With 20 years’ experience as a Volunteer Field Editor, Joan Hallford sure knows her way around the kitchen. We sat down with this proud Texan home cook to learn a bit about how she approaches cooking and recipe creation.
Taste of Home: What was the very first thing you learned to cook?
Joan Hallford: My mom started my love of cooking with a cake recipe. She helped me with the measuring and stirring; I just had so much fun that I was hooked for life. I’ve been baking and cooking ever since.
TOH: What’s the one kitchen tool you can’t live without?
JH: Hands down, it’s my Kitchen Aid stand mixer. It really makes life in the kitchen much easier. (We’re guessing Joan never made one of these mistakes with her stand mixer.) The other tool I love is called the Saucinator. It’s a jazzed-up whisk that looks a little silly, but it sure does the job better than any other I’ve had.
TOH: What’s on your recipe bucket list?
JH: Believe it or not, fish! I rarely cook with fish because we really don’t get a lot of fresh fish in our area. It’s one I’d really like to try. I splurged on an air fryer this year and I’m hoping to come up with some great fish recipes using it. (Hey, Joan: Here are a few easy fish recipes to get you started.)
TOH: When it’s just too hot to cook, what do you order in?
JH: Papa Murphy’s pizza. You just can’t beat it.
TOH: What do you do when you’re not cooking?
JH: When I’m not cooking, I’m researching new recipes. I just have so much fun in the kitchen. I also love to read, and my husband and I like to travel, too. We’ve been on several cruises, the food is always the best.
TOH: What’s your favorite freezer meal to have on-hand?
JH: Dessert, of course! I keep Banana Split Salad in the freezer. It’s just such a wonderful dessert. Everyone always asks for more.
TOH: How did you become such a confident cook?
JH: Staying organized, for sure. Learning to have everything where I need it, sticking to the recipe and just practicing the techniques. I didn’t become confident overnight; it took many years of cooking for me to really feel like I knew what I was doing. Feedback from my husband helped a lot.
TOH: What’s your favorite season for cooking?
JH: Gosh, that’s a tough one but I think I’d have to go with fall. The fall fruits and veggies are just wonderful. As it cools off (just a bit, this is Texas) we enjoy more soups and stews. Desserts with apples or pumpkin, too. Now I can’t wait for fall to get here! (We’ve got ya covered with these fall recipes, Joan).
TOH: Tell us about your funniest kitchen flop.
JH: We were having company over for dinner and I had just prepared a delicious dinner. When I took dinner off the stove, I popped a bread pudding in the oven, so it would be done in time for dessert. When the time came I pulled this beautiful pudding out, dished everyone up and waited for the ooh’s and aah’s. Instead, everyone had a strange look on their face! Turns out I had completely forgotten to put sugar in the pudding! Thankfully everyone had a good laugh about it. Psst: Check out these tips from culinary schools.
TOH: What’s one piece of advice you’d give someone who’s just too busy to cook?
JH: I really think that creating shortcuts is the best way to get dinner done when you have no time. Find recipes that only require 30 minutes to prepare or use the microwave for help in the kitchen. Also, recruit the kids to help. Not only will that save time, but it teaches them valuable skills like my mom did with me. Plus plan ahead, make a menu every week and prep everything on the weekend. Don’t be afraid to use a few prepared ingredients. Home-cooked doesn’t always have to be 100% from scratch.