Carole is the writer, content creator and photographer of the blog Toot Sweet 4 Two. A lifestyle blog, with a heavy emphasis on recipes, Carole writes about many things - emergency preparedness, travel, parties and tablescapes, other bloggers, occasional craft projects and more.
A self-taught home cook, Carole cooks every day (sometimes twice a day) and loves to experiment and create something new. Married to her recipe "tester" husband Charlie for more than 25 years, they live in San Diego County, California and have a very spoiled Snowshoe Siamese cat, a boy named Coco.
1. After Tiffany left, what made you decide to focus your blog on recipes and cooking?
Well, I love to cook and I cook almost everyday, so it's not a stretch for me to create something new or revert back to family recipes. I have enough recipes in my stash to post recipes for years and years and never run out of recipes to share!
But, the truth of the matter is that the recipes are what drives traffic to Toot Sweet 4 Two, either through organic search engine results, Pinterest or other social media and sharing sites. People love to eat and with the advent of Pinterest in 2010, by the time I started my blog (2012), it was a "no-brainer" that bloggers should have a Pinterest account. And although I share other posts on Pinterest other than my recipes, the recipes drive the traffic.
There's another part of this "story" that impacts what I share: losing our home in a wildfire in 2007. Before the wildfire, I had many, many creative hobbies I loved to do (other than cooking): scrapbooking, crocheting, sewing, painting, decorating, gardening and more. But, after the fire, I've been unable, emotionally, to take up these hobbies again after losing all the projects I had underway and losing my garden.
I know this seems silly after 9 years, but I just can't pick up a paintbrush or piece of fabric and move forward. I'm not sharing this so that your readers feel sorry for me; we (my husband and I) have been blessed in many, many ways and we have "recovered" financially.
So, blogging and photography have replaced those other hobbies and filled the void for my need to create. Blogging was a completely alien concept to me in 2012 and now I can't imagine my life without it! And, the good news is, it won't be destroyed by fire!
2. How difficult is it to develop new recipes? How do you come up with new ideas?
I don't think it's difficult, at all, for me to develop new recipes. I'm pretty old (hahaha), so I've had years and years of experience in the kitchen. I've always loved watching the great chefs on the various cooking shows and I think watching them and learning from them has added to my confidence.
Don't get me wrong - I've had my share of catastrophic, epic failures, where the dish was totally inedible and I've had to throw it out. But, when I've had those epic failures, I try to analyze what went wrong and try the recipe again making changes. One recent recipe I had to throw out 3 times before I got it right!
As far as coming up with new ideas, sometimes they just come to me. Literally. While I'm cooking, while I'm driving in the car, while I'm watching TV. I keep an endless Excel Spreadsheet full of recipe ideas and it keeps growing and growing! If something comes to me and I'm not home, I'll make a note in my iPhone so that I don't forget it!
For example, my Berrylicious Icebox Cheesecake. Cheesecake is my husband's favorite dessert and I was just thinking about something special to create for his birthday that would incorporate cheesecake. I remembered this easy dessert that my mother used to serve us (vanilla ice cream mixed with blackberry jam; before the days of massive amounts of choices of flavors of ice cream) and voila', the idea took root in my brain!
That one idea has led to several more versions plus my series of Cheesecake Cutie Pies.
And, just like everyone else, I'm inspired by others, too. So, if I see a recipe that looks amazing or try something at a restaurant that's amazing, I'll try to think of ways to make it better. For example: chicken or turkey pot pie.
There are millions of versions of that out in the great world wide web! And, many, many of them are amazingly delicious. But, my husband loves beef and I wanted to make him something special for Valentine's Day with beef.
I also wanted it to be a comforting dish (after all, it was February and cold outside). So, I created Sweetheart Steak and Potato Pot Pies. It does have a lot of ingredients and a lot of steps, but it is truly special and delicious!
3. You've shared stories of people who inspired you. But who inspired you to love cooking?
My Dad inspired my love of cooking. I know that's unusual in the family dynamic, especially of a family in the late '50's, '60's and '70's (my childhood; oops - now you can guess how old I am!). And, my mother was a typical stay-at-home housewife. But, she didn't like to cook, although she liked to bake. So, our meals were pretty basic unless my dad was home.
My dad was an Air Force pilot and traveled the world. He loved to cook and create new dishes. He had this uncanny ability to taste a dish and know what was in it. Also, he could taste a dish and realize what was missing and how to tweak it to make it shine.
As a world traveler, he tried many, many different cuisines and then when he was home with us, he liked to experiment and we were all his willing guinea pigs (including my mother).
My dad made us the first Mexican food we ever had. At the time, we lived in Arkansas and there were no Mexican restaurants around (although one came a few years later) and there were no Mexican ingredients in the grocery stores. But, my father never backed away from a challenge and made us wonderful Mexican dinners - tacos, enchiladas, chili rellenos, albondigas soup, quesadillas!
We moved to Southern California after he retired in the '80's and there are Mexican restaurants on every block and Mexican ingredients available in all of our stores! My dad made us Chinese, French, Italian, Greek and German food and more. And, most important of all, he let us help him in the kitchen.
4. When you're not updating Toot Sweet 4 Two with new recipes and posts, what keeps you busy on a daily basis?
Toot Sweet 4 Two keeps me very, very busy. As a sole-proprietor, there is always something to do on the blog or in promoting the blog. So, I really don't have any other hobbies except those that create content for my blog.
I do love to read other blogs (and books!). And, I like to throw a good party! Also, my husband and I like to roam the countryside (San Diego County has a beautiful backcountry as well as the coast) and that gives me a chance to work on my photography.
5. Finally, what three recipes would best show your love for baking?
As far as showcasing my love of baking, I think these 3 recipes (which are my recipes and not created by others) show my love of baking:
- Dreamy Triple Chocolate Cookies. These are just divine! Nothing more to add!
- Oatmeal Cookies. People love these cookies!
- Peach Pineapple Dump Cake Walnuts. This is a classic dump cake but made with an unusual combination of flavors. Whenever I serve this, people want the recipe!
How to Reach Carole Burkhard of Toot Sweet 4 Two