Impossible. Wishful thinking. Unattainable. Forget about it. All words often used when describing the possibility of preparing a fresh, wholesome dinner from scratch on a weeknight.
Food writer, stylist and culinary instructor Nicki Sizemore is not convinced.
“As a cook, my focus and goal is to get meals made from scratch, on the table, within an hour any night of the week,” said Sizemore, a Crystal Lake native.
Her secret weapons? The food processor.
Sizemore has released her first cookbook, “The Food Processor Family Cookbook,” featuring the kitchen tool and also is author of the blog “From Scratch Fast.” Both publications feature meals that can be made from fresh ingredients in under an hour.
“Doing a food processor cookbook resonated with me,” Sizemore said. “It can be used as a personal sous chef. There are so many ways to use this appliance to expedite your time in the kitchen.”
The Prairie Ridge High School graduate, whose parents, Steve and Sharon Hagge, still live in Crystal Lake, lives in Cold Spring, New York, with her daughters, Juniper and Ella, and husband, James, who she admits are her best recipe guinea pigs.
Sizemore originally went down the PR and Marketing route after graduating college, but in 2005, she decided to give up her corporate job and attend what is now the International Culinary Center in New York City. Sizemore admitted she was concerned at the time her family might think she was a little crazy since the food culture was not what it is today.
“I definitely got the weird eye from my parents when I told them my plan,” Sizemore said. “But that was my passion, and I’m so grateful that I now love what I do. My family was still very supportive.”
After culinary school, Sizemore began teaching cooking classes and then got into food styling as things seemed to fall into place.
“It all happened gradually,” Sizemore said. “It’s kind of how life works. I got a lot of work from other work. I’ve gotten to this really great place.”
Sizemore said after she had children, she realized what a challenge it can be to constantly prepare wholesome, nutritious meals for her family and wanted to find ways to make it happen.
“I’ve always been passionate about farm-to-table eating,” Sizemore said. “As my life got busier, I realized what a huge challenge this can be for people. Cooking from scratch can take all day. I wanted to make meals from fresh ingredients that are naturally nutritious and that bring my family together. I want to get us back into the kitchen and away from these things that pull us out of it. At my house, it’s our favorite part of the day.”
Sizemore said the key to her recipes is fresh ingredients. “The Food Processor Family Cookbook” has a wide range, including sauces, entrées and even baby food and features recipes such as chicken and peach kabobs with peanut dipping sauce, Tuscan grilled skirt steak, Sriracha chicken wings and blueberry almond galette, to name a few of her family’s favorites.
“You would be surprised as to what you can actually do with a food processor,” Sizemore said. “You can grate a pound of cheese in seconds, make sauces, really awesome granola and batters for muffins and breads. I adapted my grandmother’s banana bread for the food processor. You save so much prep time, and you don’t dirty all those bowls, which means less clean up.”
Sizemore said the key to healthy eating is as simple as getting processed foods out of our diet and using wholesome foods from scratch.
Sizemore intends to roll out new topics on her blog and has a YouTube channel in the works that will offer simple tips and quick recipes. She most recently launched a class with Craftsy, which uses the Vitamix blender, another tool she said optimizes time in the kitchen.
In a world that looks for fast and easy versus clean and healthy, Sizemore said, it’s worth putting the work in.
“Five ingredient recipes can be a great thing as long as it’s five good ingredients,” Sizemore said. “I like a lot of flavor and color, so I want to give my recipes a lot of flavor and color. I don’t like boring food. Good food takes time and commitment. It’s all about planning ahead. My recipes include planning and storage tips. The payoffs are huge as far as our bodies and our relationships with our families and the environment. It brings my family together, and the food just tastes better. At the end of the day isn’t that what it should be all about?”