If you follow The BakerMama on Instagram, you’re probably as obsessed as we are with her beautiful boards of food, which take simple dishes (think: hot dogs or baked potatoes) and transform them into art. In addition to being “like”-worthy, they’re also super kid-friendly, with many of them encouraging family members to add their own toppings and customize their plates. So for this week’s Meet a Mom, we spoke to Maegan Brown, the mom of four and cookbook author behind The BakerMama. She’s also a Dallas, Texas-based mother of four kids—Baker (9), Bryce & Barrett (7), and Brookie (4)—who is married to her best friend and fellow foodie, Brandon. See below for Maegan’s interview, which touches on why boards are the perfect solution for family meals, her favorite quarantine dishes and how beginner chefs can perfect her technique.
For people who aren’t yet familiar, can you please describe your blog, cookbook and what you do?
I started The BakerMama in 2012 and it now has well over five hundred original recipes and creative meal/snack ideas that I make regularly for my family and friends. I share easy, family-friendly recipes, beautiful food boards for every occasion, creative meal ideas, tasty food finds and a glimpse into everyday life as a family of 6.
My first cookbook, Beautiful Boards, was released in September 2019. It’s filled with 50 delicious and family-friendly snack boards for any occasion along with 25+ simple recipes and all my step-by-step tips for recreating these beautiful boards. Food boards have also proven to be a great way to eat as a family and entertain our friends. I think it’s amazing how something as simple as how we serve our food can have such an impact on how and what we eat. It’s a way of serving that gives people options and awareness for what they’re eating. And it truly brings people together in such a special way!
- Feel free to pull any information from my Meet The BakerMama page on my blog: https://thebakermama.com/meet-the-bakermama/
- Or my Beautiful Boards cookbook page: https://thebakermama.com/beautiful-boards-cookbook/
How did you get into this niche of creating beautiful boards?
When I was growing up, my mom would place all our meals on a wooden lazy Susan in the middle of our dining table. She still has it on her table today! We were encouraged to fill our own plates with a variety of foods and to try new things, even if we thought we wouldn’t like them. Doing this made mealtimes exciting, fulfilling, and memorable. My husband, Brandon, and I have adapted the same meal concept in our home now that our kids are old enough to serve and feed themselves.
We’re teaching our kids to share and make choices and have a healthy relationship with and appreciation for food. Our kids eat so much better, with little to no complaining, when they can see all their options and have the freedom to fill their own plates. Watching our kids fall in lovewith fruits and vegetables and spices and get excited about combining different flavors and textures is what it’s all about.
Totally! Why are boards such a perfect tool for busy moms?
They’re easy to prep with foods that you have on hand. They usually require very little to no cooking. And they tend to satisfy everyone with a good selection of foods to choose from.
Particularly as we’re spending more time at home, are boards an easy way to make “normal” meals special?
Absolutely, you’d be surprised how well the family will eat a meal when it’s served on a board. It makes the meal more exciting and everyone gets to choose exactly what they want on their plates rather than being told this is what you have to eat. It also brings great energy and conversation to the table as everyone builds their meal with what’s on the board.
Why are they so great for picky eaters?
It gives them options and ownership over their meal. It’s truly amazing how if you give a picky eater the option to choose their own foods and fill their own plates, rather than putting a plate in front of them and telling them that is what they have to eat, they are more willing to try and enjoy foods that they “think” they don’t like.
Our kids all eat salad now because of the Salad Boards I regularly serve. My oldest, who claims he doesn’t like fruit or yogurt, will happily eat both on the mornings I assemble the Build-Your-Own Parfait Board for breakfast. And they all tend to try something new every time I intentionally put a new-to-them food on a Snack Board that we eat for snack time, dinnertime, or anytime!
What recipes are you making most right now?
With all 6 of us being home for 3 meals a day, we are making a lot of meals. For breakfast on the weekdays, we’re enjoying lots of banana bread, pancakes and waffles that I’ve made over the weekend for easy breakfasts to reheat throughout the week. For lunch, we’ve been making a lot of snack boards with convenient foods that we have on hand in the refrigerator and pantry or a filling salad. For dinner, we’ve been making a lot of fun meal boards, comfort food recipes and grilling out.
Here are just a few of our favorites:
What are a few tips for newbies at board making or food styling?
There are no rules when building a great board. Allow yourself to make it easy and fun so that you can relax and be present with your family as everyone digs in to the board. Anything goes, and just the effort will excite everyone lucky enough to enjoy it with you. Use foods that everyone loves and arrange them so that they are inviting and everyone will love it!
Where do you find your boards?
My dad makes my boards! He’s been making me boards for well over 10 years. They’re so beautiful and so well made. I designed a line of boards with him and we sell them at BoardsByTheBakerMama.com. We have a great selection of sizes and shapes with my favorite features: https://boardsbythebakermama.com
What are you family favorite recipes? Or recipes that please the pickiest of eaters?
We love trying new recipes so I’m always recipe testing, but these are the ones we make most often right now in addition to the ones I linked above:
What would you say to moms who are so tired of cooking right now?
I hear ya! Cooking and then cleaning up afterward can be exhausting, especially after a long day and if you have kids that don’t eat what you cook. Or you don’t even get to sit down and enjoy it because you’re helping the kids with their meals or negotiating with them about eating the meal. I encourage you to make mealtime fun and as easy on yourself as possible. Prepared foods are great and can be served in so many creative ways, especially on boards! Meal prepping simple foods one day a week and recreating it into several different meals throughout the week works great and takes the stress away from having to worry about what to make each day. Also, planning to make two to three meals a week that allow for leftovers to be made into another meal works really well for us. We’ll make tacos one night and then taco salads or nachos another night. We grill chicken and veggies one night and use the leftover chicken to make another meal the next day. We also love making soups or casseroles that can be enjoyed for a few days.
Have you ever had a board “fail” that is now funny to you? Or an unexpected success?
Haha! Yes, there are definitely boards that have been a little ridiculous, especially as I was creating/testing so many boards for my Beautiful Boards cookbook. When I get a board idea, I really dream up the board first before I create it so it’s very rare that we don’t love and really enjoy it. One huge mistake was a baby gender reveal board where I put a round of brie cheese in the middle and the inside of the brie cheese was flavored with either raspberry jam (pink for girl) or blueberry jam (blue for boy). The point was for the parents to cut into the brie and reveal the gender. Well, after creating the board (it was super cute!), I remembered pregnant women aren’t even supposed to eat soft cheeses like brie. Oops! Back to the drawing board, literally, ha!
One of my favorites, that was an unexpected success, was my Candy Cane Caprese Board for Christmas time. It literally takes 5 minutes to make and it’s just so beautiful and delicious. It was a huge hit around the holidays! So many people recreated it.
Is all your food beautiful? Or do you ever slap things on a plate like the rest of us?!
Yes, we definitely slap food on the plate and call it a meal sometimes. I think food is beautiful no matter how it’s plated, so honestly even if it’s just chicken nuggets, fruit and veggies on a paper plate, it will probably look beautiful in my eyes. It’s all about the variety and the colors that naturally come from fresh foods.
What’s next for you?
Oh goodness, there’s always something fun going on. I’m working on my second cookbook (so excited about it!), growing our board business with my dad, constantly developing new recipes and meal ideas, and continuing to connect with the amazing community of fellow food lovers that follow me and are inspired by what I share.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you so much for including me in your Meet a Mom series! I’m honored and hope that this network of moms is inspired. I think it’s so important for moms to know that as long as you’re doing your best to love your family well and care for yourself, that’s all that matters. A happy mom is what your family needs and wants most! The fun meals and creative activities are just icing on the cake.
To get more inspiration from Maegan, follow her on Instagram.
This feature originally appeared on The Local Moms Network