Celebrity cook with Minnesota roots brings 'Siriously Delicious' food home

Left: Siri. Right: slow cooker mac and cheese.

Left: Siri. Right: slow cooker mac and cheese. Courtesy photos

Today Show contributor and food blogger Siri Daly first fell in love with food during her Minnesota youth.

“When you’re cold and stuck indoors, you eat!” she writes in her new cookbook Siriously Delicious. “You gather kinfolk around a warm hearthstone and prepare comforting, soulful meals.”

The pun-loving author—who’s back in town on Thursday, May 10 for a cookbook signing at Magers & Quinn—has a simple kitchen philosophy: “Don’t take it so Siri-ously!” Her recipes focus on fuss-free comfort food that even novices can master. From egg-in-a-hole avocado toast to grilled cheese roll-ups to cookie butter truffles, Daly’s recipes strike a balance between kid-friendly and sophisticated cuisine.

The 37-year-old self-taught cook is also the wife of Carson Daly (host of The Voice and co-host of Today) and the mother of their three children, all of whom feature prominently in full-color photographs of recipe prep in the book. Daly also included some Throwback Thursday-worthy pics from her childhood of herself trick-or-treating (with the caption “please note the snow boots, thanks Minnesota”), dyeing Easter eggs with her mother, and making cookies with her grandmother.

“I loved growing up there. It’s where all my childhood memories are,” says Daly, who lived in Eagan from fourth grade through high school. “What I loved the most about Minnesota is how down-to-earth everybody is and how everything is a little slower. People are more present in their lives. They take more time to enjoy life. We spent a lot of time together in the kitchen growing up. We had lots of family over and would gather and make meals together. That really defined what I love about food and how I cook.”

Daly left Minnesota to attend the University of Wisconsin, then moved to California, where she worked in television. Shortly after the birth of her son in 2009, she started the Siriously Delicious food blog that served as a creative outlet, a storytelling platform, and a way to keep track of the recipes she made. Writing a cookbook was always in the back of Daly’s mind, but it wasn’t until two of her children were in elementary school in the family’s new home state of New York that she had the time to work on one.

“I’m a busy mom and I relate a lot to busy lifestyles in general, whether you have kids or not,” she says. “I wanted to write a book that people found simple and approachable. I wanted the recipes to be very adaptable, whether it’s picky eaters or allergies. I wanted it to be delicious and very balanced because I don’t like to deprive myself of indulgences. Life is all about balance to me, and enjoying the treats as well as the happy hour cocktails with all the nutritional meals. And, again, I wanted to tell a story.”

And tell stories she does. Every recipe is prefaced with a heartwarming anecdote, funny tale, or amusing blurb about the recipe’s origins. “As a kid, if I ever found myself at a breakfast buffet, I would usually eat close to 10 pieces of bacon. Who let this happen? Where were my parents?” she writes opposite an insanely alluring photograph of brown sugar peppered bacon. Ahead of a recipe for spiced pumpkin pancakes with vanilla whipped cream, she confesses: “There is only one food that I cannot stand, and that food is pumpkin pie. Yep, I know, it’s like I’m not even an American human being.” She traces her dark chocolate croissant bread pudding recipe to a school trip she took to France at age 16 and credits her husband Carson as the man behind her “pizzadillas.”

“I write with a sense of humor,” she says. “I wanted it to be enjoyable for people to read, even if they’re not big cooks themselves. I hope people get a little laugh while reading it.”

There is the occasional solemn tone to Siriously Delicious, as Daly honors loved ones lost in her recipes as well. While writing the cookbook, her mother-in-law and father-in-law both passed away. “It was hard for me to find my voice when there was a lot of sadness around me,” Daly admits. “But at the same time, I think it made the book even more profound. I share a lot of recipes and stories in there from my mother-in-law and father-in-law as well as my family.”

Daly’s mother’s influence is evident on the inclusion of tuna casserole in the cookbook. “There’s something about a hot casserole dish that is so comforting to me,” Daly says. Her mother made what they called “tuna casserola” once a week and it quickly became Daly’s favorite. “She did it the old-school way with a can of cream of mushroom soup and a bag of potato chips crushed on top.”

As an adult, Daly altered the recipe to include orecchiette and fried leeks. “I’m not a fan of intimidating, complicated recipes. I love simple, approachable, adaptable recipes that are like the people of Minnesota: down to earth and not fussy,” she says.

Another favorite recipe of Daly’s is meatloaf, a food that “can get such a bad rap because people think of it as an old-school food that their grandma used to make and that it’s flavorless and bland,” she says. Daly solves that by basting her take with a tangy glaze that keeps the meat moist. She recommends using the leftovers to make meatloaf sandwiches with mayo.

Throughout the cookbook, Daly includes tips on how to make recipes more kid-friendly, quicker, healthier, or fancier if you’re entertaining. She won’t be offended if you jettison some of her ideas or don’t make the whole shebang. When making crispy chicken paillard for her family, for example, she already knows her five-year-old and three-year-old daughters will skip the arugula salad it’s meant to be served on and go straight for the chicken. “It’s a great meal that you can pick things from and feed your whole family without turning into a short-order cook,” she says.

The point, after all, is to overcome food ruts, limit the amount of last-minute boxed macaroni-and-cheese dinners, and share a home-cooked meal with your loved ones.

“Both Carson and I grew up where we did try as much as possible to eat with our families, so it’s still something we make a priority in our lives,” Daly says. “Even if you do it just two or three times a week, it’s so important to check in and gather and decompress. It’s the perfect opportunity to connect with your kids, your husband, or whoever it is that you have over. Hopefully it’s something people still prioritize.”

The biggest challenge to writing the cookbook? “Life,” Daly says with a laugh. It took about a year for Siriously Delicious to come to fruition. “Balancing it all and making sure I still spent time with my husband and my kids, that was the trickiest part of it all for me.”

Though Daly says she misses Minnesota, she has no plans to move back, save for a distant fantasy of maybe owning a cabin in-state someday. While in Minneapolis, she doesn’t know where she’ll dine (the local restaurant scene has changed substantially since she last visited), but she’s excited to eat “wherever my mom takes me,” she says.

Siri Daly: Siriously Delicious
Where: Magers & Quinn
When: 7 p.m. Thursday, May 10