Q & A with Karen

Taste of Home - Karen show photo 2I travel as a Culinary Specialist for the Taste of Home Cooking Schools during the spring and fall. I’ve done this for almost nine years now, and I’m so thankful for this opportunity. It is a job that combines my love of cooking and teaching.


When hosting a cooking school, we typically partner with a newspaper or radio station at the local level. Recently, one of our newspaper sponsors sent me a list of questions that they used to write a newspaper article.

The questions were fun and kind of thought-provoking, so I thought I’d share some of my responses.

Tell us a funny or memorable moment that has happened in your own kitchen.

Several years ago, after traveling on the road for Taste of Home Cooking Schools, I returned home to find a small dent in the side of our refrigerator door. My husband finally “fessed up” to practicing his golf swing in the kitchen while I was gone and accidentally putting a divot in the door. I put a dish towel on the door handle to cover it up!

If you were a spice or ingredient, what would you be and why? 

I would say chocolate chips.  Because they are sweet and they can add a little fun flavor to the recipe.

What’s the one ingredient you can’t live without and why? 

Eggs; they are so versatile and work well in everything from sweet to savory dishes.

When it comes to cooking, who or what inspires you most?

My Grandma Kalsem – she loved to cook and bake. Other family members taught me basics about cooking, but she’s the one who not only taught me how to cook, she demonstrated a love for doing it!

You travel the country…what’s your guilty pleasure while on the road?

My guilty pleasure on the road is chocolate!  I’ve been known to eat a chocolate donut or an ice cream sundae after a show!  🙂

What is your favorite food memory?

Learning to make Norwegian lefse from my grandma

Tell me about your favorite meal you cooked and who was it for.

One of the favorite meals I’ve cooked was my first Thanksgiving after my husband and I were married. I remember my mother-in-law sat at the kitchen table and coached me on how to make the gravy. I was so proud once that meal was on the table. And, after it was all over I called my mom and said a huge “thank you” for all the years she hosted us in her home. I had no idea how much effort went into planning, hosting, and cleaning up a holiday meal.

How did you develop your passion for cooking/food? How has it evolved over the years?

I learned to cook from my mom and grandmas.  I also learned more about cooking and baking from nine years of 4-H.  I love reading cookbooks just like you would a novel.  It is fun to check out the recipes and pictures. I like to think about what I’m going to try next.

Do you have any special holiday traditions? What foods were cooked for celebrations or special events? 

We serve foods that tie-in with my Scandinavian heritage such as kringla, lefse, and rice pudding.

What was your favorite food growing up? 

My Mom’s Cowboy Stew and her homemade spaghetti sauce

What are some of your favorite food memories?

Walking into a Christmas dinner at my grandparents’ home on the farm and the smell of roast beef in the oven.

Stopping by my Grandma’s house after school and the smell of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies cooling on the counter.

Coming home from school to find my grandparents visiting from out-of-town and having “coffee break” with them (complete with cake).