Sweet Pea’s Side Dish: (Re)Meet Sweet Pea

(Re}meet Sweet Pea from Sweet Pea's Kitchen

Welcome to the third edition of “Sweet Pea’s Side Dish”, where once a week I share with you what’s going on in my life besides food.  This is a place to share with you what is going on in my life, baby stuff, our traveling adventures, and whatever else I feel like rambling on about that week. For years I’ve been writing all sorts of recipe posts on Sweet Pea’s Kitchen that have included a few glimpses into my life and thoughts beyond the recipe, but very few of you actually know the real Christina. For the longest time my “about me” page was a three-sentence paragraph. Three sentences! After several years of posting, I guess it is about time for me to let you in on the real person behind Sweet Pea’s Kitchen and how this blog came to be.

(Re}meet Sweet Pea from Sweet Pea's Kitchen

My experience in the kitchen dates back as far as I can remember, from baking cookies with my mom to helping my dad make banana bread. But my love of cooking didn’t start until my husband and I moved to Indianapolis and we were on our own. It didn’t take long to realize that I had no clue what I was doing in the kitchen. The drive to cook led me to a website that one of my coworkers urged me to checkout, allrecipes.com. I cannot tell you how many recipes I have tried from that website over the years. It was a few of those recipes (meatloaf, pumpkin bread, cinnamon rolls) that I adapted, made, and served to family and friends that really got me interested in cooking. I quickly realized that I was able to make restaurant quality food right in my own kitchen! I began creating a large 3 ring binder full of my favorite recipes. Over the first year that binder grew from one recipe to over 100 favorites and slowly family and friends started requesting the recipes. At first I would lend out the binder, but as more and more people began requesting it, I started emailing the recipes. After countless emails, one of my friends suggested that I start a food blog so that they could always have my recipes on hand. And that’s how Sweet Pea’s Kitchen was born.

Recipe book

The binder that started it all….As Andrew calls it “The Food Bible”

When trying to think of a name for my blog, the name Sweet Pea was one of the first ones my husband thought of. Ever since we met, he has affectionately referred to me as Sweet Pea, so it was a no-brainer that I would call my food blog Sweet Pea’s Kitchen! I wanted my blog to be a place where both novice and experienced home cooks would feel inspired and comfortable. I also knew that I didn’t want to devote my whole blog to one area of food. Instead I wanted to feature a mix of recipes, basically whatever I’m craving. That’s why you’ll find a mix of everything from muffins to Indian food on Sweet Pea’s Kitchen!

(Re}meet Sweet Pea from Sweet Pea's Kitchen

I’m self-taught, learning purely through my experiences in the kitchen. I admit I am by means no expert, there have been plenty of kitchen disasters and terrible recipes. I made some egg white oatmeal that was so bad my dogs wouldn’t even eat it! And there was the time I almost burnt down our apartment in Indy making Bananas Foster (one reason you won’t find that recipe on my blog!). Food was never something that I thought I would be talking about someday. I graduated from college with a degree in Early Childhood Education and worked as an early childhood teacher for seven years in Columbus, Ohio and Indianapolis. My first guinea pigs were the other teachers and staff at Lew Wallace 107 in Indianapolis (miss you guys!!). I would bring in treats almost daily and eventually they would expect the treats to arrive. I  would have a crew following me into the teachers lounge every morning where I would drop off the highly anticipated treat of the day.


I enjoy a wide range of hobbies besides cooking, including running, working out, traveling, scuba diving, hanging out with friends and family, hiking and photography. I am a sucker for silly comedies (Zoolander is hands down the best movie ever) and sappy romantic movies that my husband refuses to watch with me. I lead an active lifestyle not because of all the desserts I make, but because I genuinely love it. I love physical challenges and thrive on being able to check off workouts on a calendar. I’ve ran in numerous half marathons and in 2010 I completed my first full marathon. My friend Erin and I signed up for the full marathon after a night of drinking and I honestly never thought we would ever go through with it. But there we were, every saturday morning waking up at 5:30am to run our long distance run for the week. Although it was hard, I can honestly say it was one of the best experiences and I can’t wait to run one again someday! (Erin, I just need you to move a little bit closer to me, we have spare bedrooms! 😉 )

Indianapolis Monumental Marathon 2010

When I first started this blog I was using my husband’s Nikon D40 that he had bought for an African safari trip that he went on in 2002. I had only used point and shoot cameras and disposables (seriously whatever happened to those?). I had no clue what I was doing when I first picked up the camera (as evidenced in my first post Roast Chicken with Balsamic Bell Peppers). Can you say yuck? Looking at the picture I don’t even want to try that recipe and I know how great it tastes! Starting out I shot everything in auto mode and was scared to death to try manual. It wasn’t until I purchased my Nikon D7000 that I really started to learn how to properly use a DSLR (although I know I am by no means an expert). I photograph my food with either a Nikon 40mm f/2.8G lens or Nikon 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. As of August 2012 I shoot in Raw format and all of my post-processing is done with Adobe Bridge and Photoshop CS 5.1. Good lighting makes all the difference in the world when it comes to food photography. I prefer to use natural light as much as possible so my set-ups are often on the move as I try out different locations to find the best light. I’m sure my neighbors think I am insane when I’m shooting photos out of our south facing front windows (next time you see me fumbling with the white foam boards come on over the treats are ready! 😉 ).

(Re}meet Sweet Pea from Sweet Pea's Kitchen  According to this crap that my husband wrote last week, he taught me how to cook.  That’s a bunch of nonsense! If it wasn’t for me cooking everyday I swear he would be fine eating mashed potatoes (that I made and he reheated) garnished with beef jerky sticks and a beer! I’m telling you folks, no matter how much he talks about teaching me how to cook-don’t believe it! The first meal he made me was spaghetti with jarred sauce and frozen garlic bread (although I loved it honey!). Sometimes I do humor him and allow him to think that he was the one who taught me how to cook, although we both know the truth! I will admit, however, that it wasn’t until he came along and I had someone to try out my creations in the kitchen that my interest in cooking began.

Mr. Sweet Pea's ideal dinner!

Mr. Sweet Pea’s ideal dinner! This is an actual dinner prepared by Mr. Sweet Pea in Sweet Pea’s absence.

And that’s how Sweet Pea’s Kitchen came to be. I’m sincerely thankful to the readers of this blog for providing support and encouragement throughout the past 3 years. This blog has grown to something I would have never dreamed of when I first posted that recipe for Roast Chicken with Balsamic Bell Peppers. If any food bloggers would like to share comments regarding why you started your food blog I would love to read them. If you’re a reader of Sweet Pea’s Kitchen I would love to know how you came to find me in this vast world wide web! 🙂

Until Next Time,


54 Responses to “Sweet Pea’s Side Dish: (Re)Meet Sweet Pea”

  1. #
    DebB — January 21, 2014 @ 7:15 am

    I’m really enjoying getting to know you. I think I discovered you blog via something on Pinterest – I honestly don’t remember what, but I tried the recipe and have been following you since!

    • Christina replied: — January 21st, 2014 @ 9:06 pm

      Thanks Deb! I really enjoyed writing this new “side dish” feature and letting my readers know a little more about me. I love Pinterest! I’ve found so many amazing recipes. 🙂

  2. #
    Eilin — January 21, 2014 @ 7:28 am

    I love your blog and have tried many of your recipes!!! I found it over maybe two years ago, when I was looking for some Nutella cookies recipes (nutella had just started being imported to Argentina and I’d bought a whole lot of it). So, I was looking for recipes to use it and I found your lovely blog!! I made these delicious nutella cookies and we all adored them, I myself had like a hundred, just out of the oven along with some Starbucks coffee I’d just brewed, sitting by the fire. Just perfect.

    Thank you for telling us about you!! And thank you for sharing so much of everything! :))

    • Christina replied: — January 21st, 2014 @ 9:09 pm

      I am obsessed with Nutella! I first tried it a few years ago while on a trip to Italy. The hotel we were staying at served little Nutella packets alongside some freshly baked croissants. Needless to say it only took one taste and I was hooked! 😉

  3. #
    Kristi — January 21, 2014 @ 8:43 am

    I love these posts where I find out a little more about you, other than you’re a rally great cook. It also gives me inspiration to see that you pretty much learned to cook on your own. 🙂

    • Christina replied: — January 21st, 2014 @ 9:12 pm

      I’m really glad you enjoyed the post Kristi! All my experience in the kitchen has been trial and error. There have been plenty of recipes that have gone horribly wrong, but with those recipes I’ve always learned something. 🙂

  4. #
    Margy — January 21, 2014 @ 10:46 am

    I found your blog because I was looking for a food writer in the central Indiana area. Peoria was as close as I could come. I live in Indianapolis, and today I find that you taught in my neighborhood. My children did not attend Lew Wallace. They went to St. Gabriel’s (practically across the street). I still live very close – just west of 34th and High School Road. Small world.
    The first recipe I tried of yours was a total fail, but it was totally my fault. The recipe called for two eggs, and I only had one. I tried to make a substitution. I also used at least one and one half times the amount of blueberries called for. I made it a second time, using the proper ingredients, and it was delicious.
    I do have one question: Do you have someone read your posts for grammar and punctuation before you post? Or do you do your own proofreading?

    • Christina replied: — January 21st, 2014 @ 9:20 pm

      What a small world! I know exactly where St. Gabriel’s is! I loved living in Indy and sometimes I miss it so much. I’ve always been used to living in bigger cities, so when we first moved to Peoria it was quite a shock.
      As for grammar and punctuation, I hardly check it myself let alone have someone else check it for me. I probably should though! 😉

  5. #
    ChiChi — January 21, 2014 @ 11:14 am

    Your pictures are just adorable, love reading your blogs, and your recipes are delicious! Thank you!

    • Christina replied: — January 21st, 2014 @ 9:21 pm

      Thanks so much!! I’m having fun writing these “side dish” posts! 🙂

  6. #
    Cheryl McAskill — January 21, 2014 @ 11:59 am

    Christina, I do not remember how I happened upon your blog, but I subscribed and haven’t regretted it at all. Thanks for sharing your kitchen goodies and glimpses into your life! I will probably be a reader as long as you blog!

    • Christina replied: — January 21st, 2014 @ 9:23 pm

      I’m so happy to hear that you have enjoyed the recipes Cheryl! I was a bit apprehensive at first to share so much about my life and family but it’s been fun so far. 🙂

  7. #
    Cat Davis | Food Family & Finds — January 21, 2014 @ 1:04 pm

    It’s kinda funny how similarly we started out. I didn’t really know how to cook until I was forced to learn after my husband and I got married. Back then, a meal was considered a success if that kitchen hadn’t burned down and the food was any shade lighter than black.

    • Christina replied: — January 21st, 2014 @ 9:26 pm

      Ha! I’ve had plenty of recipes where they went right into the trash! I remember making the recipes off of the back of boxes and hoping that they would actually turn out. Starting out we ate plenty of boxed mac and cheese, ramen noodles and hamburger helper! 😉

  8. #
    Sue Knuth — January 21, 2014 @ 1:43 pm

    A friend shared one of your recipes on FaceBook . . . tried it and was HOOKED! My favorite is still the Lemon Blueberry Brownies . . . YUM!

    • Christina replied: — January 21st, 2014 @ 9:29 pm

      I just love Facebook…I’ve found so many new blogs (not just food) from friends sharing them on their wall. It’s hard to remember what it was like without FB, huh? 😉

  9. #
    K. Carroll — January 21, 2014 @ 2:12 pm

    Hello. I really enjoy following your blog, trying your recipes, and reading about you and your family. your “cooking story” is so similar to mine! The loving to help cook/bake at home…getting married and sort of fumbling around:)—discovering allrecipes.com! Then the huge 3 ring binder of favorite recipes….eventually becoming popular for taking treats to work, etc.! The only thing missing is i never have started a food blog (though have considered it). I am also a stay-at-home mom, now, and live in Carlock, Illinois! The way I discovered your blog is so interesting–we were looking for a nice place to hike in Peoria, Illinois a few years ago! I did a google search, and it led me to your blog post about hiking places in Illinois!! I did not even know the world of food blogs until I stumbled upon yours (through looking for a good place to hike in Central Illinois)!! Now I follow probably +/- 15 of them, including yours. You certainly opened up a new world of cooking and wonderful recipes for us to try and love! One of our all-time favorites is the lasagna soup from your site…..thanks for taking the time to post your favorite recipes, and share with others…. Perhaps we’ll cross paths on one of your favorite Illinois hiking trails someday! :):) Karena C.

    • Christina replied: — January 21st, 2014 @ 9:36 pm

      I love that your cooking story is so similar to mine! Its sounds like we have a lot in common. I find it hilarious that you found my blog though a google search for hiking trails. My husband and I have certainly tried out many trails since we moved here, but we’re still looking for the perfect one. We really like going up to starved rock but I wish that there were great trails closer to home. If you have any recommendations I would love to hear them! 🙂

  10. #
    Misha — January 21, 2014 @ 2:12 pm

    Hi! I have been reading your blog for some time now and truly enjoy it – and the recipes! I honestly do not remember how I came to find your blog. The name certainly would have drawn me to you as I have lovingly always called my daughter Sweet Pea, who is now 19 years old. 🙂 Continued success to you with your wonderful blog and beautiful family!

    • Christina replied: — January 21st, 2014 @ 9:39 pm

      Thanks so much Misha! I’ve had so many people write to me over the years saying that they have been drawn to my blog by the name. Who knew that the name Sweet Pea would evoke such wonderful memories. 🙂

  11. #
    Giovanna — January 21, 2014 @ 2:41 pm

    It is really nice getting to know yoyu better 🙂
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Christina replied: — January 21st, 2014 @ 9:41 pm

      Thanks Giovanna! It is great to hear that this post was enjoyed. I look forward to sharing more! 🙂

  12. #
    Donna — January 21, 2014 @ 2:55 pm

    I think I started to follow your blog either through Beneath My Heart or Pinterest. I do enjoy your blog and please continue sharing delicious recipes! Congrats to you on 3 years of blogging!

    • Christina replied: — January 21st, 2014 @ 9:42 pm

      Thanks so much Donna! I love to hear that you enjoy the recipes that I post. 🙂

  13. #
    Lisa — January 21, 2014 @ 4:02 pm

    I thnk I found your blog either on Pinterest or a link up party/another food blogger linking to you. I love blogging but I just have a family blog. I mostly blog about our life, struggle to become parents, with some recipes and crafty projects thrown in. I started blogging after we got married and my parents moved halfway across the country. I was also an early childhood educator. 🙂

    • Christina replied: — January 21st, 2014 @ 9:45 pm

      Isn’t funny how blogging can make our friends and family seem close to us even when we’re several hours away? I love being able to share recipes not only with them, but everyone else that follows this blog. 🙂
      What grade did you teach? I spent most of my time as a kindergarten teacher, but I also taught 3rd grade and Title I Reading.

  14. #
    Jessamyn — January 21, 2014 @ 5:01 pm

    It’s nice getting to know you! I started reading somehow – honestly I have no idea now – about two years ago and keep coming back for reliable recipes, usually desserts! Thanks for sharing! I am hoping to start my own food blog but have been a little intimidated by the need for everything to be perfect right away (and scared no one will read it!) but this has encouraged me to even more! Thanks.

    • Christina replied: — January 21st, 2014 @ 9:48 pm

      Good luck if you decide to start a food blog. It’s been so fun and I’ve met some amazing people along the way! If you ever have any questions feel free to ask! 🙂

  15. #
    Medeja — January 21, 2014 @ 5:06 pm

    It was very nice to know more about you and your family 🙂

    • Christina replied: — January 21st, 2014 @ 9:49 pm

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post Medeja! 🙂

  16. #
    MKat — January 21, 2014 @ 8:40 pm

    I found your site looking for cookie recipes and have been a fan for a long time now. I’ve enjoyed getting to know your family and trying new tastes!

    • Christina replied: — January 21st, 2014 @ 9:52 pm

      Well you came to the right blog when you were looking for cookies…you can tell they’re one of my favorites. I think I have over 160 cookie recipes posted! I’m so glad to hear that you enjoyed reading more about me and my family. 🙂

  17. #
    Mary H — January 21, 2014 @ 11:24 pm

    I don’t know for certain how I found your blog — I remember I found it about a year ago — probably through Pinterest or a link up party of some sort. I DO remember that I was mesmerized by your selection of cookies and I loved the thick and puffy ones on your site that I sometimes have difficulty finding. You have given me new tips on how to get my own cookies to turn out that way & taught an “old dog” some new tricks — thank you! I enjoy your baked goods and appetizers in particular. Needless to say I became a Pinterest follower of your blog! Thank you so much for sharing a piece of yourself and your time with all of us foodies out here!

    • Christina replied: — January 23rd, 2014 @ 8:43 pm

      I do have quite a list of cookie on this blog, huh? I guess you can tell they’re one of my favorites! 😉 I’m so happy to hear that you have enjoyed the recipes that I share. 🙂

  18. #
    MIto — January 22, 2014 @ 8:34 am

    Love love all your receipes…your blog inspire me to start on making many different cookies to give out as gifts during Christmas. Thank you for sharing and your stories.

    • Christina replied: — January 23rd, 2014 @ 8:46 pm

      Thanks so much Mito! I’m so happy to hear that I inspired you to make a variety of Christmas cookies. 🙂

  19. #
    Laura Dembowski — January 22, 2014 @ 2:48 pm

    I loved reading this post! I think we all have some kitchen horror stories. Mine typically involve something spilling over in the oven, leaving me with a huge mess to clean up. I love to exercise too, but I don’t think I could ever do a marathon.

    I started my blog because I thought it would help get my writing career off the ground. It hasn’t yet, but I keep hoping everyday.

    • Christina replied: — January 23rd, 2014 @ 8:50 pm

      I hate when stuff spills over into the oven. It always starts smoking and setting off the fire alarms! :/

  20. #
    Ruby @ The Ruby Red Apron — January 22, 2014 @ 8:35 pm

    So great to learn more about you. I love that binder that started it all! Much more organized than me. I just have pieces of papers and post-it notes that I stuff into a shoe box. LOL

    And that roast chicken sounds good to me! 😛

    • Christina replied: — January 23rd, 2014 @ 8:53 pm

      I’m so glad to hear that you enjoyed reading the post. I always laugh when I look at that old ratty binder. Having this blog makes it so much easier to look at my favorite recipes. What you don’t see in the binder are the inside pockets that are stuffed the note card, random pieces of paper and post-it notes! 😉 The chicken recipe is really good…but that picture doesn’t give it justice…one of these days I’ll have to get around to updating the picture!

  21. #
    Maria M — January 22, 2014 @ 9:17 pm

    Christina, I found your blog via foodgawker. After several images led me back to your blog, I finally subscribed and have followed you for a couple years. I remember the day back when blueberries graced the top of the blog : ) You have done an amazing job with photos. I still struggle with that on my blog. Thanks for sharing so much about yourself, congrats a a successful blog, and your little boy is adorable!

    • Christina replied: — January 23rd, 2014 @ 8:55 pm

      Thanks so much Maria! I love hearing that you’ve been a follower since the blueberry header…I used to love that picture! 🙂

  22. #
    Laura @ My Friend's Bakery — January 23, 2014 @ 2:08 pm

    I can’t remember how I stumbled upon your blog, but I’ve been following for over a year. I have you bookmarked and I check in every day or two to see what’s new and what kind of amazing recipe you’ve made. You are a genuine source of inspiration for my own blog to try something new, be more creative, and have fun while doing it! Thank you.

    • Christina replied: — January 23rd, 2014 @ 8:57 pm

      I’m so happy that I am able to inspire you Laura! I would have never thought I would inspire anyone when I first started out! I wish you the best of luck with your own blog! 🙂

  23. #
    Kris - Sugar Cookies to Peterbilts — January 23, 2014 @ 9:21 pm

    I am truly enjoying your behind the scenes posts 🙂 I started blogging due to friends and family wanting a recipe for this or that, and I really started enjoying it, and meeting all the people with similar interests! I think initially I found you via facebook, and was thrilled to find someone from the midwest, and then I fell in love with your food! One of my early recipes shared was Tortilla Soup, that I learned from you! Thanks for always being an inspiration !!

    • Christina replied: — January 25th, 2014 @ 3:47 pm

      I’m so glad to hear that you’re enjoying the posts Kris. I love the Tortilla Soup..I swear I make it at least once a month! I always make it with the intention of freezing some for later but we always seem to eat it all! 😉

  24. #
    Faye — January 25, 2014 @ 12:00 am

    I found your blog through Stumble Upon. I think it was the Red Velvet Cheesecake Beownie Recipe that caught my eye. I’ve been trying your recipes as a reliable source ever since. I haven’t gathered up the courage to share much information about myself on my own blog, but maybe one day I will…

    • Christina replied: — January 27th, 2014 @ 3:50 pm

      You should Faye..it’s been fun sharing more of my life with all of my blog readers! 🙂

  25. #
    K. Carroll — January 25, 2014 @ 2:28 pm

    hi again. thanks for responding to me (above)! (i couldn’t figure out how to directly respond to your response!) I don’t know if you have tried Camp Wokanda near Peoria for hiking. I grew up in the state of Oregon–and you’re right–for the most part, Central Illinois leaves a lot to be desired for “real” hiking!:( But we have come to enjoy Camp Wokanda on occasion when we want to just go for a nice afternoon with the 2 kiddos:). It’s not a huge place, but decent (and it seems they are adding more trails). I think there are 3 miles of trails, currently (but mostly through the woods–not prairie grass–yeah!:):). We also visited Mississippi Pallisades State Park in Savanna, Illinois this last Fall, and it was GREAT! A little bit of a drive, but if you’re looking for a nice place to camp and hike that’s not in a different state, but different from Starved Rock:), we thoroughly enjoyed it. They also have canooing and kayaking, etc. We also like Starved Rock….Otherwise we think Turkey Run in Indiana has fun hiking:) too. And we’ve heard there’s good hiking in Southern Illinois–but haven’t tried it out, yet! Well, just thought i’d try to respond! 🙂 Have a great afternoon! ~Karena

    • Christina replied: — January 27th, 2014 @ 3:58 pm

      I’ve never heard of Camp Wokanda or Mississippi Pallisades State Park before…I’ll definitely have to look them up! 🙂

      My husband actually went to Starved Rock yesterday for some winter hiking and saw some awesome frozen waterfalls. I was sad because I wasn’t able to make it up there with him since our 13 month old wouldn’t last too long in the cold weather. I can’t wait for spring so we can finally take him with us again without having to get a babysitter.

      When we lived in Indiana we went up to Turkey Run all the time but haven’t made it back since we moved to Peoria.

      I do want to go to Garden of the Gods in Shawnee Forest down in Southern Illinois. I don’t know anyone that has actually been there but from a google search it looks amazing! 🙂

  26. #
    Lisa — January 27, 2014 @ 4:53 pm

    Small world! I taught kindergarten for most of my teaching career too. I also taught first grade, preK, and special ed resource and self-contained. Now I’m a church secretary!

    • Christina replied: — January 28th, 2014 @ 9:38 pm

      Kindergarten is the best isn’t it? It’s my favorite grade to teach!! I love watching how much they grow throughout the year. 🙂

  27. #
    Amy @ Elephant Eats — January 30, 2014 @ 9:27 am

    Loved getting to (re)know you, Christina. Totally adoring this series 🙂

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