Tastemakers: In the Kitchen with Half Baked Harvest's Tieghan Gerard
Browsing through Tieghan Gerard's Instagram feed, it only takes a few seconds to realize that her culinary opus Half Baked Harvest is the thing foodie dreams are made of. Her passion for food reads loud and clear through shots of decadent baked goods (chocolate and pumpkin being faves) and warming seasonal eats styled just-so against an inviting, rustic backdrop. It's ridiculously easy to get lost in all of the delicious imagery, but that's just the beginning; the blog is where the magic really happens.
While Tieghan sites this past year as the time during which she truly found her signature style and voice, her inventiveness, love of cooking and knack for creating killer recipes goes way back. She started cooking for her family at age 13 and it wasn't long before she totally took over family dinners altogether. At age 19, Half Baked Harvest was born. "I had just graduated from high school with an Associates Degree — I took college courses during my last two years of high school — and wasn't really sure what I wanted to do," explains Tieghan. "After a summer working in LA and then a brief period thinking I would go to business school, I decided in the fall to start Half Baked Harvest. I thought I was just figuring out what to do next and thought of the blog as a side project, but it turned into my full-time job and I haven't stopped working on it for the last three years. It's been a blessing and I am so happy to be doing what I am doing today."
Since her very first post back in 2012 — butternut squash soup with festive ghost croutons — Tieghan has been honing her craft and in more ways than one. In addition to finding her culinary sweet spot, she's developed some serious photography skills and a voice that perfectly captures her witty and amicable persona. Her posts feel more like a conversation with a close friend than a simple cut and dry recipe. "It really took time for me to develop my own signature place in the large world of the Internet," says Tieghan. "I really just kept trying different things and overtime I started to see what I liked and what I didn't. Everything takes time, but eventually you will find your niche, your style and your voice!"
"What inspires me most are the seasons. I love cooking seasonally and with fresh produce," says Tieghan. "Fruit in the summer; veggies, decadent desserts and cozy dinners in the fall; warmers and hearty soups in winter; and fresh spring eats. I love that with every new season I get to make new and exciting things with fresh ingredients."
"If you lived through my process of recipe development and deciding what to put on the blog you may go crazy — I certainly do," admits Tieghan. "Most of my recipes are inspired by the seasons and what is around me and my family. I love cooking and baking for holidays and special occasions. A lot of the time I'll be hiking and a recipe will come to mind; those are typically my favorite. Sometimes I am inspired by something I see in a magazine or sometimes my brothers will come home from traveling and give me a great idea. The recipe ideas just come from all over."
With inspiration coming from every corner, and so many delicious dishes to pick from, choosing what makes the final cut can be tough. "That part is hard. I spend a lot of time on that," says Tieghan. "I want the recipes that get seen on the blog to be nothing short of awesome. I am sort of a perfectionist and at times it can be brutal, but it is so important to me that I am putting out quality content, so I work hard to only put the best recipes on the blog."
Below she gives us a little insight into the whole process:
- Brainstorm recipe ideas and jot them all down in my ideas notebook
- Select my favorite recipes from my list
- Write out each recipe in my recipe notebook
- Cook said recipes, adjusting the ingredients and cooking method until the recipe is just right
- Photograph the recipe
- Type up the post and edit the photos
- Hit publish!
Cooking vs. Baking
Some bloggers specialize in sweets, while others have made their mark on the blogosphere with savory eats. Half Baked Harvest on the other hand gives you the best of both worlds and everything here is straight up gold. The truth is, Tieghan can't choose between cooking and baking — and that's totally to our advantage! "I love them both equally," she admits. "But my favorite dishes to make are definitely the cozy ones, like pastas, soups, cookies and warm baked goods."
On Her Weekly Shopping List
"Pineapple, mangos, carrots, chocolate, seasonal fruit, bananas, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and then probably some kind of meat, but it varies each week."
Kitchen Gadget She Can't Live Without
"Crazy sharp knives and my stand mixer."
The One Food She Could Eat Forever
"This is SO lame, but I have to say roasted veggies. I LOVE roasted veggies. I know, weird. My second choice though would be cheesy pasta and then a side of chocolate." Trust us when we say they'd be your faves too if you did them this way (and you totally should).
Favorite Recipes for an I-Just-Can't-Even Kind of Day
Memorable Kitchen Disaster
"One Christmas I tried to make a Croquembouche (cream puffs, piled into a large Christmas tree shape) and failed miserably."
Lessons She's Learned Along the Way
"Stay true to yourself, don't compare and stay focused."