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Cooks We Love: Tracy Benjamin, Shutterbean

Tracy Benjamin’s popular blog Shutterbean is a true celebration of delicious balance. Tracy celebrates both the doughnut and the kale salad, she reveres the towering chocolate cake as well as the superfood smoothie — and always blows us away with where she finds the time for it all. Tracy’s blog is a reliable go-to for delicious yet doable everyday food — and her photos help chronicle the recipe step-by-step, so you’ll never feel lost in the lurch. In addition to recipes, Tracy’s My Everyday Life posts chronicle a Week in the Life of this busy mom, and if you haven’t yet listened to her podcast with Joy the Baker, it’s addictive and hilarious. We’re so thrilled she took the time out of her busy schedule to talk with us today.

Name: Tracy Benjamin

Website or Blog: Shutterbean

Blogging Since: 2007

Where you call home: San Francisco Bay Area

What's your earliest cooking memory: Making meatballs with my grandma

How would you characterize or describe your cooking style today: Uncomplicated, economical, hearty, balanced, ingredient-driven, approachable GOOD FOOD

What's your favorite thing to cook at home? Why? I love leisurely weekend breakfasts. I love that we, as a family, don't have to rush around to get ready for work/school and eat with haste. My husband, son and I like to sit together at our kitchen table and eat a special (usually sun- & carbohydrate-filled) breakfast. I remember the weekend mornings of waffles or pancakes with my own family growing up and it feels so good to re-create with my own family. It's a time when we can actually savor our coffee (so important as parents!) and figure out what we want to do that day. It's the best excuse for doughnuts, really.

What are three things you have in the pantry at all times: Corn tortillas, canned black beans and too many hot sauces. Can you see where this is going?

What's your "There's Nothing in the Fridge Dinner?" The one thing you often whip up with very few ingredients or perhaps very little inspiration. TACOS!! Always tacos. I could seriously make tacos in my sleep. Thank goodness my boys love them. We have them on particularly hectic weeknights.

What are some of your kitchen goals, i.e., skills you want to improve on or recipes you want to try or master? I've always wanted to be the kind of person who could make baked goods without a recipe. I'd like to figure that out somehow. You know, it could come in handy if I ever have to do one of those crazy QUICK! MAKE SOMETHING OUT OF NOTHING! TV shows (not likely to happen).

How has becoming a mother changed your experience as a home cook? It's helped me be more creative in the kitchen. My son is a picky eater so I try to give him a variation of what my husband and I have for dinner. It's all about presentation! Being a mom has also helped me to be thankful for when I'm appreciated for my kitchen contributions. I'm not going to lie, it's a buzzkill when I make something special for dinner only to receive, "Ewwwwww. BLECH! NO!" as a response. I have a greater appreciation for my own mom now.

What are some of your favorite cookbooks and / or food blogs? I've always loved Mad Hungry by Lucinda Scala Quinn. Her food is so inviting that it almost feels like she could be one of my Italian aunts! Can she adopt me? I think Bon Appètit magazine is killing it lately. I'm so inspired by their contributions to the food community; I rip out way too many pages. As for blogs, I never miss a post from Sarah Britton of My New Roots. I wish I could eat like her every day. She's changed the way I think about "health food."

Besides other cookbooks or food blogs, where do you draw inspiration for your cooking? Having a meal at a restaurant or eating at a friend's house. If I'm at a restaurant, I'll try to reverse-engineer a dish I love and make it more approachable on my blog. When I'm at a friend's house, I LOVE seeing how other people prepare dishes and put them together. I always come away with a few new tricks/techniques to add to my repertoire.

Where else can we find you? You can listen to me on the Joy the Baker Podcast, follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

UP NEXT IN THE SERIES: Alexandra Hedin

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