My Cooking Style

My Cooking Style

I’m a total gastronaut. Not in a bizarre food sort of way (you won’t find me eating chicken feet or a live frog any time soon), but in an “I’ll try {just about} anything once” sort of way. Salty, sweet, sour, savory, bitter…you name it. The recipes on Bites of Life will run the gamut, but I should point out a few dominant flavors/ingredients that are quintessential to many of my concoctions.

Guacamole IngredientsSome Like It Hot
Many of these recipes are SPICY. Don’t let my Midwestern upbringing and pale skin fool you—a spicy dish isn’t hot enough for me unless my eyelids sweat (yes, I’m being serious)! On a scale of 1-5 at Indian restaurants, I get “Indian Hot”, and I still don’t think it’s hot enough! I use a lot of hot peppers (jalapenos, serranos, cayennes, and Thai chiles just to name a few) in my dishes. I often throw up to 4 kinds of hot peppers in one bowl of my favorite guacamole! We grew 9 different varieties in the garden this Summer, and plan for more next year! My best friend recently walked into the house after I had just added diced jalapenos to a hot pan, and it literally took her breath away. So yeah, things can get hot around here. I live with a Trinidadian afterall! If you can’t handle heat, just cut back on the amount in the recipe or refer to the Scoville Scale for a milder variety. In most cases, I wouldn’t suggest removing the heat altogether, as there’s something to be said for how good food can taste when you open up your sinuses a bit! 🙂

I Love Kissing…
But I also love garlic. So when Kash and I began cooking together, I was thrilled to find out he also has an admiration for those stinky little bulbs of deliciousness. Now I add it to nearly every pasta, soup, stir fry or marinade without hesitation—sometimes I double what a recipe calls for! Garlic is one of the most flavorful things on earth, so it can really take otherwise bland dishes to the next level. Plus, garlic is highly nutritious and has loads of proven health benefits. (If you tend to catch a cold easily, eat more garlic!)

Keeping It Fresh
I can never get enough clean, refreshing flavors that come from ingredients like cilantro, dill, lemons and limes. In my go-to guacamole I previously mentioned, I am notorious for adding just enough lime juice and cilantro before it morphs into a runny salad—ok, perhaps that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I like my fresh, cool, vibrant flavors just as much as I like my heat. I think they can provide a great balance to bold and spicy flavors. Since I grow fresh herbs year round, I tend to use them whenever I can. Yes, it may be easier to grab that jar of dried seasoning off the shelf, but nothing compares to the intense aromas and crisp flavors of fresh herbs…so I often use them liberally. The most common fresh herbs I use include basil, cilantro, dill, Thai basil, flat leaf parsley, rosemary, chives, tarragon, oregano and mint. I’m tellin’ ya…I can’t get enough!

In a Nutshell
So, the moral of the story is to adjust these recipes to your taste! I understand that what one person may love, the next person might hate. I get that cilantro tastes like soap to some people and that even a mild pepperoncini may have others reaching for a glass of milk. I rarely follow new recipes precisely because I know we will likely need to spice things up a bit. I don’t even follow my own recipes when I’m cooking for others (especially friends with Minnesota palates)! I will try my best to include notes within posts to highlight when a recipe may include an abundance of any of my favorite ingredients, but just in case I forget…you have been warned 🙂

I Hate Vegetable Oil And Microwaves
I remember the last time I used vegetable oil—the whole house smelled like it…and don’t even get me started on how nasty the food tasted! I pretty much avoid it like the plague now. Instead, I get organic virgin coconut oil by the gallon (yup, you heard that right). It’s pretty much my go-to oil for cooking at high temperatures, as it has a high smoking point and tons of great health benefits. I also keep extra virgin olive oil and sesame oil handy (especially for dressings and marinades). While I’m on the subject of coconuts though, I should mention that I use a wide variety of coconut-derived ingredients including coconut milk, flour, sugar, nectar, water, and most commonly (besides the oil) coconut aminos (as a soy sauce substitute). When Kash and I moved in together, I remember him saying, “I had no idea you could make so many things out of coconuts!”. Needless to say, I think coconuts belong in a food group all on their own! Oh yeah…microwaves. I avoid using them at all costs. There is research to show they are bad for your health, but not only that…they make a lot of good food taste like crap (especially when reheated). So, if you’re a microwave fan…knock yourself out, but I’m not—so you won’t find a single recipe on Bites of Life that uses a microwave (even for boiling water).

Organic Food Just Tastes Better
Organic food has gained a lot of popularity in recent years, and I’m glad to see it. I’ve been eating somewhat organically ever since I was a kid and had an organic vegetable garden. As years have gone by, there has been more and more research done on the effects of consuming foods that have been genetically engineered and/or treated with chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. Again, if you are pro-GMO, don’t mind your food tasting like chemicals and aren’t concerned with your health, don’t worry about cooking with organic, non-GMO ingredients. I do challenge you though: eat a stick of conventionally grown celery and compare it to an organically grown one—the difference in taste is mind blowing to me! I can’t always find an organic version of every ingredient, but when it comes to organic produce, I like to stick to this rule: if I’m going to eat the skin, it should be organic.

The Un-Process of Cooking Real Food
Like vegetable oil, microwaves, GMOs and conventional produce, I steer clear of most processed foods. Yes, they may save time, but they just don’t do any favors for your body or your health. Processed foods tend to be low quality, high in saturated fats and low in nutrients. I used to eat a lot of processed foods because they were convenient, but once I began cooking and eating real food, everything changed. I lost 35 pounds and I feel so much better (less achy, more energetic, fewer colds). Now when I do eat processed foods, I just feel crummy, and when I think back I spent a lot of time feeling crummy and lethargic when my diet was filled with processed junk. So now I try to develop recipes and prepare nourishing food with unprocessed, seasonal, local, organic ingredients as much as possible, and I am happier and healthier for it.

If you have any questions about my food philosophy, my recipes or the ingredients I use, feel free to contact me!

Here are a few of the staple ingredients and tools you’ll find in my kitchen:

(Please note: I receive commission on products purchased through the above Amazon affiliate links, however, I use these items in my own kitchen and personally recommend them.)