Steak & Sprouts took the #7 spot as our community’s pick for the Best Food Bloggers of 20011. Monica and Caitlin are the masterminds behind this tasty blog. Why do we think they won? Pictures that make you drool, great recipes, fun anecdotes and two really fun points of view. How would we describe them? I’ll let them tell you: “We’re not classically trained chefs, by any means, and we don’t claim to be; but we know what we love to cook and enjoy taking the opportunity to share it with others.” We caught up with Monica and Caitlin to learn a bit more about them and their love of food.
FriendsEAT: How did you girls meet?
Caitlin & Monica: Ok, this might sound confusing at first, Caitlin’s husband, Allan, and his family have known Monica for many years (Allan’s sisters are Monica’s very close friends). Caitlin and Allan were newly dating when we met way back in 2002. We both remember the exact night we met, because it was Allan’s sister’s birthday and we were introduced at one of our favorite old stomping grounds, the Continental Room, in Fullerton, CA.
FE: I know Monica is from CA and has a Greek and Mexican background (I hear this one is dangerous). Caitlin; you have Italian background. How do your backgrounds influence your cooking and food preferences?
Caitlin: I’ve been surrounded by good food my entire life. My parents are great cooks and a lot of the recipes I make stem from something I ate as a kid; I just evolve it to my current tastes and what meat/produce I can find locally. My dad is Italian so big family dinners with the whole gang were quite common growing up and the food was just amazing. So many food memories from those days along with certain smells and tastes stuck with me; I try to recreate it whenever possible. I honestly don’t think I could ever survive without fresh baked bread and pasta.
Monica: I always say that I have good food on both sides of my family. I believe that growing up in a multicultural household and living in Southern California has made me open to trying a variety of foods. I love traditional Greek salads (that means no lettuce) to this day, and I still eat salsa with pretty much everything else. And, I still remember my food first memory: going to Mexico and eating a bowl of my Abuelita’s rice. She was an amazing cook who cooked organically before it was cool, needless to say her influence, along with my mom’s influence, has shaped me into the cook I am today.
FE: How did the two of you decide to start a blog?
Caitlin & Monica: The idea of starting a blog came about last September of 2010. Caitlin had recently moved to Oregon and we thought that it would be a fun way to channel our creativity and share our food and ideas; we both share a deep love for good food and music so combining the two into a blog seemed like the right thing to do.
Also, a few years prior to starting the blog, we used to coordinate get-togethers with friends, having a certain cocktail in mind; we’d also make appetizers and desserts that complimented the drink. Then we would go out to our favorite restaurants or bars to see whose cocktail was better, ours or the bartenders. Those were certainly fun times! So the blog, in some ways, was a natural progression from those days. And by the way, Caitlin makes a mean Tom Collins!
FE: Why retire Savory Plates and continue with Steaks and Sprouts?
Caitlin & Monica: When we started 2 Savory Palates, it was our first time attempting anything of the sort. It was a great way for us to experiment with the blog, and get our feet wet. It also allowed us to rethink the blog we ultimately wanted: a focus on healthier options and offering recipes for meat eaters and vegetarians. Living on the West Coast (specifically LA and the Northwest) allows us to be surrounded by a culture of healthy living, which is also quite inspirational for Steaks & Sprouts.
FE: For those who are not familiar with your blog; how would you describe it?
Caitlin & Monica: The blog is meant to satisfy the meat-eaters and veggies out there with healthy and delicious options. We’re certainly not classically trained chefs, but we know good food and wanted to share recipes that anyone can make from home. We try to make the food look and sound as good as it tastes; hopefully we convey that to our readers. Music is a big part of who we are and we wanted to incorporate that element into the recipes, hence the playlists and videos. We also try to make it easy to follow – the recipes are not overly complicated or too wordy. Generally our motto is good food, good drinks, good music!
FE: What is a typical day in your life like?
Caitlin: I’m a teacher, however I work part-time so I have extra time to spend on the blog and various activities. My husband works in baseball, so our life is divided into seasons; baseball season and the off-season. In the summers, we spend an abnormal amount of time at the stadium but on non-game days we’re usually outside doing something fun. During school and the off-season our weekdays are pretty routine, but the weekends are when we get out and have some fun; bike riding, trying new restaurants/pubs, seeing shows, hanging out with friends, skiing, day trips here and there and so on…
Monica: I usually don’t have a schedule or a list that dictates my day, however, on a typical weekday I’m up at about 6:30 am; my day job consists of either substitute teaching or working on freelance design jobs. I also try to do at least one creative thing a day, whether it’s making a new recipe or working on a new art piece; and I always try to work out at least 5 times a week. I’m a night owl, so I’m always up late – that’s when I’m usually working on blog write-ups and ideas.
FE: You’re both Virgos and you both can rap. What else do you ladies have in common?
Caitlin: We’re both very health conscious (which might actually stem from the fact that we’re also both hypochondriacs). We’re very aware of the food industry in America and the increasingly poor quality of commercial food and products; we tend to buy local organic meat and produce as much as possible. Monica definitely eats more vegetarian/vegan-based food, and although I do eat meat and some dairy, I’m very aware and conscious of where I purchase these products, especially meat. I live in an area where I can buy locally grown grass-fed meat and chemical-free produce without breaking the bank.
Having similar taste in music, we felt it very important to include this aspect in the blog. We both cook while listening to music, and think it’s such an important process in cooking and eating – that was a big factor when we started talking about the blog.
FE: Where do you vary the most?
Monica: I think that it’s great that Caitlin brings a different perspective to the blog because she is a mom and she’s married. Therefore she has to consider what her family would also enjoy eating. The other more obvious variation is the fact that I focus primarily on veggie based food, whereas Caitlin offers wholesome options for meat-eaters.
FE: Caitlin’s son says she is the best “cooker”; who is the best “cooker” out of the both of you?
Monica: I honestly believe that we have equal talent in the kitchen; however, we each certainly have strengths that differ from one another. There are things Caitlin is better at and more experienced at making, like: pizza, pasta, bread…and vice versa. I do believe, however, that our strengths and weaknesses balance each other out.
Caitlin: I don’t think either one of us is the best “cooker” in everything; we bring different ideas to the table (literally). Monica is the better baker, for sure, but I tend to be stronger in breads and pizzas so we balance each other that way.
FE: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “bacon”
Caitlin: Delicousness. Is that even a word? Also trendy – it’s the new, hip accessory.
Monica: It’s all about “Fakin’ Bacon” for me! Seriously, it’s a delicious alternative to the real thing! (Don’t knock it til you try it.)
FE: What is your favorite food blog and why?
Caitlin: One of my favorites is the Amateur Gourmet; I love his witty writing style and his stories. He’s not overly pretentious when it comes to food (which is common in some blogs); he adds a humor and lightness to it that’s refreshing.
Monica: I love Smitten Kitchen! The writing is concise and not overly flowery. The pictures are enticing, yet not overly stylized. I think, overall, it is a highly accessible blog; by that I mean, it is not pretentious, rather practical, and inspires its readers to want to cook the food it features.
FE: How do you feel about the state of Foodtertainment?
Caitlin: First, I love watching Top Chef just as much as the next person, but I really wish there were more people in the forefront of ‘Foodtertainment’ who were bringing awareness to the growing corporate food business and the poor quality of food in America. Obesity is becoming a rising topic but rarely do we connect that (and cancer, for that matter) to the chemicals and fillers that are in everyday food people are eating. I love that Jamie Oliver is tackling the nastiness posing as school lunches and bringing awareness to food served in schools; I wish there were more celebrity food stars like him that would tackle the meat and produce industry. Ok, off my soapbox – the only food shows I really follow are the aforementioned Top Chef and Anthony Bourdain. I’m not really a fan of shows featuring some guy stuff his face with giant doughnuts at random truck stops, but hey, I’ll take that over The Bachelor any day.
Monica: Let me first start by saying that I think it’s good that there are various food/cooking related shows out there; however, there is such a thing as oversaturation and lack of quality in some respects. My main gripe with those shows or some of those food stars, is the fact that they don’t seem to offer enough healthy recipes. Not to sound too preachy, however, I feel that due to the state of our nation’s problem with things like obesity and chronic illness, the Foodtertainment industry should be more aware of putting programming on the air that focuses on healthier cooking. Healthy eating isn’t a fad; it should be a lifestyle. To go along with that, I think that there should be more promotion of how eating organically and locally farmed can be affordable because many people are unaware that this is possible.
FE: Where do you see the blog in five years?
Caitlin & Monica: Well if it were profitable enough for us to make a living doing what we love, which is cooking, eating and taking pictures, then that would be awesome! We hope the blog continues to evolve into posts beyond recipes only, of course still food related, but maybe more food and travel – Caitlin and Monica’s food adventures around the world (we can dream)! We might even like to include kitchen design or decorating ideas to go along with the recipes or seasons. Who knows? We started this for fun and as long as we continue to have fun doing it, wherever it leads us is just fine.
FE: When did you first hear that you were nominated and how did it feel?
Caitlin: When I found out that we were nominated I was excited, but then when I saw that people (other than friends and family) were starting to vote and comment on the blog and facebook, I was really excited! We have great support from friends and family; add to that complete strangers who are also supportive – that’s pretty cool!
Monica: My friend Carmen told me that she had nominated us, and I honestly didn’t know what to expect since Steaks & Sprouts is a fairly new blog. When I found out that the nomination was accepted, I was totally flattered and excited! It is awesome to know that our friends, family and readers are so supportive!