What is your favorite food to eat?

That’s easy! I love love cheeseburgers. Not a fast food burger, but a really juicy burger on a toasted bun with lots of pickles, ketchup, and mayo. With a side of sweet potato fries please.

What is your favorite food to make?

I don’t know that I could pick just one food, but I can narrow it down to the category of cookies. Something about creaming together the butter and sugar is so relaxing to me.

What is the one kitchen item you couldn’t live without?

My kitchen aid mixer and scissors. Both are used daily...multiple times a day.

Do your kids eat all the food you make?

No, but they are very good about trying new things. There are plenty of times I try a new recipe just because I know I will like it, and on those days, I usually plan for the kids to have leftovers. But they are very adventurous eaters.

How do you encourage a picky eater to try new things?

We encourage them along with this phrase: “You never would have known that Mac and Cheese was your favorite if you didn’t take a chance and try it.” And lots of times if they help make the food they will WANT to taste it because they are so proud of their work. And I keep introducing the same “difficult” food over and over in different ways.

How long have you been blogging?

I started my blog as a small personal project in 2011. And oh my!, the times have changed.

Why and how did you start your blog?

I originally started Joyful Momma’s Kitchen as a little project to keep all of our family recipes in one place where my sisters and family could find them. Blogging was totally new to me and I didn’t follow any blogs so I was completely in the dark. I used Blogger to create my site and took pictures on my cell phone with ZERO natural light or food styling…..the food did not look appetizing. In 2012 my blog took off thanks to Pinterest and from there I learned all about food photography and blogging.

What is your go-to menu for entertaining?

Fiesta night! I make my very favorite taco meat and Queso Blanco. We serve it all up as an option of tacos, taco salad, or nachos. All the fixings, all the sides, and ALL the sour cream.

What kind of camera do you use?

I have a Canon Rebel Ti. I plan to upgrade soon but I will stick with the Canon Rebel series. I use a 100mm lens.

How did you learn food photography?

I read a book called Tasty Food Photography and LOVED it. I have read a few other books and watched tutorials but this is the book that I keep coming back to over and over again. Outside of that, looking at lots of food pictures on Pinterest for inspiration.

What kind of dog is Grant?

Grant is a Giant Schnoodle. Doesn’t that sound like a Dr. Suess name? He is Giant Schnauzer, Standard Poodle cross. We LOVE him. Zero shedding, no drooling, and very smart. And I just love how big he is.

You mention having a chronic illness, can you share more?

Sure! I share more about my life with a chronic illness over at JoyfulMomma.com. I have Dysautonomia, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, and gastroparesis. These are not well known disorders but they are not rare. I get infusions up at the hospital 3 times a week, totaling about 12-15 hours. It’s not ideal, but I make the best of it when I can.

How are you teaching your kids to cook and bake?

My kids have been sitting on the counter and standing on a chair in the kitchen helping me since they were babies. I let them stir and hold spoons and play with measuring cups. When they are about 3, I teach them how to crack eggs. Need an egg cracked?…..find a toddler. They do all the egg cracking and become a pro in no time. And they also successfully learn to wipe up egg as well :). Then I just start letting them do more and more over time. I teach them how to safely use a paring knife about age 4 or 5 by helping me cut up fruit and cheese.

Do you have any meal planning tips?

Have an entire email challenge program to help you get started with meal planning. I keep a binder of our favorite recipes in the cupboard and pull it out weekly to make my menu. I rotate in new meals once a week and I keep breakfast and lunch simple. I do a menu weekly and organize it around what activities we might have in the evenings. Check out my meal planning challenge to get all of the free pintables.

How do you stay organized to make family meals a priority?

It’s so easy to focus on making dinner time fast and easy…..but that doesn’t always equate to making family meals a place for connecting and regrouping all together. I make my menu based on our activities but I also ebb and flow to allow dinner to be later in the evening or earlier than usual as needed. My kids sit at the table doing homework while I cook and we chat and catch up. If I know dinner will be a little bit of a wait after school, we do a salad and cheese appetizer and my kids just LOVE that. Fast dinners are wonderful but sometimes I just want to avoid it also being rushed.