In the Kitchen with Erika Monroe-Williams, The Hopeless Housewife!
Ever watched “Chopped,” “Iron Chef,” or any other reality TV cooking show? Well, this season’s latest addition to the genre was ABC’s “The Taste,” and I was lucky enough to chat with one of the contestants on the show, Erika Monroe-Williams, the Hopeless Housewife! Not only did she talk about her experience on the show, as well as give some great tips for cooking at home with your family, but she’s also going to be sharing a few of her recipes with us in the coming weeks. We’ll be highlighting them as a series on our EverydayFamily Eats blog, so be on the lookout! In the meantime, check out her interview with EverydayFamily to learn more about her experience on the show and get some tips for those busy cooking nights when time eludes you (or, you just plain don't feel like cooking)!
Erika, you’ve been cooking most of your life, but were recently chosen from more than 10,000 chefs and home cooks to be a contestant on ABC’s “The Taste”. Can you tell us how you felt when you found out you were selected for the show?
I was completely stunned, I saw talented chef after chef and home cooks come down from the show's “hatches” that were not chosen so I thought for sure I was a goner. When Nigella picked me I was in such shock. I was on cloud nine all night – I went out to dinner with my family that night and had a smile from ear to ear the whole time!
Your mentor on the show was Nigella Lawson, the only female mentor. What was it like working so closely with Nigella, and what would you say was the most valuable take-away you got from the experience working with her?
Nigella is so talented and so experienced with many flavors, she knows how to balance flavors beautifully. She is so nurturing by nature and I think she truly wanted to help and teach us. What a treat to be in the kitchen with her! I learned so much.
How about your favorite experience on the show as a whole?
As a whole, I think cooking in the kitchen with Nigella and having Anthony Bourdain cruise through with a glass of wine. It was fun to be in a kitchen where that could take place!
You have a young daughter that also enjoys cooking. What steps did you take to encourage her to get excited about cooking?
She just learned by osmosis. She has been watching me and learning my tricks. I have to be careful, though – sometimes if I turn my back she is starting to cook French toast on her own at the stove. She is pretty good but I worry about safety, especially with that long hair of hers. I always make sure she has her hair back when we are cooking so it doesn't get in the flame of the burner.
What are some tips you can give our members about ways to get the whole family in the kitchen together?
Choose recipes that are fun and give everyone a task. Don't be afraid to throw out orders (in a nice way of course!), and if someone makes a mistake, don't stress out. Children especially will get more and more intimidated if they feel like their mistakes are ruining the meal. I always say “Oops! That's okay, let's try it this way instead” and my daughter has continued to learn and grow.
As mothers, we struggle to find the enough time in the day in general. What advise can you give busy moms to help save time in preparing meals for their families?
The best advice I could give is to not always try to make overly-complicated meals; save those for when you have more time to experiment. It's when I am rushing that I make the most mistakes. You can't always plan in advance, so I have a list of easy go-to meals to cook when I am the busiest.
Is there a go to dish that you cook for your family when you just don’t have time to plan?
Roast chicken! I put some herb butter under the skin and herbs in the cavity and toss it in the oven. It takes very little prep and you can throw it in the oven and go and do other things while it's roasting. There is also a very easy sausage and pappardelle recipe from Rao's that we love and it is very simple and delicious!
And lastly, do you have final words of wisdom for our members who still feel “helpless” in the kitchen?
Don't put too much pressure on yourself and don't be hard on yourself if you make mistakes. Cooking should be fun! Any chef will tell you that they too have had disasters in the kitchen. It's about learning from your mistakes and moving forward. I know of some great recipes that came out of mistakes so keep your head up!
About Erika Monroe-Williams:
Erika Monroe-Williams, founder of the popular food and lifestyle brand TheHopelessHousewife.com recently showed off her cooking chops on ABC’s primetime cooking competition show, The Taste, where she competed on Nigella Lawson’s team. Erika is truly the hostess with the most-ess, helping people everywhere conquer their kitchen and party planning challenges with simple yet spectacular recipes and party ideas. Erika’s signature cooking style is creating delicious recipes that put a new spin on classic dishes while making sure everything is easy enough for even the most cooking-challenged! A self-taught chef, this multi-tasking mother and former news anchor also just finished her first cookbook to be released Fall 2013.