interview

Winning At Kitchen BOOK TOUR and free GIVEAWAY!

10001514_10152489576288108_5660227519512556961_n
10001514_10152489576288108_5660227519512556961_n

You've seen the recipes.

You've marveled at the meal plans.

Now, meet the woman behind the magic that is: WINNING AT KITCHEN

I'd like to introduce you to my good friend and esteemed colleague, Michelle Pfennighaus. We met in 2009 during our health coach training program at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. We became friends on the long bus rides back and forth from Boston to New York over the course of six months.

There are tons of recipe books and resources out there but how often do you get to know a bit about the real, live person who's doing all that cooking and creating? Would you like to know how Michelle came to do what she does so well?

Well, read on.  And make sure to scroll down for an incredible recipe for Chocolate Chili and Cinnamon Cornbread AND a giveaway to win a FREE copy of WINNING AT KITCHEN.

Here's Michelle:

HELLO
HELLO

Sooooo, you're really a pro with all this meal prep and recipe planning. Were you always this organized?

Michelle: Yep, when I was in grade school we didn't have a lot of money and I was always self-conscious that I didn't have enough cool clothes. I kept a written chart of what I wore each day to make sure I didn't do the same outfit two weeks in a row or whatever. OCD? Maybe a little, teensy, weensy bit...

What were your eating habits like as a child and teenager?

Michelle: My mom wouldn't let me eat crap so I ate it every chance I got. But in between I learned how to cook with her in the kitchen and eat real food. I can make a mean meatloaf with both hands tied behind my back.

Yes, it's obvious you have amazing skills--since you made this program with not one, but TWO kids under your feet. You could have picked so many things--why do you love focusing on making meal planning and recipes easier for other people?

Michelle: Recipes drive me crazy! I'm always changing the recipes I find in cookbooks and online to be less fussy and less expensive. But you know what, before I became a mother I didn't do much meal planning. I also slept a lot more and washed my hair every day! Since having my boys, I've learned how essential a meal plan is for being efficient and getting good food on the table every night.

What's one thing you tried for a while, a diet or nutrition trend, that you ended up ditching and why?

Michelle: HA! I've tried just about everything. Macrobiotics was my first attempt at eating a healthy, real food diet. It was pretty bland and the food prep is insane. But it was my first step at reversing IBS and breaking my sugar addiction.

If you weren't doing this awesome, practical work as a nutrition and health coach, would you want to do anything else instead? (beside being the amazing mom you already are)

Michelle: I'd perform in the musical Chicago. Except I have a really awful singing voice.

There ya have it, folks. You can see she's an amazingly organized cook AND a comedian.

Now, let's get onto that recipe and WINNING AT KITCHEN GIVEAWAY!

Chocolate Chili with Cinnamon Cornbread

ChocChili
ChocChili

For chili:

1 Tbl. coconut oil 1 onion, minced 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 large sweet potato, diced 3 large Swiss chard leaves, minced 15-oz. can diced tomatoes 1 quart chicken or vegetable stock 2 15-oz. cans black beans, rinsed and drained 2 15-oz. cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained 1 Tbl. cumin 1 Tbl. cinnamon 1 Tbl. chili powder 2 Tbl. cocoa powder 1⁄2 tsp. salt (or more, depending how salty your stock is)

Hot sauce

For cornbread: 1/4 cup coconut oil, plus more for pan 2 cups cornmeal 11⁄2 cups unsweetened milk of choice 1 egg, beaten 2 Tbl. raw honey 2 tsp. baking powder 1 tsp. baking soda 1 tsp. cinnamon 1 tsp. salt

1. In large stock pot, heat coconut oil over medium-low heat. Add onion, garlic and sweet potato. Mix and cook for about 5 minutes. Add Swiss chard, tomatoes, stock, beans, spices, cocoa and salt. Bring to a boil. Simmer uncovered for 1 hour. Serve with hot sauce.

2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400oF. Grease a 12-inch cast iron skillet or an 8-inch pan and set aside.

3. Combine all cornbread ingredients in a large bowl. Pour into prepared skillet or pan. Bake 20-30 minutes or until golden brown.

Emmy's Organics Macaroons & More!

  Looking for something sweet, healthy AND organic? That's like a nutrition triple play, right there.

(oh? you want vegan, gluten-free and raw, too? OK. Done.)

lem maclem

I first tasted the awesomeness of these macaroons when I worked at Cambridge Naturals, a local natural food store in Cambridge, MA, a few years ago.

When I found out the company was owned by a couple of young adults like me, I knew I had to blog about them. You know how I love blowing up other peoples' courageousness, especially fellow business owners and entrepreneurs! We all need help getting our message out there!

ianandsamantha

 

When I followed EMMY'S ORGANICS on instagram, they sent me a gift package like the one they sell on their website right here. Early holiday shopping, anyone?

(I REALLY wish I hadn't eaten all of them. I could have made a giveaway for you. Next time, promise!)

 

emmys

 

I asked Samantha, the co-owner and founder, some questions to learn a bit more about her company, her product and her mission. She took precious time away from her biz to answer some questions for me.

 

DD) Um. Your products are so, so good. What was your inspiration to create such a great product?

S) Since Ian was a teenager, he has dealt with a number of digestion and food allergy issues. This forced him to change the way he looked at food 360 degrees. He has to stop eating dairy and gluten and didn't know much about alternative ways to eat for health. He took a trip to a family-friends raw food restaurant in San Francisco and quickly changed his mindset. There he learned about super-foods, juicing, dehydrating and many other ways to prepare raw foods. Eating a lot of raw food also helped him feel really good, physically. This is where it all started for him.

For myself, I have always been interested in the best way to take care of myself. Its just a natural desire of mine. When I was in college, my step-mother checked herself into a raw detox center in San Diego because she had some pre-cancer cells in her eye. She came home weeks later totally emerged in raw food preparation. She also felt amazing and her cells were healed. Eventually, she lost interest in some of her raw food tools so she gave them to me and I started experimenting.

Ian and I played with all different kinds of food, both raw and cooked and this is how our company emerged. We have always kept a very strong emphasis on simplicity and ease and Ian's chocolate macaroon recipe fell right into that category ;-).

DD) what was the biggest obstacle you faced in building your company? 

I think for any small company, growth is a very big obstacle. In the very beginning, Ian and I did EVERYTHING. We didn't take days or even evenings off. We managed the production, bookkeeping, sales, cleaning, packaging, you name it. There comes a time when you get so much business that you actually can't handle it. Hiring that very first employee was huge and scary for us. We were so used to doing everything ourselves so we were nervous to take that next step.

DD) one of my biggest messages is living fearlessly. How did you overcome fears, obstacles and set backs while growing the business?

S) We gave up control, made plenty of mistakes (we still do) and learned from them. We have gotten a real education in communication and listening over the past 4.5 years!

DD) your products use such clean, quality ingredients when it would be easier to use cheaper ones. Tell me why. 

We use clean ingredients because that is what food is to us. They are what feed us and nourish us and give us energy to do the things in life that matter.

DD) what has been your biggest success since you launched?

S) We launched a crowdfunding campaign on indiegogo.com at the end of 2010 to re-brand all of our packaging. We raised over $15,000 from fans, family and friends to take this next leap. It was a success, both financially and mentally. It was the first time that we got to see how many people supported our dreams and what we are out to achieve. It was an amazing experience that has impacted us forever.

DD) I love that story! That's amazing. OK, so what's next? I'm all about setting goals to make progress in life. Name 4 goals you have for yourself and/or your company in the next two years:

S) 1. To visit where some of our ingredients are grown.

2. To successfully launch at least 2 more product lines.

3. To continue to grow the benefits that we offer our employees.

4. Become a B-Corp! (learn more about that here)

 

Thank you so much, Samantha and Ian, for making an awesome product and for sending me some special gifts!

Emmy's makes more than macaroons. Head over and take a look at their website right here: http://emmysorganics.com/

You can find Emmy's at major stores like Whole Foods as well as smaller, independent natural food and product stores like Cambridge Naturals in Porter Square, Somerville, MA.

Grace Grows: Interview with author Shelle Sumners

 

I hope you are having a GREAT Summer.

This post is the final installment of the Super Summer Reading series. I've really enjoyed sharing these books with you. The three authors I featured are friends of mine and people whom I find inspiring and whole-hearted--and brave. They also happen to work wonders with words.

In case you missed them, you can catch up with Amy Wright Glenn and Matt Kailey by reading my previous posts about their books here, and here.

 

Today I bring you the third and final featured book. The novel is Grace Grows by Shelle Sumners. Shelle and I worked together in a church years ago and we promised each other we would make our respective dreams come true: hers was to be a published author and mine was to be a speaker and writer. Looks like we kept those promises to each other!

 

Meet Shelle.

 Shelle_Sumners_Hi_Res

Shelle Sumners lives and writes in Bucks County, PA. Her debut novel Grace Grows, published by St. Martin’s Press, is a Random House audio book, a Featured Alternate selection for Doubleday, Literary Guild, and Rhapsody Book Clubs, and is published internationally. It has a companion soundtrack of phenomenal original songs that appear in the story, written and performed by her husband, singer-songwriter and Broadway actor Lee Morgan.

 

 

DD)  Hi Shelle. Thanks for being great and making time for this. Why did you want to write your book?

SS: I had a compelling dream about a woman and a man who were together at a waterfall. It was just a snippet of a moment, but I knew what they were feeling—love, sadness, and hope. I woke up and the arc of their story started flowing through me like rushing water. I sat up in bed and speed-wrote 18 legal-pad pages of notes about Grace Barnum and Tyler Wilkie. I started writing their story that week.

DD)  I know that writing a book is no easy task. What moved you from idea to action?

SS: I had spent a few years teaching myself to write screenplays and knew all along that I was building up to writing a novel. At the time I started writing Grace Grows, I had just completed my first attempt, a rough-draft novelization of one of my screenplays. Grace Grows was my first novel written completely “from scratch.”

DD) what were 3 obstacles you met while writing?

SSChallenge one: Time. Never enough. I was working full time, so I wrote the book at night and on weekends. I did a lot of scene writing in my head while driving to and from work. It took me about 18 months to finish.

Challenge two: I was trying a couple of new things—writing in first person and writing humorously. These were fun challenges to try to meet. I read a lot of David Sedaris and Anne Lamott on the side, for inspiration.

Challenge three: Going the distance. Quitting writing Grace Grows was never a deep possibility, because I was so in love with Grace and Ty. I needed to see how it was all going to turn out for them. But I could have been easily drawn away from writing by the demands of daily work and life and how tired I sometimes was; by how often I wanted to just do nothing. At the time, I had a subscription to these daily Buddhist wisdom emails and one day I got this bit of scripture from the Dhammapada (translated by Thanissaro Bhikku)

Having applied himself

to what was not his own task,

and not having applied himself

to what was,

having disregarded the goal

to grasp at what he held dear,

he now envies those

who kept after themselves,

took themselves

to task.

I tacked this to the bulletin board behind my computer monitor, at eye level. I’m looking at it right now.

DD) I love that quote. And that story! You're such an inspiration to me while I take on the task of writing my book.  Tell me two new things you learned about yourself while writing:

SS: I am here to make things with words. Life becomes timeless and deeply blissful when I am creating a moment in a story.

DD)   See, even in that answer you made something beautiful. In your own (beautiful) words, why is your book good summer reading for my tribe/community?

SS: Grace Grows is about a woman who is learning who she is and how to live freely and authentically. It’s about rapturous romantic love (and sex). It’s about comprehensive, lifelong sexuality education. It’s about forgiving your parents, and how friends can be family.

DD)  This was so fun. Please share anything else you want my readers to know:

SSGrace Grows has an accompanying original soundtrack of the songs in the story that Tyler Wilkie writes for Grace Barnum. They were written by my collaborator (and husband), real-life singer-songwriter Lee Morgan, and they are truly amazing and lovely. You can hear one of the songs, “Her,” on my website, along with samples of the other songs: http://www.shellesumners.com/grace-grows-book/original-songs/

Grace_Grows_Soundtrack_Cover

 

You can purchase Shelle's book, Grace Grows, right here: http://www.amazon.com/Grace-Grows-Shelle-Sumners/dp/1250003504/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1346373958&sr=8-1&keywords=grace+grows

Grace_Grows_(3)_hires_final_cover

Other links about Shelle:

www.ShelleSumners.com

www.facebook.com/ShelleSumners

http://pinterest.com/shellesumners/my-novel-grace-grows/

http://pinterest.com/shellesumners/makes-me-think-of-grace-and-ty/

https://www.facebook.com/leemorgansongs

www.youtube.com/GraceGrowsNovel