August 1, 2011 at 10:34 am , by Megan Weiss
Food Network Star contestant, Kelsey Nixon, shares her passion for cooking in the hit Cooking Channel show Kelsey’s Essentials. We got to know her better when she told LHJ some of her favorite culinary memories and gave us her list of “essentials” in the kitchen.
Who do you feel is your biggest female inspiration in the kitchen?
My mother. My mother worked a full time job but looked forward to cooking for us every week. Since she was so busy we would make a family schedule for what she wanted to cook each week. Whether it was recipes from magazines she wanted to try to her own signature dishes, we would map it out for the week. For me, that’s where I learned to love cooking and the way I approach cooking. Her attitude toward cooking was always something pleasurable and something to look forward to.
Now that you are on the second season of your show, Do you think being on Food Network Star prepared you for being in front of the camera?
It did. I don’t know how I survived. Most of the challenges I was put through were challenged me to do things similar to my own show. Thinking on your feet, adjusting to whatever may happen in the kitchen and developing recipes at a moments notice. It really helps you to know who you are and what your brand stands for.
You are known for your pantry cooking episodes, what are some pantry staples you like for each meal?
For breakfast, things like oatmeal and pancake mix are great and versatile. And although it’s not a pantry item, something I always try to have on hand is fresh berries and fruit. For lunch I love sandwiches. I could eat a sandwich every day for the rest of my life. Good bread, meat and cheeses are important to have on hand. I also keep a chart on my refrigerator of what produce is in season so I know what to purchase. For dinner I always love to have good canned tomatoes and pasta so I can make a quick tomato sauce. Fresh herbs are great as well, they will bring any dish to life.
How do you start brainstorming for new recipes?
I try to follow food trends. Whether that means reading a lot of magazines or following food blogs, I try to keep on top of it. I always have a file folder on my computer desktop that I call my “Inspiration Folder” –any time I have an idea I throw it in there. Then, whenever it is time to come up with recipes it is the first place I turn to.
What are a few of your favorite things to cook?
We love to cook Mexican at home. Especially in the summer months. It can cook very quickly. Things like tacos, guacamole or quesadillas. I also love Italian food. Pasta is something I have multiple times a week because it’s affordable and comes together quickly. You can enliven a good tomato sauce any month of the year by adding vegetables that are in season.
What do you feel are some “essentials” of cooking for a family?
Things you can make in big batches like baked ziti. Casseroles are great too. I love doing a reinvented casserole where you can use as many pantry staples as possible, you always have leftovers, and you can satisfy many different palates.
You have recently teamed up with Hungry Jack for their use up the box contest. How do you come up with inspiration when using specific ingredients?
I love the ability to be able to open the cupboard or my refrigerator and say “what am I going to do today.” Its like having your own creative challenge in the kitchen. Pancake mix, or pasta, or even leftover herbs. It’s not about creating a recipe even it’s more about using your kitchen as a creative outlet. If it was a weeknight and I didn’t want to run to the grocery store and I happen to have a box of pancake mix, I think about what I could make, or what a family could enjoy.
Check out Kelsey’s Essentials airing Saturdays at 2.30pm on The Cooking Channel.