Sarah Caron is a freelance writer and recipe developer who loves to cook. She has two kids who cook with her a lot, and she makes family dinner time priority #1. November marks Sarah's one-year anniversary writing for Tablespoon, so we thought it would be fun to find out more about her fave foods, tips and recipes.
Tablespoon: Tell us what it was like growing up? Did your family cook and teach you how to bake?
Sarah Caron: I grew up in a very close family. We regularly had Sunday dinner together. At holidays, I'd gather in the kitchen with the women of my family and help seed the grapes for fruit salad or help layer the lasagna. These are memories that I strive to create with my own kids.
One of my fondest memories growing up is cooking brunch with my aunt on Sundays. We'd make pancakes, applesauce and more while everyone else went to church.
I definitely learned a lot about cooking from my grandmother and aunt. But my family was never big on baking, so that’s something I have really learned on my own.
TBSP: What are your favorite shortcuts to use in the kitchen?
SC: I always keep bottled salad dressing around for marinating chicken and vegetables – it’s fast and easy and always renders great results. Also, when it comes to brownies and cakes, I often turn to boxed mixes because the results are really predictable (and good). And I have a ton of fast-cooking pasta in my cabinet – it cooks in less than four minutes, which is great in a pinch.
TBSP: What are your 5 most go-to recipes when you’re in a hurry?
1. 10 Minute Salsa Chicken – This has huge flavor, but only takes 10 minutes to make. How easy is that?
2. Easy, Fast Tomato Marinara – When I am really short on time, I can whip this marinara up while boiling the water for pasta. It takes no time at all.
3. Quick Chicken Parmesan – Like the Salsa Chicken, this is super flavorful but can be made in a jiffy.
4. Tacos with Homemade Mild Taco Seasoning – I buy large portions of ground turkey, brown it all, and then freeze it in 1 lb portions. This makes making tacos ultra fast.
5. Aglio e Olio – We eat this garlicy pasta with a big salad, and dinner can be on the table in 10 minutes (with a quick-cooking pasta).
Tip: Click on the recipe titles or photos above to link to Sarah's top 5 favorite go-to recipes.
TBSP: Can you share with us how your tastes have changed over time? Where there things growing up that you HATED and now you love?
SC: I would be lying if I didn’t admit to being a picky child. I hated vegetables. Wouldn’t eat mayo or mustard on anything. Refused to touch Chinese food. Required a ham and Swiss cheese sandwich on white bread for lunch daily.
These days, I will eat just about anything. I am still not fond of mayo, but I do eat it in dishes and occasionally on sandwiches. I still avoid anything with an overtly mustard flavor though (but again, I do cook with it). I adore all vegetables (as it turned out, the right preparation methods made all the difference). And I adore not just Chinese food but many foreign flavors – Ethiopian, Thai, French, etc. So, basically I went from pretty picky to really open about food.
TBSP: Your favorite thing to listen to when you cook/bake?
SC: I have a few different playlists on my iPod designated for cooking, but I mostly use the one that I have labeled “Dance Cooking.” I love music with a good beat while I am in the kitchen – and I dance while cooking a lot. Here’s the first 10 songs on that playlist:
TBSP: What tips can you give people who are just getting into cooking?
- “Gives You Hell,” The All-American Rejects
- “Single Ladies,” Beyonce
- “You Belong with Me,” Taylor Swift
- “Summer of ’69,” Bryan Adams
- “Empire State of Mind,” Jay-Z
- “Hot N Cold,” Katy Perry
- “Paparazzi,” Lady Gaga
- “There You Go,” P!nk
- “Better Man,” Pearl Jam
- “Jessie’s Girl,” Rick Springfield
SC: Start small. Learn to make a good pasta. Maybe an easy homemade marinara. Then work your way up. Like anything worth doing, improving your cooking takes practice and persistence.
Most importantly though, don’t give up! It’s really hard when you are new to cooking and make mistakes. But it does get easier and better with time. I swear. TBSP: What is the worst thing you’ve ever made – your biggest kitchen disaster?
SC: Hands down, it was the time that I tried to make homemade hot fudge. I ended up with a pan of thick chocolate stuff that tasted like Tootsie rolls … and I am not a fan of Tootsie rolls. It took a lot of scrubbing and soaking to fix that disaster. Fortunately, only my husband and I experienced that.
A close second is the first time I tried to make butternut squash. I’d never made it (or had it) before, so I found a recipe and made it for Thanksgiving. It. Was. Awful. Sickeningly sweet with an almost pudding-like texture. My family reminds me of the dish every year … they laugh, I cringe. Fortunately, my cooking has substantially improved over the years. Want to see more of Sarah? Click here to see her Tablespoon member profile and all of her great recipes!