Hello everyone! Several months ago I announced big changes brewing here at Simply Recipes. We have new recipes, new contributors, and now a new addition to our Simply Recipes team.
Please join me in welcoming—Emma Christensen, who is our new Managing Editor! Emma is responsible for working with our contributors and making sure that all of the new recipes posted to the site meet the standard of quality and ease that we all expect from a Simply Recipes recipe.
After 13 years of flying mostly solo on this site, I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to have Emma as a partner on Simply Recipes.
If you are familiar with the website The Kitchn, you may already know of Emma, where she was a lead editor and writer for 8 years. She is a graduate of the Cambridge School for Culinary Arts, and the author of 2 cookbooks, True Brews and Brew Better Beer, with a third book on making homemade cider coming in 2017.
Emma is based in San Jose, California, a stone’s throw (well maybe a large, rocket powered stone) from Simply Recipes headquarters (my house) in Sacramento.
To give you a chance to get to know Emma better, I asked Emma to answer a few questions for us. Read along and you’ll have a glimpse of why I’m so excited to have her on the team!
You’re from Minnesota! How has that influenced your cooking?
A small, but significant, part of my body mass is made entirely of casserole. Casseroles are totally underrated by people who didn’t grow up with them. They’re economical, they either feed a crowd or make enough leftovers that you don’t have to cook for a few days, and when done right, they’re really delicious.
Which is to say, yes, growing up in Minnesota has certainly influenced my cooking. I also have a deep fondness for potluck dessert-table fare, like scotcheroos, bar cookies, and cobbler. I’ll pass on the jello salad, though. (Shudder.)
Did your parents cook at home when you were growing up?
My mom cooked, but I can’t say that she loved it. She had a very functional approach to meals. “Is it more or less healthy? Is it hot? Is it on the table? Ok, let’s eat.” We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, so she made most of our meals from scratch (eating out was for special occasions, even McDonald’s). I don’t think I even knew the concept of take-out until I was in college, if you can believe it.
So cooking meals at home has always felt like a given to me, both growing up and once I left home. It’s just what you did in order to eat.
It wasn’t until I was in my 20’s that I actually started to really enjoy cooking as something other than just sustenance. I knew HOW to cook, but I didn’t really know how to make good food.
I started learning from food blogs and cookbooks from the library, and then just played around with new recipes on weekends. Eventually, I decided that I liked cooking so much that I wanted to make it my career. I went to culinary school and started picking up odd jobs catering and writing snippets for small publications.
Now I’ve been cooking and writing about food for almost a decade, and my mom calls ME for advice when she’s making dinner!
What’s your approach to cooking now?
My number one goal with all my work is to make people feel both confident and excited heading into the kitchen.
I remember very clearly the transition I made from “cooking for function” to “cooking for fun.” I remember feeling so incredibly frustrated when a recipe wasn’t clear, or when it assumed that I knew how to do something that I didn’t. I also remember those moments when a recipe turned out really well and suddenly I felt like I was Queen of the Kitchen!
With my own recipes, and with all the recipes we’re sharing here on Simply Recipes, I want to give people more of those Queen (or King!) of the Kitchen moments, and fewer of those frustrating moments.
Whether we’re talking about skillet chicken or homemade croissants, I want the recipe to feel accessible and doable. I also want it to work and to taste good without a lot of fuss or fanfare. That doesn’t necessarily mean using a lot of shortcuts or simplifying a recipe beyond recognition. It’s more about communicating the recipe in smart ways and providing as many context clues and tips as I possibly can.
Whatever you want to make, I want to help you make it.
Hey, don’t you brew beer, too?
Yes, I do! As well as kombucha, hard cider, wine, and pretty much anything else fermenty. I also love baking sourdough bread.
There’s something so satisfying about these kinds of projects. They don’t always turn out perfectly (yeast is a fickle friend), but I always learn something and have fun doing it. I really like the process of taking a few basic ingredients and slowly transforming them into something unique and delicious — and often boozy!
There’s a lot of delayed gratification when it comes to homebrew. These things just take time and there are no shortcuts. I like that.
Tell us something unexpected about you.
Well, it’s not exactly a secret, but I do have a large tattoo of the alphabet, A to Z, on my back. My mom is a calligraphy artist and I asked her to design it. I grew up watching her practice various calligraphy alphabets over and over again, and also the alphabet is where her work as an artist and my work as a writer overlap. I thought about doing a quote, but in the end, I just wanted the alphabet in her handwriting. It’s special to me.
What’s your favorite late night snack?
Popcorn! Lately, I’ve been tossing it with some nutritional yeast, which sounds weird, but actually gives the popcorn a cheesy flavor. Healthy cheesy popcorn! Plus the nutritional yeast sticks to the popcorn better than actual cheese.