Start Small: Go Meatless!

May 23rd, 2011

Big Girls Small Kitchen is a cooking and recipe blog made especially for those who want to make more out of less. Touting themselves as the “Quarter-Life Cooks”, bloggers Phoebe Lapine and Cara Eisenpress first caught our attention when they started sharing easy yet sophisticated Meatless Monday recipes last year. Now on the verge on launching their first book, In the Small Kitchen, BGSK has gone from blog to an invaluable resource for cooks of all ages. We sat down with Cara Eisenpress (right) to ask about BGSK’s beginnings and what to expect in the transition from blog to book:

Tell us a bit about your culinary journey- How did Big Girls Small Kitchen go from college cooking experiments to an online guide and recipe resource?

In the fall of 2008, we were working at entry-level jobs: I was in book publishing house, Phoebe in global marketing. At the same time, we were both cooking a lot for our friends and families– and whining a lot about the dull aspects of our jobs. We documented our meals on the site as an outlet for our creative energy and it gathered an audience faster than we anticipated (we’d found a niche, apparently). Then, as we were writing our book, In the Small Kitchen, we began to consolidate our recipes and half-baked ideas about cooking into themes, tips, and recommendations. We distilled our stories into approachable lessons, created a vast array of guides and menus, and–most recently– launched a series of how-to videos.

You call BGSK “a guide to quarter life cooking”. How is the twenty-something’s culinary experience different from that of someone older? Why do young adults come to your site?

Quarter-lifers are simply newer to the kitchen scene. We tend to have less experience, fewer gadgets, more limited budgets, busier lives, and smaller kitchens than many cooks older than us. Our recipes take these limitations into account. Accentuated especially by our guides and menus, our balanced approach to cooking, eating, and entertaining ensures that twenty-something cooks can make the most of the resources available, big kitchen or small. (And really, this philosophy can apply to any cook of limited resources, no matter what his or her age.)

You say of your own kitchen experiments that “some were good, some were bad and some went straight in the trash”. Indulge us with a story of culinary disaster and what you learned in the process.

I once tried to make a dinner with every pot and bowl in my repertoire– all four burners on the stove were going. Soon after I knocked a saucepan full of broth onto the floor, burnt the rice, and basically the only tasty part of the meal was the veggie sausage (which was also the only dish I didn’t make). Both Phoebe and I have learned not to bite off too much more than we can chew; we have small kitchens, and so we limit ourselves to simpler meals, especially if friends are coming over. We’ve also learned not to freak out. There will always be cooking disasters, so we might as well embrace their humorous side.

Why did BGSK start creating Meatless Monday recipes? What is your inspiration behind going meatless?

Back in high school, our friends were foodies–though we never would have used that word to describe ourselves. More to the point, many of our foodie friends were vegetarians. From an early age, we organized potlucks, picnics, and dinner parties, and as a rule we’d keep them vegetarian. We loved pigging out on hummus and cheese platters, and we cooked our way through Peter Berley’s recipes– focusing particularly on the baked tofu section.

Years later, the two of us still eat meatless for the majority of our everyday meals and we love highlighting veggie-centric recipes, especially on Mondays, to help our readers remember that fantastic meals don’t have to revolve around a hunk of animal protein. (We also continue to adore hosting and attending vegetarian potlucks with our high school circle!)

Your book In the Small Kitchen: 100 Recipes from Our Year of Cooking in the Real World comes out May 24. What can readers expect to find between the pages?

In the Small Kitchen: 100 Recipes from
Our Year of Cooking in the Real World

By Cara Eisenpress & Phoebe Lapine
William Morrow Cookbooks
320 pgs, May 2011

Nearly everything in the book takes place within the boundaries of one year– from the fall of 2008, when we started the blog, to the fall of 2009, when we left our full-time positions to work on Big Girls, Small Kitchen. The stories deal with growing up, dating, and finding our places in the world after college. The sections are organized by reason to cook– i.e., cooking for one, potlucks, cocktail parties, brunch– and they alternate among recipes, stories, and the best tips and tricks we’ve developed over our years of cooking and entertaining.

How are you gearing up for the book launch on site?

We’re featuring a Book Party Menu for fans far and wide who can’t make it to our launch celebrations (we’ll be in New York, DC, LA, and San Francisco– more info on our homepage). To get readers “prepped” for the book launch, we’ve also been featuring how-to videos on our site, which focus on techniques from our book’s glossary, such as making vinaigrettes by hand.

Last but not least, we’ll be hosting the first of our summer giveaways on May 27th– we’ve got a beautiful yellow LeCreuset pot that we’re offering to our fans to thank them for being so incredibly supportive!

Visit Big Girls Small Kitchen for more information on In the Small Kitchen, or to order your copy today. Want a free taste? Sample this simple, meatless recipe for Udon Noodles with Peanut Sauce.