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Interview with Ashley Covelli from Big Flavors from a Tiny Kitchen

by Joanna Rooney on 2022-03-16T10:00:00-04:00 in Children, Food & Recipes, Teens | 0 Comments

Sign up for Virtual Cooking for Kids with Ashley - A Peppermint Hot Chocolate Pancake Pajama Party on Saturday, March 26 at 11:00 am. These chocolatey pancakes feature all the fun of a cup of peppermint hot cocoa but in breakfast form! Join us in the kitchen and wear your favorite pajamas while we make this fun, decadent pancake recipe together.

Read the interview below with Ashley Covelli with Big Flavors from a Tiny Kitchen and learn more about the person behind many of the Library's virtual cooking programs for children and teens.

Hi! I’m Ashley and I’ve been writing about food and developing recipes over at Big Flavors from a Tiny Kitchen since 2006. I moved to New York from the Midwest after I finished art school back in 2004. I currently live in Ossining with my husband (Dino), son (Ian), and our cat (Hermione).

When I’m not cooking, photographing food, editing content for my website, or teaching virtual cooking classes, I’m usually playing video games, exercising (Zumba and walking outside are 2 of my favorites), enjoying live music, or reading. I absolutely love living here in the Hudson Valley and have a lot of fun exploring this area.

What is Big Flavors from a Tiny Kitchen?

Big Flavors from a Tiny Kitchen is a website full of recipes and cooking resources. I’m dedicated to helping you (yes, you!) gain confidence in the kitchen so you are excited to cook at home for yourself and your loved ones.

My goal is to encourage you to cook delicious food at home no matter what your skill level. I’m here to walk you through the process in whatever format best suits you and your current lifestyle. Whether that’s with written recipes, how-to tutorials, tips for being eco-friendly in the kitchen, or interactive cooking classes, I’m here for you!

Cooking can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be! I love helping people overcome obstacles in the kitchen and making the whole process less intimidating.

What experiences led you to start this company?

In 2006, I was working as a Senior Graphic Designer for a national nonprofit organization. I wasn’t feeling fulfilled creatively in my daily work, so I decided that I needed a creative outlet at home.

I figured… hey, we have to eat, so I may as well try to make it look pretty! This was before food blogs were really a “thing”, so there weren’t a ton of websites like that out there. I got set up with LiveJournal, then moved to Blogger, before finally getting my own domain a few years later.

Big Flavors started out as a place for me to record the meals that I cooked at home and share my successes (and failures!) with my friends and family back in the Midwest.

As my confidence in the kitchen grew, I began experimenting with new ingredients and flavors, and eventually started developing my own recipes. I’ve worked on national campaigns, cooked in a competition hosted by a Food Network Star, and traveled around the country all in the name of delicious food.

What started as a hobby has turned into a fairly extensive online resource filled with recipes for every occasion.

How did you start working with libraries? 

I am a total library fangirl! I’ve always enjoyed checking out items from my local library, but I only started attending programs regularly once I had my son back in 2011. Shoutout to the children’s librarians for all of the wonderful programming you offer the community!  I took my kiddo to programs and got to know the librarians at several local libraries (Ossining, Croton, Tarrytown, Briarcliff, and Chappaqua).

In 2018, one of the children’s librarians at the Ossining Public Library asked me if I’d be willing to be part of their Parent Connections program. I did two food-centric events for them - a cookie decorating party and a cheeseboard assembly party. They were both an absolute blast!

After that, I started working on programming with the teen room for in-person cooking classes as part of their BEAMS after-school program. I also did a winter cooking camp for elementary-aged kids with the Hendrick Hudson Free Library and was lined up to do more in-person cooking classes for the spring of 2020.

Once things changed with in-person events and people were mostly staying at home, I moved to teaching virtual cooking classes online. My local library got wind of my online class offerings and asked if I’d work on some programming for them.

Virtual Potluck kicked off back in January 2021 with the Ossining Public Library. We have a monthly theme and do two events each month around that theme: a cookbook discussion and a cooking class. Virtual Potluck is for adults and seniors, and we’ve had some really great conversations around food, cookbooks, and cooking. It’s been a lot of fun, and we’re still going strong!

I’ve also done virtual cooking classes with the Greenburgh Public Library, the Rye Free Reading Room, the Dobbs Ferry Public Library, and the Somers Public Library.

Libraries provide so many important services to the community, and I’m honored that so many here in Westchester have partnered with me to offer cooking classes to the public at no cost to the registrants.

I absolutely love teaching and cooking with people from the comfort of our respective kitchens. Getting people fired up about making something for themselves and their loved ones brings me so much joy. And the fact that people are learning from their own space means that they’re more likely to be able to recreate my recipes in the future without me being there to walk them through it. They’ll remember how they did it during our live class and can more easily replicate it.

I worked at a daycare center back in high school and have always had a fondness for working with kids, so those classes are particularly fun to me. The little ones can be more adventurous than some adults!

But the thing that I’m most excited about is getting families in the kitchen together to make a meal (or tasty treat) together. Cooking is such an important life skill, and I’m here to help take the pressure off of mealtime, make things fun, and show families that there is fun to be had in the kitchen!

Do you have a favorite recipe or a few favorites?

This is a tricky one because I really do enjoy a wide variety of recipes. A few favorites that come to mind are my Broiler Kebab Sheet Pan Meal, Chicken Fajitas, Skillet Lasagna, Vietnamese Fresh Spring Rolls with Shrimp + Peanut Sauce, Rhubarb Custard Pie, Dutch Apple Pie, and Roasted Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos with Cilantro Chimichurri served with my favorite Restaurant-Style Guacamole.

I also have a lot of fun recipes that I’ve developed and photographed, but have yet to post to my website. A few are seriously delicious breakfast and dessert recipes that I’ve made with library classes, so stay tuned for those!

 What types of books do you enjoy reading?

I very much enjoy reading cookbooks. Until I started working on the Virtual Potluck program, I didn’t realize how much great information was in cookbooks outside of the recipes. There are often wonderful narratives, interesting information about the background of the author, cuisine, and ingredients. The headnotes above each recipe also offer a lot of interesting tidbits. I’ve read many cookbooks that I’ve never actually cooked from!

Outside of food, I enjoy reading novels, celebrity memoirs, poetry, true crime, humor, short stories/essays, and books about self-help and entrepreneurship. I like to switch things up with lots of variety, just like in the kitchen.

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