Blogger Spotlight: Domesticate Me

Serena Wolf is a chef, food blogger, author, and general creative hustler whose life revolves around delicious food. Get to know her and some of her favorite recipes!
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Created from scratch in the SideChef Kitchen, where recipe inspiration and ingredient experimentation are a way of life.

How She Got Her Start

The fact that I’m now in the food world is kind of hilarious since I’m not someone that can claim a lifelong love of food and cooking. I was actually an upsettingly picky eater until college, and my only culinary role model was my mother, a woman well-versed in the art of burning things. So it came as quite a shock to my family and friends when I announced that I was moving to Paris and enrolling in culinary school after college.
My early cooking school days were mildly traumatic, which is unsurprising given that the only thing I’d successfully “cooked” up to that point was a burnt grilled cheese. But after a couple of months, I had become a completely different person. I was gutting and filleting fish, deboning chickens, breaking down whole rabbits, and whipping up hollandaise sauce without breaking a sweat. The most insane part was that I loved every second of it. Realizing that I’d found my (very unexpected) calling, I enthusiastically signed on to complete the full diploma program and never looked back.

Since graduating from LCB in 2011, I’ve worn a bunch of culinary hats—private chef, culinary instructor, freelance writer, recipe developer, nutritional spirit guide, etc.—but blogging has easily been my most rewarding pursuit, both personally and professionally. I started my site (domesticate-me.com) on a whim while in Paris with no goal in mind other than to casually share some of my new culinary skillz with other domestically-challenged souls (i.e. my friends at home, who I assumed would be the only ones interested in reading it). There was a lot of pink, Julia Child quotes, and Blackberry photos on domesticatemoi.blogspot.com back in the day, but I had a clear vision: Help others get their shit together in the kitchen. And make it fun, dammit.
Domesticate ME! has come a long way since then (thank God), but my mission remains the same. I truly believe that cooking should be accessible, experimental, and most importantly, FUN. And pursuing this mission via my blog led to my latest project, my first cookbook, The Dude Diet, which is being released by HarperCollins this month!

What was your favorite childhood meal?

GRILLED CHEESE. My grilled cheese connoisseurship began more than two decades ago (which I admit grudgingly, since I don’t like to put anything in print that makes me appear a day over 22), when I was just a sassy kindergartner. Every day after school, I would sit in the kitchen and attack a grilled cheese while watching TaleSpin and chatting with my babysitter. According to her, I was incredibly picky about my grilled cheese, critiquing the amount of cheese and the level of bread “toastiness.” I even went so far as to tell her that my dream was to own a restaurant that sold exclusively grilled cheese. I still think this is a solid business idea, and plan to see it through at some point...

What's in your bag and what are your kitchen essentials?

When it comes to kitchen essentials, I always have plenty of eggs, lemons, and avocados on hand, and I love my Le Creuset cast iron skillet and enameled French oven more than most people love their dogs/children/significant others.

What is the best or weirdest thing you've ever eaten in your travels?

I was in Paris a couple of weeks ago, and I Googled “best baguette in Paris.” Then I found the little boulangerie in Montmartre, bought said baguette, and ate it in the Luxembourg Gardens with triple crème brie and prosciutto, and it absolutely blew my mind. I’m a firm believer that the simplest things are often the most delicious.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Writing The Dude Diet!

Describe your dream kitchen or dining room.

My dad’s kitchen in Santa Barbara is my fantasy kitchen. It’s streamlined and bright, and the center island with high back bar stools is a dream for someone like me who loves to entertain. Having friends sit and have a cocktail and nibble snacks while I finish up any prep is the dream. And you can’t see them in this photo, but there are twin Sub-Zeros and a wine fridge on the left…

Finish the sentences.

My perfect day would be...wandering in Paris with my fiancé.
I believe any problem can be solved with...creativity and a sense of humor.
When I need liquid courage, I drink...a Maker’s Manhattan on the rocks.
My guilty pleasure is...Sour Patch Kids.
I wish I had the superpower...of flight because I’m always late!

What are your favorite recipes on the app, and why?

I love my Chia Seed Pork Meatballs because they’re so easy and versatile. You can pass them with toothpicks as an appetizer, or turn them into a full meal by serving them over vegetables, noodles, or whole grains. I also love Feed Me Phoebe’s Meatless Healthy Nachos. That cauliflower cheese sauce! I’m a total sucker for a lightened-up comfort food.

GLUTEN-FREEDAIRY-FREE
Chia Seed Pork Meatballs with Ginger-Soy Glaze
Domesticate Me

These tender little pork miracles are ridiculously juicy and bursting with flavor, and the ginger-soy glaze is the perfect sweet-and-spicy finishing touch. Instead of eggs and breadcrumbs, I used chia seeds to bind these balls, which was a glorious discovery.

SUGAR-FREEPEANUT-FREE
Meatless Healthy Nachos
Feed Me Phoebe

The perfect vegetarian nacho recipe with mushrooms, jalapeños, and cauliflower queso.

What is your advice to people who aspire to be in your field or do similar projects?

When it comes to the food blogosphere and the book world, my biggest piece of advice is to BE YOURSELF. I know this seems obvious and is somewhat trite, but it's critical for success. My writing/life motto is: You do you. Don't try to emulate other bloggers or authors that you like or write about things that you don't know about or don’t interest you simply because you think people will read it. There are millions of blogs and books out there, and a lot of them read exactly the same. Get weird, be awkward, and say what you actually think because a conversational voice and honesty are what people will come back for. It may take you some time to get comfortable, but that's totally okay. (Re-reading some of my really old blog posts makes me want to die.) If you look at a lot of bloggers' early posts, you'll see that it can take a while to develop your style.

What was your inspiration for Dude Diet?

The Dude Diet was inspired by my wonderful, nutritionally-confused fiancé, Logan. When I moved in with him five years ago and became privy to his day-to-day eating habits, I was horrified. The worst part was, he didn’t think his diet was “that bad.” (It was.) I’d occasionally mention that he might want to eat more healthily, but these suggestions were typically met with shrugs and derogatory comments about vegetables and “weird vegan things.” So, when he announced one day that he wanted to start eating better, I was determined to capitalize on the opportunity. I knew that overhauling the eating habits of someone who comes precariously close to having excitement seizures in the vicinity of finger food, and who regularly trips over himself when running to the door to get his Domino’s, wasn’t going to be an easy job. Luckily, I love a challenge, and I committed myself to helping Logan create better habits by feeding him nutritious, hearty meals that he’d be pumped to eat.

Painfully aware that there were other dudes like Logan, I decided to document my efforts on my blog in a series called “The Dude Diet.” Each installment addressed a specific topic of nutritional confusion, accompanied by a recipe for a healthy version of Logan’s favorite “dude foods.” There was such a strong response to The Dude Diet on the blog (from both men and women!) that it spawned a book aimed at arming dudes (and the people that love them) with the knowledge and tools they need to lead a healthier, happier life!

My 5 Favorite Recipes from the book:

Bison and Sweet Potato Waffle Fry Sliders
Ultimate Breakfast Quesadilla
Cheeseburger Quinoa Bake
Farro Risotto with Bacon, Corn and Cherry Tomatoes
Chipotle Chicken Taquitos

Created from scratch in the SideChef Kitchen, where recipe inspiration and ingredient experimentation are a way of life.
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