Steele House Kitchen
Meredith left her job as a graphic designer to become a stay-at-home mom after her daughter was born. During this time, she created her blog In Sock Monkey Slippers, started her own recipe development company, and was a finalist in the 2013 SAVEUR Blog Awards. At the end of 2015, insockmonkeyslippers.com evolved into Steele House Kitchen, a space where Meredith shares moments of laughter, inspiration, and creativity around good, honest food.
I am so psyched to have Meredith Steele of Steele House Kitchen joining me on the show.
(*All photos below are Meredith’s.)
On Becoming a Stay-at-Home Mom:
For many years, I was in advertising and graphic design, behind the scenes, and photo shoots, and everything. Everything was just fast paced. And then my husband and I became pregnant, and very excited, but things just kind of went wrong from day one. And Mia decided that she wanted to come out four months early, which left me kind of… Everything stopped. Your job stops, your life stops, and you end up just living in the hospital. So we did. I lived in the hospital for five months. She came home perfectly healthy; just smart, great kid. But she came home and had immune sensitivity. So she couldn’t be out in the world.
We were imprisoned in our house for a year until her immune system could catch up with a regular baby and toddler at the time. So obviously, I had to leave my job. And you know, cooking has always been one of those things that I’ve just absolutely loved from the time I was little. It’s just always been in my life. It’s not that being a mom is boring. It’s the complete opposite, but I kept looking for something for me to do, just to have… So I can just take 30 minutes a day just to become myself again. I just went back to my passion which was cooking, and then also photography, which I’ve been doing ever since I was a teenager. So I realized that I wanted to cook for my daughter who was now able to eat foods, and she had very sensitive gastro problems because of prematurity.
Everything had to be very strict, and very pure, and no preservatives. Not even jarred baby food was good, because some had food coloring in it. She’s allergic to food coloring and just everything. So I just broke it down to basics and started making baby food. And I had the blog to let everyone know how she was doing in her transition from hospital to home.
And then all of a sudden, I was like, “Well, you know, we’ll just cook baby food. Let’s put this recipe,” because people were starting to ask for it. And then I had a baby food company come and say, “Could you start doing recipe development for our company?” This was crazy. Maybe this could be my next transition in life. It’s becoming a light-bulb moment. Let’s maybe try this out.
On Starting Her Company, MBS Recipe Development:
It really came in a time when my husband changed careers and decided he wanted to be a sommelier. So he wanted to go back to school, which left us with no income. I was already working for Disney at the time, doing recipe development for a few websites of theirs. I thought, “Well, you know, let’s pay more attention to the recipe development company. Let’s create a company, pay more attention to this. Put blogging on the sideline for right now, so I could basically pay the mortgage.”
And it worked, and it was something I really, really enjoy doing. So it’s really strange how blogging can take you other places than just a blog. It was just one company after one company. I started with Disney, then BBDO, which is a PR company, came and started working with a lot of their clients. And now, I work for pretty much almost all the major PR companies. I work with some small ones, too. PR companies are my most prevalent client, but, I also work for some local restaurants. A lot of editorial…I work with a lot of local magazines here, statewide magazines.
On Her Cookbook, Effortless Entertaining Cookbook:
I got a call one day from a publisher, and they just said, “We would really like to do a book with you.” I thought, “Okay. Am I ready for this?” I’m not really sure, and I said, “Well, what’s the timeline?” They said, “Well, you’ve got about four months.” I thought, “Oh, no. Sorry, go find yourself someone else because this isn’t going to work.” But I thought about it, and it was one of those very failsafe contracts where when you publish a book through a publishing house, they do, I wouldn’t say own the book, but they’re very responsible for the book. So if things fail, you kind of have a good padding to fail on. And I kept thinking, “Well, I know I want to write a book. Maybe this is the way to go,” just to get my feet wet and see if this is going to be safe.
I thought, “Okay, let’s just see how a cookbook is even written,” because I did not know the first thing about it. So they walked me through the process, and gave me a nice advance so I could leave work. And it’s been good so far. So we sat there and had a brainstorming session about what we were going to do, and I think it all just came along when I was in my office staring at racks of wine that my husband is hoarding for, you know, clients and everything. I thought how we entertain a lot. Like every weekend we’re trying to… I test recipes on our friends, he tests wine on our friends. So let’s write a book about that.
So we wrote a book about entertaining. How about we do it effortless? And I said, “Okay. Effortless Entertaining,” and that was the name of the book. It’s a collection of seasonal recipes that you can pull together ahead of time really simply or pull together in the last 20 minutes.
It was a fun book to create, because we had a lot of people come over and help me out with the photography and everything.
Another good thing about having my husband, you know, in the drink business was he was able to pair almost every recipe with wine or beer. So I think when you’re waiting for your party and you’re about to get in, you’re at the grocery store and you’re buying everything. You come to that wine aisle, and you’re like, “Oh, what I’m I going to serve? What’s cheapest or what’s the best?” It’s so confusing. And so he’s been able to provide a few options for everything, and make it easier.
The Pressure Cooker:
Which food shows or cooking shows do you watch?
Not that many. I totally missed the days of PBS, those cooking shows. If PBS is on rerun, I’d watch all those. I like America’s Test Kitchen. Sometimes I’ll just go with some old school Ina Garten. She’s pretty awesome, but I rarely watch cooking shows. I rarely have time to turn on the TV.
What are some food blogs or food websites we have to know about?
A Thought For Food, Brian Samuels. That’s a great blog. I absolutely love it. Brian and I have been on a few media trips before. And the way he cooks is very fresh, and very creative. And some of his recipes really inspire me on, “Oh, that’s a great combination. I never even thought about that.” So definitely that one. I also…I don’t know if it’s really like a food blog but Serious Eats. I like that one a lot. There is a cocktail blog I’m really into right now, it’s more of a website called Punch. I enjoy reading and look forward to their post. It’s really informative. Those are the three right now that I read a lot.
Who do you follow on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook or Snapchat that make you happy?
I’m not on Facebook too much. Snapchat either. But I do love Instagram. So a lot of food stylists I follow on Instagram, I like Jamie Oliver’s account. I know that’s just really basic, but I worked for him for a little bit and their whole department is really fun to follow.
What is the most unusual or treasured item in your kitchen?
My most favored item is my grandma’s strainer. It’s really cool. It was her grandmother’s. It’s like 1901. It’s this really punched metal thing that looks like it’s been beaten up. But it’s my most treasured thing. If that was not in my kitchen, I don’t think I could function. It’s huge. It’s like the size of a large wok. It’s amazingly that big.
Name one ingredient you used to dislike but now you love.
Anchovies. I hated Anchovies as a kid, and I put them in everything now. Every salad dressing is gonna have anchovy in it. Sometimes I just…like pizza dough, like a flat bread. Put a little anchovy on it, and it’s just so good. It’s ridiculous, but like…and fish sauce. I didn’t like fish sauce and miso. Things like umami flavors that you can never even tell that they’re in a dish, but lend this nice blanket to kind of push up your flavor. So miso is definitely something that I did not like for a long time, but I’d put it in my chicken stock and it’s really nice. It brings a great flavor, and anchovies in my salad dressings.
What are a few cookbooks that make your life better?
There is one I’ve enjoyed and I look through it a lot, because it’s a seasonal cookbook. I think pretty much any seasonal cookbook really makes my life easier, because I know I can just switch to that season because we do eat very seasonally here. But there’s one called The Farm.
The Farm, that makes my life a lot easier. It’s very simple recipes, and it’s such a great story. I love cookbooks that have good stories. April Bloomfield cookbooks are wonderful. And The Flavor Bible is my bible. It does not leave my desk. It is with me wherever I go. For those who don’t know, it is this compilation of flavor pairings, basically anything. Any food, any flavor, any season. Reads like a dictionary. You just pick it up, go to the food you want and see what will pair. I think I use it on a daily basis.
What song or album just makes you want to cook?
Everything, there is always music. Sometimes like I’ll have interns come in and they’re, you know…they put dance music on. I’m like, “Okay, it’s a dance day. Let’s do it.” But right now I’m listening to Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, a lot of him right now. That just makes me want to cook. It’s like outrageous, kind of soul and got a beat. It depends on what I’m cooking, too. If it’s in the winter and it’s like a slow risotto, I get some Nina Simone or some Miles Davis.
On Keeping Posted with Meredith:
Instagram for sure, it’s just @meredithbondsteele.