Wednesday, February 12th, 2014
Star of Cooking Channel’s Kelsey’s Essentials, Kelsey Nixon dishes on the challenges of feeding her toddler, breaking into TV, and her new cookbook Kitchen Confidence: Essential Recipes and Tips That Will Help You Cook Anything.
You started your own cooking television show in college. What inspired that?
I grew up in a family where food seemed to be at the center of every get-together or celebration. In fact, when I left for college, I missed my mom’s home-cooked meals fiercely, and it forced me to step into my dorm room kitchen and start cooking on my own. I was a broadcast journalism major who wasn’t that interested in a news career, but I loved food and television. A lucky break with an internship at Martha Stewart Living working on the Everyday Food cooking show solidified things – I was going to find a way to work in food television! I returned to my university and approached a professor about supporting a college cooking show, and to my surprise, he thought it was a great idea. With his support we produced nearly 100 episodes of my cooking show before I graduated.
What’s the best (and worst) part of having your own series on Cooking Channel?
The best part is that my job is to essentially be myself! I get to talk about and teach the things that I feel so passionately about, and that is truly a gift. The biggest challenge is not knowing if the show will be renewed each season. When you put everything you’ve got into a show that represents you, you want so badly for it to succeed!
This is your first book. Why did you decide to call it Kitchen Confidence?
I felt that the title carried a strong, simple message that many home cooks are looking for. The book is full of recipes that are basic, yet not boring, and when made will hopefully spark a bit of that kitchen confidence that will slowly grow with every culinary success you have.
Sometimes cooking at home can seem expensive. What are some ways parents can save money feeding their families?
Carving out the time to sit down and plan your family’s meals for the week is no easy task, but it can be beneficial in so many different ways, especially when it comes to sticking to a grocery budget and having a plan to use up the ingredients that you buy so that nothing goes to waste. I’m also a big fan of shopping the ads at your local markets and stores. Some stores will even ad match, which is a great way to save as much as possible on your weekly grocery bill.
How has your cooking life changed since your son Oliver was born nearly two years ago?
Well, to be honest, I cook a little less! But, I feel like I cook with more intent now — intent to feed and nourish a growing family. I rely heavily on making three to four meals a week and really utilizing the leftovers. Not only does it save me time in the kitchen, but it also relieves me of the mental stress of deciding what to make for dinner every single night.
How did you move your son to solids?
I followed the guidance of our pediatrician when it came to a timeline for transitioning to solids, but when it came to what foods to introduce, I took a few more liberties. I always followed the guidelines of only introducing one new food at a time to check for any allergies, but I also made an effort to season his first food purees with a few mild spices like cinnamon, ginger, and garlic. We went through a big puree stage, which worked for us. But for a future child I’m really interested in the concept of baby-led weaning and may give that a try. I have a few friends that are moms who swear by it!
What are his favorite finger foods?
My Oliver loves edamame, string cheese, and black beans. Ironically the only thing I have trouble feeding him is fruit! I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before he comes around.
Do you make special “toddler food” for your son?
I’ve made a big effort to offer our son a version of what we’re eating each night at dinner to try and avoid the habit of making multiple meals. Some nights are easier than others and I probably spend way too much time wondering if he got enough to eat, but I feel strongly that offering him a variety of options will pay off in the long run. Realistically I’ve also got a couple of go-to toddler meals on hand to use for easy lunches and nights when mom and dad order in.
Why do you tell people they shouldn’t worry about making mistakes when they’re cooking?
So many cooking mistakes can be corrected. If something tastes a little bland or you added too much of one thing or another, there’s a good chance that simply seasoning the dish with salt and pepper can correct the problem. To have the gusto to make these adjustments, you need to trust your gut. Once you start cooking this way, cooking becomes more enjoyable and freeing.
What are five things always found in your refrigerator?
Eggs, good cheese, fresh herbs, unsalted butter, and chicken thighs (in the freezer).
What are your three favorite recipes from the book?
Lemon Scented Chicken Thighs, Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Maple Pecans, and Essential Yellow Birthday Cake.
The recipes all sound so appealing. What do you look for when developing a recipe?
I look for unique ingredient pairings and constantly turn to seasonal ingredients for inspiration throughout the calendar year. It’s important to me that the food sounds and looks just as appealing as it is to eat. I’m a firm believer that we eat with our eyes first, so it’s critical that the recipes I develop look every bit as good as they taste.
What do you hope cooks take away from this book?
Ultimately, I hope this book will inspire home cooks to cook more often and find joy in the kitchen. I hope that each reader finds a few recipes that are a perfect fit for their families and that they will continue to refer to the book over the coming years for classic recipes that they know will always work. Everyone needs a great recipe for things like Lasagna, Roasted Vegetables, and Birthday Cake – you’ll find just that in my book.
Interview has been edited and condensed.
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