Meg Opel is the author and chef behind the blog Peaches & Cake where she shares crowd-pleasing primal recipes and entertaining tips. Driven by the belief that inviting people into your home is the most intimate act of kindness, Meg started her blog to inspire others to host their own dinner parties. Meg’s recipes are developed with a focus on feeding a crowd of both picky eaters and finer palates. Connect with Meg on her blog, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.
Q: How did you get involved in cooking to begin with? Was it something you learned to love early on or did you come to it later?
Growing up in a family of seven children, my parents frequently hosted dinner parties with our friends and neighbors. I think there is a missing art of hospitality in today’s culture and a great need for people to intimately connect with others. I just love the sense of togetherness that you can only achieve from sharing a home-cooked meal around a common table. It wasn’t until I took a culinary class in college at Cornell that I really became interested in refining my cooking skills. After graduating, I started a blog called Peaches & Cake, which has evolved into a collection of crowd-pleasing recipes suitable for serving at a dinner party as well as simple weeknight meals. I try to feature whole, unprocessed ingredients, and encourage my readers to procure their meat, seafood, and poultry from ethically-raised sources whenever possible.
Q: Why is eating grass-fed meat and sustainably-caught fish different? How does it affect your cooking? Is it just about health? Or is there more to it than that?
For my little family, eating pastured meat as well as wild-caught seafood is all about achieving a balance of omega 3’s and omega 6’s in our diet and reducing inflammation. Grass is better for the animal, and therefore better for us. I try not to boggle myself down too much with the food and eco-politics and just make the best choices that I can daily for myself and my family, and encourage my readers to do the same.
Eating grass-fed meat has affected my cooking because I’m no longer throwing away the leftover fat! I’ve learned to LOVE using tallow for cooking and delight in the flavor it enhances to my meals. My dogs have benefited as well and they frequently enjoy the addition of grass-fed tallow mixed into their food.
Q: How did you learn about grass-fed meat?
I learned about the importance of grass-fed meat after transitioning to a whole foods lifestyle in Fall 2012 after reading It Starts With Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig.
Q: Why is it so important to have the right ingredients?
I honestly believe the food that you make only as good as the quality of your ingredients. You can’t doctor up a stew made from factory-farmed, soy-fed chicken breast and conventional produce to taste as good as one made from a pastured bone-in chicken and fresh veggies from the farmers market! At the end of the day, we just have to do the best that they can with the resources available locally to us. Thankfully, procuring responsibly-sourced ingredients is so much easier to do online these days. So even if we aren’t able to buy our meat, seafood, and poultry locally and responsibly, at least we can know that the supplier we purchased it from did!
Q: What are the most important keys to success for the home chef? / What are your best tips for home cooking?
- Research sales at the supermarket (I like to check out the Facebook page of my local Whole Foods for sales), buy what's in season, and plan your grocery list from there. Don't get distracted by colorful displays and buy things that are not on your list!
- Invest in a food processor! I can't even begin to describe the difference it has made in the efficiency of my kitchen. I love my Cuisinart 12-cup food processor, and may even upgrade to a larger one in the future.
- Always keep healthy fats on hand for cooking at high heat, such as coconut oil or grass-fed butter.
- When cooking a piece of lean meat or seafood, do NOT get distracted by answering the phone, responding to a text message, or taking your dog out to go potty. These things cook quickly and require your FULL attention so that you don't burn them!
Q: What is your favorite recipe using grass-fed meat?
I adore Tex-Mex flavors, so I love eating this spice-rubbed NY strip steak with avocado lime salsa or these broiled beef and veggie skewers with avocado dipping sauce any day. Yum! Can you tell I like avocado?