Behind the Scenes at Simply Recipes

Times, they are a changin’. If you are a regular follower of Simply Recipes, you may have noticed that we’ve been posting a bit more than usual. I thought I would take this opportunity to let you know what is happening behind the scenes here, and to give you a little more back-story about the site.

From lemons to lemonade

First the back story. Around 9 years ago I got sick. I had been helping to run an Internet start-up in San Francisco that went bust. That was the first dot-com crash, back in 2001. I developed a flu that just wouldn’t go away. Around the same time I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue, my dear friend and roommate was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Elisabeth lost her battle with cancer, as did two other close friends around the same time. I eventually moved home with my parents in Carmichael, still sick (2 years later), unable to work, and overcome with grief. Well, even if you’re sick, you still have to eat. I figured if the powers that be determined that I was going to stay at home for a while, I might as well learn how to cook. And that, my friends, is how Simply Recipes got started. A day does not go by that I’m not deeply appreciative of my parents, for being there, for taking me in, for encouraging me, for feeding me, for teaching me how to cook, for everything.

Alice and Thomas Bauer
My mother and father in their Carmichael kitchen

New House

Fast forward to fall of 2009. After living with my parents for six years, and sharing our cooking adventures with you the whole time, and after major surgery and sorting out a few other health issues, I finally felt strong enough to live on my own. So I bought a house in the neighborhood within walking distance of my parent’s home. I decided to do a little remodeling before moving in and for the last six months or so, my living room has looked something like this:


I have a new job. I call it Groundskeeper Willie. Those of you with houses will understand. Broken toilets, burst pipes, attic rats, you name it, I’ve got it. Those of you blissfully without houses to maintain, here’s a great book to review if you ever decide to take the plunge. I’m posting the remodel update on Flickr. It’s almost done. (Yay!)

It has been frustrating for me, for quite some time, that I have not been able to post as many recipes as I would like. With the new house and remodel it’s gotten even harder. My parents are getting older (dad turned 80 this year), we’ve gone through almost all the family recipes we have (there are a few more, but only a few), and not being professionally trained myself, it’s challenging for me to come up with good recipes as often as I think most of you, our readers, would like. As the site has grown in popularity my standards for what I’m posting have risen. I don’t just put up any old recipe. They have to be good. I need to understand the whys and hows of the recipe so that when you ask a question about it, I can answer. I’m also typically spending an hour or two a day answering questions in the comments, time that cuts into cooking time.

Hank Shaw joins Simply Recipes

Hank and Elise in Elise’s kitchen. Photo by Holly Heyser.

So, how then the recent flurry of posts? I couldn’t be more pleased to announce, that as of April, two-time James Beard Award finalist and Sacramento local food blogger Hank Shaw of the aptly named Hunter Angler Gardener Cook blog has joined Simply Recipes on a part time basis. Hank has been a guest writer for Simply Recipes for a couple years now, and if you aren’t already familiar with him, basically the guy knows his food. He hunts, shoots, fishes, forages, or grows almost all of his own food. He’s been a commercial fisherman, a line cook, and for well over a decade a professional political journalist. Hank is also a neighbor and a friend.

Every week Hank and I get together at my house and figure out what we want to cook that week. We research recipes, brainstorm ideas, discuss and debate the best way to make something. We then go shopping and pretty much cook furiously for 2 days. Part of Hank’s job is to instruct me in the many areas of cooking about which I know little (i.e. fish, barbecue, homemade pasta, Italian cooking, etc.) My parents usually come by for lunch and / or dinner on those days to taste test and enjoy what we’ve prepared. As you can imagine, this is a welcome change for them. No setting the table, no cooking, no dishes, and it’s free!

Photo by Holly Heyser

Thank you

When I first started this site in 2003, it was really just a way for me to keep track of what I was cooking with my family. Over the years the site has grown in size and readership, and now much of the inspiration for this site comes from you, our readers. Not only has your patronage allowed me to do this full time, but a day doesn’t go by that I’m not learning from your questions and comments. Thank you for your patience when I get something wrong. Thank you for telling me about it when you like a recipe. It’s truly gratifying to hear that people are enjoying these recipes at home, in their kitchens, with their families, all around the country and all over the world. So thank you.

Now that we have our test kitchen up and running, what would you like to see us make? Is there a recipe you wish we had that you can’t find here? Are there certain types of recipes of which you’d like to see more? Any other suggestions? Please let us know in the comments.

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Showing 4 of 379 Comments

  • alice

    I loved reading this post and seeing your house in progress. Our house has been in progress for the last 10 years! I had the pleasure of finally meeting Hank and sitting down with him for lunch with Holly a few days ago. I think it’s awesome you guys are cooking so often and sharing your wonderful recipes with us. Great to see Simply Recipes growing!

  • Amy

    Elise, you are an inspiration and a great role model. Thanks for sharing.

  • Chris S

    I read yours and Hanks blogs religiously, and it inspired me a couple years ago to start gardening more to feed the family. To me the best part of your blog is the family-oriented nature, and the diversity of food. To that end, 2 particular recipes I would like to see you and Hank take on is saurbraten and sopapillas – 2 personal favorites that I have never worked up the courage for.

    And, thanks for the fantastic work.

  • Karen

    I loved reading this article. I have often thanked you in my mind for being so faithful in your postings. Now I’m doing it in person. I’m glad you are doing so well. Keep it up!

    Thank you Karen! ~Elise

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