This is my best friend, otherwise referred to by her god-given name Amanda Hill.
I could call her many things, but we will leave nicknames where they belong: in the past. This person has seen me through some dark (and by dark I mean sometimes strange, and very embarrassing) times. I’ll also spare everyone inside joke references because–let’s be honest–no one likes reading that. I will say I absolutely love that we are so different, yet have seemed to remain close through the years. I’d also like to say I believe her to be the CeCe to my Jess, which I feel is the best description to date. Alas, she hasn’t seen New Girl, so I don’t think she finds as much enjoyment out of it as I do.
One thing we do have in common: food. I trust Amanda with her recommendations when I come visit Nashville, as I often do. Coming back and visiting your hometown is a bizarre experience, but Amanda has helped me enjoy the city I grew up in in a whole new way. Nashville has grown into an amazing culinary hot spot, and she seems to know all of the right places to go. I have grown to adore Nashville Hot Chicken, which I experienced with her first. I love eating at Silly Goose, Burger Up, and Rosepepper. All restaurants I experienced because of Amanda.
I’m also really proud of her because while she likes to eat, she finds the time and energy to exercise and stay healthy (something that makes us very different). She has been involved many organized fitness runs (what I like to call those), and even a big run from Chattanooga to Nashville called Ragnar. She is a better woman than I.
Hark! She also cooks! I’ve had many a morning that looks like this:
but I have returned the favor a time or two…
Although that meal was at 4 in the morning a couple years back…and it was just whatever I had in my pantry. Ala Hot Mess. Amanda’s meals tend to be full of flavor, clean, and very delicious. I tend to cook with lots of butter and salt, which is also delicious. Again, we are very different.
So, I know we never really cooked in high school at all. When did you start cooking?
Like most, when I got out of college, I was like…what? I ordered out for every meal, gained tons of weight and had no money. Eventually, it was time to end that habit. I had been really intimidated by planning meals and all that entailed. When I finally learned that there are simple ways to make delicious food and spend only half an hour doing so, I was hooked. I remember the first thing I ever “made” when I entered into my cooking renaissance was a reuben. Laughable. That is called food assembly, Amanda, not cooking.
There’s something so relaxing about assembling a meal, which was something I had never known before. Sometimes ordering out seems simple, but then you have to go get it, bring it back and you just kind of feel…unsatisfied (*most of the time). Some of my favorite time spent is in the kitchen after a long day of working with some music on in the background.
I would have to agree with you on that. I find cooking to be very therapeutic (now backed by science). Is there anything you study to further your knowledge of cooking/baking?
Food blogs are things of distraction for me during the workday. Jessica Merchant from How Sweet It Is is my absolute favorite. Though some cooks can focus too much on perfect presentation, she makes everything seem doable and fun. As a writer, I have to mention that her tone is filled with enthusiasm and hilarity – two of my favorite things. She once convinced me to make buffalo chicken enchiladas by mentioning it was her “favorite meal ever, ever ever”, and it’s been one of my go-to’s ever since.
As cliché as it sounds, I’m a country girl at heart. My favorite meal will always have mashed potatoes (NO gravy), fried okra and macaroni and cheese involved. My grandpa calls it my “starch plate”. Forget the meat, give me the carbs and nobody gets hurt.
Now that I’ve developed my own cooking style, I love the simplicity of well-seasoned salmon, a good salad and some quinoa.
Also, cheese dip. I’ve been known to stick my finger in the bowl to make up for what the spoon/chip can’t find.
Well, other than the cheese dip, that all sounds very healthy and satisfying. Let’s get down to business. What was a favorite decadent dessert you’ve had?
Really? I don’t…I mean, ok. First thing that comes to mind? These melt-in-your-mouth beignets I had from V Seagrove when I was visiting Seaside, FL in 2012. I had only ever had beignets from Café du Monde once, and I have to say – didn’t get the hype; however, V changed my mind. They had this hot chocolate dipping sauce and, wow, I definitely ordered some “to-go” just to eat later.
Yum. Really, yum. I want some banana gelato now that you’ve mentioned it. What would you say you’re favorite kind of flavor is?
Sweet and salty. I’ve always been a “salty over sweet” person, but the two mixed together will leave me choking down an entire pint of Jeni’s brown butter almond brittle ice cream. Or should I mention Flipz? That’s right, I went there.
Favorite cooking utensil/kitchen appliance:
This is where I could say my KitchenAid mixer to sound really fancy, but that would be a total lie. I have one (foodie cred), but normally I am too busy on weeknights to use it. My favorite kitchen combo has to be the spatula. I love the name, I love the functionality, it’s easy to clean, it’s easy to use, doesn’t require batteries. Love it.
Who taught you the most about cooking/baking?
My mom and both of my grandmas
What’s a favorite memory about cooking/baking for you?
Every year I make Christmas cookies with my mom, and it makes me feel like I’m five again. There’s something so familiar about it. The scents, the edible glitter and sprinkles. It’s magical.
Amanda’s Famous Roasted Vegetable Party Salad
1 red bell pepper
2 heads of broccoli
1 head of cauliflower
1 container of mixed greens
1 container of baby spinach
1 container of feta cheese
bottle of creamy balsamic vinaigrette
olive oil, salt, and pepper to tate
Preheat oven to 450. Cut up broccoli, cauliflower, and red bell pepper. Toss in olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread out on cookie sheet.
Bake at 450 for 20-30 min until browned and slightly crispy. Let cool slightly.
Combine mixed greens and baby spinach in a large serving bowl and add roasted vegetables. Toss in creamy balsamic dressing and feta. Enjoy.