Once again I met a local chef via Facebook. And the latest, Linda Spiker, has a blog, an online store, videos, many sold-out hands-on cooking classes (so act fast!), sample menus, how-to videos and has just written her second cookbook. So, of course, all of this information just whetted my appetite so I asked Linda to do one of my 5-question interviews.
EB: Wowza. You sure have a lot going on! I found you via a chocolate tasting at Wine 661 recently and was so thrilled to find you again online, and with so much to offer Santa Clarita residents. Please tell readers a little about how the “Organic Kitchen” sticks to organic ingredients in all of your recipes? Is that a challenge to Santa Clarita shoppers – finding all organic ingredients?
LS: Not really. I can usually find what I need for my classes and my family right here in the SCV. Between Trader Joe’s, Sprouts and Whole Foods Market we really have a great selection. If I can’t find it organic I either improvise or use conventional. The things I won’t compromise on are berries, broccoli, potatoes, leafy greens, dairy, chicken, eggs, and anything I juice with! I do wish we had a better local Farmer’s Market that carried organic produce.
EB: Your “Fabulous Dinner Party” menu includes Roasted Garlic Lemon Chicken, Roasted Rosemary Potatoes, Shallots and Carrots, Autumn Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette and Molten Spice Chocolate Cabernet Cakes is pretty impressive. But then you take these recipes and sometimes break them down in your cookbook, blog, videos, as well as your classes. So…can a Chef 101er like myself (and some of my readers) tackle these easily?
LS: Absolutely! When I teach I pack as much into a class as I can. I don’t recommend beginners tackle too much at once after a class. I usually suggest making two things on the menu on one occasion and the rest another. When it comes to cooking, gaining confidence is essential. I usually suggest making a salad that involves no cooking, just preparation and then one item that actually needs to be cooked. When your first attempts work well you have the confidence to try bigger and better the next time. I have taught people that never boiled an egg to make gorgeous, delicious and healthy food that their families love. Hearing the success stories of my students is my favorite part of my job…besides eating the food of course.
EB: Tell us about your two books. What will we find that separates them from other cookbooks?
LS: I released my first book “Seasonal Favorites from The Organic Kitchen: Autumn/Winter Menus last August and release the Spring/Summer Cookbook next week! Both books are designed exactly like my classes. Each chapter is a complete menu from appetizer to dessert. Usually cookbooks are separated by category i.e.: appetizer, side dish, main dish, and dessert. Mine are really quite unique. But the really great thing is, I don’t leave my readers hanging with just a recipe and a photo of the finished product. I have all my menus posted on my blog, broken down in steps complete with pictures of the process, eliminating the guesswork. I also post recipes not in the books and have fabulous juicing and blending recipes on my website.
EB: How about telling readers a little bit about yourself? You are a Valencia resident. What is an average day like in your household?
LS: I have been married to my husband Steve for 32 years and spent the first ten years of marriage having six children! Then I spent the next 20 raising them. Now we are empty nesters and really enjoying it. My third grandbaby is due in April. Never a dull moment around here! I recently finished the 500-hour teacher training program at Yogaworks and teach yoga as well as cooking classes. So we are busy, but enjoying it all, which is the point after all.
EB: One more question, as an organic chef, do you have any local restaurants you can recommend to other healthy eaters in Santa Clarita? Is that something we have to query a restaurant specifically on? For instance two local haunts people have been talking about, Rustic Eatery and Bricks on Main, have lots of healthy options, how would we know if they are organic? And, in your opinion, how much does it matter?
LS: Well we don’t have any restaurants here that serve exclusively organic food, but we do have some that offer some menu items that are organic. The Vines has an organic chicken dish that is divine. Sabor has organic chicken tacos and an amazing chicken and veggie burrito, I also love their tortilla soup and their vegetarian Tacos de Papas.
What I usually do is find restaurants I know have healthy choices (not necessarily organic) and frequent those places. If you name a place I will probably know what I am willing to eat on their menu.
We do lack good salads here in the SCV. Salads are pretty much my ‘thing’. I have 14 in the first cookbook and 13 in the second. I am hard to please when it comes to my greens! I would rather not order one than eat a mediocre salad. Believe it or not CPK has a delicious Greens with Pear and Gorgonzola salad and a Quinoa/Arugula salad, love them both!
My feeling is this, we all love to eat out, be served, be spoiled and have a night off from cooking, and it’s not realistic to never eat out because you can’t find restaurants that serve organic. Just do your best to choose the healthiest options, keep your portions reasonable, and my best advice is to eat an apple right before you go out. It fills you up a bit, raises your blood sugar a little so you aren’t ravenous, and makes it easier to tell the waiter to keep the bread basket off the table!
Find the Organic Chicken on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Organic-Kitchen/360972007254358?ref=ts&fref=ts and their website: http://www.theorganickitchen.org/