Cook of the Week: Lake Zurich mom stirs together thoughtful food blog
What do you do when you love to cook, love to write and love to take photographs? The solution for Becky Ejupi of Lake Zurich, was to start a blog: pondermom.com (because Becky also loves to ponder).
"It's really been a rewarding experience. I'm so interested in people's comments and I love how engaged they are," says Becky. The blog has a warm, enticing format, highlighting recipes (with pictures!), articles about travel and humorous anecdotes. And you should see the pictures of the food … guaranteed to make your stomach growl.
Becky learned how to cook 27 years ago when she got married. Until then, her mother had done all the cooking at home.
"She did typical food that wasn't real adventurous. When I got married, my husband and I both liked exploring new flavors. We both worked full-time, so we took turns cooking."
Becky resigned her job as a marketing consultant about 13 years ago, in order to be home with her two boys, Logan, now 17, and Spencer, 11, and she has loved the opportunity to cook more.
"I like simple and delicious foods -- comfortable, warm and tasty," she says, adding that she's a fan of the Food Network's Ina Garten. "It's always fairly basic and tastes really good."
Becky also likes using her own creativity to liven up a recipe.
"I love making dessert, but I don't like the scientific aspect. When you try to get creative or experimental with baking, things often go awry, whereas with casseroles, soups or stews, creativity only enhances the flavors," she says. Becky also likes the fact that one-dish meals typically are easy to double and freeze, perfect for people who are too busy to cook everyday.
Even when entertaining, Becky will often serve a casserole.
"It's the best way to go. You prepare an appetizer and a salad and people think you have slaved for hours, when really you just threw it all together."
The Ejupis also entertain frequently.
"Usually we entertain six to eight people at the most. Nothing stuffy or formal."
Once a year they have a bigger party for more than 100 friends and family.
"We will make the main dish, but everyone will bring a potluck dish to share. It's fun to see all the different foods and share the recipes." Becky shares a recipe with us for an unusual side dish salad featuring grapes that's potluck perfect.
"So many people have asked me for the recipe!"
It should be no surprise that Becky's two sons enjoy cooking as well.
"They both grew up pestering me to be involved in the kitchen; they were always chopping and mixing." Spencer recently participated in a school cook-off, making up his own recipe and placing well in the competition and when Logan heads to college next year he'll have an arsenal of cooking skills.
"I told him his future college roommates and wife will love him!" she laughs. "This is something they will do for the rest of their lives."
Today, Becky shares her family's favorite dish, her Chipotle Mac and Cheese, comfort-food punched up with chipotle peppers. She sometimes features low-cal meals on her blog, but this is not one of them.
"I like the thought of (healthy cooking) more than anything else," she laughs, "but using real butter counts. It just does!"
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