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America’s Test Kitchens taps local cooking blogger for project

  • Written by Deborah Stone
ATK
Bothell resident Megan Pence has been tapped by American’s Test Kitchen as one of six bloggers to host a dinner party to review the company’s soon-to-be-released “Menu Cookbook.”
Megan Pence’s love of cooking and sharing her experiences in the kitchen with others led her to begin blogging about everything from recipes and techniques to cookbooks she finds useful.

She’s been at it for about a year and a half now and currently has close to 1,000 fans and followers. “It’s been such a fun ride,” says Pence, “and I feel like I’m constantly improving the site the longer I do it.”

The Bothell woman was inspired to create her blog after being introduced to a blog written by Ree Drummond or “Pioneer Woman” as she calls herself.

“I spent endless hours reading her posts and trying her recipes,” explains Pence. “I was hooked. She is like the cool aunt, my long distance best friend and someone who lives the life I always dreamed – on a cattle ranch surrounded by beauty and a gorgeous family. I’m a dreamer of white picket fences, horses, vast spaces, a huge kitchen with a country sink and endless counter space.”

She adds, “Ree was my inspiration to jump on the blogging bandwagon.” Pence’s blog is titled “Wanna Be A Country Cleaver,” a name that originated from her college days at WSU.

A friend dubbed her a modern day June Cleaver, commenting that she felt Pence best represented this image due to her love of old fashioned country style living. “I’ve always been a fan of the whole country thing,” says Pence. “And when I lived in Eastern Washington, I rode horses and even became a competitive lumberjack.”

The local woman, who works full time as a document control manager for Brightwater and teaches cake decorating classes part time, makes it a habit to cook almost every other day. She likes taking existing recipes and making them her own or developing new dishes from scratch.

As she cooks, she documents and photographs each step in the process for her blog. Desserts are her forte, as she is a baker at heart.

“I mastered the art of the chocolate chip cookie by the time I was nine,” she says. “Basically, I love anything with chocolate or custard. I’ve branched out to other areas, though I admit I’m still intimidated by cooking specialty meats, like rack of lamb for example. That’s something I’d really like to learn.” Pence is up front and humorous about the happenings in her kitchen, both the good and the bad. She is the first one to acknowledge that not everything goes according to plan.

A few weeks ago, she had a major cooking disaster. “I was making roast chicken,” she explains. “My oven was fluctuating temperature 25 degrees in either direction and though I thought I had fresh chicken, it turned out that the bird was partially frozen inside. I cooked it for an extra forty minutes and between the broken oven and the still frozen bird, it was a mess. I burst into tears and dumped it into the trash in a weepy girl fit. It went from a date night of supposedly roast chicken with my fiancé to a grilled cheese and tomato soup night in a hurry!”

Recently, Pence got word that she was tapped by America’s Test Kitchen as one of six bloggers to host a dinner party to review the company’s soon-to-be released “Menu Cookbook.” Each of the chosen bloggers will give a “Food and Friends” dinner party for eight with a different theme ranging from Provencal bistro to family style Italian. They will share their experiences before, during and after the event via their blogs.

To be selected for the project, bloggers had to explain why they thought they would be the perfect host for an America’s Test Kitchen dinner party. In her response, Pence described how food is the staple of any family or friendly get-together, gathering or celebration.

She wrote, “Food brings people together. It also provides us a link to our pasts when the dishes we grew up with are placed before us, allowing us a chance to reminisce about the ‘good ol’days.’ Good food gives us an opportunity to create new memories that branch off from the ones made around the dinner table.”

Pence explained that she would be a great hostess simply because of the fabulous friends she has who share their time with her and who bond together over their common passion for good food, laughter and adventure.

When she heard the news that she had been selected as one of the hosts, the local woman was thrilled. She views the project as a wonderful opportunity, adding: “It’s monumental for a small-time blogger like me. I’m so excited!”

Pence will be preparing the Family Style Italian Sunday Supper Menu, an array of dishes that includes Homemade Ricotta, One Pot Bolognese, Arugula Salad with Figs and Prosciutto and Chocolate-dipped Pistachio Biscotti with Vin Santo.

Pence will practice making some of the various items before the party and then see what elements she can prepare ahead of the event to take some of the pressure off of the actual day. She is looking forward to learning to cook some new dishes and appreciates the challenge she has been given.

“I like challenging myself in the kitchen,” she adds. “It’s fun trying new things and it makes me feel accomplished when I succeed. Cooking is such a gratifying pursuit for me. And I do love the eating part, especially when in the company of good friends.”

The local woman plans to continue with her blog, as it is a satisfying outlet for her. Her goal is to write a cookbook one day and if she dares to dream big, maybe even have her own show on the Food Network.

“That would be the epitome for me,” she says.

To follow Megan Pence on her blog, go to: www.wannabeacountrycleaver.blogspot.com.

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