, too, here’s your go-to guide for cooking with kids.)

TOH: What ingredients do you keep on hand at all times?

DC: Always need the basics: salt, pepper, onions, jalapenos and cilantro. Oh, yeah, and garlic. I think I drive my wife a little nutty with how much garlic I always bring home. I never know if I have any and buy a clove or two to come home and find I already had five!

(We couldn’t agree more, Derek! Here are some more of the most useful ingredients to grab during your grocery haul.)

TOH: How do you balance working in IT, cooking and spending time with your family at the end of the day? Is ordering out ever an option?

DC: It’s definitely a challenge. Finding a schedule or routine helps, but with young kids, those routines can be short-lived. Eating out has been an option, but it’s something we’re trying to keep to a minimum because that bill adds up quicker than you realize. I’m slowly learning that planning out the week’s dinners really helps me to be more efficient when I get home from work. I can get dinner going quicker, spending less time in the kitchen and more time with the family before the kids are off to bed.

TOH: What’s your favorite cuisine to make?

DC: I think it’s a tie between Mexican and Italian food. I think because the base to a lot of those dishes is similar (onion, garlic and tomatoes). Any time you get those ingredients sizzling on the pan, it gets the house smelling so good, and everyone in the house is ready for food to come to the table.

Courtesy Derek Campanile

Derek’s Chimichurri Breakfast Tostadas

Try one of Derek’s favorite recipes. It makes tostadas.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup packed fresh parsley sprigs
  • 1/4 cup chopped sweet red pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, halved
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
  • 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 tostada shells, warmed
  • 1/2 cup crumbled Cotija cheese

Instructions

Step 1: Make the chimichurri

Place first 9 ingredients in a food processor. Add 1/3 cup olive oil and if desired, red pepper flakes. Pulse until desired consistency. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to use.

Step 2: Cook the beans

Meanwhile, place beans in a small saucepan. Cook and stir over medium heat until heated through.

Step 3: Fry the eggs

Heat butter and remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Break eggs, one at a time, into pan; reduce heat to low. Cook until whites are set and yolks begin to thicken, turning once if desired.

Step 4: Load up the tostadas

Top tostada shells with black beans, Cotija cheese and fried eggs; drizzle with chimichurri. Sprinkle with additional Cotija cheese.

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Laurie Dixon
Having a passion for writing her whole life, Laurie joined the Taste of Home team to bring together her two favorite things—creative writing and food. She spends most of her time playing with her dog, drafting up short stories and, of course, trying out new recipes.