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Will Frolic for Food
Renee is a writer, photographer, recipe developer, and chocolate maker. She eats a wheat-free, dairy-free and vegetarian diet, and her blog is a reflection of this. On Will Frolic for Food, you will find recipes for creative, savory vegetarian dishes and occasionally more healthful versions of something indulgent.
I am so happy to have Renee Byrd of Will Frolic for Food here on the show today.
On The Idea Behind Her Blog:
I think the main idea for the blog came from just cooking in my daily life. I am bored very easily so I make a lot of weird, interesting recipes at home, and my now husband, then fiancé, was just really… I would make meals and he would say, “You really need to start a blog about this because people need to know these recipes. You can’t just keep them to yourself. It’s really not fair in a way.”
From my side, I was like, “No, I mean that’s so much work. I don’t want to. I don’t know.” Finally I was just like, “This is probably worth my time to share this with people,” and it totally has been. The community is a major reason I keep going.
I often have recipes that take me over eight hours to do. All in all, like recipe development, making the recipe, photographing the recipe, editing the recipe, post processing, writing; all things that go into it.
It’s so much. I love every second of it, but it’s not easy technically.
On Her Interest in Cooking and Food:
I’ve pretty much always been interested in it. I have a natural affinity towards natural foods and wanting to feel healthy and feel great.
I’ve always associated food with feeling good and being happy. I am sure the majority of that is that my mother is a fantastic cook and taught me how to make a lot of interesting foods and interesting meals out of nothing; out of like, “What’s in the fridge?” “I don’t know. We don’t have anything in fridge. I guess we’re going to make a pizza out of stuff.” She really had a good understanding of flavors and flavor combinations and how to balance meals. From that perspective, I learned all of that from her.
A lot of my inspiration has come from friends who are just passionate about food, from my friends who were basically in this little vegan, raw foods, commune situation in college, because I am just sort of hippy at heart and all my friends are like that. I love the way that they eat.
That was very inspiring to me to be with those people because they were just making these incredible curries, chutneys, and raw date brownies and it just blew my mind; so those people, and of course my mother, who gave me the foundation thankfully. I am very thankful for that.
Beyond that, so much of my inspiration comes from incredible bloggers on Internet who have been doing what they do for so long.
On Her Food Sensitivities:
I ignored most of it. Well, the dairy thing I ignored. Funnily enough, everyone in my family is allergic to dairy; allergic, not lactose-intolerant. Most of them just kind of ignore it and the wheat thing I developed a sensitivity to in my early 20s in college.
I started getting really painful stomach aches and was having really terrible digestive issues; it just hurt. I didn’t know what it was, didn’t understand it and it turned out to be a combination of sensitivity to peanuts and wheat.
I didn’t get officially diagnosed with those things but I essentially cut both of them out, and then suddenly, “Wow. Eating is fun again and doesn’t hurt me anymore.”
I just decided that I didn’t want to feel sick when I ate, and in my life, and I wasn’t going to compromise about that and I did for a long time. I basically was like, “I’ll eat wheat here and there. I’ll eat dairy here and there,” but then I was just feeling sick. It just got to a point where I was like, “I don’t need these things.”
I do eat goat dairy because it doesn’t have the same sugars and proteins as cow dairy. I am able to digest that fine, so you see a lot of that on my blog. You see a lot of chevre and goat cheese, goat yogurt. I think it’s a wonderful food, personally, so I do feature that relatively often.
On Learning To Cook with Food Sensitivities:
There are tons of resources. There are some books that I really, really love that are really on point for teaching you how to make exact recipes. Inspired Vegan is amazing. I love that book. I think it’s Bryant Terry, and it’s so wonderful. Obviously all of the Ottolenghi books, anything that’s naturally wheat-free in there is incredible.
Getting yourself out there and volunteering to help people cook big meals and for gatherings and things is another great way to learn.
Obviously blogs are fantastic resources. I’ve got a massive blog roll of people who are constantly teaching me with their process and their way.
I just have so many things going through my brain right now. I’m allergic to dairy, so the lactose and the casein that I’m allergic to but I eat Ghee. Ghee is amazing. A lot of people aren’t very familiar with it and a lot of people with sensitivities aren’t very familiar with the fact there is something that’s derived from cow dairy that they can eat.
Ghee is a wonderful clarifying food that is good for the joints, it’s good for the skin and helps support the nervous system. You can actually put it on your skin and it’s very calming and moisturizing. It’s an incredible food. I love it. I eat it a lot. I make it at home so that’s something that I use often that I feel like I am probably preaching about a lot.
Ghee is clarified butter.
To make it at home, I get a really nice organic butter. If I can get it from a farmer that’s local — that’s fantastic as well — that I trust and then I boil it over medium-high heat. I skim all of the froth that comes to the top, all of the lactose and casein off of the top. I discard that.
You just keep doing that until all of that frothy stuff is gone. Then you strain it and you pour it into a heat safe jar and you can use it. Generally a very clean organic butter, you’re going to be able to turn it into ghee relatively quickly and then you have this wonderful food that you can keep on your counter. You don’t even have to refrigerate it. It lasts for years — literally years — and it makes everything taste better.
Tips for Cooking Gluten-Free or Dairy-Free for the First Time:
Trust simple recipes. Starting with that, if you’re cooking for somebody who has allergies, trying to start out with doing a complicated baking recipe especially if you don’t have all of the ingredients and aren’t willing to follow all of the directions exactly, it’s going to be very frustrating.
I just remember back to when I was first learning how to do gluten-free cooking a couple of years ago how angry I was. These recipes weren’t working for me but I always want to try something that is more complicated because I want to be the best at it right now, but I don’t know what I’m doing.
Trusting simple recipes and finding a recipe developer that you really trust and that you really respect. I feel like I sorted through blogs and authors for years before I found people that I felt like I could trust their recipes. I wish I had a list of bloggers that I think are awesome and that I really trust their recipes. Actually I do have a list of inspiration on my blog of a bunch of different blogs that I love; not all of them are gluten-free but I definitely trust all of them. It’s just under the inspiration tab.
The Pressure Cooker:
Which food shows or cooking shows do you watch?
I don’t really watch a lot of cooking shows but I could tell you that I want to watch a really cool cooking show that is all about seasonal eating but it’s fun and there’s traveling involved.
I don’t have anything that I watch regularly. I watch YouTube videos of folks sometimes doing their thing. Green Kitchen Stories has some really cool videos.
What are some food blogs or websites that we have to know about?
Oh my god. Yeah, hundreds of them. That’s a terribly hard question but what pops in my mind, let’s see. Two Red Bowls — super awesome, gorgeous photography; hilarious and just wonderfully inspiring recipes.
Dolly and Oatmeal, I love Lindsey Love’s recipes. They all are gluten-free, they are generally dairy-free, too; very creative and beautiful photography as well. I take a lot of inspiration from her recipes, so I just have to stress that.
Let’s see, so many of them. Obviously, Local Milk. I mean do I even need to say it? She’s the best ever that ever existed. I want to be her.
Eva Kosmas Flores of Adventures in Cooking has the most gorgeous photography in the world ever.
I am trying to think of other gluten-free bloggers here. I am always super in love with My New Roots. Everything is great on My New Roots, and Green Kitchen Stories, and Sprouted Kitchen. If you do not read those, you’re a crazy person. They’re just so good.
Who do you follow on Pinterest, Instagram or Twitter that make you happy?
Also a very hard question. Instagram, I follow a lot of people, a range of folks who do everything from food to really wonderful landscapes and stuff. Again, Eva Kosmas Flores has a wonderful Instagram.
What is something all home cooks should have in their pantry?
Coconut oil, quinoa, always gluten-free pasta is a go-to for sure, and fantastic quality olive oil and sea salt are better than anything. I actually use JQ Dickinson sea salt which is a West Virginia sea salt which is very flaky. It is a little bit lower in sodium and has of mineral quality to it. I love it. When I’m out of it, I cry a little bit.
Olive oil, I use Zoe’s because it’s really affordable in large amounts and it is really good, just delicious. I just feel like with good oil and salts you can make anything taste good.
Name one ingredient you cannot live without?
The JQD sea salt pretty much. I bring it with me everywhere.
Pretty much anytime I say coarse sea salt, I’m talking about that salt.
What are a few cookbooks that make your life better?
Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi, Inspired Vegan, BabyCakes Covers the Classics by Erin McKenna is the foundation of gluten-free desserts in my mind. She is such a genius with gluten-free desserts. I pretty much owe that cookbook everything. My basic understanding of how gluten-free baking works and what you need to make it work. I’ve definitely branched off from that but that’s the foundation for sure.
What song or album just makes you want to cook?
Everything by Kishi Bashi. His most recent album, I can’t remember the name of it. Yeah, I just want to dance around my house and cook.
Keep Posted on Renee:
Other than following my blog, at willfrolicforfood.com, I am always posting on Instagram and Twitter. My handle is @FrolicChocolate. I have a Facebook page, too, but definitely Twitter and Instagram are the best ways.