Nicole S.: Aloha friends and foodies. A quick note before this episode, the show's gonna be on hiatus for one week, but don't worry, I'll be back starting the 6th of March with another amazing guest. Until then, enjoy this week's longer episode. Aloha.
Welcome to BFF with the Chef, I'm your host Nicole Schwegman.
Aloha friends and foodies, and welcome back. Today I'm chatting with Jo Thrasher from JoEats. A blog that chronicles her recipes and musings on daily life. Jo is a self taught home cook, who pretty much loves all things food. She's obsessed with creating, photographing, and sharing beautiful and accessible recipes with her readers. And in just 12 months, she's managed to grow her Instagram account to more than 1,800 followers, despite working a full-time job. Hey Jo, welcome to the show.
Jo Thrasher: Hey Nicole. Thanks for having me.
Nicole S.: I'm excited to chat with you. Your photography is amazing. The fact that you started just over a year ago, it makes me feel like a lazy turd. [inaudible 00:01:09] This is why I love food bloggers so much, because, oh my gosh, you have such incredible talent, and you give it to the world so freely. And I maintain that food bloggers of the world are the ones who, anyone who's connected to the Internet, it's a food blogger who, 95% of the time, is giving you your ideas for new recipes. BuzzFeed Food would not be BuzzFeed Food without an army of food bloggers out there. [crosstalk 00:01:34].
Jo Thrasher: That's all food bloggers.
Nicole S.: That's 99% food bloggers. Without a food blogger, there'd be no BuzzFeed Food. And I truly stand by that. Somebody don't at me, I hate to stand by that. I'll get off my safe box, but, you know how this works, girl, so we're just gonna get right into it. We're gonna ask you three questions, and then we'll get into talking about your fabulous blog. You cool?
Jo Thrasher: Yeah, let's do it.
Nicole S.: All right. Tell me about the last meal you cooked for yourself.
Jo Thrasher: We had egg and cheese sandwiches this morning for breakfast, on English muffins with good old American cheese, and they were really delicious. We like to do breakfast sandwiches on the weekends when we can, just 'cause, they're easy, but they're also really comforting. But this month we're actually doing meatless January. Normally we'd probably have bacon or sausage, but no bacon or sausage this month, but it was still really good. And I really, I swear by the secret ingredient to those, is that Lizzy like processed American cheese, and I gotta stand by it forever. Sometimes we'll do a fancy cheddar, or for whatever reason, we had American cheese in the fridge and I was really excited to work with that this morning.
Nicole S.: That sounds so good. First of all, no shame in eating American cheese. There's this burger that last year, they stopped making it at this place that I used to love to go to, the name's Strip Steak. She went like "We know what Strip Steak is, Nicole." I'm like, "Yeah, I know. Is it here in Hawaii?" There's this burger days to serve, and part of the appeal of the burger is because, they used this American cheese sauce. It was this concoction of Cheddar and American cheese made into a sauce, and then put on the Burger. It's ridiculous. I mean, American cheese, it just melts really well.
Jo Thrasher: You can't replicate it. It's a perfectly engineered food product, and, it's amazing what it can do. It doesn't make me nervous sometimes when I'm eating it, and I told my husband this morning, I'm like, "I don't wanna know, but I kind of wanna know how they make it."
Nicole S.: You don't wanna know. What'd you gonna be though, you can get the organic version. They sell on organic version and whole foods.
Jo Thrasher: That is true.
Nicole S.: I do that. That's my [inaudible 00:03:43].
Jo Thrasher: They sell everything I want to be in whole foods.
Nicole S.: Pretty much.
Jo Thrasher: The whole Pinterest life.
Nicole S.: Exactly. Look, when I walk into whole foods, they built this huge whole foods here in Hawaii, and it's called the Queen's Market Whole Foods, and it's huge. It's two floors. It's got restaurants, it's got a full bar. It's crazy.
Jo Thrasher: Holy crap.
Nicole S.: Oh, no.
Jo Thrasher: Oh my gosh.
Nicole S.: It's one of the biggest wholefoods in America. Somebody's gonna be like, "Fact checked.", and I'm like, "I'm sure it's not the biggest, but it's one of the biggest." But I walked in there when it did a grand opening, and I felt Mary Tyler Moore, I wanted to have a hat, and splitting it up in there, and just be like, "I'm gonna make it after all."
Jo Thrasher: [inaudible 00:04:15]
Nicole S.: I know. And there was this guy in there, and he was like, "Look, for just one moment, you look like somebody who would truly appreciate this, but I seriously just wanna freak out and be like, oh my God, I love this place." And so we did. in the aisle with all the chips. We both just jumped up and down like little girls, and we just freaked out with how much we love this whole foods [crosstalk 00:04:37]
Jo Thrasher: That sounds amazing. Free advertising for whole foods.
Nicole S.: Too much, I'm like, "What?", and you'd be like, "Whole foods. Whole foods, look it up, pay me." All right. What's a meal that brings you back to your childhood?
Jo Thrasher: This is one of my guilty pleasure meals, and I do still eat this when I'm having a really bad day, or I'm sick. But when I was a kid, my aunt would make us cheese ramen. And she'd always make it with spicy Buldak, and top ramen, and it looks really gross. It's a thing that I would never blog about, 'cause I don't think you could photograph it, to make it look beautiful, but it is so delicious, and so packed full of sodium, and not a meal that you should ever have more than, say, once a year. And I do have to admit, sometimes I do have it more than once a year, but it is real delicious, and the only time Velveeta will ever make it into my house ever, ever, ever. I feel bad saying this, 'cause I don't love wasting food, but I'll buy the Velveeta, I'll make the cheese ramen, and then I'll throw the rest of it away. Because, there's no reason to have it in the house. But it's so good.
Nicole S.: Oh, good. Don't feel bad. That's like, not to say ... I mean, that's just how ... I'm gonna confess this; for me, for Thanksgiving, if you're gonna make a mac and cheese, you can't do it without Velveeta, in my opinion. It just makes, it just makes some of the best mac and cheese. Cheddar does not ... You can a roux, but Cheddar does not melt like Velveeta does.
Jo Thrasher: No, it [inaudible 00:06:01] and then it's all gross and oily on the top.
Nicole S.: It just ... Velveeta just gets it done. I don't ... Sorry, sometimes you just gotta go with the free processed products. It just is. It just is. I mean, I grew up in a family where some of my relatives got government cheese. I don't know if anyone ... If you grew up in the '80 in your rural core, there used to be these products you get, like pork, but it was in a can, got a chicken, but it is in a can, and it was real suspect, back in the '70s needs. I remember, cause my grandma kept this for years. I'm like, "I'm [inaudible 00:06:33] to kill us all if we eat that pork in a can. Don't open it. There's aliens and stuff."
Jo Thrasher: Oh my God.
Nicole S.: But, we would get this cheese, you'd stand in line, and there'd be this government cheese. And it was basically Velveeta. That's what Velveeta is now. It was just gover- ... [inaudible 00:06:50]
Jo Thrasher: Well, 'cause it's on a shelf stable, and [crosstalk 00:06:55] But, I mean, I understand. I grew up in the '80s and '90s, and I did not grow up in a house where there was a lot of gourmet food, a lot of fresh food. We had a lot of processed food. We had a lot of American cheese, a lot of SnackWells, a lot of the Del Monte fruit in heavy syrup. That's what I grew up on, white bread, stuff like that. It is amazing to me, the way that I cook now, and the way that society has really brought food into their homes in a really organic and beautiful way. Because, look how far we've come, like, Velveeta, and Wonder Bread.
Nicole S.: Sounds like you've completely derailed. But this is important to talk about, 'cause it was one of my passions. I mean, I think because ... I think there's this generation of us who grew up in the '80s and '90s ... I mean, I drank Tang, I remember my mom would buy these sodas, they would be pineapple or grape. And there used to be the color ... Pineapple would be like, yellow, or like this yellow soda. And we could get a three liter for a dollar at the ... And you grew up with all these weird little processed food snacks. Hey, my mom worked, and worked a full time job. Dad worked. They were working parents, they're trying to feed us. I never went hungry. Not a single day in my life did I ever go hungry. But, we were not rich at all, and so, I grew up on all processed foods banquet, Pop Pies, and Hot Pockets. Oh, so many hot pockets. And fast food, and ...
Look, in the '80s and '90s, all you folks out there who weren't there while we were there, we were [inaudible 00:08:34] Remember, when it was okay, your parents would feed you that. They'd feed you margarine, 'cause they thought it was healthier. And you were all right with that.
Jo Thrasher: Margarine, hot dogs...
Nicole S.: Used to get us sausages.
Jo Thrasher: ...Kid Cuisine. I don't ... Kid Cuisine growing up.
Nicole S.: I remember, oh, there was Lunchables. Oh my gosh, if you had a Lunchable as a kid, you were rich.
Jo Thrasher: You were rich and popular.
Nicole S.: Exactly. And there would be these knock off Lunchables that your parents would give you, and you'd be ashamed, trying to hurry up and rip off the package. I mean, and so ... I'm with you. The way I cook now ... And my mom could cook, she just didn't like to, because she's always tired. I just thought she just didn't like to cook. She didn't like to cook, because she was tired, 'cause she's working on her feet all day, and then trying to provide for her kids. God bless the moms and the dads who had to just struggle. I think we were nostalgic for that era, but boy, oh boy, did we all eat terribly. I think that's where that love of ... I mean, I can see when I look at your blog, how loving you are with your food, and I think ... Now, I look at today's teenagers, and it's like, if you try to just hand him a sandwich, they're like, "Excuse me, is this fair trade?"
Jo Thrasher: "Where did this come ... I might just eat it."
Nicole S.: And they're like, "I'm sorry, I am a Paleo Vegan." And you're like, "What?" It doesn't makes sense. Totally. All right. Give me an ingredient you can't live without.
Jo Thrasher: I would have to say onions, in anything savory, of course, not baking with a lot of onions. But, onions are the backbone of anything really delicious. I really think onions and garlic mostly, but, they're sweet, they're savory, they're cheap, and, you can put 'em in everything, and they're going to give you that good background flavor, that is the foundation for everything good. Any cuisine; Chinese, Mexican, or, sorry, Asian, any Asian cuisine, Mexican food, American food, Italian food, you put an onion in the beginning, and sauteed in some fat with some salt, you're off to a good start. That would be it.
Nicole S.: I'm with you. I love onions, as a sauteed onion, or ... You're 100% right. It is a great base. And then, sometimes, if you do onions and garlic, girl, bye. That is the ... I call that, that's a ... The onions, garlic and some fat., I don't care, whatever I'm going to make is going to be enhanced, because I put onions, garlic and fat in it. I mean, except for a cake. That's weird.
Jo Thrasher: I mean, hopefully, some savory baked goods. Caramelized onions in a focaccia that's ridiculous. 'Cause it's sweet and salty, and they're just really good. And, at this point, honestly, I don't even think of onions as an ingredient anymore. When I'm writing a recipe, I have to be really diligent about remembering, "Oh no, there's a half a yellow onion in there." Because I just ... It's on autopilot. I always put an onion in anything savory.
Nicole S.: I just always had onions. Got it with somebody have that blog name always at ... I know there's Always Add Butter, and that's Emelyn, and she's hilarious and awesome. But I'm like, "Someone take Always Add Onions."
Jo Thrasher: 'Cause it's necessary.
Nicole S.: I that. All right. I wanna talk about, first of all ... I mean, I'm making a confession telling my fellow food bloggers out there, I wanna say I'm sorry in advance. There's most times when I go to someone's food blog, I just skip straight to recipe. And I say this feeling really guilty about it, because I know that most people, when they do the writeup, they're giving you the reason of why they're giving you this recipe, and they're giving you tips in that write up, like, "Hey, I tried it this way.", and most people are like, "Got no time for that. Just give me a recipe." And there's this loving story behind it, and I do feel bad, but, I have to tell you, I really mean this. When I go to your blog to look for a recipe, and I read it, I actually read, write to write.
First of all, the way you present your ... The way you title your blog posts in the picture, is so appealing.
Jo Thrasher: Oh, [inaudible 00:12:36] that.
Nicole S.: Bu then ... I love it so much. I love it. It's so different. I'm not seeing people do that before. It's just unique. And then, the other thing is that, your voice, your sense o' humor just comes bursting through out. You're really funny, and you really like to keep it real. In fact, I just read your blog post for fried rice, and how broke you were.
Jo Thrasher: Oh my God, broke as a joke. Just so, so, so poor.
Nicole S.: I love it though. I mean, it's just like, I get that, and I love that you were like, "Yeah, no, this was ... You had to start from somewhere, and you're keeping it real. I love your voice. But I wanna talk to you, and I want you to talk to us about; about a year ago, there was no food blog, and then, everybody has resolutions. I remember, I was gonna say, "I'm gonna start a food blog." And then by February, I'm like, "I'm out. I got this job, and I can't sustain it." But you're like, "No, I'm gonna stick with it." And not even gonna stick with it, "I'm gonna post two times a week.", which is insane people. That's a lot of photographing, testing, posting, editing. Walk me through, why a food blog and how did you manage to stick to it?
Jo Thrasher: This is a lot. Here it comes; first of all, thank you for thinking, I'm funny. That means a lot to me, because, it's hard to be writing all this stuff up, and trying to be crepey, and trying to get my personality across. But, I'm not a comedian, I'm writing about fried rice. How funny can fried rice really get?
Nicole S.: Very [crosstalk 00:14:04]
Jo Thrasher: Depends who watching me. Thank you. And as for the food blog, I actually had a food blog way back in the day, that only lasted about three months. And it was called Skinny Kitchen Fatty blog, and it has since been taken off of the Internet, because it's a little embarrassing, so don't go looking for it, 'cause it ain't there.
Nicole S.: Now, you're gonna end up on 4Chan, someone's going to be like, [crosstalk 00:14:28]
Jo Thrasher: "I found it." But no. I started that a decade ago, actually, when I was living in that tiny apartment where I was so, so sad in New York, and just broke as a joke. And it was really, really fun. I enjoyed it. But then, life got in the way, and I put it all down, and ... I was a working actor in New York for quite a long time, for the better part of a decade.
Nicole S.: [inaudible 00:14:50]
Jo Thrasher: Yeah, yes. That's what I did. I went to school for music. I went up to New York 2006, maybe 2006, 2007, and started working as a musical theater actress, and did that for a really long time, and had a great time doing it. And then, life happens and I just wanted to settle down. I ended up getting married, and moving down to the Philadelphia area with my husband, and took a job. Took a stable job, 9:00 to 5:00. First one I've ever had. Really, really great, having health insurance for the first time as an adult. All of that seemed really super fun.
But then, I find myself at the end of 2017, my husband I had just gotten married. And we're moving in to 2018, we had planned a wedding, and done all that stuff, which had taken up a lot of mental and emotional energy. And now, I was looking for something new to do. And it had been three or four years since I had done any auditioning, or acting, or singing, and that's not really where I wanted my life to go. But I needed a creative outlet, 'cause I'm a creative person, and I said, "Well, you know what, I love food. I really enjoyed doing that food blog a decade ago. Maybe I'll try that again, and just see where it goes." There was very little pressure that I put on myself, 'cause it was like, "Whatever. No one's gonna read it."
I started doing it, and, if you look back at my first post, there aren't even any recipes. It's a picture of my lunch, and me complaining about the weather, which really did continue, 'cause I complain about the weather all the time. It's true. I just can't. My husband and I are always like, "You love the weather." But anyway, I started. I started doing the food blog. I started posting an unreasonable amount, because I wasn't really writing for a reader. I was writing for myself, and I would start just making whatever we had for dinner, last night, into the next day's food blog posts, and I would post five times a week. Which now seems ridiculous, I would never be able to keep that up, even if I didn't have a job. I just don't think I could do it.
I think Jess from How Sweet Eats does that every day, and I don't understand. She's like a machine.
Nicole S.: Oh my God.
Jo Thrasher: And her [inaudible 00:16:54] beautiful.
Nicole S.: Does she have a full time job?
Jo Thrasher: Well, I think that ... Blogging is her full time job. She's a pretty OG, very successful food blogger, but she's still ... Since the beginning, she's posted five recipes a week, or five posts a week. Sometimes there'll be a roundup, or something that, or a lifestyle post, but, I look at her stuff, her photography is beautiful, she has two little kids. I don't understand how she does it. But, that's to say, I ended up moving along in the process, and thinking, "Maybe some people are actually reading this, and they actually want a recipe that is tested, and will work, and is interesting, and might solve a problem, and all of that." So I started to take it more seriously, I think, somewhere in February.
And I dialed ... I think, I went from three recipes a week to two, because that seemed more reasonable. I think there are a couple months where I did three a week, which I was pulling my hair out, to be honest. And any other food bloggers will totally understand, three weeks seems very aggressive, but, I'm not on a good scheduler. I post recipes on Tuesdays and Fridays without fail, and the consistency, I think, is really good for me as a person, as well as the food blogging community, hopefully. Because it means that I have something to be accountable for. Every Tuesday a recipe goes up, every Friday a recipe goes up, and sometimes I'm feeling real good about myself, and have it all cued up two weeks in advance. And sometimes I am scrambling. Just, a word of perspective to all you other food bloggers out there. It doesn't ... Not everybody has all their stuff together.
Nicole S.: What are those meals that you're cooking over and over? I know there's Instagram food, and then there's real life food, like, cheese ramen, which like, amen for that.
Jo Thrasher: No.
Nicole S.: Let me tell you something, I'm not taking that over now, I'm like ... [crosstalk 00:18:36]
Jo Thrasher: [inaudible 00:18:36] and miserable lunch we ate a lot of cheese ramen.
Nicole S.: But what are those you most cook?
Jo Thrasher: It's a big sodium [crosstalk 00:18:42].
Nicole S.: Maybe.
Jo Thrasher: No, I would say that, over and over, we have a lot of stir fry. We eat a lot of Frittatas, because they're easy, and you can always throw whatever you have in the fridge into them. We eat a lot of pizza, either in pizza that we make at home, or a pizza that we order in. or sometimes frozen pizza. We eat ... We always have a frozen pizza in the freezer. And, let's see, we eat a lot of tacos lately. I think we go through phases, depending on what I'm cooking for the blog, and then sometimes my husband will make requests. He'll be like, "Hey, we haven't had tomato pie in a really long time. Can you make that?", or, "Hey we should have a stir fry.", and he's totally gonna get on me about this when he listens to this, 'cause, every time I ask him if he has suggestions for blog recipes, he's like, "Post about stir fry.", and I have never done it ever.
I'm like, "I'm sorry babe. Stir fry just doesn't always look beautiful." But now I feel I have to, 'cause I've put it on the Internet. And that, I should put that stir fry.
Nicole S.: All right. Now it's official. Your stir fry must go up. But I understand what you're saying about the stir fry. Carlene Cox from Mitten Dietitian talks about how she has a lot of stir fry too. Actually stir fry comes up a lot. I think people discount it's very easy, it's very quick. You can put a bunch of veggies into it. You can use whatever protein you have.
If you wanna add a grain to it, great. If you don't want to you can add to a Paleo, you can do that too. And there you go. And within less than 20 minutes, you have a meal that's satisfying and delicious, and easy, and customizable with just basically what you have on hand. You don't have to ... There's no set list of ingredients for stir fry. It's just like, "What do you got in the fridge?"
Jo Thrasher: There's no recipe. Let's say, for sauces, totally. You can make a recipe or look at a recipe, or, I could develop a recipe, but for the other stuff that you wanna put in there, Like, "Well, what do you like? Do you like carrots? Do you like broccoli? Do you wanna put peanuts in there? Are you into chicken?" Everyone's into chicken. But, I think stir fry is also one of those things that, even if you don't feel like a confident cook, you can make a stir fry. And generally speaking, it's gonna be pretty good. And, you can riff on ...
There's so many variations you can riff on it forever. My husband, when he was single, he was like, "I would just make stir fry every night." He's like, "I would eat stir fry every night, five nights a week." Which, it does seem a lot to me, but I get it. He wasn't a super confident cook back in the day, and he was like, "This is what I can do." You can make it work.
Nicole S.: When I deployed ... I mean, that's better than my husband, 'cause when I deployed, he just buys a bunch of chicken breasts, a bunch of broccoli, and a bunch of brown rice, and that's it. He's not stir frying yet, he's just ... He's just making the chicken, making the ... He might saute the broccoli, probably not. And, he's making the rice in the rice cooker, and he will eat that five days a week. He just does not care.
Jo Thrasher: I mean, I'm jealous of him in a way. If I could ... Obviously, it wouldn't be very good for food blogging, but it would be probably really good for efficiency, and your health. That sounds like a really healthy meal. And if you're cool [inaudible 00:21:56]five days a week.
Nicole S.: It is. I mean, he won't eat junk. I mean, 'cause there was this run with Del Taco that we had to talk about for a while when we were in California. I don't know if he was missing me, or he's just too lazy to even make that basic meal, but, when I met him, and even now that's his default meal, I've upgraded it for him. I've made it ... I mean, I will tell you that most days I eat chicken, broccoli and rice. That's my go to lunch. But, I, a Foodie, I'm not just gonna make chicken, broccoli and rice, I'm willing to up it a little bit, so that delicious. I mean, but that's a meal I eat every day. 'Cause I also think, sometimes, mentally, I just don't have it in me to make every meal, because I'm shooting recipes, and doing stuff, and you probably feel the same way.
Sometimes I don't have it in me to also make my meal super creative, and so, those simple recipes made well because of technique, work just as good for me on a regular basis. I'm not eating stroganoff, and all types of fancy things, folks. I'm generally, some version of chicken, broccoli and rice, or some version of a bowl, some type of grain bowl is generally what's on the menu for me.
Jo Thrasher: Well, and you can riff on that a whole bunch o' different ways too. 'Cause I eat a lot of grain salads, and I eat a lot of protein with a side of salad for lunch, because, by the time dinner comes around, I'm too lazy to think about a healthy choice a lot of the time. I'm like, "If you're gonna ..." You have to front load your day, try to eat a healthy breakfast, try to eat a healthy lunch, and then, I don't know what happens at dinner. But, it is nice to say, "Well, there are all these things on the market now." You can get cool spice mixes. I put everything, Bagel spice on literally everything.
Nicole S.: Same.
Jo Thrasher: I like Dukkah, or different nuts. Lately I've been on a real pistachio kick, 'cause you can buy them de shelled, and I put them in everything, and they're really delicious, and they make everything seem a little fancier, which, sometimes in the middle of the day, I'm like, "I wanna be fancy." I wanna be a little fancy. But, I think it's unrealistic to think that every single meal that anyone makes, that you have the time and attention to detail, to make every single meal the most brand new, trendiest, whatever thing that you've eaten. You have to have fallbacks. You have to have go tos, and for us, go tos we do a lot of grain salads during lunches, and we do a lot of frittatas and pizza at dinner time, and again. with the stir fries. We try to eat a lot of stir fry.
Nicole S.: Totally. What's your most popular recipe? Do you know that, what's the most popular thing in the blog?
Jo Thrasher: Yeah, I looked at that before we got on the call, and actually, my most popular recipe is due to BuzzFeed. Thank you BuzzFeed "listicles".
Nicole S.: Buzz we need.
Jo Thrasher: It's the BuzzFeed. It was featured on there, and it's a ... And I do have to say, it's a fantastic recipe. I'm not sure if it would be the most popular, if it hadn't been on BuzzFeed, so it may ... That's a little bit inflated, but it's a sweet potato Gnocchi with brown butter and kale.
Nicole S.: Whoa.
Jo Thrasher: It's really good. It's a comfort vegetarian dish. Yeah. And, it's really easy to make. You can make the Gnocchi ahead of time, and freeze it, or refrigerate it, and just bring it out when you're ready to cook it, or, I've definitely done it soup to nuts from beginning to end in less than 40 minutes, to make the Gnocchi, because ... And I do, I involve the microwave. I put the sweet potato in the microwave, because I don't have time to wait for a sweet potato to cook for an hour in the oven. I'm all about using the microwave, if I'm gonna mash it up, and mix it with cheese and flour anyway. But it is a really delicious dish, and I would say, it's definitely vegetarian food. It's definitely a vegetarian comfort food, because it does involve a decent amount of brown butter, but also a ton of kale, so you're getting a lot of veggies too.
Nicole S.: I mean, not cancel them out, right?
Jo Thrasher: Exactly. It's all about balance. That's what they molded us on social media.
Nicole S.: Exactly. And now, I'm gonna make you talk about how ... 'Cause I am extremely interested in Gnocchi. It's intimidating to me, I'm not gonna lie. I've wanted to make Gnocchi, but I've not done it, because, first of all, I don't have that little board. You know what I'm talking about?
Jo Thrasher: The cute little board that makes the ridges?
Nicole S.: Yeah, and I'm like, "What the ..." Talk us through, because, now, I am highly interested in that. Talk me through, how ... Can you walk us through how you make Gnocchi?
Jo Thrasher: Yeah. Well, first of all, this is a little different, 'cause it's sweet potato Gnocchi. Traditional Gnocchi is made with white potatoes, and there'll be eggs in there, and flour, and sometimes ricotta cheese depending on what version you're making. This is a little bit different, and I actually think a little bit easier, because sweet potatoes by their nature have more moisture in them, when you cook them.
You microwave the sweet potato, you wait for it to cool until it's cool enough to handle, which I never do, and always burn myself. I'm just really impatient. It's a difficult thing. Then you peel it, and you mash it up in a bowl with the pecorino or parmesan cheese, some, I think in the recipe it's mascarpone, but you can totally use cream cheese. That total works too. Some lemon zest to brighten it up a little bit, 'cause otherwise it can get a little bit stodgy. And then, some flour, and just enough flour to bring it together. And, I totally understand about, "I don't have the cute little Gnocchi paddle thing either." I have a fork, and you can roll the little Gnocchis off the edge of the fork if you wanna make those ridges.
But, to be honest, I don't even do that. I just chop them into pieces and call it a day, 'cause I'm like, "I'm not serving them to the queen. I'm serving it to me and my husband." Queen would totally eat it, and she'd like it. I think my big tip about making Gnocchi is, it's totally a little intimidating, because you're like, "It's like making your own pasta.", which seems a little scary, it's way easier then that. It's more by feel, and that is also, I think, a little intimidating to a lot of people. But you just add things gradually. You put in a little bit more flour, you bring it together, does it seem a big sticky mess, or is it coming together?
And, you always want it somewhere in the middle. You never want it to be a fully formed ball of dough, because then it probably has too much flour in it, but you never want it to be a paste. It needs to be somewhere in the middle. And what I normally tell people is, "Don't be afraid to get a little messy. This is going to be a bit of a messy process.", which is totally fine, because you can clean it up afterwards, and it's gonna be delicious. Basically, you just bring all those ingredients together, you mix them all up until you have a more or less cohesive dough, that's probably a little bit on the stickier side of things. And then, you divide it up into three manageable pieces, and you roll it out into a long snake. And once it's rolled out, you chop it up into little Gnocchi size pieces. I like to use a bench scraper, which I have to say, hands down, is the most underrated kitchen tool ever. It's six or $7. Just go buy one. It will change your whole life.
But you just chop it up with a little bench scraper into pieces, or just a knife, if that's what you've got. And, put it on a rimmed baking sheet with a little bit of flour on it. That'll keep them from sticking together. And put them in the fridge, or in the freezer, and then you can cook them later, or you can cook them right away. The recipe, just has you boil them for two or three minutes until they pop up to the surface. Meanwhile, brown in some butter in a pan, and then you drain the Gnocchi when they're done boiling, and you put them into the brown butter, and then, everything just gets really delicious, and nutty, and salty, and then you throw the kale, and it's a really delicious one bowl meal. We often just curl up on the couch and watch Law and Order and eat it. That's ... We watched four episodes of Law and Order yesterday.
Nicole S.: Oh my God, you just described my dream day Law and Order.
Jo Thrasher: Well, because you can always find one.
Nicole S.: Oh my God. I'm down from marathons, and by marathons, I mean, Law and Order marathons. You can end ... I will always [inaudible 00:29:47] one in, and sit on the couch, with a bowl o' ice cream, and watch Law and Order, #don'tcare, #donotjudgedon'tcare. You can judge away if you can, but, oh my gosh, you just described what a perfect day, Gnocchi, brown butter, kale and Law and Order.
Jo Thrasher: That's pretty much how I wanna live my life.
Nicole S.: Pretty much. And ...
Jo Thrasher: I'm okay.
Nicole S.: Can I be rich enough that I don't have to work, but I can just make great food for myself. I don't need a cook. I'm gonna cook my own food. But I can watch a Law and Order marathon anytime I want, and I want old school Law and Order, not this SVU stuff. I want an old school Law and Order. I will take criminal intent, sometimes, but I want, "Tin, tin." I want the whole thing, every single time.
Jo Thrasher: I get you. I get you. I have to say, we are a big SVU fan. We love some Olivia Benson, we are on board with ADA Barbara all the way. We're maybe borderline obsessed. We might have a problem, but we're homebodies. We like to be here, and watch really trashy TV. Well, mostly trashy TV. I still ... I can't get on board with Real Housewives, and I do have friends that are really into that, Real Housewives, Vanderpump Rules, all of that. I haven't gotten into that. I don't have anything negative to say about it, but I haven't dipped my toe in that world yet. And I'm only [crosstalk 00:31:06]
Nicole S.: Everybody has their show. I am discussing. We will not take a shower. I'll make pancakes. No, I make Kodiak cakes, because if I make regular pancakes, I am out for the rest of the day. That's it. It's done. No more photo shoots. I will go eat on the couch, just straight binging through Hulu and Netflix. It's ... I mean, if you ... I think sometimes, people are like, "Oh, you're so accomplished, and you've done so much in your life." And I'm like, "If you knew the amount of time I spent watching Netflix shows, and not even good ones, the ones you've never heard of, how ashamed I would be if you put up my Netflix queue. I always say, there's three things I will never reveal to the public, my Amazon wishlist, my Netflix queue, and my Google search. You do not wanna know. And you don't wanna know what I'm searching Google. You do not wanna know all the cat videos I've been watching, okay.
When I look at your style, I would call it, it's vegetarian chic, or vegetariana chic. I've see that you gravitate, first of all, a lot of ... There's a lot of color in your recipes, not super bright, but just more sophisticated, and I don't think it.
Jo Thrasher: Option out.
Nicole S.: You don't ... But you talk about chicken, so you're not a vegetarian, but you do tend to go towards more vegetarian-ish recipes. Why is that?
Jo Thrasher: I really think that that's more on the food blog side of things. What is easier to test really thoroughly, and convey to an audience in a way that I know there'll be able to replicate? Meat cookery, its own sort of thing. And I really love cooking meat. We actually ... The reason we're doing a vegetarian January is because, December was a meat fest, and we needed a break, and there have been periods of time where both my husband I have practiced veganism. We definitely love vegetables. We love eating that way, but, at this point in our lives, I would call us total omnivores. We eat everything for the most part. And I really enjoy cooking meat, and I enjoy cooking chicken and things like that. But, it is the kind of thing that's more difficult to portray in a recipe, and I do want to work on that more in 2019, that's one of my goals actually.
Because I do think, the home cook especially, you buy chicken, you buy steak, you wanna know how to cook those things, and having the tips and tricks to do those things well, so you don't feel you're wasting money. But those are harder things to do, and, from a real honest standpoint, a reason why a lot of those things are not on the blog, is because, I just haven't tackled them in a way that I think is accessible to the home cook at the moment. I just don't have the right way to convey that. And I think, I'm gonna get there, totally. I certainly hope so, but it's just something I wanna make sure, once I put it out there, it's something that people can do.
Nicole S.: I'm looking forward to it, and I bet you, you're just gonna kill it. What's the recipe on your blog ... We just talked about the Gnocchi, which that's happening. That's happening for me. What's the recipe though for a newbie cook who's listening to you? Maybe they just ... I don't know, kids today, now, they graduate college and they've dug on, chefs themselves, like this 17 year old can cook you a five course meal, and millennials, generation Y and Z, and they can go in Whole Foods and tell you what fair trade tuna is. But, they are. And God bless 'em. If the children will save us ... The youth are our future. But what's the recipe, if you are that new cook who's like, "This year, I'm gonna cook." What's one that you would gravitates them towards on your blog?
Jo Thrasher: I actually have two. And because they're both easy, they're both mostly plant based, but they're really so delicious that none of those things really matter. One is my 15 minute avocado pasta, and it's basically just the sauces, avocado and some herbs, and you're like, buzz it up in the food processor, or you could just mash it up in a bowl if you don't have a food processor, and spaghetti. And then just bringing 'em together, and it makes this creamy, delicious, a little bit tangy, 'cause there's a lot of citrus in there, sauce that's beautiful, vibrant, bright green. Especially if, let's say you're a broke as a joke college student, and you don't have a lot of time, or a lot of money that you wanna make something cool and interesting, that looks a little trendy and it's fun to photograph, that would be a really great recipe, because it is so beautiful, and so easy, and really delicious.
And then, another one is my Gochujang roasted carrots. And that's because, one, introduces you to a new ingredient for some people. Gochujang is a Korean chili paste, and I love it. I put it on a lot of things. It's a little ... It's embarrassing how often I pull from that. And two, it's a really simple technique that you can apply to a lot of different dishes, a lot of different flavors. You don't have to use Gochujang, you could just do a simple, olive oil, salt and pepper, roasted carrot. And basically, it's the technique that is important here to the recipe, which is basically, you take the carrots, you either leave them whole, peel them, wash them, leave them whole, or split them down the middle vertically if they're really, really big. And, you put them on a sheet pan with your salt, pepper, a little bit of fat, either butter or olive oil, something like that. And then, your flavor in.
And in this case, it's Gochujang. And then you put a little bit of water, a tablespoon or two of water in the baking sheet, and you cover it with foil. Because, I cannot tell you how long it took me as a home cook, to understand how to roast vegetables so they were tender on the inside, but brown on the outside, and not weird, and dry, and leathery, and the answer is, you put a little bit of water in there, you cover it with foil, you pop it into a hot oven for 15, 20 minutes, and then you take the foil off, and finish cooking them until they're brown. And, what the water does, is it steams them, so that they're cooked through, and then, when you take the foil off the hot heat of the oven, it's not a lot of water, it evaporates almost immediately, and then you really start caramelizing the outside of those vegetables, and that's what makes them delicious.
And, I have to say, hands down, I want a steak right now, especially, we're 20 days through vegetarian January. I'm really, really craving a burger, but almost as much, those carrots really, really satisfy me in a way that, just a regular steamed carrot never could.
Nicole S.: That sounds amazing, and you just taught me something I didn't know that about. 'Cause my ... Look, real talk, my roasted vegetables are leathery, and I just there was like, "I guess that's just how they ate, how it is." You know how you just accept something, and you're just like, "Whoa. I guess that's just how it is for me." You just taught me, and I'm going to use that now.
Jo Thrasher: I'm so glad.
Nicole S.: You just added something to my technique repertoire. Thank you [inaudible 00:37:46], I did not know that. That's amazing. And duh, It's a duh moment, but sometimes you need someone else. That's why I will talk to the other food bloggers, 'cause you guys, gosh, darn, you guys have so much knowledge that people could really benefit from. I bet you Nick, there are street people out there, who's like, "What? I had no idea you could [inaudible 00:38:05] [inaudible 00:38:05], I just was just roasting the heck out of 'em. I thought they had to be caramelized." And by caramelized I mean, burnt to a crisp and leathery. And, that ...
Jo Thrasher: Well, I understand it, 'cause that's where I came from. I think, you think water is the enemy of browning. You want things to be dry, you wanted it to be a dry heat. I'm like, "Yeah, you do, eventually." But you wanna cook those vegetables through, and so, I definitely, you could do a really good roasted vegetable if you chop them up small enough, that they're gonna cook on the inside in the same amount of time it's gonna take them to brown on the outside. It's a science thing. It's a lot of ratios. But, if you wanna make a big beautiful roasted carrot, you need time for that carrot to cook all the way through, and we're just push ... We're helping it along, 'cause I don't have an hour and a half to roast again.
Nicole S.: Does anybody, except [inaudible 00:38:53]people.
Jo Thrasher: For some people, maybe then, and more power to them. [crosstalk 00:38:57]
Nicole S.: And I [inaudible 00:39:00] guys, the only person .... And I was right now going, "What the heck? I got stuff to be through." We just high oven it.
Jo Thrasher: [crosstalk 00:39:08] I know, we love you.
Nicole S.: I know, as if she would even ever know who we are. But that's okay.
Jo Thrasher: Eventually.
Nicole S.: Exactly. Maybe someday, maybe someday. Live the dream.
Jo Thrasher: That's the call to live the dream.
Nicole S.: We can totally dream. Wow. I'm like, "Shoot. I think that was your tip." But I'm gonna ask you as a student anyway, I am gonna ask you, 'cause that's just, man, that was such a good tip. And I wanted to tell, you're doing vegetarian January, last year I did that, and I'm here in Hawaii. I'm doing vegetarian January, and that's a month where I was like, "We're just gonna eat vegetarian. We're gonna go vegan when we can. And then, when we just can't, we'll go vegetarian." And my husband always says, "Look, I can be a vegetarian, except for chicken, and I can be a vegan except for eggs." And I'm like, "That's not [crosstalk 00:39:52]"
You know what I'm saying? Like, "Then you're just not a vegetarian." And, "It's okay. You don't have to ... Nobody's going to the vegetarian police and going, this guy is eating chicken." But we were doing that challenge. And the missile alert crisis happened where we got a missile, and I can remember, I had three distinct thoughts, and one of those thoughts was, "I'm gonna die, and I didn't even get to eat any bacon." But that's got a little weird. So mad, I mean, I was kale in my fridge.
Jo Thrasher: You're like, "I haven't been living my life right. What have I been doing?"
Nicole S.: And then it was like, "What? I haven't been sick. There's no emergency scotch, and there's no emergency bourbon, and there's no emergency bacon. What's wrong with me?" And I have since for remedied that. This year, I was like, I've stocked up on bacon, and [inaudible 00:40:45]. I don't even drink. But I feel if a missile's headed your way, I'm not worried about the hangover.
Jo Thrasher: There are definitely a lot of things that I would do differently if I knew I only had 24 hours to live.
Nicole S.: And for one, would be making sure I eat a lot of bacon.
Jo Thrasher: And bacon freezes beautifully, so you can keep that stuff in the freezer for a rainy day.
Nicole S.: I have ... I'm always in it, 'cause especially here in Hawaii, sometimes the shipment to Whole Foods or to Safeway, will be a little bit delayed, and there have been times where they ran out of bacon, and got freaked out, and now. I have just ... I always have two at the ready. I always have one in the fridge, and two at the ready in the freezer if I have to.
Jo Thrasher: Are you a bacon hoarder?
Nicole S.: I am. And a butter hoarder, totally.
Jo Thrasher: You two are so much better, I'm afraid I'm gonna run out.
Nicole S.: I know. Oh, that happened to me on New Year's Eve. I was making brownies for New Year's eve, and, I mean, you get brownie, you get [inaudible 00:41:44] brownie butter. And I had one stick left, and it was 8:00 PM, and I was scared. I just was like dropped everything I was doing, got in my car, drove down the street and bought four pounds of butter, and I was like, "Never again."
Jo Thrasher: You need to feel safe in having enough butter in your house, always in the freezer, always at least eight sticks of butter, which seems excessive, now that I say it out loud, but I still don't care.
Nicole S.: But it is not. I could easily, this week can go through eight sticks of butter, or like, "Oh my gosh, with all the baking that I do, for sure." It's like everyday, [inaudible 00:42:19] from Everything Dessert. She's like, "I have cupboards filled with chocolate, because you never know when you need to make brownies." 'Cause she's a baking blogger. and she's just like, "I can't." She's like, "I can't be caught without chocolate. Why? Why would you ever [inaudible 00:42:33]?"
Jo Thrasher: Do you feel for baking wafers when I'm developing a dessert recipe, 'cause I would say my blog is 50, 50, savory and dessert. Maybe a little bit further on the savory side, but when I'm doing a dessert recipe, I'm like, "Wow, you go through a lot of butter, a lot of flour, a lot of eggs." I gotta go to the store and bulk out.
Nicole S.: You do. I mean, I ran through eggs. Costco cannot ... I can easily kill a Costco 18 pack o' eggs, no problem. And the butter ... I have to buy my butter at Costco. They have organic salted butter. And I just use that now for maybe. I mostly just use organic salted butter for my baking, one, 'cause that's what they sell here in Costco, and I gotta buy it in bulk, And two, I just did a little experiment to see how bad is it, and you really can't tell the difference. You just add a little less salt to most of your baked goods. But I like salty brownies, so I add probably a little more salt than most to my brownie, 'cause I like that. I loved that it tempers the flavor of the sweetness of the chocolate, and you really get that chocolate salty flavor. If you could get a Brownie for me, it's gonna have probably one and a half times the salt than it calls for, so I up it, buy it.
Jo Thrasher: Well, I'm [inaudible 00:43:48] too, because people who are like, "Oh we'll buy it, why would you do that?" I'm like, "Well, it brings out the flavor in the chocolate, it tempers the sweetness, but really at the end of the day, it makes it more balanced so you can eat more of it."
Nicole S.: Your mouth wants to have a balance of flavors. It doesn't just want one. All sweet, if you were to eat just pure sugar, it would actually ... You would blur your taste buds. I'm always trying to temper down the sugar in desserts, because I wanted it to be sweet, but I don't want it ... I'm not big on super cloying desserts, because I can't get ... I want that flavor profile of more than just the sugar. Totally with you girl. All right. What is that one tip that you can give that home cook out there to make their meals more delicious tonight?
Jo Thrasher: This would be, I think, actually a meat cookery tip, which, as we discussed before, is something that I wanna get more into. But leave stuff alone, let it cook. if you're making a steak, or even if you're searing a chicken breast or something, I think people get into the habit of saying, "Oh, cooking means fiddling with stuff, or stirring constantly, or flipping something all the time." But if you're making a burger, or you're making a steak, or a piece of chicken, or even a mushroom, you need to let it sit there, and sit in the heat, let it sear, let it take on some color, before you touch it or move it. And people are so afraid that they're gonna burn something, which I totally get.
You don't wanna be afraid of burning something, so I guess here's tip number two. Medium high heat is okay. You don't have to always cook at high heat, especially if you are not as confident with things, and you are worried about burning. Let it sit at medium high heat, keep an eye on it, but don't touch it. And then, once it's been a couple minutes, like two, three minutes, and that can seem an eternity, to wait two or three minutes to turn something, but just try it out, and see how it goes, because, I guarantee you 99.9% of the time, if you're cooking at medium high heat with a decent amount of fat, olive oil, or butter, or something, and a piece of meat, a protein, or even a vegetable, if you let it go for two to three minutes, it's gonna be that much better, 'cause it will let it develop more flavor. It will be more brown, more crispy, more appetizing to the eye as well as to the mouth. And so that would be my tip.
Nicole S.: That is a great tip, and I hard agree with you on leaving things alone. That was something ... I think what happens, you watch cooking show, and you see him tossing and turning, or you see the chef doing things, but truly, leaving alone allows the Maillard reaction to happen on your meat. That's what makes your meat tastes meaty, tasty. It gives you that nice flavor profile. The longer you leave it alone, and the more o' that [fah-nd 00:46:34] is gonna end up into the pond ... The pond. That [fah-nd 00:46:38] is gonna end up into the pan, and then that's flavor. And ... I mean, that's how you get a great pan sauce. That's how you get that extra bits of crispy deliciousness when you're eating a sauteed chicken, or a sauteed fish. I love that tip of leaving it alone. That's a great tip.
Sure. Where can people find you on the Internet?
Jo Thrasher: My blog is joeats.net. Net, N-E-T, not com. I was not fast enough to get the .com. So joeats.net, you can find out ... You can also find me on Instagram @jo_eats_. It's Jo_eats_, or you can just type in Jo Thrasher, and you'll be able to find me. That's Jo_eats_ or Joe Thrasher at Instagram. You can find me at Pinterest, and that's joeatsnet, or you can find me on Facebook at Joeats blog. There is lots of different variations there, but honestly, if you type in Joeats or you type in Jo Thrasher in most platforms, you're gonna be able to find me. So joeats.net that would be the place to go.
Nicole S.: Fantastic. And I will put links to all of that in the show notes. Thank you so much Jo for being on this show today. You were so much on.
Jo Thrasher: Thank you so much for having me.
Nicole S.: And I thank you for teaching me all these great tips. I'm definitely, I'm making Gnocchi. That's happening. Okay girl, talk soon.
Jo Thrasher: Talk soon.
Nicole S.: Great. You just finished hearing me talk with Jo Thrasher from Joeats. I had a lot of fun talking to her, and she was just straight hitting out the park with tips, and she taught me a lot. I think she just changed the way I'm going to roast vegetables. I'm not kidding you guys. That was eye opening to me. I don't know why I didn't think of that myself, but it's such a genius tip to give, and I hope that you try it. And if you do try it, and you love it, let me know, and let Jo know. I know she would love to hear from you.
Also, the sweet potato Gnocchi, if you go all the way back to episode one, you'll hear me raving about plantain Gnocchi, and sweet potato Gnocchi, with Ben Meyer from season one, that very first episode. And, I have always been intimidated to make Gnocchi. It's just, it seems really hard, and, listening to Jo, I have been inspired that, I'm making that planting Gnocchi, and I'm gonna make sweet potato Gnocchi. I'm gonna try the dish that she talks about, but I'm also been inspired to try to recreate that dish from La Com Pierre la Pomme, which is one of my favorite restaurants in America.
I just had a lot of fun in this interview, and Jo is just killing it. Her photography is beautiful, and I truly recommend that you check out her site and her recipes. She knows what she's doing. And if you like the show, at least tell someone about it, and get them to subscribe. You can point them to the website bffwiththechef.com, or you can show 'em to my Instagram, which is also bffwiththechef.com. And, there's a link to the latest podcast right in the bio.
And, there's also a Facebook group, which is BFF with the Chef Friends. I would love to see you in any o' those places. That's a great place to connect with me. I try to post an air as recently as I can, any cool articles, or just interesting things about food. That's a great place to go, and a lot o' times I'm just posting things that I am so interested in, and I think you guys would be interested too. Look, until next time, this is BFF with the Chef, wishing you a great week, and hoping you've been inspired to go and make something delicious. Goodbye.