If you've ever gone online searching for a recipe, chances are the first recipe to pop up came from AllRecipes.com. The AllRecipes website first went online 15 years ago and now ranks as the largest recipe site in the country. Some 25 million users visit AllRecipes; 8 million of whom are members.
One of those members is France Cevallos of Aurora. In fact, France has been site's featured weekly cook and this past summer, she was one of the AllRecipes "All Stars" -- frequent contributors who review recipes on the site -- who were flown to the company's Seattle headquarters as part of its anniversary celebration.
"It was really neat to meet the people and put faces to the screen names I've become so familiar with. We're the fanatics," she laughed. "(Cooking) is like a sickness with us!"
France really can't remember a time when she didn't enjoy cooking and at an early age started her search for good recipes.
"My mom cooked every day. We never went out to eat because her food was so good," she said. "In grade school I would go to the school library and check out cookbooks to bring home."
She grew up in Canada and moved to the United States about 10 years ago. Her stateside culinary exploration began in Arizona where she was introduced to spicy Mexican food. Moving on to California, she experienced recipes that used healthy, fresh ingredients ("lot's of avocado") and from there she went on to Michigan.
"That was altogether different," said France. However, Michigan's cuisine may have been closer to her Canadian roots.
"There are so many regional differences. A lot of foods that we used to have in Canada weren't even available -- things from the land, like deer, berries and real maple syrup."
It's not surprising that France embraces the winter holidays and the entertaining opportunities they bring.
"I love this time of year. We do celebrate Thanksgiving in Canada; it's the second Monday of October, the same day the U.S. calls Columbus Day. This means that two turkey feasts are quite possible in our household," she said.
"While the Canadian Thanksgiving is also tied to celebrating and spending time with family, it is not nearly as big an event as it is in the U.S. I was surprised at how big of a deal it was (here)," she added. "But regardless of where I celebrate it, the most important part is spending time with family that we otherwise don't see very often because of distance."
France enjoys planning the Thanksgiving dinners and aside from the turkey and a prized stuffing recipe she found at AllRecipes, she never makes the same thing twice. Today she shares her Creamy Autumn Carrot Soup, a creamy concoction made with coconut milk, carrots and a flavorful blend of ginger and curry, that would fit right into the holiday menu.
We can learn a lot from France's cooking philosophy. She suggests that the best skills to have for cooking are patience and a willingness to experiment.
"Things don't always turn out the way you hoped, but just take things as they come," she said. "It's not a big, serious thing -- it's not the end of the world if a recipe goes wrong."
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