Aspiring chefs who are learning to cook online now have another option for learning, thanks to a new website which combines great recipes with a touch of local flavour.
She’s Not Cookin’ is a cooking blog started up by Vankleek Hill’s Sandra Flegg (nee Allen), who used a recent move back to her hometown as a springboard for an idea she had wanted to bring to fruition for years. Her website and blog launched on May 15 and can be found at www.shesnotcookin.com.
Since moving back to her hometown just a few months ago, Flegg says a good portion of her time since then has been spent working on the site:
“After we moved to Vankleek Hill on February 15, I worked on (the blog) for a couple of months to set it up,” says Flegg, whose website now features more than 20 recipe ideas. “We launched with 8 recipes and I try to post two or three each week.”
While a couple of recipes each week might not seem like a lot, there is a tremendous amount of work involved. Each of the dishes posted on the site features step-by-step instructions complete with photos in addition to detailed images of the finished serving. The photos and instructions are thorough and simple to follow – attributes which Flegg knows are as important to home cooks as the actual recipes themselves.
“It’s very important that (everyone) is able to understand and follow the recipes,” says Flegg, who shoots all of her own photos for She’s Not Cookin’ and believes taking the images herself allows for more personal expression on the blog posts. “I really enjoy the photography portion. Also you want to come up with your own style.”
Flegg shoots the bulk of the main images featured on the blog with a digital camera, however many of the photos taken for the recipe-in-process instructions themselves are shot with the camera from her cell phone. This is done more out of necessity and simplicity, as it is difficult to wield a full size camera while cooking. Flegg says for that purpose the quality of the images is still excellent, while the full sized camera is used for the finished product and other times when more detail is required:
“I think it’s more important to have good in-process shots than to make them perfect. Also it’s pretty impractical for me to move everything over to a counter for photos in the middle of cooking.”
Flegg, who was born in Vankleek Hill, moved to the Hamilton area in 1996 after meeting her future husband Tim online. “We were pioneers of online dating,” she laughs.
In Hamilton Sandra began a 24-year career in retail. She and Tim – who is a stay-at-home father to the couple’s twin 13-year-old boys Troy and Austin – were very happy with their lives there and thoughts of moving back home to Vankleek Hill had never come up. But that all changed in the summer of 2019 when the family visited the town during the annual Vankleek Hill Fair and really spent some time getting to know the area and its people. For Sandra, it was a reawakening of old friends and memories, while for Tim and the boys it was almost a revelation.
“We had visited in the past but we had never really immersed ourselves in the community like that,” Flegg recalls. “We spend three days at the Fair and I can remember sitting in the grandstand watching the horse show and thinking how beautiful it was here. On the way home we talked all the way about moving back to Vankleek Hill.”
The discussions continued even after arriving home and after weighing all the factors, discussing it with their children and family, the Fleggs completed the move in February. It is a decision that has proven to be a blessing in more ways than one, and while the Covid-19 pandemic has had some effect on the amalgamation the move has proven to be a dream come true thus far.
“I think we were really looking for a more quiet, peaceful life,” comments Flegg, who says the couple’s twin boys have also adapted very well in the move from Hamilton to a much smaller community. “(The boys) are having a wonderful time. They haven’t been able to experience all of what Vankleek Hill has to offer due to COVID-19, but they love it. Although we knew we would miss Tim’s family in Hamilton, it was the right move for us and we love it here.”
With the move and escape from big city retail work, Flegg has finally had the chance to fulfill her dream of creating a food blog website, which she first started researching over a decade ago.
“It’s been a hankering for a long time and something I’ve always wanted to do,” she says. “I’ve always loved to cook and I love cooking blogs.”
While the idea of publishing a book of recipes was also considered and may be done in the future, Flegg says she is appreciating the freedom of being able to express her own ideas in real time with her blog and websites: “You can write about whatever you want and people can read it if they want. It gives me a lot of freedom.”
It is that ability to write whatever she wants which makes Flegg’s She’s Not Cookin’ blog stand out from other cooking websites. Anyone who clicks on one of the recipes gets more than just instructions on how to bake a cake; there are also blog posts about life, philosophy, her family, Vankleek Hill and many other subjects. You not only get a recipe, you get a story and beautiful photos to go with it.
As an example, a recipe for Lemon Blueberry Muffins contains not only a photo of the view from the Flegg family’s kitchen window, but also the entire story of how the website’s name came into being. The story would be included in this article, but it is a much funnier read in its context on the blog.
Currently all of the recipes on the site also contain a blog post, but as the number of recipes added weekly continues to grow Flegg may limit the blog posts included with each dish to just a few per week with others perhaps containing the recipes only.
As for what the future holds for She’s Not Cookin’, Flegg is unsure, but she notes the intention was for the site to always be free to users and that will always continue. Ultimately building the site to a larger audience could potentially lead to advertising revenue but that scenario lies in the future and Flegg is focusing on the present.
“I want to be transparent about the fact that I do plan to monetize the blog, but the impetus behind it is that I love connecting with people and sharing my recipes,” Flegg stresses. “I hope to inspire other to have the confidence in the kitchen to prepare simple family recipes.”
“I’ve received some really positive feedback,” Flegg says proudly. “I just love it when people send an email with a photo or just talk about what they’ve created. It’s a free site and I’m really just sharing my recipes.”
A great deal of support also comes from her family. Stay-at-home dad Tim is an excellent cook and the twins Troy and Austin both know their way around the kitchen as well. And everyone is eager to try a new dish created for mom’s cooking blog.
“I have a wonderful family of testers who are always willing to help out,” Flegg chuckles.
You can check Sandra Flegg’s food blog at www.shesnotcookin.com . Flegg also has Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest pages which can be found by typing She’s Not Cookin’ into any website search engine.