Camille Beckstrand is the oldest of six sister’s who have brought craft ideas, delicious recipes, and holiday traditions to thousands of people through their blog Six Sister’s Stuff.
Each sister brings a different talent to the table and in their newest book, 12 Days of Christmas with Six Sister’s Stuff, they provide unique ideas for the coming holiday season teaching, encouraging, and inspiring people to get into the spirit of Christmas.
The title is a throw-back to the traditional Christmas song, but the book provides more than 144 ideas for the Christmas holidays, including 12 Days of Christmas for your true love, 12 Sanity-Saving tips, 12 Christmas brunch recipes, and 12 spectacular Christmas treats.
Camille sat down and shared some insights into the development of the book, a peak into her life before, and tips for the upcoming holidays.
What inspires you in cooking and where do you get your ideas for writing your cookbooks?
When I was newly married and trying to figure out how to prepare meals. I watched Rachel Ray’s “30 Minute Meals” and Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee. I was grateful to these relatable, fun cooking show hosts who provided really creative ideas for quick, easy and delicious cooking. I also watched local TV cooking demonstrations and picked up fantastic ideas about using local produce, seasonally. Now we’re part of a larger blogging community, sharing information, refining ideas, and inspiring each other.
Compared to ten years ago, there are now many more restaurants which identify themselves as fine dining cuisine or are headed by a celebrity chef, charging $150 a person for dinner. Do you think an incredible meal or dining experience could be worth that much?
From my point of view, no. I’ve had very expensive meals like that from very high end steak houses and chic restaurants and was disappointed with nearly every aspect: the food, the ambiance, and often the portions are very small, leaving us hungry afterward.
The popularity of FoodNetwork and cooking shows has probably made people much more aware of and open to trying new foods and flavor combinations; was there a moment in your life where you tried a food for the first time and had your “A-ha” moment of knowing you wanted to explore the wider culinary world?
Yes, I tried Chinese food for the first time when I was 12 years-old and distinctly remember the amazing new flavors from that first bite of Sweet and Sour chicken. It was certainly a food experience which I’ll never forget and as a cookbook writer, one I want to replicate and share with my audience. My brother-in-law has recently been cooking Thai food, which I’ve come to love as being fresh, light, and having a more citrus tone than other Asian food I’ve cooked. I learned a lot from Thai recipes in general, like to think in terms of “food without borders”. My family and I love Mexican food, for example, and learning from other cultural palettes. I experimented with adding cinnamon to shredded beef. It sounds unlikely, but the ingredients complement each other wonderfully.
Is there one food or ingredient you are secretly obsessed with? One that you hate?
I’m not-so-secretly obsessed with cilantro. That’s my go-to ingredient. I know people will try and convince me otherwise, but I don’t eat seafood—all related to seeing an entire salmon fish served at age five and being really put off by seeing the fish’s eyes on the plate. Presentation is important! Each of the Six Sisters have a different culinary palette and different favorite ingredients but in putting our recipes together we strive to follow one rule: Hit all four taste bud areas. That to me is hitting flavor perfection.
Are there any ingredients you’ve given up on? What spice is underutilized?
I’ve probably given up on Kale except for using it in soups. The spice that is most underutilized is Cumin. I use it a lot and in a wide variety of recipes, as you’ll see in our cookbooks.
What is your best tip to help people who are ready to host upcoming holiday parties and dinners?
When we started our blog it was a way for all of us to stay in touch, to keep our relationships strong, and to share our ideas about cooking and running a home. Holiday dinners are fixed times on everyone’s busy calendars to slow down and put family first. My best advice to home cooks, whether you’re just starting out or hosting a giant dinner party, is to plan ahead! The day of the holiday should be about enjoying each other’s company, not racing around cooking and putting together unfamiliar ingredients. You can still prepare a show-stopper Christmas dinner by planning your time well in advance and determining what you want to emphasize: elaborate cooking or maybe personalized decorations for the table or a theme based on family traditions. Putting time into thoughtful planning is a wonderful way to tell your family and guests how much you love them.
We divided the book into sections, focusing on different strengths of each sister. While some of us are good at décor, others are amazing at organizing. I have some culinary talent. I can chop vegies efficiently with a knife, but it’s not worth the risk on TV. They have it all precut for me. And each sister chooses what they want, their favorite recipes and ideas. In the end we have a pretty good product that offers something for everyone.