FLS reporter Katie Thisdell serves up news on local food finds, tales from home cooks and inspiration to help you have fun in your own kitchen.
Home Cooking with Dina Crowell
Home Cooking is a regular feature on The Front Burner that offers a peek at how home cooks around the Fredericksburg area work in their kitchens. If you’d like to answer our questionnaire, download it here and return your responses to firstname.lastname@example.org with a digital photo of yourself, or pass it along to anyone you think would like to participate.
Tell us who you are and why you cook.
My name is Dina Crowell and I have had a passion for cooking and baking for as long as I can remember. When I got married and had kids 12 years ago, cooking and baking became important to me because I wanted the best for my family and I wanted food to bring us together. Because of my love of baking I opened a cake business called Buttercream that I run out of my home here in Fredericksburg and I also have a baking blog [mybuttercream.blogspot.com] to share my tips and recipes with others.
Describe your cooking style in three words.
Fresh, unique, gourmet
How did you learn to cook?
I learned to cook from my parents and my grandma. I learned to bake from cookbooks and online tutorials. Of course, practice and trial and error is what ultimately led me to bake like a pro and open my own cake business.
There are a plethora of online sources for cooking and baking. I use www.marthastewart.com for most baking and www.myrecipes.com and www.allrecipes.com for everything else. I also have tons of cake decorating and baking cookbooks that I flip through on a regular basis Some people like to read novels, I like to read cookbooks.
What is one dish on your menu this week that you’re excited about?
For baking I just made a scrumptious Strawberry Shortcake Pie that you can find on my baking blog. For a main dish I am making my famous “Sunday Sauce” for my family. This is a red spaghetti sauce recipe passed down from my Italian Grandmother. The kids help me gather herbs from our garden to add to the sauce. The smell of it simmering all day each Sunday will be a memory I know they’ll keep with them forever.
What is one thing that must be in your pantry at all times?
It’s a tie between vanilla, flour and granulated sugar.
What one kitchen gadget could you not live without?
My KitchenAid mixer…hands down!
It’s 6 p.m., the people in your household are hungry and you just walked in from work and need to get something satisfying on the table as soon as possible. What’s your favorite thing to whip up in this situation?
This would have to be spaghetti. I freeze all leftovers and since my Sunday Sauce recipe makes a huge batch, I usually have this on hand at all times. I love knowing my family is getting a homemade meal that’s healthy even though it comes from the freezer.
It’s a snowy Sunday, you’ve just done the grocery shopping and have the rest of the day to spend in the kitchen cooking a meal that will bring comfort. What’s for dinner?
On cold days I love making my dad’s homemade chicken soup. It has to simmer all day and the smell is so warm and comforting. It takes some time but it’s well worth the wait. Sometimes I will make homemade biscuits and a garden salad to go along with it but the soup is so hearty that you really can make a meal with just the soup.
What is your favorite dish to make for pot-luck dinners?
If I am doing the main dish I would make my BBQ pulled chicken sandwiches. I use a CrockPot for this so it’s easy to cook it for a few hours and then transport it to a pot-luck. If I need a side dish, I make my mom’s spicy BBQ baked beans. It has a lot of sweetness from the brown sugar and maple syrup and packs a punch of heat with red pepper flakes an hot Jimmy Dean sausage. It’s a crowd pleaser every time.
Do you have a favorite food source in the Fredericksburg region?
I love to go to Wegmans for most of my food purchases. Sometimes I will take the kids to the farmers market downtown as well. I also purchase my vanilla downtown at the Kitchen at Whittingham. A specialty foods store that has amazing extracts, rubs, seasonings and kitchen gadgets. It’s like a small Williams-Sonoma and when I am there, I’m in heaven.