MADISON TWP. —Christina Hitchcock reads cookbooks like other people read novels.
Cover to cover.
So it’s no surprise she loves to cook, especially if she can create a new or hybrid recipe.
For more than three years, the Lackawanna County woman has been sharing her recipes and cooking tips through her blog called “It is a Keeper!” A national food magazine, Taste of Home, also recently selected her as a field editor, and goodcook.com, the website for one of the leading manufacturers of kitchen tools, bakeware and cookware, named her a kitchen expert, giving her the opportunity to test their products, such as the produce keepers she recently tried out.
“Then I can give away the set to readers,” she said.
Hitchcock, 38, has loved to cook from when she was a little girl helping her grandmothers and mother in the kitchen, but she didn’t start her blog until early 2010, after discovering hundreds of recipes she had scattered all over her house and written on napkins, paper plates and the backs of envelopes.
“I’m a recipe hoarder,” she said in an interview last week in her home. “I was finding all kinds of recipes.”
So she sat on the floor one day with the pile of recipes in an attempt to organize them. It just so happened she had just watched the movie “Julie & Julia,” starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. It’s based on the true stories of the early days of Julia Child’s culinary career and of New York blogger Julie Powell, who aspired to cook all 524 recipes in Child’s first book, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” then blog about her experiences.
“I said, ‘I’m going to cook my way through this pile and blog about them,’ ” Hitchcock recalled. “I had no idea how to blog.”
But she did some research and set up her blog.
She’s still cooking her way through her recipes. She started with 337 of them, but since starting her blog, her recipe pile has grown exponentially, especially since Pinterest was created, she said.
“It started out as purely for fun,” she said. “Then I tried to make a little money off product reviews. Companies are recognizing the power of bloggers.”
She said companies are contracting with bloggers. Besides reviewing products for companies, she also posts some ads on her blog website. She makes “a couple of bucks here and there,” but, “by no means am I getting wealthy.”
But her blog has grown significantly since she started.
“When I started, I had only 50 to 100 views a day,” Hitchcock said. “Now, I have over 1,000 views a day. Social media networks have played a big role in sharing my blog posts.”
Her husband, Jim, a criminal investigator with the state police forensic unit, takes the photos of dishes she prepares and writes about on her blog. She reports whether the recipe is good or bad, essentially, if it’s a keeper, thus the blog’s name. She has her own sous chef who helps her in the kitchen, her son, Joseph, who at 7 years old helps her dice, chop or perform other kitchen tasks.
Creating her own
With all this experimenting, Hitchcock can’t name a favorite dish. But she really likes her BLT pasta with creamy sauce.
She also likes to create her own recipes or hybrids, of sorts. She’ll find a recipe on the Internet and maybe combine it with another recipe or alter it to make it her own.
As field editor for Taste of Home, an unpaid gig, she and other cooking experts from around the country create and test new recipes and offer tips about food and cooking trends. For example, she said she stores cheese in the freezer to keep it fresh.
She also has done a couple of guest spots on WNEP-TV’s “Home and Backyard,” and she and her husband made homemade cookbooks for family members for two Christmases. The second one included recipes from her various relatives.
As for trends, “I’ve noticed a lot of people are going back to the basics, cooking a good family dinner, canning, preserving, baking their own bread,” Hitchcock said.
She is following a trend by expanding her expertise to YouTube and recently launched her own channel. With the help of an intern from The University of Scranton who videotaped and edited, Hitchcock created a number of videos. One, on how to make granola, is the only one she has released so far.
THE PERFECT RISOTTO
Compliments of It’s a Keeper
2 cups Arborio rice
5 cups chicken stock
1 cup white wine
3 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium shallot, finely minced
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 Parmesan cheese
Bring chicken stock to a simmer over medium-low heat. In a large pot, heat oil and 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat until melted. Saute shallots and garlic until tender, taking care not to brown the shallots or garlic. Add rice and stir for 2 minutes, making sure rice is evenly coated with butter.
Add wine to rice, stirring regularly. When wine is completely absorbed by the rice, add a cup of the hot stock. Continue to add stock, 1 cup at a time once the previous cup is absorbed by the rice. Stir rice continually. After 18 minutes, remove the rice from the heat and add the Parmesan cheese and 1 tablespoon of butter, stirring until melted. Stir in cream until mixed well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.