Why I Cook, with Vianney Rodriguez

This blogger and cookbook author shares her passion for Tex-Mex cooking, plus the recipes that taste like home to her.

Jason David Page

On her blog, Sweet Life, South Texas native Vianney Rodriguez specializes in creative takes on the Tex-Mex recipes she grew up watching her family cook. She’s now a recipe developer and cookbook author, using her talents in the kitchen as a celebration and exploration of her culture. Snag a copy of The Tex-Mex Slow Cooker ($15) to see for yourself. We talked with her about the inspiration behind her cooking and the stories she shares with her fans.

Taste of Home: How did you get started in the kitchen?

Vianney Rodriguez: It all began with my abuelita (grandmother)—she was making pumpkin empanadas. I was watching her from the hallway hoping she would ask me to help. I was seven years old and in complete awe of how graceful she was. She noticed my desire to help, and asked me to fill and seal the empanadas—I was in heaven. I’ve been cooking ever since.

(There’s just something so magical about Grandma’s cooking. Find 100 of Grandma’s best recipes here.)

TOH: How did you begin blogging?

VR: I began my blog in hopes that I would teach myself how to bake—which never really worked out. One evening at dinner mi carino (husband) suggested I share my recipe for frijoles de olla. I laughed and said, “No one wants to hear about my beans!” But eventually, I did share the recipe, along with a story of my abuelita and mom. The response was amazing. I received so many wonderful emails from readers who shared how their tia (aunt), abuelita or mom had made beans, but they had never written down the recipe. This is when my blog shifted into what it is today, the plates of my childhood.

Slow cooker churrosJason David Page

TOH: What inspired you to write your own cookbook?

VR: I wanted to create a cookbook packed with the wonderful flavors of Tex-Mex that could easily be made in the slow cooker. We are all so busy during the week, but at the end of day I look forward to gathering around the dinner table to enjoy a great meal with my family. With my cookbook The Tex-Mex Slow Cooker, I wanted dinner to be one less thing for busy families to worry about. They would come home to a comforting meal to enjoy with their families.

Vianney and slow cookerJason David Page

TOH: Do you have a favorite dish that’s specific to South Texas?

VR: Carne guisada, a favorite Tejano dish. It was one of the first recipes I tested for my new cookbook. At a book signing, a reader told me that my carne guisada recipe was better than her mother-in-law’s. That absolutely made my day. Some of my other cooking specialties are frijoles, my fajitas are out of this world, and I’m always down to shake up a margarita.

(We’re big margarita lovers, too. Try any of our best margarita recipes at your next get-together.)

TOH: Do you have a secret weapon in the kitchen?

VR: My slow cooker. In the summer it is my go-to kitchen gadget for its versatility, but also there’s nothing worse than having to crank on the oven in summer in Texas.

(It’s no surprise we’re slow-cooker super fans, too. Hop on the bandwagon with our 100 most-shared slow cooker recipes.)

TOH: What do you love to do when you’re not in the kitchen?

VR: I enjoy traveling throughout Texas. Texas has some of the greatest cities packed with amazing culture, people, art and food! I enjoy meeting and chatting with the locals who are continuing their family’s tradition of cooking up great food. Enchiladas, brisket, kolaches, tacos or salsa Texans are some of the most passionate cooks.

(We can vouch for the passion behind Texan home cooks. From stuffed poblanos to tortilla pie, check out some of our favorite recipes from Texas locals.)

Vianney and daughtersJason David Page

TOH: What’s your favorite thing about cooking? The “why” of why you cook!

VR: My familia. I cook to share my culture, heritage and the flavor of my abuelita and mami. I want our family’s dishes to continue generation after generation. My daughter is currently enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America to be a chef; seeing her face light up when we spend time in the kitchen making my mami’s mole is the whole reason why I cook.

Next, read about why Lauren Ash, of Superstore fame, cooks.

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Rachel Seis
As deputy editor for Taste of Home magazine, Rachel has her hand in everything you see from cover to cover, from writing and editing articles to taste-testing recipes to ensuring every issue is packed with fun and fabulous content. She'll roll up her sleeves to try any new recipe in the kitchen—from spicy Thai dishes (her favorite!) to classic Southern comfort food (OK...also her favorite). When she's not busy thinking of her next meal, Rachel can be found practicing yoga, going for a run, exploring National Parks and traveling to new-to-her cities across the country.