Get to Know Community Cook Melissa Obernesser
This Upstate New York native joined our team of Community Cooks in 2013. Read on to find out what inspires her.
Melissa started subscribing to Taste of Home magazine as a high school student. Her passion for food shines throughout her recipes.
Taste of Home: Where do you live, what do you do when you’re not cooking and who’s in your family?
Melissa Obernesser: I live in Oriskany, New York, a little village southeast of Rome. Over the summer I spend a lot of time at my parents’ camp in Old Forge, New York. It’s nestled in the Adirondack Mountains. I like to take walks with my husband Dylan and our two young children. Having two children under two keeps me pretty busy. During the school year, I teach Family and Consumer Sciences and Health Education at our local school.
Psstt: You’ll have to pack some of our favorite picnic basket foods for your hikes!
TOH: How did your love of cooking get started? Was there someone in your life who taught you?
MO: From my mother. She cooked dinner every night and baked a lot. Also from my Family and Consumer Sciences Teachers. They inspired me to become a teacher too!
TOH: Is Family and Consumer Sciences the new Home Economics?
MO: Yes, they changed the name around 1994 from Home Economics to Family and Consumer Sciences.
TOH: What do you find is the biggest challenge when teaching kids to cook?
MO: Trusting that they are reading the recipe! Most students really enjoy cooking, they like the hands-on aspect of it. It is challenging for them to have to learn the basics before they are able to get into the kitchen. Whether it be middle or high school, they all struggle with reading the recipe directions step-by-step and following exactly what they say to do.
Cooking with kids definitely be challenging. We’ve put together a handy guide to help.
TOH: What inspires you to cook?
MO: My sweet tooth! I love baking. My son really likes baking with me, he hopes that we’re adding chocolate chips to every recipe, so he can have ‘one for each hand.’ As well as my family. I like to try new recipes on them. The kids have been getting more picky so I try to make healthier alternatives, like whole wheat Greek yogurt pancakes. My husband is not into sweets at all, so cooking dinner every night is big. We were home together, every single day, from March until September and ate just about every meal at the table together. Making something that my son will stay at the table and actually eat is inspiring in itself. My daughter has been trying a lot of new foods, and has already decided when she doesn’t like something.
Hey Melissa! Check out our recipe collection made just for picky kiddos!
TOH: What recipe do you get asked to make the most?
MO: Banana bread. I usually make it into jumbo muffins and added dark chocolate chips. My husband’s request is always meatloaf. I make a turkey meatloaf, and the first time I made it, he told me to submit it to Taste of Home! My kids will always eat meatloaf, too. It isn’t my favorite.
TOH: What recipes do you look forward to most at the holidays? Either those you make yourself or those you just look forward to eating?
MO: Christmas cookies. My mom and I make about 15 different kinds. I’m excited this year for my son, who will be 3, to help more, and for my one-year-old daughter to get into the tradition for the first time.
If you’re ever looking for more Christmas Cookie recipes, check out our collection.
TOH: Do you have any tips for baking cookies ahead? How do you pull off baking so many kinds in one season?
MO: We usually make out a list of which cookies we want to make that year. We find the list from previous years and decide which ones we liked the best, sometimes which are easiest to make. My mom does 99% of the shopping for it, she’s pretty particular like me. My parents only live five minutes up the road so we usually make them at night and on the weekends. We make one or two kinds at a time, freeze them on cookie sheets then put them in gallon zipper bags with wax paper in between. We usually start baking the second week in December and just check off our list as we go.
Those are great tips! Our handy guide has some great advice too.
TOH: What do you enjoy most about being a Community Cook?
MO: Seeing all of the recipes, trying out new recipes and writing a review for others to get insight from.
TOH: What would you say is your favorite Taste of Home recipe?
TOH: What’s your desert-island meal—the one you could eat over and over again and never get tired of?
MO: Chicken Riggies! A hometown Utica favorite. Rigatoni pasta, chicken, peppers, mushrooms, a spicy tomato cream sauce. When I make them at home I use my mom’s recipe (or just ask her to make them and invite us over for dinner). Ordering out is tricky. While there are several variations, there are only three restaurants in the area that make them right. In my humble opinion, of course.
Be sure to check some other New York favorites, too.
TOH: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to a newbie cook?
MO: To read the recipe before they start cooking to make sure they know what the directions mean and that they have all of the ingredients needed to make the recipe. Then to continue reading the recipe as they cook.
Great minds think alike, reading the recipe through is my number one tip too!