Carla Snyder has spent the past 30 years in the food world as a caterer, artisan baker, cooking school teacher, food writer and author of 6 cook books. Her passion is sharing fresh, cooked-from-scratch weeknight meals that cut prep time and practically eliminate that nightly sinkful of dishes. Carla will be developing recipes using Heinen’s prepared foods that will be posted here twice a month. Get to know Carla here and check back next week to see her first delicious – and fast – recipe!
Where did your love of cooking come from?
It started after my junior year abroad in Spain. I grew up in West Virginia in a household where food wasn’t important. Going to Spain opened my eyes to the fact that some people live to eat instead of eating to live. I realized how good food could be and how fun food could be.
I married at 22 and had kids, and I needed a creative outlet – cooking became that outlet for me. I had a stash of Gourmet magazines from the 70’s from my dad, and they just opened up a whole new world. Back then I didn’t know what extra-virgin olive oil or cilantro was. I started catering, and then taught for 20 years. Then I decided to brush off my journalism degree and write and about food, and the cookbooks came along.
What ingredients are always in your kitchen?
I always have onions, carrots, celery and garlic. In the pantry I always keep chicken stock, canned tomatoes, canned beans and pasta. Then I can make dinner on the fly.
What staples should everyone have in their kitchen?
I think it’s really nice to have some interesting ethnic flavorings like chili garlic paste, hot sauces and sesame oil. You can really play around with those flavors. Plus all the things I said above!
What is your favorite food or type of food to make?
I’m crazy about making pasta right now. I just got this KitchenAid pasta press and you can make tubes, macaroni, rigatoni … things like that. It’s just so fun! It’s kind of like playing with a Play-Doh machine – it takes me back to being a kid and playing with Play-Doh. It’s just awesome and delicious!
What is your guilty pleasure food?
Nutella on Triscuits. There’s something about that salty Triscuit with the Nutella. And you can eat it really fast so nobody knows – it always tastes better if no one knows you’re eating it!
Why use Heinen’s prepared foods in your recipes?
My goal ever since I started teaching is to help people eat more healthfully and help them to cook. My book One Pan Two Plates: 70 Complete One Pan Dinners for Two really got that rolling. It’s cooking fast with very little cleanup; that’s my way to entice people into the kitchen – showing them it can be easy with no mess.
Using the prepared foods at Heinen’s is just going to expand on that. So instead of making a crab cake and assembling a salad, you can just use Heinen’s crab cakes. I really do think it’s important for people to cook, but there are times when it’s a wonderful bonus to have some of the leg work already done for you. The recipes I’ll create are going to be a way to make dinner in 5 minutes that will be delicious, healthy and fresh.
Where do you find inspiration for your recipes?
I usually find inspiration in Heinen’s! I like to go there and hang out in the produce section – that’s probably where I get most of my ideas. This time of year I like to spend some time in the farmer’s market section and think about what I’d like to make based on what’s fresh and local. Right now I’m into grilling corn brushed with lime butter (Lime juice squeezed into melted butter) and Cotija cheese, which resembles Mexican Parmesan. It’s just so fabulously delicious and fun. I could make dinner out of two cobs of corn.
Advice for novice (or any) cooks?
The biggest problem for home cooks is just having the ingredients in your house to make dinner on the fly. If you have to go to the store first, it eats your night away. I would suggest keeping some Heinen’s prepared salads (like pasta salad,) greens, and a tomato or avocado on hand. Those simple things can make a quick dinner. If you have some zucchini you can slice it and roast it in the oven with onions for 20 minutes and add that to the greens. It’ll warm the salad a bit too, so it doesn’t feel like lunch.
White meat rotisserie chicken is also a good item to keep in the fridge so you can just toss it on top of a salad or pasta. For example, you can make pasta with a simple sauce, throw the chicken on it, and dinner’s done just like that. It’s a matter of having those ingredients in the house and doing a riff on something based on what you have. That’s where always having those staples on hand makes dinner easier to prepare.
For more from Carla, visit ravenouskitchen.com, where she blogs about everything from cooking for two to easy weekend entertaining for a crowd.