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Expert Interview Series: Johanna M. Cook of Momma Cuisine On Preparing Delicious Meals Every Day

Johanna M. Cook, better known as "Momma Cuisine," is a national television and video cooking personality who shows viewers how to prepare great everyday meals. We had a chance to speak with Johanna and learn her ideas for how...

Special meals for entertaining

Johanna M. Cook, better known as "Momma Cuisine," is a national television and video cooking personality who shows viewers how to prepare great everyday meals. We had a chance to speak with Johanna and learn her ideas for how to spice up dinners, lunches, and special meals for entertaining.

Tell us a little bit your life before Momma Cuisine. How did you become interested in cooking?

Before Momma Cuisine, I was a restaurant professional working as a manager and corporate trainer for large chains and upscale dining establishments in Chicago. I have been interested in food and cooking for as long as I can remember! I come from a multicultural family of Filipino and Indian backgrounds, so our home always revolves around food, eating, and cooking.

On your cooking programs, what message do you try to convey to your viewers when it comes to cooking and meal preparation?

In my cooking show, "In The Kitch with Momma Cuisine," I want to show my viewers that cooking great everyday meals can be done simply, affordably, and elegantly. You don't have to be a professional cook, or even cook often, to know how to make great meals every day.

What one thing can anyone do tonight to help make their meal more elegant and exotic?

Creating "exotic" meals is all about the spices. If you enjoy food from different parts of the world and want to re-create them at home, don't be afraid to expand your spice drawer with spices from those countries and regions. Don't be afraid to experiment or test a new recipe, and remember that you can always make it your own.

Your site features a wealth of "kid-friendly" recipes. What do you think makes a food "kid friendly?"

To be honest, I don't like the idea of "kid's meals." In America, there has been a trend for many years that kids should eat differently than adults. If you see the kid-friendly meals on MommaCuisine.com, they aren't much different than "adult meals."

I think it's so important for parents to always introduce their children to many different flavors, textures, tastes, and cultures. Kids only eat what we give them, and it's important to show them that chicken nuggets is a treat and not a meal they should be eating on every occasion!

You also talk about bento boxes on your site. What exactly are bento boxes, and why are they becoming popular among busy moms?

Bento boxes actually come from the Japanese. It is literally a box with compartments for different side dishes that comprise a complete meal. That idea was taken to create a bento lunch box that kids can take to school. I love it because it helps me provide a great lunch for my kids that includes a complete meal with fruits, vegetables, a main course, snacks, and even dessert.

Do you have a favorite recipe that's practically guaranteed to wow a family at dinnertime?

My recipe for Spanish Chicken Bake is a hit!! I have so many friends and followers who have re-created it and love it. It's easy, delicious, inexpensive, and great for hosting company.

Spanish Chicken Bake

Ingredients:

5-6 Chicken Thighs

1 1/2 cups Long Grain White Rice

1 15 oz can of Fire Roasted Tomatoes

1 15 oz jar of Pitted Green Olives w/ Pimento

Paprika

Salt & Pepper

Instructions:

Heat a large pan with olive oil. Season the chicken breasts with salt, pepper, and paprika. Brown skin side down first. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Do not cook the chicken all the way, the purpose is just to give it a nice brown color.

In a large casserole dish, place the uncooked white rice in the bottom and place the browned chicken on top. Simply pour the can of roasted tomatoes on top of the chicken and rice. Then pour the jar of olives, including the olive juice, in with the chicken, rice, and tomatoes. DO NOT ADD SALT because the olives are already salty; there is no need to add more.

Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes covered or until the rice is fully cooked. Then uncover and bake for another 10 minutes.

Notes

You can substitute white rice with brown rice. If so, first soak the rice for at least 30-45 minutes in water.

You can also use barley or quinoa as substitutions.

Finish this sentence: "I couldn't do nearly as much in my kitchen if I didn't have my trusty..."

...wooden spoon. Sounds funny, but it is the kitchen tool I use for absolutely everything!

Do you have a favorite kitchen gadget, appliance, or electric that really makes cooking a lot easier for you?

I love my Kenmore convection countertop oven. It helps me to make quick dinners without having to heat up my huge oven, and even my kids are able to use it to make pizza or toast bagels for themselves.

Need some new ovenware? Check out Cilantro's wide selection today!