Here’s a condensed interview from email correspondence with Harris Faulkner, anchor of FOX News Channel’s “Fox Report Weekend” who spoke with me about growing up as an army brat, her family’s history with and love for BBQ and raising two young daughters.
As an army brat, what food constants do you have from childhood that have shaped your palate and style of cooking as a mother?
We were the wackiest people on the Army base in most cases! Especially when we were stationed outside the United States in Stuttgart, Germany. Mom would get us all revved up on the big game days with lots of Dallas Cowboys gear. My parents were born, raised and now live as retirees in what they affectionately call, Cowboy Country. Um, I’m now a Cheesehead (Green Bay) and Falcons (Atlanta) are my backup. But, back then, I was captive in Mom’s kitchen. And she made sure Dallas blue and gray stars appeared on everything… napkins, placemats even homemade cookies were adorned with the Cowboy icing. Yikes, right?
One thing’s for sure, though, Mom can cook ANYTHING. Friends and relatives love to drop by “Shirley’s Eat Shop”. She has a sign in her kitchen that says that. We call her the “Tan Martha Stewart”. Here’s what she taught me about dinner time that I still stick with today:
– Eat naked
Not you! Your food. Food tastes great when it’s just simply grilled, steamed or sautéed in light canola or olive oil cooking spray. Added seasonings and sauces can cover up the natural flavor of things. And especially when it comes to cooking for children, you need to let them experience how foods truly taste. That will encourage them to have healthier habits growing up. As we all know, the increased calories, sodium and sugar are often in what we put on top of food or what we dip it in. (Oddly enough this no longer applies to my Mother now that she’s a grandmother, she’s saucing up my kids like their on a spit!). But, I live by this rule in my household… it’s a very good thing.
– Know your splurge
We all have weaknesses… those foods that make us lose our minds and our will power. My go to comfort food are chocolate and pasta– not necessarily together. I’ve become an expert at both in the kitchen. My Mom says, if you have a favorite dish, be the person who can make it better than anybody. That way, when someone’s having a tailgate party or baby shower that’s potluck, they’ll look to you to bring that favorite dish. And you won’t have to worry about someone bringing a yucky version of it, ha ha! My signature dish is homemade spaghetti. Chefs have asked me for my recipe.
On raising daughters:
Both my girls attend a wonderful Montessori in our neighborhood that’s a couple of blocks walk from our home. Bella is six years old and she’s in kindergarten. Her main request for breakfast, lunch and dinner: Mac and cheese please! I’m so over it. Danika is three years old and she’s in toddler pre-K. And she’s a bit more like her mother. She eats tons of vegetables and loves a soft -baked sweet potato with a touch of cinnamon sprinkled on, “Not too much Mommy.”
We spend the most time in the kitchen preparing breakfast. Whether it’s a very easy, quick meal before school or one of our more elaborate weekend morning productions, we have a routine. Bella does all the egg cracking. That’s a deal breaker with her.
We make a mean “Crazy Good French Toast”:
4 Large eggs
6 slices of day-old (or more) bread that’s sliced a bit thick (I pick out a 7 or 12-grain loaf and ask the baker to slice it on the thick side and just keep it in the fridge for a couple of days)
1/2 teaspoon Organic Vanilla Extract (the Organic tends to have less sugar and more potent flavor)
1/2 teaspoon All Spice
1/2 cup Low fat/skim milk
1/3 stick Unsalted butter
2 tablespoons honey
1/8 cup water
1/4 cup Organic syrup (Less sugar, more flavor)
One whole very ripe pear (fine chop by hand or Cuisinart)
1 1/2 cups Greek plain yogurt (stir to a creamy texture)
***Whisk the eggs, milk and spices until the yokes disappear. Pour the mixture into a shallow, wide bowl and add slices of bread. Let the bread really soak up the mix. Coat a skillet with a bit of the unsalted butter over medium heat– not low. This is important because you want your toast to be cooked through and have a crunch on the outside. Each time you add more slices, be sure to re-coat the pan with butter.
Separately, use about half of the unsalted butter for drizzle. Heat it in a small saucepan along with the honey, syrup and chopped pear.
Once all the bread slices are crispy, serve them hot. Top with a generous scoop of Greek plain yogurt, then drizzle it and viola! Crazy good.
On managing a prime time career:
My weekend primetime schedule is great for our lives right now. My off days are Monday/Tuesday giving me time to make a delicious, high-in protein breakfast. Later in the day I pick them up from school, do homework (i.e. coloring with Danika) and hit a neighborhood park… we make dinner together. Wednesday through Friday, I’m out the door on an early morning ferry to NYC for special assignments in the field or anchoring breaking news coverage as it happens during the day for our 11 a.m. show Happening Now. Daddy, who’s Media Relations office is in our home, has kitchen duty and prepares the meals when I’m working. The newscast I anchor, Fox Report Weekend airs at 7 p.m. Eastern on Saturday and Sunday evenings and that means I’m home in the morning until Noon so, we’ll eat as a family and talk about the big goings on at school that week or what’s coming up for the girls.
When it comes to meals, it’s all about the girls. My husband says we eat more Sneaky Mac and Cheese and Hidden Sloppy Joe’s than we probably would otherwise. By the way, the sneaking and hiding is of vegetables the girls often don’t know is in their food!
On her deep rooted love for BBQ:
After my Dad retired from the Military, he worked as an Aeronautical Engineer and taught high school and college level students Math and Physics. But, his dream was to own a BBQ restaurant. So, for a few years, he and my Mom owned and operated no fewer than four restaurants in Colorado Springs, Colorado and Despot, Texas (Dallas-Ft. Worth Suburb). They recruited everyone to help out. And by help out, I mean tasting. My parents have since retired from the BBQ restaurant business but, they were wildly successful and loved every minute of it. I’m so proud of them for seeing that dream through. It planted a real entrepreneurial spirit in me. And nowadays, BBQ is my connection to them. Every Sunday in the NFL season it’s Cowboy Country at their home, still. Dad rubs the pork ribs and chicken breasts in garlic powder, ground black pepper and throws them on his propane powered grill. Mom’s in the house putting a cobbler pie in the oven and making the sides to go with the ribs. When I’m visiting my only duty is to set the table, ha ha!
My all-time favorite BBQ restaurant was my parents’ called “Bar-B- Que Street.”
On making tail gating for the Big Day successful:
Game day needs three things to be successful: 1) It must be Potluck-style. Great times and stories erupt when people talk about the food they bring. Almost without exception they have fun memories and anecdotes to share.
2) You must own a jersey of your favorite team. My friends call me frugal– okay, cheap. I’ll take a plain white tee-shirt and spray paint on my team spirit!
3) Beer. Even if it’s alcohol-free beer. I prefer a deep, rich cabernet. But, on game day– Corona Light with Lime baby. Side note: There will be no beer at the Fox Report Weekend Tailgate in the newsroom, sadly. But, you understand, LOL.
Edgewater restaurants she recommends:
In Edgewater, we hit Vespa’s for Italian food. It’s walking distance from our home and we love their dish called Frutti di Mare Fra Diavol (Seafood simmered in a piquant marinara over fresh black pepper linguini) and the fillet of sole is delicious. Also, Baumgart’s Cafe at City Place is terrific, especially for children. They have a tasty kids menu. Although, Bella likes to order from the Sushi menu. My favorite dish there is the Sesame Chicken and Broccoli– LIGHT on the sauce.
Secrets to successfully eating out with kids:
In the back of our Minivan (which I now think is a sexy vehicle to drive), there’s a stash of crayons, coloring books, stickers and two Etch-A-Sketch’s. If a restaurant does not provide coloring items, I roll with my own. The busier the children are the more peace you and others around the restaurant will enjoy. Also, I always order for them first so they can be eating quietly while my husband and I chat and catch up. It’s like a mini-date for us.
Of all your guests on Fox Report Weekend and FoxNews.com who would you most enjoy eating with?
Excellent question. To answer this, I’m adding one person whom I’ve not interviewed yet. It would be a tie between Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Nascar Driver Matt Kenseth with his wife. Foreign Policy fascinates me. And, I named my second child after the first woman Nascar driver, Danica Patrick. Fast driving is a super sport.
What is your preferred market for shopping?
Each week we hit three stores for different items on our preferred grocery list:
Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and PathMark… all in Edgewater.
What is your dream meal?
Alone on a yacht in the middle of the Ligurian sea. Oh you mean the food. I’d be enjoying a glass of 2009 “Educated Guess” cabernet, eating simply grilled swordfish, garlic and oil broccoli rabe and champagne risotto following by fresh raspberries on dark chocolate sorbet.
Heidi Raker Goldstein is our Bergen county regional editor. A locavore, cooking enthusiast, publicist and mother of three junior gourmands. Heidi is equally comfy in greasy spoons and high-end restaurants. When not visiting local farmers markets and farm stands in Bergen and Rockland counties, this New England native, former Manhattanite and Bergen county resident is busy running her PR and green marketing agency, Raker Goldstein & Co., buying food, planning menus, cooking food, writing about food or simply eating. Heidi also writes at Redhead With A Fork, a life|style blog. To reach Heidi, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.