Shaina Olmanson, known to us here at Tasty Kitchen as foodformyfamily, is mother of four who knows a thing or two (or twelve) about cooking from scratch. Growing up very close to both sides of grandparents, she has many fond memories of watching her Yugoslavian-born grandmother work her magic in the kitchen. Her first foray into cooking was at the age of 6, when she used her mom’s cookbook to bake her first cake from scratch, and she hasn’t stopped cooking since.
Shaina is a freelance writer, editor and photographer. She is also an accomplished violinist, having played for 19 years, and she still gives violin lessons. Before starting her own business freelancing from home, she worked for non-profit organizations teaching daily living skills, work instruction, and doing case management with people with disabilities. She says she misses it to this day, which reveals the great generosity in this young woman’s heart. (Which is why it’s no surprise that one of her earlier, popular recipes in her recipe box is a delightful quick bread that she calls Orange Pecan Zucchini Bread for Doorsteps Everywhere.)
Speaking of quick breads, here is another one of her masterpieces: Streusel-Topped Pumpkin Bread. It’s enough to make me wish for pumpkin season to come sooner.
Speaking more about her love for good old-fashioned cooking from scratch, Shaina explains: “With frugal health nuts for parents, we never ate processed food, fast food, and the like. When held up against my grandma’s food, there was never a comparison.” I think that, when held up against her food as well, there isn’t much of a comparison either.
Shaina’s blog, Food for My Family, is packed with recipes, time-saving secrets, budget tips, menu planning, and other valuable resources that any family can use. She has her family’s favorite recipes there too, which include such mouth-watering main course entries as the ones you see below.
What Shaina enjoys most about cooking is that she gets to feed and teach others, including her children. She loves being able to share what she makes with anyone who will let her. (We’ll let you, Shaina!) Her blog gives her an opportunity to do that in a larger scale, and she confesses that she recently got teary-eyed when a reader commented on her kugelhopf post, thanking her for giving her a piece of her childhood back. You can see the kugelhopf below, along with a few other delectable desserts. They all look so good that I might get teary-eyed myself.
Clockwise from top left: Chocolate Gâteau Alice for Young and Old, Lemon Ricotta Blueberry Bread Pudding, Gingered Orange Shortbread, Cheesecake with Raspberry Sauce, My Grandma’s Brandy Apfelradln, and Kugelhopf, A German Coffee Cake.
There is so much that Shaina has to offer, and we’re happy to introduce her to you. So let’s get right into the interview part and hear even more from foodformyfamily!
Q: Do you have any favorite chefs or food celebrities? Who inspires you?
A: I have to go back to where my love for cooking started: my grandmother. With everything she’d been through in life, she took great pride in feeding and caring for her family.
Q: What are your favorite ingredients?
A: I really like working with vegetables I grow myself. Maybe it’s because I know how much hard work I’ve put in and how many times I’ve sent my kids out to water them, but they don’t compare to anything else I could use in a recipe. It makes me smile every time I can see the progression from seed to plant to fruit to plate.
Q: What is your go-to dish or meal?
A: On the savory front, I’d have to go with my Maple-Glazed Steak Salad with Blue Cheese. As far as baking is concerned, there are so many. Any one of my grandma’s recipes would be an obvious choice: kugelhopf, apfelradln, and the cookies. But they are followed closely by quick breads of all sorts: pumpkin streusel, banana chocolate chip, zucchini orange.
Q: Is there something that you always make at home and never buy at the store anymore?
A: Stocks and broths. I like having control over what is going into the broth, but what really gets me is making something from what would be kitchen scraps and waste.
Q: What gives you the most trouble in the kitchen?
A: Sushi rice. I really want to try to make my own sushi, but I’m intimidated by the rice and haven’t tried. I was excited to find out over Easter that my cousin’s wife just signed up for a sushi-making course. I completely intend on benefitting from that after the fact.
Q: What is your favorite kitchen tool?
A: A good pair of stainless tongs. They grab food, turn it over, stir, sauté, grill and more. We use tongs daily in our house, and they’re easy for the kids to use as well.
Q: Give us one of your favorite kitchen tips that you wish you’d always known.
A: Cooking is an art. Don’t be afraid to bend the rules and change the ingredients in the recipe. I was so much more satisfied in the kitchen once I allowed myself to do this.
Thanks for answering our questions, Shaina!
Shaina’s recipe box is filled with many great meal ideas and snacks for your family. Her blog, Food for My Family, has a wealth of information, from make-ahead meals, nutrition, going green, menu planning, time-saving tips, and of course, more of her favorite recipes. Her husband Ole mans the grilling section, and even shows you how to make your own smoker. She warmly invites everyone: “Come share our food with us.” It’s an invitation you’ll want to accept.