Tricia Bowden was 14 when she was pushed into the kitchen.
And she never came out.
The 41-year-old Acme resident was a young teen living in Torch Lake Village when her dad came home one day and told her she had a job. Twala Wolfe ran a nearby bakery and deli, then called The Torchcrest, and her father sent her over.
It was trial by fire as she learned from Wolfe. Before long, she was cooking for summer weekend crowds like a pro.
"I remember her telling me not to be afraid of the eggs," she said. "We had a little dining area that seated maybe 20 people, and I'd serve 100 or more breakfasts in the summertime on Saturdays and Sundays."
She didn't mind the work, staying on summers until she completed college. After graduation, she came back home and went to work at Good Harbor Coffee in Traverse City, where she further honed her baking skills. Going on to participate in opening Crema downtown, she left Traverse City in 2003 to move to the Kalamazoo area and help launch a café and music venue. After that, it was work in another coffee shop.
Marrying in 2007, she moved back to the Traverse City area so she and husband, Jason Lome, could be near family. Now she works helping with administrative and management duties in sister Mary's salon, Tonic.
And in her spare time? She cooks.
When cooking, Bowden likes to use recipes as a reference, comparing and combining until she comes up with a formula that she finds satisfying. She only tries recipes from trusted, proven sources, and is fascinated by the science behind them. She cites "Cookwise" and "Bakewise" by Shirley O. Corriher that get into the mechanics of cooking as being among her favorite resources.
"She breaks it down and tells you why," she said. "If your recipe is failing, this is why. Or, if you use these ingredients, this is the results you'll get."
She does follow recipes when baking, but isn't above shortcuts.
"I'm not big on scratch cake because I haven't found a recipe that has the consistency and the moistness and density that I want," she said. "So I use only Betty Crocker cake mix because it doesn't have the chemical taste that a lot of them have, and I add a little extra egg and pudding and sour cream.
"But you can't skimp on the frosting. There you have to try a little harder."
Bowden also said she doesn't skimp on quality ingredients. She has switched to aluminum-free baking powder because she feels the flavor of the finished product is better. She prefers King Arthur brand flour.
It's important to have the right tools, too. Her Kitchen Aid stand mixer is at the top of the list.
"If you love someone and they don't have a Kitchen Aid, it is your sworn duty to get them one," she said.
2 c. all-purpose flour (see note)
1 T. aluminum-free baking powder
2 t. sugar
½ t. cream of tartar
¼ t. salt
¼ t. baking soda
½ c. unsalted butter
⅔ c. buttermilk
Combine dry ingredients. Cut in butter. Make a well. Stir in buttermilk. Drop by tablespoonful on greased and floured baking sheet. Bake about 10 to 15 minutes at 400°, until golden.
Note: King Arthur flour will make a heavier biscuit for this recipe. Here, Bowden uses cake flour or a regular all-purpose flour with less protein to achieve a lighter biscuit.
4 c. macaroni
8 T. salted butter
2 medium onions, sliced thin, cut in half
10 slices regular bacon
1 T. bacon grease (reserved from cooking bacon)
1 c. all-purpose flour
2 c. whole or 2 percent milk
½ c. half and half
2 whole egg yolks, beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
½ c. grated Gruyere cheese
½ c. grated fontina cheese
½ c. grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
4 oz. soft goat cheese
Preheat oven to 350°.
Cook macaroni for half the time of the package instructions. Drain and set aside.
Fry bacon until slightly, but not overly, crispy. Drain on a paper towel. Reserve grease.
Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a skillet and then sauté onions over medium-low heat for 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden brown and soft. Set aside.
In a pot, melt 4 tablespoons butter (and add 1 tablespoon of the reserved bacon grease for good measure). Sprinkle in flour and whisk to combine. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat for 1 minute. Pour in milk and half and half, then cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until thick. Reduce heat to low. Add salt and pepper to taste. (Do not undersalt.)
Beat egg yolks and drizzle ¼ cup hot mixture into the yolks, stirring constantly. Stir to combine. Pour egg mixture into sauce and cook for another minute. Add cheeses and stir until melted. Add onions and bacon and stir. Taste for seasonings and add more salt if needed. Add cooked macaroni and stir to coat. Pour into a baking dish and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until sizzling and hot. Serve with red meat or a green salad.
-- "The Pioneer Woman Cooks" by Ree Drummond
Honey Blossom Cupcakes
1 box Betty Crocker yellow cake mix
1 c. water
⅓ c. canola oil or unsalted butter
4 large eggs
1 package instant vanilla pudding
½ c. sour cream or mayonnaise
In mixing bowl, add water, oil or butter and eggs to cake mix in bowl. Beat 30 seconds to combine. Scrape bowl, beat on medium for 2 minutes. Add pudding mix, sour cream and a few drops of orange oil. Beat until thoroughly mixed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl and mix another 30 seconds.
Bake at 350°. Fill lined cupcake tins about ⅔ full of batter. Bake 15-20 minutes. Cupcakes are done when centers are puffed up and they bounce back when touched. Edges will be slightly golden brown.
Royal Honey Buttercream Frosting
6 large egg yolks at room temperature
⅓ c. raw honey
1½ c. unsalted butter, softened and cut into tablespoon-sized bits
Have a greased Pyrex glass measure near stove.
Beat yolks with an electric mixer until they are light in color. Meanwhile, heat honey in small saucepan, preferably nonstick, stirring constantly until it comes to a rolling boil. Immediately transfer to glass measure to stop the cooking.
If using a handheld mixer, beat honey into the yolks in a steady stream. If using a stand mixer, pour a small amount of honey over the yolks with mixer turned off. Beat at high speed 8 seconds. Repeat until all honey is incorporated. Beat until cooled.
Gradually beat in butter. It may appear curdled if the butter is too cold. Warm the sides of the bowl with your hands, and keep on beating in the butter, and it will smooth out.
Frosting must be refrigerated. Bring to room temp before rebeating to spread on cupcakes.
-- Adapted from "The Cake Bible" by Rose Levy Beranbaum.