Cocktail Recipes, Spirits, and Local Bars

Blogger Spotlight:The View from Great Island

Blogger Spotlight:The View from Great Island

This week, we’re proud to feature L.A. blogger Susan Lightfoot Moran of The View from Great Island in our Blogger Spotlight. For those new to the column, we highlight a member of The Daily Meal’s Culinary Content Network, a limited group of bloggers who write about food and drink, every Friday.

We look to this group of talented food writers for inspiration and participation with The Daily Meal, whether for restaurant recommendations or new recipes to try out for dinner. Our editorial team covers All Things Food and Drink, and we tap the CCN to remain up to speed with what is happening around the country and the world — from fine dining to home cooking.

Without further ado— Let’s meet Susan!

The Daily Meal: What is the mission of your blog?

Susan Lightfoot Moran: The mission of my blog…hmmm, I have to admit that I’m not one of those bloggers who cooks for the love of feeding and nurturing others…I’m more selfish, I cook because I have a voracious appetite. I’m inspired by flavor, texture, and color, and I guess my mission has always been about finding that next great meal.

How’d you get started?

I started the blog after we made a cross country move the same year my youngest daughter started college. The family was suddenly spread out all over the place and I wanted to keep in touch. Sharing what I was cooking with my daughters seemed a natural way to do that.

What are some foods you can’t live without?

I’m being honest here, the two things I absolutely can’t live without are coffee and wine.

Are there any foods you can’t stand?

I’m a pretty broad eater, but I don’t eat organ meats, squid, or sushi.

What is your proudest post?

One of my favorite posts is the one I did on homemade clotted cream. I love the idea that you can take a common food like cream and transform it so radically, and so simply.

What is your biggest blog blunder?

My biggest blogging blunder has been that I didn't rename my blog when I had the chance, early on. I'd prefer a shorter, snappier, food related title, but the opportunity for that has passed, I think.

Do you have a memorable comment from a reader?

I wish I had saved great comments over the years, but I didn’t. My favorite ones are when readers tell me that I make food they want to eat. It sounds simple, but there’s no bigger compliment that that.

What’s on your cooking playlist?

My playlist is constantly evolving and expanding, and the walls of my office are covered with post-it notes. I've actually already in fall mode, even though the temps are in the 90s here. I'm digging out the bags of frozen cranberries and counting my cans of pumpkin :)

What are some other blogs you love?

OMG that’s like asking me to choose a favorite child! The truth is there are so many I couldn’t single out just a few…the blogging world is an incredible pool of talent. The single biggest influence on my cooking style has to be Yotam Ottolenghi. I'm endlessly inspired by his creative approach to food.

What are some food apps you love?

I’m currently obsessed with UberEATS!

What is the best thing about blogging?

The best thing about blogging is the sheer scope of it. There are so many different types of activities involved in a day of blogging that there’s no chance to get bored. Blogging calls upon so many different skill sets, and challenges so many parts of my brain, I love it. Plus I’m my own boss, what could be better?

The worst thing?

The worst thing about blogging is the clean up ;)

Is there a recipe you’re currently obsessed with?

I made some Lemon Crunch Bars a few months back and I can’t get them out of my mind…I keep reincarnating them in slightly different forms on the blog!

What would even your most loyal followers be surprised to learn about you?

I think people would be surprised to learn how often I have eggs for dinner…I’m all cooked out by the end of the day, and just want to sit on the couch (with my wine!) and watch the news. Fried eggs are sometimes all I can muster.

What are five of your all-time favorite posts:

That question makes my mind spin — I have over 1,000 great recipes on the blog! Here’s a few things I’d like to eat today---
Antipasto Skewers
Greek Meatballs in Lemon Sauce
Bucatini with Burst Tomatoes
Fattoush
And for dessert, Blueberry Zucchini Cake with Lemon Buttercream!


Poor Girl Gourmet

Today’s Blogger Spotlight is Amy McCoy – author of this month’s Cookbook of the Month – Poor Girl Gourmet, as well as the blog by the same name. I’m so excited to have Amy with us here today! I have been loving her cookbook (one more recipe and a review coming up on Friday) and I’m so happy to have it on my shelf. And I’m so happy to learn a little bit more about her!


Amy McCoy is the author of Poor Girl Gourmet and the cookbook “Poor Girl Gourmet: Eat in Style on a Bare-Bones Budget” (Andrews McMeel, 2010).

Amy began Poor Girl Gourmet in October 2008 when work in her first career as a broadcast producer of graphics and promos for cable networks dried up, and she found herself with an increasingly diminished bank account. Not wanting to sacrifice her food standards, she set out to make high-quality food on a tiny budget and documented each meal. The blog led to the book, which features recipes serving at least four for $15 or less, a chapter of “splurges” – company-worthy entrees that serve four for $15-$30, a chapter on value wines, and a menu planner to help craft complete meals from the recipes in the book while staying on budget.

Amy is the chairperson of Slow Food Rhode Island. She and her husband, JR, live on a tiny gentleman’s farm in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, where they keep bees for honey, raise hens for eggs, maintain a large vegetable and herb garden, and have recently started raising heritage chickens and turkeys for meat. They are committed to supporting local farmers and farm stands, and have found that shopping local and shopping on a budget are not mutually exclusive.

What inspired you to first start writing your blog?
I had always wanted to work in food, though I was pretty certain that being a chef wasn’t for me. My grandmother had owned an Italian restaurant, and I knew that the hours were long.

I had been a freelancer producing graphics and promos for cable networks for 14 years, and had always taken continuing education classes on the side, ostensibly to help me figure out what I actually wanted to be when I grew up.

I had taken a food writing class in 2006, and the instructor had recommended that we students keep a blog. At the time, I was busy working and thought starting a blog sounded good, but I didn’t have the time to put into it, being busy with work and all. At the end of 2008, when the economy soured, my freelance work dried up, and I had all the time in the world.

Of course, at the same time, my income disappeared, so I knew that my husband and I had to live on less until I was working again, and one of my biggest clients had told me that it would be 9 months to a year until she was able to hire outside contractors.

I started the blog to chronicle the meals that I was making – for as little money as possible – and to try to hone my writing skills in the hopes that I might be able to get an occasional writing gig while I wasn’t producing.

Once I started blogging, I was totally enamored. It combined all of my main passions: writing, food, recipe development, and photography. What could be better?

What kinds of posts are your favorite to write? What do your readers seem to like the most?

It turns out that I really enjoy writing about keeping chickens. I’m not sure if I should read into this, but the chickens bring out the best in me. My readers seem to enjoy the chicken stories, too, though any funny stories seem to go over well, and, of course, posts on baked goods. Baked goods tend to get a thumbs up all around.

Do you plan a weekly menu? If so, what inspires your menu?
Weekly menus have always been part of our routine. Otherwise, I find it difficult to keep organized. We’ve always eaten seasonally, too, so menus are inspired by what’s in season, as well as what the weather will be like that week. Cold weather equals soups, roasts, and stews, warm weather finds us eating salads or grilling out.

What is your favorite kind of food to make?
Italian food inspires me because it’s so in tune with the seasons and has a sense of place based upon what’s grown in one region versus another – inland, you’ll find game dishes, on the coast, you’ll find seafood. I try to use that philosophy in our meals so that they’re full of fresh flavors from where we live.

What is your favorite recipe posted on your blog?
This changes from season to season, but right now, I’m all about fall produce, so it’s a toss up between this beet soup, if I’m being somewhat healthy:

Or these pumpkin scones – if I’m feeling the need for baked goods. Hey, at least there’s a vegetable in there, right?:

Will you show us your kitchen? What is your favorite thing about your kitchen?

My kitchen is SO tiny that the refrigerator is not actually in the kitchen proper. It’s under the stairs just outside the kitchen. When I’m cooking and baking for the holidays, I usually have cookies cooling on the coffee table in the living room, mixing bowls on the dining room table, and a pile up on the kitchen counter (an even worse pile up than the one that’s in these photos). However, I love my kitchen despite the smallness – it’s a cheery little space and gets the job done.

What is your favorite kitchen tool/appliance?
I love my stand mixer – that bad boy gets a work out each week, whether it’s making butter, batter, dough, or rolling out pasta. I realize that it’s a bit of a luxury, but if you don’t have a stand mixer, I highly recommend putting it on your list.

What is your best tip for getting dinner on the table?

For me, cooking is relaxing and a creative outlet. I think the key is that if you find making dinner enjoyable, it’s easy to get it to the table, though a little bit of planning goes a long way on weeknights. This is a big part of the reason that I’ve always planned meals – if you know that your weeknights are going to be hectic, choose a stir-fry type dish for those nights, and if you have time over the weekend, prep a meal that can just be reheated, like lasagna or soup.

Where do most of your recipes come from? (Family favorites, you make them up, magazines, cookbooks, etc.)
I make up most of the recipes that we make, but there are definitely some family favorites in the mix, and I use cookbooks as well. Right now, I’m totally into Rebecca Lang’s “Quick-Fix Southern”, and have Maria Speck’s “Ancient Grains for Modern Meals” on deck. I also am really enjoying P. Allen Smith’s “Seasonal Recipes from the Garden”. The recipes are great, and his storytelling makes you feel like you’re hanging out on his front porch with him.

What would you eat as your last supper?
I would quick get on a plane and go to Mondo X in Cetona, Italy. I would eat anything they served me. It’s a monastery that trains young men in rehab for drug and alcohol addiction to work in fine dining, and they produce most of the food that they serve on their property. Add to that, it’s served in the most amazing environment, a sprawling old (circa 1212 – that’s pretty old) stone-floored monastery in the Tuscan hills. That would be a good way to go.

However, if I were making the meal myself, I’d make fresh pasta and serve it with a rich meat ragu – probably involving beef short ribs and mushrooms, with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, of course. I’d probably start the meal with an insalata caprese with tomatoes and basil from our garden. Boy, I sure hope it’s tomato and basil season at the time! And I’d have to have dessert – either an apple cake, or maybe this zucchini cake I’m working on now. With ice cream, of course. I’m stuffed just thinking about it!

What kind of camera/lens/equipment do you use?
I use a Nikon D80 and alternate between a 75-300mm and an 18-105mm lens.

Any suggestions or hints to have great food photos?
Take your time, experiment with angles and points of view (shooting at eye level, shooting from above), and, for me, natural light is key. If it’s nice outside, I shoot on our back deck in indirect sunlight, and when the weather is rough (which seems to be often here in New England), I shoot indoors in an area right next to large windows.

What kind of food did you eat growing up? Do you cook the same kinds of things today?

My mother was a very good cook and baker, and I definitely draw inspiration from her cooking as an adult. Her meatballs are one stand-out that I can’t live without, as is her apple crumble, her blueberry kuchen, and her banana bread. My brothers still request that she makes banana bread for them, and, yeah, they’re in their 30’s.

What was the first dish you ever cooked?
The very first dish I ever made on my own (not as a kitchen assistant to my mother – in that case, it would have been the tossed salad for dinner each night) was my nana’s red sauce. I had no recipe for it (of course), so I was quite excited when it came out almost (almost!) exactly like hers did. I was in high school at the time.

When you really want to cheat, what do you eat?
Chocolate chip cookie dough. When I first moved into an apartment on my own after college, I was so excited that I could eat raw cookie dough without my mother chiding me. It’s still one of the small pleasures of adulthood to be able to eat it without being reprimanded – not that I recommend eating raw cookie dough to anyone else, or anything.

If you could travel anywhere in the world – just for the food – where would you go?
I think I might have given this away already! Italy is first on the list, though I really want to go to Turkey and also to India. Actually, I’d love an around-the-world food exploration trip. Is that asking too much?

What are your favorite blogs to read?
There are SO many fabulous blogs out there that I love, and I feel like every day there’s a new discovery (ah, the beauty of Twitter!). I’ve been reading Simple Bites, Sassy Radish, Food on the Food, Running with Tweezers, Last Night’s Dinner, Fresh New England, and A Tasteful Garden for ages (yep. Three years is ages, apparently!). But that’s just a smattering – the list is LONG!

What is your best tip for saving money on groceries?
The two biggest things that changed when I was first out of work were that I made a shopping list and actually stuck to it (the shopping list and meal planning were always in play, I just improvised a little too much once I got to the market when I was gainfully employed, and there is no more certain way to jack up the grocery bill than to impulse buy), and we ate far less meat overall. When we did eat meat, it would be a so-called lesser cut (ribs, shanks, chicken thighs) or a whole chicken, rather than buying boneless skinless chicken breasts, which were always a staple before I was out of work. Now, if I’m going to buy boneless skinless chicken breasts, they’re in bulk and on sale. In fact, all meat is purchased on sale – and we love store brands. I guess that’s more than one best tip, right?!

Thank you so much, Amy! It has been a true joy cooking from your cookbook, and I look forward to trying even more recipes from your blog! If you want more of Amy, here is where you can find her:


Poor Girl Gourmet

Today’s Blogger Spotlight is Amy McCoy – author of this month’s Cookbook of the Month – Poor Girl Gourmet, as well as the blog by the same name. I’m so excited to have Amy with us here today! I have been loving her cookbook (one more recipe and a review coming up on Friday) and I’m so happy to have it on my shelf. And I’m so happy to learn a little bit more about her!


Amy McCoy is the author of Poor Girl Gourmet and the cookbook “Poor Girl Gourmet: Eat in Style on a Bare-Bones Budget” (Andrews McMeel, 2010).

Amy began Poor Girl Gourmet in October 2008 when work in her first career as a broadcast producer of graphics and promos for cable networks dried up, and she found herself with an increasingly diminished bank account. Not wanting to sacrifice her food standards, she set out to make high-quality food on a tiny budget and documented each meal. The blog led to the book, which features recipes serving at least four for $15 or less, a chapter of “splurges” – company-worthy entrees that serve four for $15-$30, a chapter on value wines, and a menu planner to help craft complete meals from the recipes in the book while staying on budget.

Amy is the chairperson of Slow Food Rhode Island. She and her husband, JR, live on a tiny gentleman’s farm in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, where they keep bees for honey, raise hens for eggs, maintain a large vegetable and herb garden, and have recently started raising heritage chickens and turkeys for meat. They are committed to supporting local farmers and farm stands, and have found that shopping local and shopping on a budget are not mutually exclusive.

What inspired you to first start writing your blog?
I had always wanted to work in food, though I was pretty certain that being a chef wasn’t for me. My grandmother had owned an Italian restaurant, and I knew that the hours were long.

I had been a freelancer producing graphics and promos for cable networks for 14 years, and had always taken continuing education classes on the side, ostensibly to help me figure out what I actually wanted to be when I grew up.

I had taken a food writing class in 2006, and the instructor had recommended that we students keep a blog. At the time, I was busy working and thought starting a blog sounded good, but I didn’t have the time to put into it, being busy with work and all. At the end of 2008, when the economy soured, my freelance work dried up, and I had all the time in the world.

Of course, at the same time, my income disappeared, so I knew that my husband and I had to live on less until I was working again, and one of my biggest clients had told me that it would be 9 months to a year until she was able to hire outside contractors.

I started the blog to chronicle the meals that I was making – for as little money as possible – and to try to hone my writing skills in the hopes that I might be able to get an occasional writing gig while I wasn’t producing.

Once I started blogging, I was totally enamored. It combined all of my main passions: writing, food, recipe development, and photography. What could be better?

What kinds of posts are your favorite to write? What do your readers seem to like the most?

It turns out that I really enjoy writing about keeping chickens. I’m not sure if I should read into this, but the chickens bring out the best in me. My readers seem to enjoy the chicken stories, too, though any funny stories seem to go over well, and, of course, posts on baked goods. Baked goods tend to get a thumbs up all around.

Do you plan a weekly menu? If so, what inspires your menu?
Weekly menus have always been part of our routine. Otherwise, I find it difficult to keep organized. We’ve always eaten seasonally, too, so menus are inspired by what’s in season, as well as what the weather will be like that week. Cold weather equals soups, roasts, and stews, warm weather finds us eating salads or grilling out.

What is your favorite kind of food to make?
Italian food inspires me because it’s so in tune with the seasons and has a sense of place based upon what’s grown in one region versus another – inland, you’ll find game dishes, on the coast, you’ll find seafood. I try to use that philosophy in our meals so that they’re full of fresh flavors from where we live.

What is your favorite recipe posted on your blog?
This changes from season to season, but right now, I’m all about fall produce, so it’s a toss up between this beet soup, if I’m being somewhat healthy:

Or these pumpkin scones – if I’m feeling the need for baked goods. Hey, at least there’s a vegetable in there, right?:

Will you show us your kitchen? What is your favorite thing about your kitchen?

My kitchen is SO tiny that the refrigerator is not actually in the kitchen proper. It’s under the stairs just outside the kitchen. When I’m cooking and baking for the holidays, I usually have cookies cooling on the coffee table in the living room, mixing bowls on the dining room table, and a pile up on the kitchen counter (an even worse pile up than the one that’s in these photos). However, I love my kitchen despite the smallness – it’s a cheery little space and gets the job done.

What is your favorite kitchen tool/appliance?
I love my stand mixer – that bad boy gets a work out each week, whether it’s making butter, batter, dough, or rolling out pasta. I realize that it’s a bit of a luxury, but if you don’t have a stand mixer, I highly recommend putting it on your list.

What is your best tip for getting dinner on the table?

For me, cooking is relaxing and a creative outlet. I think the key is that if you find making dinner enjoyable, it’s easy to get it to the table, though a little bit of planning goes a long way on weeknights. This is a big part of the reason that I’ve always planned meals – if you know that your weeknights are going to be hectic, choose a stir-fry type dish for those nights, and if you have time over the weekend, prep a meal that can just be reheated, like lasagna or soup.

Where do most of your recipes come from? (Family favorites, you make them up, magazines, cookbooks, etc.)
I make up most of the recipes that we make, but there are definitely some family favorites in the mix, and I use cookbooks as well. Right now, I’m totally into Rebecca Lang’s “Quick-Fix Southern”, and have Maria Speck’s “Ancient Grains for Modern Meals” on deck. I also am really enjoying P. Allen Smith’s “Seasonal Recipes from the Garden”. The recipes are great, and his storytelling makes you feel like you’re hanging out on his front porch with him.

What would you eat as your last supper?
I would quick get on a plane and go to Mondo X in Cetona, Italy. I would eat anything they served me. It’s a monastery that trains young men in rehab for drug and alcohol addiction to work in fine dining, and they produce most of the food that they serve on their property. Add to that, it’s served in the most amazing environment, a sprawling old (circa 1212 – that’s pretty old) stone-floored monastery in the Tuscan hills. That would be a good way to go.

However, if I were making the meal myself, I’d make fresh pasta and serve it with a rich meat ragu – probably involving beef short ribs and mushrooms, with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, of course. I’d probably start the meal with an insalata caprese with tomatoes and basil from our garden. Boy, I sure hope it’s tomato and basil season at the time! And I’d have to have dessert – either an apple cake, or maybe this zucchini cake I’m working on now. With ice cream, of course. I’m stuffed just thinking about it!

What kind of camera/lens/equipment do you use?
I use a Nikon D80 and alternate between a 75-300mm and an 18-105mm lens.

Any suggestions or hints to have great food photos?
Take your time, experiment with angles and points of view (shooting at eye level, shooting from above), and, for me, natural light is key. If it’s nice outside, I shoot on our back deck in indirect sunlight, and when the weather is rough (which seems to be often here in New England), I shoot indoors in an area right next to large windows.

What kind of food did you eat growing up? Do you cook the same kinds of things today?

My mother was a very good cook and baker, and I definitely draw inspiration from her cooking as an adult. Her meatballs are one stand-out that I can’t live without, as is her apple crumble, her blueberry kuchen, and her banana bread. My brothers still request that she makes banana bread for them, and, yeah, they’re in their 30’s.

What was the first dish you ever cooked?
The very first dish I ever made on my own (not as a kitchen assistant to my mother – in that case, it would have been the tossed salad for dinner each night) was my nana’s red sauce. I had no recipe for it (of course), so I was quite excited when it came out almost (almost!) exactly like hers did. I was in high school at the time.

When you really want to cheat, what do you eat?
Chocolate chip cookie dough. When I first moved into an apartment on my own after college, I was so excited that I could eat raw cookie dough without my mother chiding me. It’s still one of the small pleasures of adulthood to be able to eat it without being reprimanded – not that I recommend eating raw cookie dough to anyone else, or anything.

If you could travel anywhere in the world – just for the food – where would you go?
I think I might have given this away already! Italy is first on the list, though I really want to go to Turkey and also to India. Actually, I’d love an around-the-world food exploration trip. Is that asking too much?

What are your favorite blogs to read?
There are SO many fabulous blogs out there that I love, and I feel like every day there’s a new discovery (ah, the beauty of Twitter!). I’ve been reading Simple Bites, Sassy Radish, Food on the Food, Running with Tweezers, Last Night’s Dinner, Fresh New England, and A Tasteful Garden for ages (yep. Three years is ages, apparently!). But that’s just a smattering – the list is LONG!

What is your best tip for saving money on groceries?
The two biggest things that changed when I was first out of work were that I made a shopping list and actually stuck to it (the shopping list and meal planning were always in play, I just improvised a little too much once I got to the market when I was gainfully employed, and there is no more certain way to jack up the grocery bill than to impulse buy), and we ate far less meat overall. When we did eat meat, it would be a so-called lesser cut (ribs, shanks, chicken thighs) or a whole chicken, rather than buying boneless skinless chicken breasts, which were always a staple before I was out of work. Now, if I’m going to buy boneless skinless chicken breasts, they’re in bulk and on sale. In fact, all meat is purchased on sale – and we love store brands. I guess that’s more than one best tip, right?!

Thank you so much, Amy! It has been a true joy cooking from your cookbook, and I look forward to trying even more recipes from your blog! If you want more of Amy, here is where you can find her:


Poor Girl Gourmet

Today’s Blogger Spotlight is Amy McCoy – author of this month’s Cookbook of the Month – Poor Girl Gourmet, as well as the blog by the same name. I’m so excited to have Amy with us here today! I have been loving her cookbook (one more recipe and a review coming up on Friday) and I’m so happy to have it on my shelf. And I’m so happy to learn a little bit more about her!


Amy McCoy is the author of Poor Girl Gourmet and the cookbook “Poor Girl Gourmet: Eat in Style on a Bare-Bones Budget” (Andrews McMeel, 2010).

Amy began Poor Girl Gourmet in October 2008 when work in her first career as a broadcast producer of graphics and promos for cable networks dried up, and she found herself with an increasingly diminished bank account. Not wanting to sacrifice her food standards, she set out to make high-quality food on a tiny budget and documented each meal. The blog led to the book, which features recipes serving at least four for $15 or less, a chapter of “splurges” – company-worthy entrees that serve four for $15-$30, a chapter on value wines, and a menu planner to help craft complete meals from the recipes in the book while staying on budget.

Amy is the chairperson of Slow Food Rhode Island. She and her husband, JR, live on a tiny gentleman’s farm in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, where they keep bees for honey, raise hens for eggs, maintain a large vegetable and herb garden, and have recently started raising heritage chickens and turkeys for meat. They are committed to supporting local farmers and farm stands, and have found that shopping local and shopping on a budget are not mutually exclusive.

What inspired you to first start writing your blog?
I had always wanted to work in food, though I was pretty certain that being a chef wasn’t for me. My grandmother had owned an Italian restaurant, and I knew that the hours were long.

I had been a freelancer producing graphics and promos for cable networks for 14 years, and had always taken continuing education classes on the side, ostensibly to help me figure out what I actually wanted to be when I grew up.

I had taken a food writing class in 2006, and the instructor had recommended that we students keep a blog. At the time, I was busy working and thought starting a blog sounded good, but I didn’t have the time to put into it, being busy with work and all. At the end of 2008, when the economy soured, my freelance work dried up, and I had all the time in the world.

Of course, at the same time, my income disappeared, so I knew that my husband and I had to live on less until I was working again, and one of my biggest clients had told me that it would be 9 months to a year until she was able to hire outside contractors.

I started the blog to chronicle the meals that I was making – for as little money as possible – and to try to hone my writing skills in the hopes that I might be able to get an occasional writing gig while I wasn’t producing.

Once I started blogging, I was totally enamored. It combined all of my main passions: writing, food, recipe development, and photography. What could be better?

What kinds of posts are your favorite to write? What do your readers seem to like the most?

It turns out that I really enjoy writing about keeping chickens. I’m not sure if I should read into this, but the chickens bring out the best in me. My readers seem to enjoy the chicken stories, too, though any funny stories seem to go over well, and, of course, posts on baked goods. Baked goods tend to get a thumbs up all around.

Do you plan a weekly menu? If so, what inspires your menu?
Weekly menus have always been part of our routine. Otherwise, I find it difficult to keep organized. We’ve always eaten seasonally, too, so menus are inspired by what’s in season, as well as what the weather will be like that week. Cold weather equals soups, roasts, and stews, warm weather finds us eating salads or grilling out.

What is your favorite kind of food to make?
Italian food inspires me because it’s so in tune with the seasons and has a sense of place based upon what’s grown in one region versus another – inland, you’ll find game dishes, on the coast, you’ll find seafood. I try to use that philosophy in our meals so that they’re full of fresh flavors from where we live.

What is your favorite recipe posted on your blog?
This changes from season to season, but right now, I’m all about fall produce, so it’s a toss up between this beet soup, if I’m being somewhat healthy:

Or these pumpkin scones – if I’m feeling the need for baked goods. Hey, at least there’s a vegetable in there, right?:

Will you show us your kitchen? What is your favorite thing about your kitchen?

My kitchen is SO tiny that the refrigerator is not actually in the kitchen proper. It’s under the stairs just outside the kitchen. When I’m cooking and baking for the holidays, I usually have cookies cooling on the coffee table in the living room, mixing bowls on the dining room table, and a pile up on the kitchen counter (an even worse pile up than the one that’s in these photos). However, I love my kitchen despite the smallness – it’s a cheery little space and gets the job done.

What is your favorite kitchen tool/appliance?
I love my stand mixer – that bad boy gets a work out each week, whether it’s making butter, batter, dough, or rolling out pasta. I realize that it’s a bit of a luxury, but if you don’t have a stand mixer, I highly recommend putting it on your list.

What is your best tip for getting dinner on the table?

For me, cooking is relaxing and a creative outlet. I think the key is that if you find making dinner enjoyable, it’s easy to get it to the table, though a little bit of planning goes a long way on weeknights. This is a big part of the reason that I’ve always planned meals – if you know that your weeknights are going to be hectic, choose a stir-fry type dish for those nights, and if you have time over the weekend, prep a meal that can just be reheated, like lasagna or soup.

Where do most of your recipes come from? (Family favorites, you make them up, magazines, cookbooks, etc.)
I make up most of the recipes that we make, but there are definitely some family favorites in the mix, and I use cookbooks as well. Right now, I’m totally into Rebecca Lang’s “Quick-Fix Southern”, and have Maria Speck’s “Ancient Grains for Modern Meals” on deck. I also am really enjoying P. Allen Smith’s “Seasonal Recipes from the Garden”. The recipes are great, and his storytelling makes you feel like you’re hanging out on his front porch with him.

What would you eat as your last supper?
I would quick get on a plane and go to Mondo X in Cetona, Italy. I would eat anything they served me. It’s a monastery that trains young men in rehab for drug and alcohol addiction to work in fine dining, and they produce most of the food that they serve on their property. Add to that, it’s served in the most amazing environment, a sprawling old (circa 1212 – that’s pretty old) stone-floored monastery in the Tuscan hills. That would be a good way to go.

However, if I were making the meal myself, I’d make fresh pasta and serve it with a rich meat ragu – probably involving beef short ribs and mushrooms, with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, of course. I’d probably start the meal with an insalata caprese with tomatoes and basil from our garden. Boy, I sure hope it’s tomato and basil season at the time! And I’d have to have dessert – either an apple cake, or maybe this zucchini cake I’m working on now. With ice cream, of course. I’m stuffed just thinking about it!

What kind of camera/lens/equipment do you use?
I use a Nikon D80 and alternate between a 75-300mm and an 18-105mm lens.

Any suggestions or hints to have great food photos?
Take your time, experiment with angles and points of view (shooting at eye level, shooting from above), and, for me, natural light is key. If it’s nice outside, I shoot on our back deck in indirect sunlight, and when the weather is rough (which seems to be often here in New England), I shoot indoors in an area right next to large windows.

What kind of food did you eat growing up? Do you cook the same kinds of things today?

My mother was a very good cook and baker, and I definitely draw inspiration from her cooking as an adult. Her meatballs are one stand-out that I can’t live without, as is her apple crumble, her blueberry kuchen, and her banana bread. My brothers still request that she makes banana bread for them, and, yeah, they’re in their 30’s.

What was the first dish you ever cooked?
The very first dish I ever made on my own (not as a kitchen assistant to my mother – in that case, it would have been the tossed salad for dinner each night) was my nana’s red sauce. I had no recipe for it (of course), so I was quite excited when it came out almost (almost!) exactly like hers did. I was in high school at the time.

When you really want to cheat, what do you eat?
Chocolate chip cookie dough. When I first moved into an apartment on my own after college, I was so excited that I could eat raw cookie dough without my mother chiding me. It’s still one of the small pleasures of adulthood to be able to eat it without being reprimanded – not that I recommend eating raw cookie dough to anyone else, or anything.

If you could travel anywhere in the world – just for the food – where would you go?
I think I might have given this away already! Italy is first on the list, though I really want to go to Turkey and also to India. Actually, I’d love an around-the-world food exploration trip. Is that asking too much?

What are your favorite blogs to read?
There are SO many fabulous blogs out there that I love, and I feel like every day there’s a new discovery (ah, the beauty of Twitter!). I’ve been reading Simple Bites, Sassy Radish, Food on the Food, Running with Tweezers, Last Night’s Dinner, Fresh New England, and A Tasteful Garden for ages (yep. Three years is ages, apparently!). But that’s just a smattering – the list is LONG!

What is your best tip for saving money on groceries?
The two biggest things that changed when I was first out of work were that I made a shopping list and actually stuck to it (the shopping list and meal planning were always in play, I just improvised a little too much once I got to the market when I was gainfully employed, and there is no more certain way to jack up the grocery bill than to impulse buy), and we ate far less meat overall. When we did eat meat, it would be a so-called lesser cut (ribs, shanks, chicken thighs) or a whole chicken, rather than buying boneless skinless chicken breasts, which were always a staple before I was out of work. Now, if I’m going to buy boneless skinless chicken breasts, they’re in bulk and on sale. In fact, all meat is purchased on sale – and we love store brands. I guess that’s more than one best tip, right?!

Thank you so much, Amy! It has been a true joy cooking from your cookbook, and I look forward to trying even more recipes from your blog! If you want more of Amy, here is where you can find her:


Poor Girl Gourmet

Today’s Blogger Spotlight is Amy McCoy – author of this month’s Cookbook of the Month – Poor Girl Gourmet, as well as the blog by the same name. I’m so excited to have Amy with us here today! I have been loving her cookbook (one more recipe and a review coming up on Friday) and I’m so happy to have it on my shelf. And I’m so happy to learn a little bit more about her!


Amy McCoy is the author of Poor Girl Gourmet and the cookbook “Poor Girl Gourmet: Eat in Style on a Bare-Bones Budget” (Andrews McMeel, 2010).

Amy began Poor Girl Gourmet in October 2008 when work in her first career as a broadcast producer of graphics and promos for cable networks dried up, and she found herself with an increasingly diminished bank account. Not wanting to sacrifice her food standards, she set out to make high-quality food on a tiny budget and documented each meal. The blog led to the book, which features recipes serving at least four for $15 or less, a chapter of “splurges” – company-worthy entrees that serve four for $15-$30, a chapter on value wines, and a menu planner to help craft complete meals from the recipes in the book while staying on budget.

Amy is the chairperson of Slow Food Rhode Island. She and her husband, JR, live on a tiny gentleman’s farm in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, where they keep bees for honey, raise hens for eggs, maintain a large vegetable and herb garden, and have recently started raising heritage chickens and turkeys for meat. They are committed to supporting local farmers and farm stands, and have found that shopping local and shopping on a budget are not mutually exclusive.

What inspired you to first start writing your blog?
I had always wanted to work in food, though I was pretty certain that being a chef wasn’t for me. My grandmother had owned an Italian restaurant, and I knew that the hours were long.

I had been a freelancer producing graphics and promos for cable networks for 14 years, and had always taken continuing education classes on the side, ostensibly to help me figure out what I actually wanted to be when I grew up.

I had taken a food writing class in 2006, and the instructor had recommended that we students keep a blog. At the time, I was busy working and thought starting a blog sounded good, but I didn’t have the time to put into it, being busy with work and all. At the end of 2008, when the economy soured, my freelance work dried up, and I had all the time in the world.

Of course, at the same time, my income disappeared, so I knew that my husband and I had to live on less until I was working again, and one of my biggest clients had told me that it would be 9 months to a year until she was able to hire outside contractors.

I started the blog to chronicle the meals that I was making – for as little money as possible – and to try to hone my writing skills in the hopes that I might be able to get an occasional writing gig while I wasn’t producing.

Once I started blogging, I was totally enamored. It combined all of my main passions: writing, food, recipe development, and photography. What could be better?

What kinds of posts are your favorite to write? What do your readers seem to like the most?

It turns out that I really enjoy writing about keeping chickens. I’m not sure if I should read into this, but the chickens bring out the best in me. My readers seem to enjoy the chicken stories, too, though any funny stories seem to go over well, and, of course, posts on baked goods. Baked goods tend to get a thumbs up all around.

Do you plan a weekly menu? If so, what inspires your menu?
Weekly menus have always been part of our routine. Otherwise, I find it difficult to keep organized. We’ve always eaten seasonally, too, so menus are inspired by what’s in season, as well as what the weather will be like that week. Cold weather equals soups, roasts, and stews, warm weather finds us eating salads or grilling out.

What is your favorite kind of food to make?
Italian food inspires me because it’s so in tune with the seasons and has a sense of place based upon what’s grown in one region versus another – inland, you’ll find game dishes, on the coast, you’ll find seafood. I try to use that philosophy in our meals so that they’re full of fresh flavors from where we live.

What is your favorite recipe posted on your blog?
This changes from season to season, but right now, I’m all about fall produce, so it’s a toss up between this beet soup, if I’m being somewhat healthy:

Or these pumpkin scones – if I’m feeling the need for baked goods. Hey, at least there’s a vegetable in there, right?:

Will you show us your kitchen? What is your favorite thing about your kitchen?

My kitchen is SO tiny that the refrigerator is not actually in the kitchen proper. It’s under the stairs just outside the kitchen. When I’m cooking and baking for the holidays, I usually have cookies cooling on the coffee table in the living room, mixing bowls on the dining room table, and a pile up on the kitchen counter (an even worse pile up than the one that’s in these photos). However, I love my kitchen despite the smallness – it’s a cheery little space and gets the job done.

What is your favorite kitchen tool/appliance?
I love my stand mixer – that bad boy gets a work out each week, whether it’s making butter, batter, dough, or rolling out pasta. I realize that it’s a bit of a luxury, but if you don’t have a stand mixer, I highly recommend putting it on your list.

What is your best tip for getting dinner on the table?

For me, cooking is relaxing and a creative outlet. I think the key is that if you find making dinner enjoyable, it’s easy to get it to the table, though a little bit of planning goes a long way on weeknights. This is a big part of the reason that I’ve always planned meals – if you know that your weeknights are going to be hectic, choose a stir-fry type dish for those nights, and if you have time over the weekend, prep a meal that can just be reheated, like lasagna or soup.

Where do most of your recipes come from? (Family favorites, you make them up, magazines, cookbooks, etc.)
I make up most of the recipes that we make, but there are definitely some family favorites in the mix, and I use cookbooks as well. Right now, I’m totally into Rebecca Lang’s “Quick-Fix Southern”, and have Maria Speck’s “Ancient Grains for Modern Meals” on deck. I also am really enjoying P. Allen Smith’s “Seasonal Recipes from the Garden”. The recipes are great, and his storytelling makes you feel like you’re hanging out on his front porch with him.

What would you eat as your last supper?
I would quick get on a plane and go to Mondo X in Cetona, Italy. I would eat anything they served me. It’s a monastery that trains young men in rehab for drug and alcohol addiction to work in fine dining, and they produce most of the food that they serve on their property. Add to that, it’s served in the most amazing environment, a sprawling old (circa 1212 – that’s pretty old) stone-floored monastery in the Tuscan hills. That would be a good way to go.

However, if I were making the meal myself, I’d make fresh pasta and serve it with a rich meat ragu – probably involving beef short ribs and mushrooms, with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, of course. I’d probably start the meal with an insalata caprese with tomatoes and basil from our garden. Boy, I sure hope it’s tomato and basil season at the time! And I’d have to have dessert – either an apple cake, or maybe this zucchini cake I’m working on now. With ice cream, of course. I’m stuffed just thinking about it!

What kind of camera/lens/equipment do you use?
I use a Nikon D80 and alternate between a 75-300mm and an 18-105mm lens.

Any suggestions or hints to have great food photos?
Take your time, experiment with angles and points of view (shooting at eye level, shooting from above), and, for me, natural light is key. If it’s nice outside, I shoot on our back deck in indirect sunlight, and when the weather is rough (which seems to be often here in New England), I shoot indoors in an area right next to large windows.

What kind of food did you eat growing up? Do you cook the same kinds of things today?

My mother was a very good cook and baker, and I definitely draw inspiration from her cooking as an adult. Her meatballs are one stand-out that I can’t live without, as is her apple crumble, her blueberry kuchen, and her banana bread. My brothers still request that she makes banana bread for them, and, yeah, they’re in their 30’s.

What was the first dish you ever cooked?
The very first dish I ever made on my own (not as a kitchen assistant to my mother – in that case, it would have been the tossed salad for dinner each night) was my nana’s red sauce. I had no recipe for it (of course), so I was quite excited when it came out almost (almost!) exactly like hers did. I was in high school at the time.

When you really want to cheat, what do you eat?
Chocolate chip cookie dough. When I first moved into an apartment on my own after college, I was so excited that I could eat raw cookie dough without my mother chiding me. It’s still one of the small pleasures of adulthood to be able to eat it without being reprimanded – not that I recommend eating raw cookie dough to anyone else, or anything.

If you could travel anywhere in the world – just for the food – where would you go?
I think I might have given this away already! Italy is first on the list, though I really want to go to Turkey and also to India. Actually, I’d love an around-the-world food exploration trip. Is that asking too much?

What are your favorite blogs to read?
There are SO many fabulous blogs out there that I love, and I feel like every day there’s a new discovery (ah, the beauty of Twitter!). I’ve been reading Simple Bites, Sassy Radish, Food on the Food, Running with Tweezers, Last Night’s Dinner, Fresh New England, and A Tasteful Garden for ages (yep. Three years is ages, apparently!). But that’s just a smattering – the list is LONG!

What is your best tip for saving money on groceries?
The two biggest things that changed when I was first out of work were that I made a shopping list and actually stuck to it (the shopping list and meal planning were always in play, I just improvised a little too much once I got to the market when I was gainfully employed, and there is no more certain way to jack up the grocery bill than to impulse buy), and we ate far less meat overall. When we did eat meat, it would be a so-called lesser cut (ribs, shanks, chicken thighs) or a whole chicken, rather than buying boneless skinless chicken breasts, which were always a staple before I was out of work. Now, if I’m going to buy boneless skinless chicken breasts, they’re in bulk and on sale. In fact, all meat is purchased on sale – and we love store brands. I guess that’s more than one best tip, right?!

Thank you so much, Amy! It has been a true joy cooking from your cookbook, and I look forward to trying even more recipes from your blog! If you want more of Amy, here is where you can find her:


Poor Girl Gourmet

Today’s Blogger Spotlight is Amy McCoy – author of this month’s Cookbook of the Month – Poor Girl Gourmet, as well as the blog by the same name. I’m so excited to have Amy with us here today! I have been loving her cookbook (one more recipe and a review coming up on Friday) and I’m so happy to have it on my shelf. And I’m so happy to learn a little bit more about her!


Amy McCoy is the author of Poor Girl Gourmet and the cookbook “Poor Girl Gourmet: Eat in Style on a Bare-Bones Budget” (Andrews McMeel, 2010).

Amy began Poor Girl Gourmet in October 2008 when work in her first career as a broadcast producer of graphics and promos for cable networks dried up, and she found herself with an increasingly diminished bank account. Not wanting to sacrifice her food standards, she set out to make high-quality food on a tiny budget and documented each meal. The blog led to the book, which features recipes serving at least four for $15 or less, a chapter of “splurges” – company-worthy entrees that serve four for $15-$30, a chapter on value wines, and a menu planner to help craft complete meals from the recipes in the book while staying on budget.

Amy is the chairperson of Slow Food Rhode Island. She and her husband, JR, live on a tiny gentleman’s farm in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, where they keep bees for honey, raise hens for eggs, maintain a large vegetable and herb garden, and have recently started raising heritage chickens and turkeys for meat. They are committed to supporting local farmers and farm stands, and have found that shopping local and shopping on a budget are not mutually exclusive.

What inspired you to first start writing your blog?
I had always wanted to work in food, though I was pretty certain that being a chef wasn’t for me. My grandmother had owned an Italian restaurant, and I knew that the hours were long.

I had been a freelancer producing graphics and promos for cable networks for 14 years, and had always taken continuing education classes on the side, ostensibly to help me figure out what I actually wanted to be when I grew up.

I had taken a food writing class in 2006, and the instructor had recommended that we students keep a blog. At the time, I was busy working and thought starting a blog sounded good, but I didn’t have the time to put into it, being busy with work and all. At the end of 2008, when the economy soured, my freelance work dried up, and I had all the time in the world.

Of course, at the same time, my income disappeared, so I knew that my husband and I had to live on less until I was working again, and one of my biggest clients had told me that it would be 9 months to a year until she was able to hire outside contractors.

I started the blog to chronicle the meals that I was making – for as little money as possible – and to try to hone my writing skills in the hopes that I might be able to get an occasional writing gig while I wasn’t producing.

Once I started blogging, I was totally enamored. It combined all of my main passions: writing, food, recipe development, and photography. What could be better?

What kinds of posts are your favorite to write? What do your readers seem to like the most?

It turns out that I really enjoy writing about keeping chickens. I’m not sure if I should read into this, but the chickens bring out the best in me. My readers seem to enjoy the chicken stories, too, though any funny stories seem to go over well, and, of course, posts on baked goods. Baked goods tend to get a thumbs up all around.

Do you plan a weekly menu? If so, what inspires your menu?
Weekly menus have always been part of our routine. Otherwise, I find it difficult to keep organized. We’ve always eaten seasonally, too, so menus are inspired by what’s in season, as well as what the weather will be like that week. Cold weather equals soups, roasts, and stews, warm weather finds us eating salads or grilling out.

What is your favorite kind of food to make?
Italian food inspires me because it’s so in tune with the seasons and has a sense of place based upon what’s grown in one region versus another – inland, you’ll find game dishes, on the coast, you’ll find seafood. I try to use that philosophy in our meals so that they’re full of fresh flavors from where we live.

What is your favorite recipe posted on your blog?
This changes from season to season, but right now, I’m all about fall produce, so it’s a toss up between this beet soup, if I’m being somewhat healthy:

Or these pumpkin scones – if I’m feeling the need for baked goods. Hey, at least there’s a vegetable in there, right?:

Will you show us your kitchen? What is your favorite thing about your kitchen?

My kitchen is SO tiny that the refrigerator is not actually in the kitchen proper. It’s under the stairs just outside the kitchen. When I’m cooking and baking for the holidays, I usually have cookies cooling on the coffee table in the living room, mixing bowls on the dining room table, and a pile up on the kitchen counter (an even worse pile up than the one that’s in these photos). However, I love my kitchen despite the smallness – it’s a cheery little space and gets the job done.

What is your favorite kitchen tool/appliance?
I love my stand mixer – that bad boy gets a work out each week, whether it’s making butter, batter, dough, or rolling out pasta. I realize that it’s a bit of a luxury, but if you don’t have a stand mixer, I highly recommend putting it on your list.

What is your best tip for getting dinner on the table?

For me, cooking is relaxing and a creative outlet. I think the key is that if you find making dinner enjoyable, it’s easy to get it to the table, though a little bit of planning goes a long way on weeknights. This is a big part of the reason that I’ve always planned meals – if you know that your weeknights are going to be hectic, choose a stir-fry type dish for those nights, and if you have time over the weekend, prep a meal that can just be reheated, like lasagna or soup.

Where do most of your recipes come from? (Family favorites, you make them up, magazines, cookbooks, etc.)
I make up most of the recipes that we make, but there are definitely some family favorites in the mix, and I use cookbooks as well. Right now, I’m totally into Rebecca Lang’s “Quick-Fix Southern”, and have Maria Speck’s “Ancient Grains for Modern Meals” on deck. I also am really enjoying P. Allen Smith’s “Seasonal Recipes from the Garden”. The recipes are great, and his storytelling makes you feel like you’re hanging out on his front porch with him.

What would you eat as your last supper?
I would quick get on a plane and go to Mondo X in Cetona, Italy. I would eat anything they served me. It’s a monastery that trains young men in rehab for drug and alcohol addiction to work in fine dining, and they produce most of the food that they serve on their property. Add to that, it’s served in the most amazing environment, a sprawling old (circa 1212 – that’s pretty old) stone-floored monastery in the Tuscan hills. That would be a good way to go.

However, if I were making the meal myself, I’d make fresh pasta and serve it with a rich meat ragu – probably involving beef short ribs and mushrooms, with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, of course. I’d probably start the meal with an insalata caprese with tomatoes and basil from our garden. Boy, I sure hope it’s tomato and basil season at the time! And I’d have to have dessert – either an apple cake, or maybe this zucchini cake I’m working on now. With ice cream, of course. I’m stuffed just thinking about it!

What kind of camera/lens/equipment do you use?
I use a Nikon D80 and alternate between a 75-300mm and an 18-105mm lens.

Any suggestions or hints to have great food photos?
Take your time, experiment with angles and points of view (shooting at eye level, shooting from above), and, for me, natural light is key. If it’s nice outside, I shoot on our back deck in indirect sunlight, and when the weather is rough (which seems to be often here in New England), I shoot indoors in an area right next to large windows.

What kind of food did you eat growing up? Do you cook the same kinds of things today?

My mother was a very good cook and baker, and I definitely draw inspiration from her cooking as an adult. Her meatballs are one stand-out that I can’t live without, as is her apple crumble, her blueberry kuchen, and her banana bread. My brothers still request that she makes banana bread for them, and, yeah, they’re in their 30’s.

What was the first dish you ever cooked?
The very first dish I ever made on my own (not as a kitchen assistant to my mother – in that case, it would have been the tossed salad for dinner each night) was my nana’s red sauce. I had no recipe for it (of course), so I was quite excited when it came out almost (almost!) exactly like hers did. I was in high school at the time.

When you really want to cheat, what do you eat?
Chocolate chip cookie dough. When I first moved into an apartment on my own after college, I was so excited that I could eat raw cookie dough without my mother chiding me. It’s still one of the small pleasures of adulthood to be able to eat it without being reprimanded – not that I recommend eating raw cookie dough to anyone else, or anything.

If you could travel anywhere in the world – just for the food – where would you go?
I think I might have given this away already! Italy is first on the list, though I really want to go to Turkey and also to India. Actually, I’d love an around-the-world food exploration trip. Is that asking too much?

What are your favorite blogs to read?
There are SO many fabulous blogs out there that I love, and I feel like every day there’s a new discovery (ah, the beauty of Twitter!). I’ve been reading Simple Bites, Sassy Radish, Food on the Food, Running with Tweezers, Last Night’s Dinner, Fresh New England, and A Tasteful Garden for ages (yep. Three years is ages, apparently!). But that’s just a smattering – the list is LONG!

What is your best tip for saving money on groceries?
The two biggest things that changed when I was first out of work were that I made a shopping list and actually stuck to it (the shopping list and meal planning were always in play, I just improvised a little too much once I got to the market when I was gainfully employed, and there is no more certain way to jack up the grocery bill than to impulse buy), and we ate far less meat overall. When we did eat meat, it would be a so-called lesser cut (ribs, shanks, chicken thighs) or a whole chicken, rather than buying boneless skinless chicken breasts, which were always a staple before I was out of work. Now, if I’m going to buy boneless skinless chicken breasts, they’re in bulk and on sale. In fact, all meat is purchased on sale – and we love store brands. I guess that’s more than one best tip, right?!

Thank you so much, Amy! It has been a true joy cooking from your cookbook, and I look forward to trying even more recipes from your blog! If you want more of Amy, here is where you can find her:


Poor Girl Gourmet

Today’s Blogger Spotlight is Amy McCoy – author of this month’s Cookbook of the Month – Poor Girl Gourmet, as well as the blog by the same name. I’m so excited to have Amy with us here today! I have been loving her cookbook (one more recipe and a review coming up on Friday) and I’m so happy to have it on my shelf. And I’m so happy to learn a little bit more about her!


Amy McCoy is the author of Poor Girl Gourmet and the cookbook “Poor Girl Gourmet: Eat in Style on a Bare-Bones Budget” (Andrews McMeel, 2010).

Amy began Poor Girl Gourmet in October 2008 when work in her first career as a broadcast producer of graphics and promos for cable networks dried up, and she found herself with an increasingly diminished bank account. Not wanting to sacrifice her food standards, she set out to make high-quality food on a tiny budget and documented each meal. The blog led to the book, which features recipes serving at least four for $15 or less, a chapter of “splurges” – company-worthy entrees that serve four for $15-$30, a chapter on value wines, and a menu planner to help craft complete meals from the recipes in the book while staying on budget.

Amy is the chairperson of Slow Food Rhode Island. She and her husband, JR, live on a tiny gentleman’s farm in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, where they keep bees for honey, raise hens for eggs, maintain a large vegetable and herb garden, and have recently started raising heritage chickens and turkeys for meat. They are committed to supporting local farmers and farm stands, and have found that shopping local and shopping on a budget are not mutually exclusive.

What inspired you to first start writing your blog?
I had always wanted to work in food, though I was pretty certain that being a chef wasn’t for me. My grandmother had owned an Italian restaurant, and I knew that the hours were long.

I had been a freelancer producing graphics and promos for cable networks for 14 years, and had always taken continuing education classes on the side, ostensibly to help me figure out what I actually wanted to be when I grew up.

I had taken a food writing class in 2006, and the instructor had recommended that we students keep a blog. At the time, I was busy working and thought starting a blog sounded good, but I didn’t have the time to put into it, being busy with work and all. At the end of 2008, when the economy soured, my freelance work dried up, and I had all the time in the world.

Of course, at the same time, my income disappeared, so I knew that my husband and I had to live on less until I was working again, and one of my biggest clients had told me that it would be 9 months to a year until she was able to hire outside contractors.

I started the blog to chronicle the meals that I was making – for as little money as possible – and to try to hone my writing skills in the hopes that I might be able to get an occasional writing gig while I wasn’t producing.

Once I started blogging, I was totally enamored. It combined all of my main passions: writing, food, recipe development, and photography. What could be better?

What kinds of posts are your favorite to write? What do your readers seem to like the most?

It turns out that I really enjoy writing about keeping chickens. I’m not sure if I should read into this, but the chickens bring out the best in me. My readers seem to enjoy the chicken stories, too, though any funny stories seem to go over well, and, of course, posts on baked goods. Baked goods tend to get a thumbs up all around.

Do you plan a weekly menu? If so, what inspires your menu?
Weekly menus have always been part of our routine. Otherwise, I find it difficult to keep organized. We’ve always eaten seasonally, too, so menus are inspired by what’s in season, as well as what the weather will be like that week. Cold weather equals soups, roasts, and stews, warm weather finds us eating salads or grilling out.

What is your favorite kind of food to make?
Italian food inspires me because it’s so in tune with the seasons and has a sense of place based upon what’s grown in one region versus another – inland, you’ll find game dishes, on the coast, you’ll find seafood. I try to use that philosophy in our meals so that they’re full of fresh flavors from where we live.

What is your favorite recipe posted on your blog?
This changes from season to season, but right now, I’m all about fall produce, so it’s a toss up between this beet soup, if I’m being somewhat healthy:

Or these pumpkin scones – if I’m feeling the need for baked goods. Hey, at least there’s a vegetable in there, right?:

Will you show us your kitchen? What is your favorite thing about your kitchen?

My kitchen is SO tiny that the refrigerator is not actually in the kitchen proper. It’s under the stairs just outside the kitchen. When I’m cooking and baking for the holidays, I usually have cookies cooling on the coffee table in the living room, mixing bowls on the dining room table, and a pile up on the kitchen counter (an even worse pile up than the one that’s in these photos). However, I love my kitchen despite the smallness – it’s a cheery little space and gets the job done.

What is your favorite kitchen tool/appliance?
I love my stand mixer – that bad boy gets a work out each week, whether it’s making butter, batter, dough, or rolling out pasta. I realize that it’s a bit of a luxury, but if you don’t have a stand mixer, I highly recommend putting it on your list.

What is your best tip for getting dinner on the table?

For me, cooking is relaxing and a creative outlet. I think the key is that if you find making dinner enjoyable, it’s easy to get it to the table, though a little bit of planning goes a long way on weeknights. This is a big part of the reason that I’ve always planned meals – if you know that your weeknights are going to be hectic, choose a stir-fry type dish for those nights, and if you have time over the weekend, prep a meal that can just be reheated, like lasagna or soup.

Where do most of your recipes come from? (Family favorites, you make them up, magazines, cookbooks, etc.)
I make up most of the recipes that we make, but there are definitely some family favorites in the mix, and I use cookbooks as well. Right now, I’m totally into Rebecca Lang’s “Quick-Fix Southern”, and have Maria Speck’s “Ancient Grains for Modern Meals” on deck. I also am really enjoying P. Allen Smith’s “Seasonal Recipes from the Garden”. The recipes are great, and his storytelling makes you feel like you’re hanging out on his front porch with him.

What would you eat as your last supper?
I would quick get on a plane and go to Mondo X in Cetona, Italy. I would eat anything they served me. It’s a monastery that trains young men in rehab for drug and alcohol addiction to work in fine dining, and they produce most of the food that they serve on their property. Add to that, it’s served in the most amazing environment, a sprawling old (circa 1212 – that’s pretty old) stone-floored monastery in the Tuscan hills. That would be a good way to go.

However, if I were making the meal myself, I’d make fresh pasta and serve it with a rich meat ragu – probably involving beef short ribs and mushrooms, with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, of course. I’d probably start the meal with an insalata caprese with tomatoes and basil from our garden. Boy, I sure hope it’s tomato and basil season at the time! And I’d have to have dessert – either an apple cake, or maybe this zucchini cake I’m working on now. With ice cream, of course. I’m stuffed just thinking about it!

What kind of camera/lens/equipment do you use?
I use a Nikon D80 and alternate between a 75-300mm and an 18-105mm lens.

Any suggestions or hints to have great food photos?
Take your time, experiment with angles and points of view (shooting at eye level, shooting from above), and, for me, natural light is key. If it’s nice outside, I shoot on our back deck in indirect sunlight, and when the weather is rough (which seems to be often here in New England), I shoot indoors in an area right next to large windows.

What kind of food did you eat growing up? Do you cook the same kinds of things today?

My mother was a very good cook and baker, and I definitely draw inspiration from her cooking as an adult. Her meatballs are one stand-out that I can’t live without, as is her apple crumble, her blueberry kuchen, and her banana bread. My brothers still request that she makes banana bread for them, and, yeah, they’re in their 30’s.

What was the first dish you ever cooked?
The very first dish I ever made on my own (not as a kitchen assistant to my mother – in that case, it would have been the tossed salad for dinner each night) was my nana’s red sauce. I had no recipe for it (of course), so I was quite excited when it came out almost (almost!) exactly like hers did. I was in high school at the time.

When you really want to cheat, what do you eat?
Chocolate chip cookie dough. When I first moved into an apartment on my own after college, I was so excited that I could eat raw cookie dough without my mother chiding me. It’s still one of the small pleasures of adulthood to be able to eat it without being reprimanded – not that I recommend eating raw cookie dough to anyone else, or anything.

If you could travel anywhere in the world – just for the food – where would you go?
I think I might have given this away already! Italy is first on the list, though I really want to go to Turkey and also to India. Actually, I’d love an around-the-world food exploration trip. Is that asking too much?

What are your favorite blogs to read?
There are SO many fabulous blogs out there that I love, and I feel like every day there’s a new discovery (ah, the beauty of Twitter!). I’ve been reading Simple Bites, Sassy Radish, Food on the Food, Running with Tweezers, Last Night’s Dinner, Fresh New England, and A Tasteful Garden for ages (yep. Three years is ages, apparently!). But that’s just a smattering – the list is LONG!

What is your best tip for saving money on groceries?
The two biggest things that changed when I was first out of work were that I made a shopping list and actually stuck to it (the shopping list and meal planning were always in play, I just improvised a little too much once I got to the market when I was gainfully employed, and there is no more certain way to jack up the grocery bill than to impulse buy), and we ate far less meat overall. When we did eat meat, it would be a so-called lesser cut (ribs, shanks, chicken thighs) or a whole chicken, rather than buying boneless skinless chicken breasts, which were always a staple before I was out of work. Now, if I’m going to buy boneless skinless chicken breasts, they’re in bulk and on sale. In fact, all meat is purchased on sale – and we love store brands. I guess that’s more than one best tip, right?!

Thank you so much, Amy! It has been a true joy cooking from your cookbook, and I look forward to trying even more recipes from your blog! If you want more of Amy, here is where you can find her:


Poor Girl Gourmet

Today’s Blogger Spotlight is Amy McCoy – author of this month’s Cookbook of the Month – Poor Girl Gourmet, as well as the blog by the same name. I’m so excited to have Amy with us here today! I have been loving her cookbook (one more recipe and a review coming up on Friday) and I’m so happy to have it on my shelf. And I’m so happy to learn a little bit more about her!


Amy McCoy is the author of Poor Girl Gourmet and the cookbook “Poor Girl Gourmet: Eat in Style on a Bare-Bones Budget” (Andrews McMeel, 2010).

Amy began Poor Girl Gourmet in October 2008 when work in her first career as a broadcast producer of graphics and promos for cable networks dried up, and she found herself with an increasingly diminished bank account. Not wanting to sacrifice her food standards, she set out to make high-quality food on a tiny budget and documented each meal. The blog led to the book, which features recipes serving at least four for $15 or less, a chapter of “splurges” – company-worthy entrees that serve four for $15-$30, a chapter on value wines, and a menu planner to help craft complete meals from the recipes in the book while staying on budget.

Amy is the chairperson of Slow Food Rhode Island. She and her husband, JR, live on a tiny gentleman’s farm in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, where they keep bees for honey, raise hens for eggs, maintain a large vegetable and herb garden, and have recently started raising heritage chickens and turkeys for meat. They are committed to supporting local farmers and farm stands, and have found that shopping local and shopping on a budget are not mutually exclusive.

What inspired you to first start writing your blog?
I had always wanted to work in food, though I was pretty certain that being a chef wasn’t for me. My grandmother had owned an Italian restaurant, and I knew that the hours were long.

I had been a freelancer producing graphics and promos for cable networks for 14 years, and had always taken continuing education classes on the side, ostensibly to help me figure out what I actually wanted to be when I grew up.

I had taken a food writing class in 2006, and the instructor had recommended that we students keep a blog. At the time, I was busy working and thought starting a blog sounded good, but I didn’t have the time to put into it, being busy with work and all. At the end of 2008, when the economy soured, my freelance work dried up, and I had all the time in the world.

Of course, at the same time, my income disappeared, so I knew that my husband and I had to live on less until I was working again, and one of my biggest clients had told me that it would be 9 months to a year until she was able to hire outside contractors.

I started the blog to chronicle the meals that I was making – for as little money as possible – and to try to hone my writing skills in the hopes that I might be able to get an occasional writing gig while I wasn’t producing.

Once I started blogging, I was totally enamored. It combined all of my main passions: writing, food, recipe development, and photography. What could be better?

What kinds of posts are your favorite to write? What do your readers seem to like the most?

It turns out that I really enjoy writing about keeping chickens. I’m not sure if I should read into this, but the chickens bring out the best in me. My readers seem to enjoy the chicken stories, too, though any funny stories seem to go over well, and, of course, posts on baked goods. Baked goods tend to get a thumbs up all around.

Do you plan a weekly menu? If so, what inspires your menu?
Weekly menus have always been part of our routine. Otherwise, I find it difficult to keep organized. We’ve always eaten seasonally, too, so menus are inspired by what’s in season, as well as what the weather will be like that week. Cold weather equals soups, roasts, and stews, warm weather finds us eating salads or grilling out.

What is your favorite kind of food to make?
Italian food inspires me because it’s so in tune with the seasons and has a sense of place based upon what’s grown in one region versus another – inland, you’ll find game dishes, on the coast, you’ll find seafood. I try to use that philosophy in our meals so that they’re full of fresh flavors from where we live.

What is your favorite recipe posted on your blog?
This changes from season to season, but right now, I’m all about fall produce, so it’s a toss up between this beet soup, if I’m being somewhat healthy:

Or these pumpkin scones – if I’m feeling the need for baked goods. Hey, at least there’s a vegetable in there, right?:

Will you show us your kitchen? What is your favorite thing about your kitchen?

My kitchen is SO tiny that the refrigerator is not actually in the kitchen proper. It’s under the stairs just outside the kitchen. When I’m cooking and baking for the holidays, I usually have cookies cooling on the coffee table in the living room, mixing bowls on the dining room table, and a pile up on the kitchen counter (an even worse pile up than the one that’s in these photos). However, I love my kitchen despite the smallness – it’s a cheery little space and gets the job done.

What is your favorite kitchen tool/appliance?
I love my stand mixer – that bad boy gets a work out each week, whether it’s making butter, batter, dough, or rolling out pasta. I realize that it’s a bit of a luxury, but if you don’t have a stand mixer, I highly recommend putting it on your list.

What is your best tip for getting dinner on the table?

For me, cooking is relaxing and a creative outlet. I think the key is that if you find making dinner enjoyable, it’s easy to get it to the table, though a little bit of planning goes a long way on weeknights. This is a big part of the reason that I’ve always planned meals – if you know that your weeknights are going to be hectic, choose a stir-fry type dish for those nights, and if you have time over the weekend, prep a meal that can just be reheated, like lasagna or soup.

Where do most of your recipes come from? (Family favorites, you make them up, magazines, cookbooks, etc.)
I make up most of the recipes that we make, but there are definitely some family favorites in the mix, and I use cookbooks as well. Right now, I’m totally into Rebecca Lang’s “Quick-Fix Southern”, and have Maria Speck’s “Ancient Grains for Modern Meals” on deck. I also am really enjoying P. Allen Smith’s “Seasonal Recipes from the Garden”. The recipes are great, and his storytelling makes you feel like you’re hanging out on his front porch with him.

What would you eat as your last supper?
I would quick get on a plane and go to Mondo X in Cetona, Italy. I would eat anything they served me. It’s a monastery that trains young men in rehab for drug and alcohol addiction to work in fine dining, and they produce most of the food that they serve on their property. Add to that, it’s served in the most amazing environment, a sprawling old (circa 1212 – that’s pretty old) stone-floored monastery in the Tuscan hills. That would be a good way to go.

However, if I were making the meal myself, I’d make fresh pasta and serve it with a rich meat ragu – probably involving beef short ribs and mushrooms, with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, of course. I’d probably start the meal with an insalata caprese with tomatoes and basil from our garden. Boy, I sure hope it’s tomato and basil season at the time! And I’d have to have dessert – either an apple cake, or maybe this zucchini cake I’m working on now. With ice cream, of course. I’m stuffed just thinking about it!

What kind of camera/lens/equipment do you use?
I use a Nikon D80 and alternate between a 75-300mm and an 18-105mm lens.

Any suggestions or hints to have great food photos?
Take your time, experiment with angles and points of view (shooting at eye level, shooting from above), and, for me, natural light is key. If it’s nice outside, I shoot on our back deck in indirect sunlight, and when the weather is rough (which seems to be often here in New England), I shoot indoors in an area right next to large windows.

What kind of food did you eat growing up? Do you cook the same kinds of things today?

My mother was a very good cook and baker, and I definitely draw inspiration from her cooking as an adult. Her meatballs are one stand-out that I can’t live without, as is her apple crumble, her blueberry kuchen, and her banana bread. My brothers still request that she makes banana bread for them, and, yeah, they’re in their 30’s.

What was the first dish you ever cooked?
The very first dish I ever made on my own (not as a kitchen assistant to my mother – in that case, it would have been the tossed salad for dinner each night) was my nana’s red sauce. I had no recipe for it (of course), so I was quite excited when it came out almost (almost!) exactly like hers did. I was in high school at the time.

When you really want to cheat, what do you eat?
Chocolate chip cookie dough. When I first moved into an apartment on my own after college, I was so excited that I could eat raw cookie dough without my mother chiding me. It’s still one of the small pleasures of adulthood to be able to eat it without being reprimanded – not that I recommend eating raw cookie dough to anyone else, or anything.

If you could travel anywhere in the world – just for the food – where would you go?
I think I might have given this away already! Italy is first on the list, though I really want to go to Turkey and also to India. Actually, I’d love an around-the-world food exploration trip. Is that asking too much?

What are your favorite blogs to read?
There are SO many fabulous blogs out there that I love, and I feel like every day there’s a new discovery (ah, the beauty of Twitter!). I’ve been reading Simple Bites, Sassy Radish, Food on the Food, Running with Tweezers, Last Night’s Dinner, Fresh New England, and A Tasteful Garden for ages (yep. Three years is ages, apparently!). But that’s just a smattering – the list is LONG!

What is your best tip for saving money on groceries?
The two biggest things that changed when I was first out of work were that I made a shopping list and actually stuck to it (the shopping list and meal planning were always in play, I just improvised a little too much once I got to the market when I was gainfully employed, and there is no more certain way to jack up the grocery bill than to impulse buy), and we ate far less meat overall. When we did eat meat, it would be a so-called lesser cut (ribs, shanks, chicken thighs) or a whole chicken, rather than buying boneless skinless chicken breasts, which were always a staple before I was out of work. Now, if I’m going to buy boneless skinless chicken breasts, they’re in bulk and on sale. In fact, all meat is purchased on sale – and we love store brands. I guess that’s more than one best tip, right?!

Thank you so much, Amy! It has been a true joy cooking from your cookbook, and I look forward to trying even more recipes from your blog! If you want more of Amy, here is where you can find her:


Poor Girl Gourmet

Today’s Blogger Spotlight is Amy McCoy – author of this month’s Cookbook of the Month – Poor Girl Gourmet, as well as the blog by the same name. I’m so excited to have Amy with us here today! I have been loving her cookbook (one more recipe and a review coming up on Friday) and I’m so happy to have it on my shelf. And I’m so happy to learn a little bit more about her!


Amy McCoy is the author of Poor Girl Gourmet and the cookbook “Poor Girl Gourmet: Eat in Style on a Bare-Bones Budget” (Andrews McMeel, 2010).

Amy began Poor Girl Gourmet in October 2008 when work in her first career as a broadcast producer of graphics and promos for cable networks dried up, and she found herself with an increasingly diminished bank account. Not wanting to sacrifice her food standards, she set out to make high-quality food on a tiny budget and documented each meal. The blog led to the book, which features recipes serving at least four for $15 or less, a chapter of “splurges” – company-worthy entrees that serve four for $15-$30, a chapter on value wines, and a menu planner to help craft complete meals from the recipes in the book while staying on budget.

Amy is the chairperson of Slow Food Rhode Island. She and her husband, JR, live on a tiny gentleman’s farm in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, where they keep bees for honey, raise hens for eggs, maintain a large vegetable and herb garden, and have recently started raising heritage chickens and turkeys for meat. They are committed to supporting local farmers and farm stands, and have found that shopping local and shopping on a budget are not mutually exclusive.

What inspired you to first start writing your blog?
I had always wanted to work in food, though I was pretty certain that being a chef wasn’t for me. My grandmother had owned an Italian restaurant, and I knew that the hours were long.

I had been a freelancer producing graphics and promos for cable networks for 14 years, and had always taken continuing education classes on the side, ostensibly to help me figure out what I actually wanted to be when I grew up.

I had taken a food writing class in 2006, and the instructor had recommended that we students keep a blog. At the time, I was busy working and thought starting a blog sounded good, but I didn’t have the time to put into it, being busy with work and all. At the end of 2008, when the economy soured, my freelance work dried up, and I had all the time in the world.

Of course, at the same time, my income disappeared, so I knew that my husband and I had to live on less until I was working again, and one of my biggest clients had told me that it would be 9 months to a year until she was able to hire outside contractors.

I started the blog to chronicle the meals that I was making – for as little money as possible – and to try to hone my writing skills in the hopes that I might be able to get an occasional writing gig while I wasn’t producing.

Once I started blogging, I was totally enamored. It combined all of my main passions: writing, food, recipe development, and photography. What could be better?

What kinds of posts are your favorite to write? What do your readers seem to like the most?

It turns out that I really enjoy writing about keeping chickens. I’m not sure if I should read into this, but the chickens bring out the best in me. My readers seem to enjoy the chicken stories, too, though any funny stories seem to go over well, and, of course, posts on baked goods. Baked goods tend to get a thumbs up all around.

Do you plan a weekly menu? If so, what inspires your menu?
Weekly menus have always been part of our routine. Otherwise, I find it difficult to keep organized. We’ve always eaten seasonally, too, so menus are inspired by what’s in season, as well as what the weather will be like that week. Cold weather equals soups, roasts, and stews, warm weather finds us eating salads or grilling out.

What is your favorite kind of food to make?
Italian food inspires me because it’s so in tune with the seasons and has a sense of place based upon what’s grown in one region versus another – inland, you’ll find game dishes, on the coast, you’ll find seafood. I try to use that philosophy in our meals so that they’re full of fresh flavors from where we live.

What is your favorite recipe posted on your blog?
This changes from season to season, but right now, I’m all about fall produce, so it’s a toss up between this beet soup, if I’m being somewhat healthy:

Or these pumpkin scones – if I’m feeling the need for baked goods. Hey, at least there’s a vegetable in there, right?:

Will you show us your kitchen? What is your favorite thing about your kitchen?

My kitchen is SO tiny that the refrigerator is not actually in the kitchen proper. It’s under the stairs just outside the kitchen. When I’m cooking and baking for the holidays, I usually have cookies cooling on the coffee table in the living room, mixing bowls on the dining room table, and a pile up on the kitchen counter (an even worse pile up than the one that’s in these photos). However, I love my kitchen despite the smallness – it’s a cheery little space and gets the job done.

What is your favorite kitchen tool/appliance?
I love my stand mixer – that bad boy gets a work out each week, whether it’s making butter, batter, dough, or rolling out pasta. I realize that it’s a bit of a luxury, but if you don’t have a stand mixer, I highly recommend putting it on your list.

What is your best tip for getting dinner on the table?

For me, cooking is relaxing and a creative outlet. I think the key is that if you find making dinner enjoyable, it’s easy to get it to the table, though a little bit of planning goes a long way on weeknights. This is a big part of the reason that I’ve always planned meals – if you know that your weeknights are going to be hectic, choose a stir-fry type dish for those nights, and if you have time over the weekend, prep a meal that can just be reheated, like lasagna or soup.

Where do most of your recipes come from? (Family favorites, you make them up, magazines, cookbooks, etc.)
I make up most of the recipes that we make, but there are definitely some family favorites in the mix, and I use cookbooks as well. Right now, I’m totally into Rebecca Lang’s “Quick-Fix Southern”, and have Maria Speck’s “Ancient Grains for Modern Meals” on deck. I also am really enjoying P. Allen Smith’s “Seasonal Recipes from the Garden”. The recipes are great, and his storytelling makes you feel like you’re hanging out on his front porch with him.

What would you eat as your last supper?
I would quick get on a plane and go to Mondo X in Cetona, Italy. I would eat anything they served me. It’s a monastery that trains young men in rehab for drug and alcohol addiction to work in fine dining, and they produce most of the food that they serve on their property. Add to that, it’s served in the most amazing environment, a sprawling old (circa 1212 – that’s pretty old) stone-floored monastery in the Tuscan hills. That would be a good way to go.

However, if I were making the meal myself, I’d make fresh pasta and serve it with a rich meat ragu – probably involving beef short ribs and mushrooms, with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, of course. I’d probably start the meal with an insalata caprese with tomatoes and basil from our garden. Boy, I sure hope it’s tomato and basil season at the time! And I’d have to have dessert – either an apple cake, or maybe this zucchini cake I’m working on now. With ice cream, of course. I’m stuffed just thinking about it!

What kind of camera/lens/equipment do you use?
I use a Nikon D80 and alternate between a 75-300mm and an 18-105mm lens.

Any suggestions or hints to have great food photos?
Take your time, experiment with angles and points of view (shooting at eye level, shooting from above), and, for me, natural light is key. If it’s nice outside, I shoot on our back deck in indirect sunlight, and when the weather is rough (which seems to be often here in New England), I shoot indoors in an area right next to large windows.

What kind of food did you eat growing up? Do you cook the same kinds of things today?

My mother was a very good cook and baker, and I definitely draw inspiration from her cooking as an adult. Her meatballs are one stand-out that I can’t live without, as is her apple crumble, her blueberry kuchen, and her banana bread. My brothers still request that she makes banana bread for them, and, yeah, they’re in their 30’s.

What was the first dish you ever cooked?
The very first dish I ever made on my own (not as a kitchen assistant to my mother – in that case, it would have been the tossed salad for dinner each night) was my nana’s red sauce. I had no recipe for it (of course), so I was quite excited when it came out almost (almost!) exactly like hers did. I was in high school at the time.

When you really want to cheat, what do you eat?
Chocolate chip cookie dough. When I first moved into an apartment on my own after college, I was so excited that I could eat raw cookie dough without my mother chiding me. It’s still one of the small pleasures of adulthood to be able to eat it without being reprimanded – not that I recommend eating raw cookie dough to anyone else, or anything.

If you could travel anywhere in the world – just for the food – where would you go?
I think I might have given this away already! Italy is first on the list, though I really want to go to Turkey and also to India. Actually, I’d love an around-the-world food exploration trip. Is that asking too much?

What are your favorite blogs to read?
There are SO many fabulous blogs out there that I love, and I feel like every day there’s a new discovery (ah, the beauty of Twitter!). I’ve been reading Simple Bites, Sassy Radish, Food on the Food, Running with Tweezers, Last Night’s Dinner, Fresh New England, and A Tasteful Garden for ages (yep. Three years is ages, apparently!). But that’s just a smattering – the list is LONG!

What is your best tip for saving money on groceries?
The two biggest things that changed when I was first out of work were that I made a shopping list and actually stuck to it (the shopping list and meal planning were always in play, I just improvised a little too much once I got to the market when I was gainfully employed, and there is no more certain way to jack up the grocery bill than to impulse buy), and we ate far less meat overall. When we did eat meat, it would be a so-called lesser cut (ribs, shanks, chicken thighs) or a whole chicken, rather than buying boneless skinless chicken breasts, which were always a staple before I was out of work. Now, if I’m going to buy boneless skinless chicken breasts, they’re in bulk and on sale. In fact, all meat is purchased on sale – and we love store brands. I guess that’s more than one best tip, right?!

Thank you so much, Amy! It has been a true joy cooking from your cookbook, and I look forward to trying even more recipes from your blog! If you want more of Amy, here is where you can find her:


Poor Girl Gourmet

Today’s Blogger Spotlight is Amy McCoy – author of this month’s Cookbook of the Month – Poor Girl Gourmet, as well as the blog by the same name. I’m so excited to have Amy with us here today! I have been loving her cookbook (one more recipe and a review coming up on Friday) and I’m so happy to have it on my shelf. And I’m so happy to learn a little bit more about her!


Amy McCoy is the author of Poor Girl Gourmet and the cookbook “Poor Girl Gourmet: Eat in Style on a Bare-Bones Budget” (Andrews McMeel, 2010).

Amy began Poor Girl Gourmet in October 2008 when work in her first career as a broadcast producer of graphics and promos for cable networks dried up, and she found herself with an increasingly diminished bank account. Not wanting to sacrifice her food standards, she set out to make high-quality food on a tiny budget and documented each meal. The blog led to the book, which features recipes serving at least four for $15 or less, a chapter of “splurges” – company-worthy entrees that serve four for $15-$30, a chapter on value wines, and a menu planner to help craft complete meals from the recipes in the book while staying on budget.

Amy is the chairperson of Slow Food Rhode Island. She and her husband, JR, live on a tiny gentleman’s farm in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, where they keep bees for honey, raise hens for eggs, maintain a large vegetable and herb garden, and have recently started raising heritage chickens and turkeys for meat. They are committed to supporting local farmers and farm stands, and have found that shopping local and shopping on a budget are not mutually exclusive.

What inspired you to first start writing your blog?
I had always wanted to work in food, though I was pretty certain that being a chef wasn’t for me. My grandmother had owned an Italian restaurant, and I knew that the hours were long.

I had been a freelancer producing graphics and promos for cable networks for 14 years, and had always taken continuing education classes on the side, ostensibly to help me figure out what I actually wanted to be when I grew up.

I had taken a food writing class in 2006, and the instructor had recommended that we students keep a blog. At the time, I was busy working and thought starting a blog sounded good, but I didn’t have the time to put into it, being busy with work and all. At the end of 2008, when the economy soured, my freelance work dried up, and I had all the time in the world.

Of course, at the same time, my income disappeared, so I knew that my husband and I had to live on less until I was working again, and one of my biggest clients had told me that it would be 9 months to a year until she was able to hire outside contractors.

I started the blog to chronicle the meals that I was making – for as little money as possible – and to try to hone my writing skills in the hopes that I might be able to get an occasional writing gig while I wasn’t producing.

Once I started blogging, I was totally enamored. It combined all of my main passions: writing, food, recipe development, and photography. What could be better?

What kinds of posts are your favorite to write? What do your readers seem to like the most?

It turns out that I really enjoy writing about keeping chickens. I’m not sure if I should read into this, but the chickens bring out the best in me. My readers seem to enjoy the chicken stories, too, though any funny stories seem to go over well, and, of course, posts on baked goods. Baked goods tend to get a thumbs up all around.

Do you plan a weekly menu? If so, what inspires your menu?
Weekly menus have always been part of our routine. Otherwise, I find it difficult to keep organized. We’ve always eaten seasonally, too, so menus are inspired by what’s in season, as well as what the weather will be like that week. Cold weather equals soups, roasts, and stews, warm weather finds us eating salads or grilling out.

What is your favorite kind of food to make?
Italian food inspires me because it’s so in tune with the seasons and has a sense of place based upon what’s grown in one region versus another – inland, you’ll find game dishes, on the coast, you’ll find seafood. I try to use that philosophy in our meals so that they’re full of fresh flavors from where we live.

What is your favorite recipe posted on your blog?
This changes from season to season, but right now, I’m all about fall produce, so it’s a toss up between this beet soup, if I’m being somewhat healthy:

Or these pumpkin scones – if I’m feeling the need for baked goods. Hey, at least there’s a vegetable in there, right?:

Will you show us your kitchen? What is your favorite thing about your kitchen?

My kitchen is SO tiny that the refrigerator is not actually in the kitchen proper. It’s under the stairs just outside the kitchen. When I’m cooking and baking for the holidays, I usually have cookies cooling on the coffee table in the living room, mixing bowls on the dining room table, and a pile up on the kitchen counter (an even worse pile up than the one that’s in these photos). However, I love my kitchen despite the smallness – it’s a cheery little space and gets the job done.

What is your favorite kitchen tool/appliance?
I love my stand mixer – that bad boy gets a work out each week, whether it’s making butter, batter, dough, or rolling out pasta. I realize that it’s a bit of a luxury, but if you don’t have a stand mixer, I highly recommend putting it on your list.

What is your best tip for getting dinner on the table?

For me, cooking is relaxing and a creative outlet. I think the key is that if you find making dinner enjoyable, it’s easy to get it to the table, though a little bit of planning goes a long way on weeknights. This is a big part of the reason that I’ve always planned meals – if you know that your weeknights are going to be hectic, choose a stir-fry type dish for those nights, and if you have time over the weekend, prep a meal that can just be reheated, like lasagna or soup.

Where do most of your recipes come from? (Family favorites, you make them up, magazines, cookbooks, etc.)
I make up most of the recipes that we make, but there are definitely some family favorites in the mix, and I use cookbooks as well. Right now, I’m totally into Rebecca Lang’s “Quick-Fix Southern”, and have Maria Speck’s “Ancient Grains for Modern Meals” on deck. I also am really enjoying P. Allen Smith’s “Seasonal Recipes from the Garden”. The recipes are great, and his storytelling makes you feel like you’re hanging out on his front porch with him.

What would you eat as your last supper?
I would quick get on a plane and go to Mondo X in Cetona, Italy. I would eat anything they served me. It’s a monastery that trains young men in rehab for drug and alcohol addiction to work in fine dining, and they produce most of the food that they serve on their property. Add to that, it’s served in the most amazing environment, a sprawling old (circa 1212 – that’s pretty old) stone-floored monastery in the Tuscan hills. That would be a good way to go.

However, if I were making the meal myself, I’d make fresh pasta and serve it with a rich meat ragu – probably involving beef short ribs and mushrooms, with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, of course. I’d probably start the meal with an insalata caprese with tomatoes and basil from our garden. Boy, I sure hope it’s tomato and basil season at the time! And I’d have to have dessert – either an apple cake, or maybe this zucchini cake I’m working on now. With ice cream, of course. I’m stuffed just thinking about it!

What kind of camera/lens/equipment do you use?
I use a Nikon D80 and alternate between a 75-300mm and an 18-105mm lens.

Any suggestions or hints to have great food photos?
Take your time, experiment with angles and points of view (shooting at eye level, shooting from above), and, for me, natural light is key. If it’s nice outside, I shoot on our back deck in indirect sunlight, and when the weather is rough (which seems to be often here in New England), I shoot indoors in an area right next to large windows.

What kind of food did you eat growing up? Do you cook the same kinds of things today?

My mother was a very good cook and baker, and I definitely draw inspiration from her cooking as an adult. Her meatballs are one stand-out that I can’t live without, as is her apple crumble, her blueberry kuchen, and her banana bread. My brothers still request that she makes banana bread for them, and, yeah, they’re in their 30’s.

What was the first dish you ever cooked?
The very first dish I ever made on my own (not as a kitchen assistant to my mother – in that case, it would have been the tossed salad for dinner each night) was my nana’s red sauce. I had no recipe for it (of course), so I was quite excited when it came out almost (almost!) exactly like hers did. I was in high school at the time.

When you really want to cheat, what do you eat?
Chocolate chip cookie dough. When I first moved into an apartment on my own after college, I was so excited that I could eat raw cookie dough without my mother chiding me. It’s still one of the small pleasures of adulthood to be able to eat it without being reprimanded – not that I recommend eating raw cookie dough to anyone else, or anything.

If you could travel anywhere in the world – just for the food – where would you go?
I think I might have given this away already! Italy is first on the list, though I really want to go to Turkey and also to India. Actually, I’d love an around-the-world food exploration trip. Is that asking too much?

What are your favorite blogs to read?
There are SO many fabulous blogs out there that I love, and I feel like every day there’s a new discovery (ah, the beauty of Twitter!). I’ve been reading Simple Bites, Sassy Radish, Food on the Food, Running with Tweezers, Last Night’s Dinner, Fresh New England, and A Tasteful Garden for ages (yep. Three years is ages, apparently!). But that’s just a smattering – the list is LONG!

What is your best tip for saving money on groceries?
The two biggest things that changed when I was first out of work were that I made a shopping list and actually stuck to it (the shopping list and meal planning were always in play, I just improvised a little too much once I got to the market when I was gainfully employed, and there is no more certain way to jack up the grocery bill than to impulse buy), and we ate far less meat overall. When we did eat meat, it would be a so-called lesser cut (ribs, shanks, chicken thighs) or a whole chicken, rather than buying boneless skinless chicken breasts, which were always a staple before I was out of work. Now, if I’m going to buy boneless skinless chicken breasts, they’re in bulk and on sale. In fact, all meat is purchased on sale – and we love store brands. I guess that’s more than one best tip, right?!

Thank you so much, Amy! It has been a true joy cooking from your cookbook, and I look forward to trying even more recipes from your blog! If you want more of Amy, here is where you can find her:


Poor Girl Gourmet

Today’s Blogger Spotlight is Amy McCoy – author of this month’s Cookbook of the Month – Poor Girl Gourmet, as well as the blog by the same name. I’m so excited to have Amy with us here today! I have been loving her cookbook (one more recipe and a review coming up on Friday) and I’m so happy to have it on my shelf. And I’m so happy to learn a little bit more about her!


Amy McCoy is the author of Poor Girl Gourmet and the cookbook “Poor Girl Gourmet: Eat in Style on a Bare-Bones Budget” (Andrews McMeel, 2010).

Amy began Poor Girl Gourmet in October 2008 when work in her first career as a broadcast producer of graphics and promos for cable networks dried up, and she found herself with an increasingly diminished bank account. Not wanting to sacrifice her food standards, she set out to make high-quality food on a tiny budget and documented each meal. The blog led to the book, which features recipes serving at least four for $15 or less, a chapter of “splurges” – company-worthy entrees that serve four for $15-$30, a chapter on value wines, and a menu planner to help craft complete meals from the recipes in the book while staying on budget.

Amy is the chairperson of Slow Food Rhode Island. She and her husband, JR, live on a tiny gentleman’s farm in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, where they keep bees for honey, raise hens for eggs, maintain a large vegetable and herb garden, and have recently started raising heritage chickens and turkeys for meat. They are committed to supporting local farmers and farm stands, and have found that shopping local and shopping on a budget are not mutually exclusive.

What inspired you to first start writing your blog?
I had always wanted to work in food, though I was pretty certain that being a chef wasn’t for me. My grandmother had owned an Italian restaurant, and I knew that the hours were long.

I had been a freelancer producing graphics and promos for cable networks for 14 years, and had always taken continuing education classes on the side, ostensibly to help me figure out what I actually wanted to be when I grew up.

I had taken a food writing class in 2006, and the instructor had recommended that we students keep a blog. At the time, I was busy working and thought starting a blog sounded good, but I didn’t have the time to put into it, being busy with work and all. At the end of 2008, when the economy soured, my freelance work dried up, and I had all the time in the world.

Of course, at the same time, my income disappeared, so I knew that my husband and I had to live on less until I was working again, and one of my biggest clients had told me that it would be 9 months to a year until she was able to hire outside contractors.

I started the blog to chronicle the meals that I was making – for as little money as possible – and to try to hone my writing skills in the hopes that I might be able to get an occasional writing gig while I wasn’t producing.

Once I started blogging, I was totally enamored. It combined all of my main passions: writing, food, recipe development, and photography. What could be better?

What kinds of posts are your favorite to write? What do your readers seem to like the most?

It turns out that I really enjoy writing about keeping chickens. I’m not sure if I should read into this, but the chickens bring out the best in me. My readers seem to enjoy the chicken stories, too, though any funny stories seem to go over well, and, of course, posts on baked goods. Baked goods tend to get a thumbs up all around.

Do you plan a weekly menu? If so, what inspires your menu?
Weekly menus have always been part of our routine. Otherwise, I find it difficult to keep organized. We’ve always eaten seasonally, too, so menus are inspired by what’s in season, as well as what the weather will be like that week. Cold weather equals soups, roasts, and stews, warm weather finds us eating salads or grilling out.

What is your favorite kind of food to make?
Italian food inspires me because it’s so in tune with the seasons and has a sense of place based upon what’s grown in one region versus another – inland, you’ll find game dishes, on the coast, you’ll find seafood. I try to use that philosophy in our meals so that they’re full of fresh flavors from where we live.

What is your favorite recipe posted on your blog?
This changes from season to season, but right now, I’m all about fall produce, so it’s a toss up between this beet soup, if I’m being somewhat healthy:

Or these pumpkin scones – if I’m feeling the need for baked goods. Hey, at least there’s a vegetable in there, right?:

Will you show us your kitchen? What is your favorite thing about your kitchen?

My kitchen is SO tiny that the refrigerator is not actually in the kitchen proper. It’s under the stairs just outside the kitchen. When I’m cooking and baking for the holidays, I usually have cookies cooling on the coffee table in the living room, mixing bowls on the dining room table, and a pile up on the kitchen counter (an even worse pile up than the one that’s in these photos). However, I love my kitchen despite the smallness – it’s a cheery little space and gets the job done.

What is your favorite kitchen tool/appliance?
I love my stand mixer – that bad boy gets a work out each week, whether it’s making butter, batter, dough, or rolling out pasta. I realize that it’s a bit of a luxury, but if you don’t have a stand mixer, I highly recommend putting it on your list.

What is your best tip for getting dinner on the table?

For me, cooking is relaxing and a creative outlet. I think the key is that if you find making dinner enjoyable, it’s easy to get it to the table, though a little bit of planning goes a long way on weeknights. This is a big part of the reason that I’ve always planned meals – if you know that your weeknights are going to be hectic, choose a stir-fry type dish for those nights, and if you have time over the weekend, prep a meal that can just be reheated, like lasagna or soup.

Where do most of your recipes come from? (Family favorites, you make them up, magazines, cookbooks, etc.)
I make up most of the recipes that we make, but there are definitely some family favorites in the mix, and I use cookbooks as well. Right now, I’m totally into Rebecca Lang’s “Quick-Fix Southern”, and have Maria Speck’s “Ancient Grains for Modern Meals” on deck. I also am really enjoying P. Allen Smith’s “Seasonal Recipes from the Garden”. The recipes are great, and his storytelling makes you feel like you’re hanging out on his front porch with him.

What would you eat as your last supper?
I would quick get on a plane and go to Mondo X in Cetona, Italy. I would eat anything they served me. It’s a monastery that trains young men in rehab for drug and alcohol addiction to work in fine dining, and they produce most of the food that they serve on their property. Add to that, it’s served in the most amazing environment, a sprawling old (circa 1212 – that’s pretty old) stone-floored monastery in the Tuscan hills. That would be a good way to go.

However, if I were making the meal myself, I’d make fresh pasta and serve it with a rich meat ragu – probably involving beef short ribs and mushrooms, with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, of course. I’d probably start the meal with an insalata caprese with tomatoes and basil from our garden. Boy, I sure hope it’s tomato and basil season at the time! And I’d have to have dessert – either an apple cake, or maybe this zucchini cake I’m working on now. With ice cream, of course. I’m stuffed just thinking about it!

What kind of camera/lens/equipment do you use?
I use a Nikon D80 and alternate between a 75-300mm and an 18-105mm lens.

Any suggestions or hints to have great food photos?
Take your time, experiment with angles and points of view (shooting at eye level, shooting from above), and, for me, natural light is key. If it’s nice outside, I shoot on our back deck in indirect sunlight, and when the weather is rough (which seems to be often here in New England), I shoot indoors in an area right next to large windows.

What kind of food did you eat growing up? Do you cook the same kinds of things today?

My mother was a very good cook and baker, and I definitely draw inspiration from her cooking as an adult. Her meatballs are one stand-out that I can’t live without, as is her apple crumble, her blueberry kuchen, and her banana bread. My brothers still request that she makes banana bread for them, and, yeah, they’re in their 30’s.

What was the first dish you ever cooked?
The very first dish I ever made on my own (not as a kitchen assistant to my mother – in that case, it would have been the tossed salad for dinner each night) was my nana’s red sauce. I had no recipe for it (of course), so I was quite excited when it came out almost (almost!) exactly like hers did. I was in high school at the time.

When you really want to cheat, what do you eat?
Chocolate chip cookie dough. When I first moved into an apartment on my own after college, I was so excited that I could eat raw cookie dough without my mother chiding me. It’s still one of the small pleasures of adulthood to be able to eat it without being reprimanded – not that I recommend eating raw cookie dough to anyone else, or anything.

If you could travel anywhere in the world – just for the food – where would you go?
I think I might have given this away already! Italy is first on the list, though I really want to go to Turkey and also to India. Actually, I’d love an around-the-world food exploration trip. Is that asking too much?

What are your favorite blogs to read?
There are SO many fabulous blogs out there that I love, and I feel like every day there’s a new discovery (ah, the beauty of Twitter!). I’ve been reading Simple Bites, Sassy Radish, Food on the Food, Running with Tweezers, Last Night’s Dinner, Fresh New England, and A Tasteful Garden for ages (yep. Three years is ages, apparently!). But that’s just a smattering – the list is LONG!

What is your best tip for saving money on groceries?
The two biggest things that changed when I was first out of work were that I made a shopping list and actually stuck to it (the shopping list and meal planning were always in play, I just improvised a little too much once I got to the market when I was gainfully employed, and there is no more certain way to jack up the grocery bill than to impulse buy), and we ate far less meat overall. When we did eat meat, it would be a so-called lesser cut (ribs, shanks, chicken thighs) or a whole chicken, rather than buying boneless skinless chicken breasts, which were always a staple before I was out of work. Now, if I’m going to buy boneless skinless chicken breasts, they’re in bulk and on sale. In fact, all meat is purchased on sale – and we love store brands. I guess that’s more than one best tip, right?!

Thank you so much, Amy! It has been a true joy cooking from your cookbook, and I look forward to trying even more recipes from your blog! If you want more of Amy, here is where you can find her:


Watch the video: Oscar Isaacs Red Carpet PDA? The View (October 2021).