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Blogger Spotlight: Compelled to Cook

Meet Nicole Boulaine, creator, recipe developer, picture-taker and food-taster of the food blog Compelled to Cook.

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Created from scratch in the SideChef Kitchen, where recipe inspiration and ingredient experimentation are a way of life.
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We were able to interview, Nicole of Compelled to Cook, one of our newest Content Partners and find out what has motivated her to keep pursuing her goal to share her passion despite obstacles and her greatest piece of advice for success.

Nicole is professionally educated in cooking and dietary, however, she's been working for the Correctional Service of Canada for 24 years, mostly as a Correctional Officer!

What made you start your blog?

I started my food blog as a hobby because I missed being creative in the kitchen and felt it would be a fun way to use my skills. Some of which had cobwebs on them! I also hoped of growing the blog to give a little supplemental income to my pension along with having a great hobby in retirement.

I’ve been married to Mark for 22 years and together we love to camp, hike, sip wine and eat all the delicious things that come out of the Compelled to Cook kitchen. We have no children but have a love for cats, and Jazz is our beloved pet.

Describe a pivotal moment in your journey to being a food blogger?

Continually searching Pinterest for other people’s recipes was when I realized that I wanted to stare back at my own.

Knowing that I have the skills and knowledge to cook, develop and create my own recipes only made my desire stronger. I wondered why on earth I wasn’t doing it for myself and started making a plan to make my desire a reality.

What's your favorite childhood meal?

My favorite childhood meal is my mom’s sweet and sour spareribs. Thinking back, they were very simple to make, but as a young girl, this was not obvious. It was a delicious meal that I looked forward to and even helped with by cutting the ribs after they had browned. My mom made the sauce in a soup bowl by adding seemingly random ingredients such as flour, ketchup, brown sugar and spices by the eye.

This mixture was then made into a paste and thinned with water. She would then add this sauce to the browned spareribs and simmer it to a saucy consistency. It wasn’t an overly sweet sauce and fantastic over rice, "Minute Rice" I might add because my mom didn't enjoy cooking. Even though I’ve attempted her dish a few times, it has never been as good. Perhaps because it’s missing her loving hand.

What are your kitchen essentials? What could you not imagine cooking without?

Nicole's best kitchen tool!

A good chef’s knife and my 6 quart Le Creuset Dutch oven I would find difficult to live without!

A good knife, meaning to me, one with a sturdy handle and a sharp edge is essential to any cooking and a must-have. Particularly the chef’s knife because it does so much and I use it endlessly. Not only good for chopping but great for opening Amazon boxes too, LOL!

The second item that is a “must-have” is my Dutch oven. It wouldn’t have to be “Le Creuset” but it would have to be good quality and big enough to braise a roast or a whole chicken. The cast-iron Dutch ovens are wonderful for browning and braising as they hold the heat well and create a good sear. They’re oven-safe, making them great for going from the stove to the oven, which leads to the next question and my favorite recipe.

What is on your kitchen wishlist?

Source: Le Creuset

A shallow round, meringue colored Le Creuset Dutch oven and a mortar and pestle set are on my kitchen wish list. Hint hint!!

What is the best, and then the weirdest thing you have ever eaten?

The best thing I recall eating was an Arctic Char dish in Banff, Alberta. Which is kinda funny because Alberta is a prairie province known for its beef, sorry beef producers! But it was the best fish I’ve ever eaten and cooked to perfection.

The weirdest thing I’ve eaten is raw whale blubber. Yup, you read that right, LOL! Cooking in a Federal Prison with a large Inuit population at the time, the kitchen would order in whale blubber for certain occasions. For them, it was a real treat and a huge part of their culture and they’d happily chew away on it. It’s not my favorite!

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

One of my biggest accomplishments has been my food blog. Not because it’s the greatest food blog in the world, but because of the challenges it has forced me to overcome and the knowledge I’ve gained from it. I’ve also discovered another passion from it and that’s the world of food photography. I knew very little about photography before starting my food blog and it was something I struggled with in the beginning.

I have learned a tremendous amount about taking photographs and realize that I rather enjoy it, sometimes more than cooking. I know, that’s blasphemy coming from a food blogger, but it’s true. I had a huge learning curve with all of it. From technology, photography, managing large amounts of data, website production and maintenance etc. I even had some learning with cooking because I hadn’t used some of my skills in years. But I find that it’s all exciting and I embrace the challenge of learning more as I grow.

Describe your DREAM Kitchen.

Source: Instagram

My dream kitchen has a HUGE island with usable counter space and room for at least 6 people to sit around. Time and time again, I find people always congregate in the kitchen area, so the bigger the better for people to sit and enjoy food and good company. Having lots of large drawers is a must as well because they’re great for pots and large bowls. I also like light cream colored cabinets for a light and airy feel.

What's your guilty pleasure?

My guilty pleasure is wine, but I’m no wine snob. I’ll have a decent bottle for my company, but my everyday wine is a boxed wine from Costco. For me, it’s all about the 20 minutes I'll take for myself enjoying that glass of wine and perhaps not so much the wine itself. Okay, it’s the wine too, who am I kidding!

What's your favorite recipe of all time?

Coq au Vin Blanc, Nicole's all-time fav!

This is a tough question because I enjoy so many great recipes. I’ve narrowed it down to Coq au Vin Blanc, which is in line with my “must-have” Dutch oven from my wish list.

The chicken is braised in a luscious cream sauce that’s been reduced from LOTS of wine, which goes with my guilty pleasure!

Oh yes, there’s bacon too! The aroma is amazing, the chicken falls off the bone and every bite is divine. It’s my favorite and sooo much better than whale blubber.

What is your advice to others who want to turn their passion into a business?

Don’t wait too long. I procrastinated far too long for a variety of different reasons. I didn’t know exactly how it would all come together, all I knew was that I wanted to do it. It doesn’t all have to be perfect for you to begin, there’s a learning curve that goes along with anything new. It just takes that step of courage to get the journey started, and like me, you’ll never look back.

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