Spotlight on: Megan McLeod – Playing With Her Food

Dearest Nutters,

My apologies for abandoning my post(s) for so long. There was the push to get the next novel out (almost there), the frantic work on book #3 (about 1/3 into the first draft), a whirlwind trip to Worldcon (the World Science Fiction Convention, also known as “Barcon”), and then packing up and leaving Ucluelet (the day after getting home from Worldcon). The great news is I’m returning with a BANG!

Or perhaps a chomp?

Some of you may recall that in the last year or so, I have decided to learn how to cook. I’ve actually been doing fairly well at this momentous endeavor and I owe much of that to Megan McLeod and her funny and fantastic blog Playing With My Food.

I’ve known Megan for almost fifteen years, not coincidentally about the same length of time I have been with Prez–neighbour of Pat and Joyce “Martha” Roney, parents of the now-famous Megan.

Here’s the thing, Megan’s always been a dynamo but I’d never pegged her for a culinary wizard. Then she launched her blog and… Let’s just say, I love that people can still surprise me. To celebrate Megan’s growing success I asked her to come over here and submit to a friendly interrogation. To celebrate the end of Prez’s season as a Ucluelet fishing guide, I also asked Megan if she would bring a salmon recipe. (Remember: Always wild salmon, Nutters. I like my salmon like I like my men–wild and scaly.)

Lucky for me, and you, she agreed to do both.  So let me introduce my guest, Megan McLeod…

*THUNDEROUS APPLAUSE*

Megan McLeod of Playing With My Food

Megan McLeod of Playing With My Food

Princess: Meg, I’ve known you and your family for almost fifteen years now, and have been treated to many mouth watering meals at “Casa Roney”, so I can understand where you developed a love of good food. But when did you really start getting into food and cooking for yourself?

Megan: Ah, Casa Roney.  I often tell my friends that I grew up with two gourmet chefs as parents, but really it was just a passion of my mom and dad’s to cook with love and always music, lots of great music.  I still can’t listen to Gyspy Kings or Neil Young without thinking of my dad throwing some marinated chicken or steaks onto the BBQ, or Fleetwood Mac without thinking of my mom baking muffins. I gave them a run for their money a few times growing up.  There was my love, then hate, then love of seafood.  There was my white meat only (but not seafood!) phase.  And there was even a really weird phase as a child where I wouldn’t eat peaches, and most especially not peach yogurt, because it tasted like ‘ears.’

Growing up, I never had to pitch in one night a week to cook dinner, it was just always ready and waiting for me.  To be asked to help wash lettuce for the salad or chop up some mushrooms for a pasta sauce was sure to elicit a groan from me.  I was spoiled in the culinary department.  When I moved out on my own at the age of 21, I was in for a surprise because cooking was…hard, and the only thing that I really knew how to do well was to fry an egg.  My mom gifted to me my grandmother’s Best of Bridge cookbook series, which were the cookbooks that I grew up on through my mom’s cooking.  Slowly I started trying out some of the family favourites, and something clicked.  I was doing it…I was making Hamburger Soup, and Macaroni and Cheese, and Lasagna, and it tasted good.   Since then, I realized that if I wanted to feed myself, I would have to be the one to do it, and things really took off for me from there.

My cookbook collection has expanded quite a bit since then, but I always go back to the tattered, worn, stained pages of those Best of Bridge cookbooks when I am feeling like something that reminds me of home.

Princess: What inspired you to start Playing With My Food? And what are the best/worst things about writing a food blog?

Megan: Playing With My Food started out as something that was just for me.  I was coming across so many great recipes on the Internet and in my cookbooks, and I would make something that tasted great, but forget completely about it after the leftovers were gone.  When someone would ask me for the recipe, I wouldn’t remember where it had come from.  I wanted to create an archive of the recipes that I considered to be tried and true or ‘keepers.’  This is where Playing With My Food blossomed from.

Once I started posting all of my different culinary escapades, I began sharing it with some family and close friends.  Quite quickly, people started sharing it with others, and it really just grew and grew from there.  Now I will show up at a gathering and be introduced as, ‘the girl with the food blog that you like,’ which is a really fun, and something that I never expected to happen.

One of the best things about writing the blog is seeing that my viewership isn’t just the people who live in my city or the cities that my friends and families live in, but that when I look at my blog viewer statistics, people are reading it all over the world.  It’s really cool to think that something that I am writing is being read as far away as London or Melbourne.  It’s surreal.  The hardest thing for me is definitely the photography!  All of my photos are taken on my iPhone 5, and (if that wasn’t enough of a clue) I am no budding photographer.  I am always very happy and surprised when I happen to get a great shot of the food that I have made.

Princess: I have made a ton of recipes from your website and they have all turned out fabulous, thankyouverymuch, but I’m sure you’ve had some “kitchen disasters”. Fess up, what’s the worst meal you’ve ever made?

Megan: Thank you very much for being such a supportive reader of the blog!  As for kitchen disasters, The Hubby is very kind when it comes to his reviews of my food, but there are some ‘creations’ that even he can’t hide his reaction on, with a lot of them centering around me trying to swap out regular ingredients for a gluten-free version.  A couple of recent kitchen disasters that he couldn’t stomach were first a quinoa salad that was too mushy (used too much liquid), and second a quinoa salad that was too hard (used not enough liquid)…it was like he was Goldilocks or something!  Most of the time he is very supportive and if not I always like to remind him of the first meal that he ever made for me:  Kraft dinner mixed together with canned green beans and curry powder.

Princess: Okay, ew. Now that I’ve humiliated you (and The Hubby), how about your best meal? What was it and what makes it so memorable?

Megan McLeod with Pat Rony and Joyce Roney

Megan and her inspirational parents. (L to R) Megan, Pat, Joyce

Megan: My best meal doesn’t actually have to do with what I made, but really with the process of making it.  I mentioned earlier that my mom is a great cook, but she is also the most giving, thoughtful, and helpful person that I know.  After she had hinted for years that it was my turn to host a holiday turkey dinner, The Hubby and I finally did so at Thanksgiving 2012.  My mom spent all day with me the day prior to finalize recipe choices, prep all of the vegetables, and get as much done ahead of time as possible.  On Thanksgiving Day, she came over early to again help me get the table set and assist with getting the turkey out of the brine, covered with butter, herbs, and cheesecloth, tied up, and into the oven, and she didn’t leave until after the dishes were washed.  The 12-person dinner went off without a hitch, and I literally couldn’t have done it without my mom.

Spending that time with my mom is something that I will always cherish, and at the same time I finally learned how to cook my first turkey!  Other than that, I just love when my brother asks for seconds, my in-laws request that I bring something that they like that I have made in the past to a family dinner, or a friend asks me for a recipe.  That might make it sound like I’m only in it for the praise, but it really is the best feeling to cook something and know that someone really enjoyed it.

Princess: Ha! I am just beginning to know how that feels! So for all the aspiring and beginner cooks out there, what are your words of wisdom or advice? What are the big lessons you’ve learned over the years?

Megan: Wow, I feel like I am still learning so much every day myself!   My advice for beginner cooks would be to start by cooking the things you love, be yourself, and the rest will fall into place.  With the advent of Pinterest, the numerous cooking reality shows on the television, and all of the countless food blogs out there, it can be easy to get swept up into the ideology that what you are making in your kitchen doesn’t compare to what others are doing.  I feel the exact same way!  The great thing about all of those mediums being available is that they are a great way to get inspired and to learn a few new things.  If not, you can always order take-out!

Princess: Yes, I may have…ahem…ordered take out once or twice. Thanks so much and here’s to many more yummy meals! Now how about that recipe I asked for? (Yes, I am demanding).

Megan: How about a recipe for my dad’s BBQ Teriyaki Salmon?

Princess: I am already drooling. Take it away, Megan

Megan: Once I realized around the age of 20 that seafood was actually ah-mazing, I always loved when my dad made this for dinner.  It tastes like candy!

Pat’s BBQ Teriyaki Salmon

Serves:  4

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 or 3 ounces water
  • 1 1/2 ounce olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons freshly minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons freshly minced ginger
  • 4 x 6-ounce salmon filets

Directions:

To make the marinade, whisk together the first seven ingredients in a medium bowl.  Pour the marinade into a large plastic freezer bag.

Rinse your salmon filets, pat dry, and remove any pin bones with tweezers or your fingers. Add the salmon to the marinade in the freezer bag, making sure that the salmon is completely covered with the marinade.  Place into a fridge for between 4 – 5 hours (try to not leave it marinating for much longer than 5 hours because it will be too strongly flavoured, but you want it to be in there for at least 4 hours to make sure it’s flavoured enough).

BBQ salmon marinating

Heat your BBQ grill to medium-high.  Spray the grill with cooking spray or brush with oil.  Remove salmon from marinade and place directly onto the grill.

BBQ salmon cooking on the grill

Cook for 4 – 5 minutes per side.  Salmon is ready when it flakes easily through the thickest part.

Best BBQ salmon recipe Megan McLeod

Enjoy!

****

Well, please excuse me as I wipe the drool from my keyboard. Seriously, go check out Playing With My Food RIGHT NOW! Bookmark it! Revel in the yumminess (and often gluten-free-ness)! If you don’t become a fan, I will fly you to a tropical island in my private jet and give you foot massages for a year!*

Until next week, I hope this finds you healthy, happy, well fed, and lovin’ life!

The Princess

*The author does not actually have a private jet and will never touch anyone else’s feet but she’s 100% sure you will love Megan’s blog.

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3 Responses to Spotlight on: Megan McLeod – Playing With Her Food

  1. Aw, I love the Thanksgiving story.

  2. Becky Rippel says:

    As a foodie myself I’m looking forward to checking out Megan’s blog. Thanks Kris

  3. Megan McLeod says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you Kris!!! I so appreciate how supportive you are of me and of Playing With My Food, and for including me on your blogroll. I love this post! Coconut Chronicles is a huge inspiration to me, and I am proud to be in the ‘spotlight’ on it! Keep up the awesome blog posts! 🙂 – Megan

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