No Bake Makery where she makes – but doesn’t bake – all kinds of delicious bite-size treats. A publicist at a major publishing house where she works with cookbooks and contemporary fiction, Cristina is also the author of the cookbook, No Bake Makery: 80 Two-Bite Treats Made with Lovin’, Not an Oven. Her successful business has grown from what was originally a small blog venture out of her apartment in Brooklyn.
What’s the best cooking advice you’ve ever received?
Have fun with it! I think this is the single most important thing about cooking (or baking or no baking!). You can have tons of technical skills and knowledge, but if you aren’t enjoying yourself, what is the point? If you are excited about what you are making, it will inevitably turn out better. If you are just starting out, make sure you make what you love to eat. It’s really fun to try to emulate a favorite dish or dessert from a restaurant. When you get it right, you feel like you’ve cracked the code and just want to keep at it.
Who or what is behind your culinary inspiration?
I love Sandra Lee’s semi-home made concept. I love the idea of putting fun, creative twists on or improving a dish that could stand alone. The first thing I ever saw her do was take store-bought potato salad and add purple and red potatoes to it with some fresh herbs. The store bought had a little too much mayo and salt but when added with her ingredients, it was just right and way more colorful. I do this type of thing a lot with my desserts.
What are the three tools you can’t live without while cooking a meal?
I think the food processor is the single most versatile and useful kitchen tool for me. If you have a good one, you can use it for everything from chopping onions to slicing potatoes to making cookie or truffle dough. Before I got a mixer for my wedding, I even used it to whip cream! It worked like a charm. I also think mixing bowls and spatulas of all sizes are a must-have.
What ingredient are you most willing to splurge on?
Without a doubt, chocolate. Though big brand or store brand chocolate chips are often cheaper, a quality block or chunk of chocolate is so worth the money. The cheaper stuff is great to add a little crunch here or there, but quality block chocolate is made of primarily cocoa solids and cocoa butter. This gives it a naturally delicious taste and also makes it way easier to melt down and work with. Real, quality dark chocolate is also full of antioxidants.
What’s one budget item that should be on every home gourmet’s grocery list?
Peanut butter. There are so many more uses for it than plain ol’ peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. You can fold it into whipped cream to top cakes and brownies with, mix it with yogurt and honey for a snack, throw some into the food processor with frozen bananas for a tasty frozen yogurt, roll it in with oatmeal for a quick and healthy truffle, the list goes on and on.
Is there a chef that you really admire or look up to?
What’s one piece of advice you would give to an amateur chef?
Make what you love.
– Emma Stratigos