I caught up with Timaree Hagenburger, Registered Dietitian, Exercise Physiologist, and author to learn more about her new cookbook “The Foodie Bar Way”.
Timaree’s new book “The Foodie Bar Way”* is a unique approach to cooking that provides recipes and advice to create flavor combinations that will satisfy the whole family! Timaree was inspired by her students to develop this book to provide a safe environment for beginner cooks! She also includes a “Raising the Bar” section that accommodates those looking to mix up their daily meals, all while providing a variety of options for different flavor preferences within the family!
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Could you tell me a little bit about “The Foodie Bar Way?”
I have been writing recipes and having fun in the kitchen since I was 6 or 7 years old! My first recipe I created as a child was Cinnamon Toast. I wrote it down in case I forgot how to make it! I absolutely love cooking, and I wanted to go to culinary school because I thought that would be the right path, but then I realized I still wanted to have joy in cooking and not have it be something I did for 18 hours a day in a hot production kitchen. I also love medicine and health, so I thought I could just put this together and become a dietitian with a food focus! I’ve had lots of ideas for different recipes and cookbooks, and I started thinking about how I can help my family eat. We like a lot of the same things, but we also like a lot of variation. Therefore, I created “The Foodie Bar Way,” where you can have lots of different options, and each of the components is as healthy as possible. These are the recipes that my family loves, and I use my cookbook every week to come up with different ideas.
I also wanted it to meet the needs of my students, I teach community college, and they all have different experiences in the kitchen. I wanted to give them a way they could be creative, but also have some structure to provide them with confidence. I dedicated this book to my students to provide them with those basic skills to take care of themselves in the kitchen.
I want this cookbook to be like a workbook, so people can make these cool combinations and write comments in the provided sections. The concept of this book helps people when they go out to eat too, because if you’re looking for vegetarian options and don’t see a veggie section of the menu, then a lot of people stop and assume they don’t have anything to choose. But if you look at the menu for ingredients in other recipes, then all of a sudden, you have something to order. It’s a different approach to meals!
What is your favorite recipe from your book?
That’s a hard question! My kids’ favorite dessert is the dessert nachos, they’re amazing! With my creamy chocolate sauce, this is a HUGE hit! A friend of mine is the department chair of her department, and she makes the dessert nachos for meetings, and they love it because they are fun, tasty, and make you feel great! I make the oatmeal almost every single week; we live out of this book! There is also no oil in the whole book, and the pestos are incredible- my husband’s favorite is the tomato almond pesto.
Do you have any tips for anyone who is a new cook trying to create meals for their family/friends?
At the beginning of the book, I have a section about how to use it and how to set up your kitchen for less stress and more joy. I even talk about the most essential tool in the kitchen. I came at it from the perspective of my students, assuming that they had little to no experience in the kitchen. I spent, you don’t even want to know how many hours, working on the index! I wanted it to be where you could start with an ingredient and think, what can I do with it? I think that is very helpful to people.
For readers with kids, how can I get my child involved in the meal preparation process?
I have a specific note to parents and grandparents at the beginning of my book, because the “foodie bar” approach allows everyone to work as a team when you have kids of different ages because they have different comfort levels with things in the kitchen. A younger child can stir in some spices, while an older child can grate carrots or do light looking. If you explain it so that everyone contributes to the preparation of the components of the “foodie bar,” everyone comes together and enjoys the meals, and it feels like everyone is having a good time. In my house, I’ll do a lot of prep with the kids on the weekend, and when they get home from soccer practice, they are hungry! They will go to the fridge, pull out everything we’ve prepped, and it’s just a matter of assembly line.
When feeding kids and their friends, how do you encourage them to try new food or cuisine?
It’s incredible how few parents are cooking nowadays. When my kids’ friends come over, they’re like, “really, your mom cooks in the kitchen?” They gravitate towards it and have told my daughter they would “totally” cook with me next time they came over. I think part of it is the way you approach it as something fun. What is critical when I talk to kids is I tell them, “if you try something, have a dialogue with me about it. Don’t just say ‘I don’t like it.’” If you have a conversation with them, you can find out what’s going on and the specifics behind what they don’t like about the food.
What is the most interesting thing you learned while writing this book that you find yourself sharing with clients?
It still amazes me to think that these books are in people’s houses and that they love it! I know that sounds crazy, but this is my first cookbook, and I’ll have people track me down and say, “I want to buy 5 for all of my relatives.” I just about tear up – sometimes I do! I had one woman buy 22 to send to all of her relatives; she said the book is so approachable. I am amazed by how many people have found it usable and easy. One of the best compliments I’ve gotten is, “it isn’t a cookbook I leave on my shelf, it’s on my counter.” One thing that makes me happy is how some of my students who started with very little confidence in the kitchen are gaining confidence by using it.
You mention in your book that it is important for food to bring us together rather than dividing us. Have you noticed any progress this cookbook has had with others in the area of providing inclusive ingredients for all?
I have, not only in families, but a lot of my students and clients are making changes to their diet. They are often the first ones to make the changes, but the rest of their family hasn’t gotten the memo yet. So instead of alienating themselves, they approach these meals in the “foodie bar way.” That way, if they have family members that eat foods that they don’t want to eat or vice versa, they can still have it, and it’s no big deal! It helps families enjoy their food even if they are not eating the same version of whatever the entrée is.
My dream is to have all of my students and anyone who reads the book, to stay home and cook together, instead of going out with their friends to eat food that they would regret later. Some of these meals and “foodie bars” are specifically set up as “cook togethers.” I’ve had students invite a few friends over and have a hummus showdown where they pick different ingredients and do taste tests. It melts my heart; I’ll get students that will text or email me saying they are doing “cook togethers”, that is huge!
As an exercise physiologist as well as a registered dietitian, any tips on how to fit in exercise while making time to cook healthy meals too!
The key in my mind and life is the prepping ahead. I prep the oatmeal and crazy salad mix straight out of the book and add all of the cool toppings depending on what I have. I can strategically make time to do those things, and it doesn’t all have to be on a Saturday or Sunday. You can plan a bit, make dressing on a Monday night, and prep something the next night. I have to plan because it makes for fewer dishes and food I want at my fingertips. When I come home after a run, I have my containers of oatmeal, and I grab it and I’m out the door; the same goes with my salads. When you exercise, you must have food ready because you need those calories and fuel.
Do you have any additional advice that you haven’t mentioned when it comes to creating recipes at home from your cookbook?
The only other thing is to get comfortable trying different things on the “raising the bar” section. When you use this section and start to play with various components, it’s like I say on the back of my book, “Forks Over Knives meets Chipotle, with a sprinkle of The Flavor Bible!” It’s so fun to be able to see what combinations play well with each other. I want people to start at these recipes and use the options from the “raising the bar” section to make their own because the possibilities are endless!
Another thing I want the readers to know is about the shopping guide on my website. All it is are pictures I took of ingredients, so when a reader doesn’t know what an ingredient is, they can go on the “Foodie Bar Way” website and type “lavash” into the shopping guide. It is a unique tool.
“The Foodie Bar Way” can be purchased at Timaree’s website on “The Foodie Bar Way” shop page (print book and ebook) OR on Amazon (print book).