Deana and Wona met as engineering students at the prestigious MIT in Boston and have been friends ever since. Deana lives in Leucadia, CA and Wona hails from San Francisco. They're both moms to two small children each and enjoy cooking and trying new recipes at one of their favorite stores, Trader Joe's. In addition to cooking, they both enjoy an ecclectic and fascinating mix of hobbies that include scuba diving, traveling, Tae Kwon Do, pottery, yoga, wilderness backpacking, house remodeling, sewing and arts & crafts. They're truly renaissance women and empowered mommies! Read more about them Here.
Empowered Mommies (EM): Wona and Deana, thank you again for giving us the opportunity to sit down with you! You both have such fascinating backgrounds! Former MIT students, now busy moms who have written two successful books, “Cooking with All Things Trader Joe’s” and “The Trader Joe’s Companion: A Portable Cookbook”. Can you share with us how you first met and became friends and how you came together with the idea to write your books?
Deana and Wona (D&W): We met as engineering students at MIT and bonded over late night study sessions that were filled more with giggles and junk food than actual studying. We've been good friends ever since. Deana called me in January 2007 with the idea for a Trader Joe's cookbook. Genius! We put on our hard hats and got to work, cooking around the clock and teaching ourselves food photography. 6 months later, we had a cookbook.
EM: How is each book different?
D&W: Our first book, Cooking with All Things Trader Joe's, is a hardcover with full-page color photos for every recipe. When we heard that people were taking the big hardcover to stores to do their shopping, or even keeping an extra copy in the car, we decided to come out with a pocket-size book. The Trader Joe's Companion is a slim, portable size, easy to slip into your pocket or purse. It has different recipes than the first book, and is a compilation of favorite recipes from our popular blog.
EM: What do you think are some of the challenges moms are facing today when it comes to preparing meals for their families?
D&W: The biggest challenge moms face today is lack of time. Cooking becomes stressful when you don't know what to make, and don't have the time to cook. Our recipes in essence treat Trader Joe's as a "prep kitchen" and use prepared sauces, marinated meats, washed/cut vegetables, and other time-saving products to make cooking easy and fun again. We see no shame in taking some help from the store! It would be the equivalent of hiring someone to prepare the ingredients for you - and buying them prepared at Trader Joe's is a lot cheaper than hiring help!
EM: What are some of your favorite recipes and ingredients to use?
Deana - I love the Fresh Bruschetta Sauce at Trader Joe’s. It’s fresh and tastes like it was just made. I mix it in with pasta, serve it with crusty bread, mix it with breadcrumbs and cheese and use it for stuffed portobellos or stuffed peppers. The frozen brown rice at Trader Joe’s has its own fanatic following – in three minutes you can have brown rice with texture as good as the one you make yourself (which typically takes an hour!).
Wona - favorite recipes include Soyaki Salmon paired with Peanutty Sesame Noodles, Arugula Pesto Pasta, and Frozen Tiramisu. I love using chutneys and pestos to flavor sandwiches, stir into soups, or make instant appetizers. Another favorite is Trader Joe's frozen crushed garlic cubes. Each cube is 1 teaspoon of crushed garlic and tastes very fresh; it’s so convenient to toss the pre-measured garlic cubes into any dish.
EM: As you know, many families face the challenge of food allergies or the need to have gluten-free meals, do you offer ideas for substitution of ingredients in your cookbooks?
D&W: We do offer substitution ideas where we can. There are even more gluten-free recipe ideas online at our blog (http://blog.cookingwithtraderjoes.com).
EM: If you had to look forward a decade, how do you hope your cookbooks will have helped moms in the kitchen?
D&W: We hope that our style of cooking will encourage moms to enjoy cooking for their families and reaping the rewards. There are so many tangible benefits from sitting down to eat dinner together as a family, including health benefits as well as family bonding. We hope our recipes empower moms to nurture healthier, happier families!
EM: Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with us!
D&W: Thank you, Ivanna! A pleasure.....
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