Interview with Julie from Menu Musings of a Modern American Mom

I like having adventure through food.  I can’t stand cooking the same things all the time, so I’m constantly on the prowl for new recipe ideas from cultures around the world.  My kids have come to not only expect but look forward to these culinary adventures.  We love playing with our food!

Tell us about yourself!

Julie May, Ph.D.

I am a mom of four and an Associate Professor of Biological Sciences at William Carey University – a private Christian University in Hattiesburg, MS.  I teach mostly anatomy and human physiology based courses to students going on to study post graduate education in medicine or other health related fields.  I did my postdoctoral fellowship in human obesity and caloric restriction, which may not sound apt for a food blogger but it totally ties in.  The focus of my doctoral research was in cellular aging and anti-oxidative research.  I learned tons about the “super” foods that we all love to eat.

Share your approach to food with us: what do you like to cook? Why?

I like to “cook the rainbow” when planning my meals.  If I look back on most of my posts, it occurs to me that I almost always include:  a fresh element of some kind, some type of herb to garnish and something green (as green is the color of healthy and fresh, at least in my mind).  It was ingrained in me at a very early age by my mother that “You eat with your eyes first,” so I avoid like the plague having a monochromatic plate.  I’m also a huge fan of having different textures together in the dish.  I guess I like having adventure through food.  I can’t stand cooking the same things all the time, so I’m constantly on the prowl for new recipe ideas from cultures around the world.  My kids have come to not only expect but look forward to these culinary adventures.  We love playing with our food!

Describe your food personality in 5-7 words

Food A.D.D.  Bold, sassy, bright and fun!

What are your 3-5 favorite recipes? Why? Tell us about them!

Mediterranean Spiced Salmon Power Grain Bowl – I love having all these power grains together in one bowl, but they are definitely not boring!   It’s so awesome not only for family dinners but also makes a great meal prep option.  Any protein can be used on top. My kids call this “Mediterranean Salad.”

Coconut Lime Chicken – This Indonesian-inspired dish has been a favorite of my older boys for many years.  It’s perfect for busy nights when you are playing “Taxicab mom” all over town and the prep can be done hours in advance. It’s seriously soooo easy and can be tailored to your family’s desired heat level.

Copycat Recipe of Panera Bread’s Turkey Chili – At one point last year I realized I was spending a ton of money at Panera Bread.  I decided I needed to attempt to replicate their amazing turkey chili.  I have no idea what their actual recipe is, but this one is the bomb!  My kids call it “chunky chili” because it has so many textural elements, but that’s what makes it so beautiful and amazing.  It’s also super healthy, low on the glycemic index, completely clean eating and gluten free.  I recently won 2nd place in our neighborhood chili cook out with this recipe against all the other beef based versions.

Pickle Brined Fried Chicken –  Okay, so I rarely fry anything at my house, but this recipe has been one of my kids’ favorites (as well as their friends) for years.  What the heck DO you do with that jar of leftover pickle juice when the pickles are all gone?  You make “pickle chicken” as my kids call it.  Yes, that sounds weird.  Yes, you can make that face.  Nope, you won’t have any left.  My kids started calling friends over for this.  I’m serious.  “Bruhh, she’s making Pickle Chicken.”  They are in college now and I miss these days.  🙁

Fireworks Roast (aka Beef Pot Roast) – I’ll say this is one of my favorites because no matter how old my kids get, a roast makes them feel like all’s right with the world.  It’s one of the ultimate comfort foods.  It’s also one of the easiest things to cook, but somehow so many people are so intimidated by making roast.  My kids want roast that literally falls apart when you try to pick it up with the fork.  Nobody wants tough, chewy meat!

What’s your favorite thing about Want the Recipe?

Connecting people and recipes is another piece of the puzzle in the goal of getting people to cook at home!  There is so much media telling people “You can’t cook at home.  You’re too busy.  Let us do it for you.”  Making recipes accessible and empowering home cooks with the opposite message such as “You can do this!  We’ve got you!”  is sooooo important!

What food can you not live without?

Cheese.  For a while, I took a few years off of teaching and opened a specialty cheese shop!  It was so much fun.

What kitchen appliance do you swear by?

I want to say my kitchen knives but they are probably not considered an appliance.  Probably my Kitchenaid stand mixer.  It’s really a work horse and I think you could probably make almost anything in them considering all the available attachments.  My mother has had hers for at least 20 years now and it’s still cranking out recipes.

What are your favorite blogs/ Instagram accounts that you follow? What do you like about them?

Damn Delicious – because like me, she chooses simple fresh ingredients and makes awesomeness happen.  Boom!

Pinch of Yum – they make beautiful, tasty, accessible food… and make me laugh with snappy comebacks to those snarky people who make ridiculous comments about the posts (y’all know the ones).  Haters gonna hate.

Do you have any advice for our food community?

This may be a sensitive topic, but here goes.  1 – I think a lot of the blogs are too heavily monetized; and all those awful advertising pop ups are a huge turnoff to me as a viewer.  I just click off of them and scroll to the next recipe.  2 – There are some AMAZING bloggers/photographers out there.  But some of the posts in the food community are so over-the-top pristine and perfect that I think it makes the average Joe or Jane Homemaker feel intimidated to try the recipe.  They’ve told me privately – “My food will never turn out (looking) like that, so I’m not even going to attempt it.”  I don’t think anyone should make their photography any less awesome, but now and again, a messy kitchen photo or “here is my kid licking the beater” goes a long way towards the reader feeling as if they can relate to the blogger as a real person with a recipe that they can actually be successful with.  Just be organic.  You don’t have to be perfect.

Anything we missed?!

I’d like to point out that I create posts with complete step-by-step photos.  I’m a teacher by profession, by virtue of being a mom, and in my soul.  I’ve had readers tell me that they feel they are right there with me in the kitchen.  I’ve had others complain and say “this is too much fluff.”  That’s the beauty of a blog.  I do it for the ones who appreciate it.  I don’t work for the Food Network last time I checked my bank account, so I get to put all these photos on there for even the most novice cooks who want to follow along.  It’s sort of like paint by numbers but with food and pictures.  I want people to be successful.  I want them to cook with their children and make memories.  I want it to be fun.  Cooking really should be fun.  And I want it to be delicious.

What’s your Instagram handle, blog link, any other social media or accounts you’d like us to share!

You can find me on:

Instagram: @menumusings

My blog:


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