A 25-year-old newlywed has found a creative way to combine her love of writing and her passion for healthy living.
You may have already met Jana Antil through her blog: www.happywifehealthylife.com.
“I was that eight-year old who asked for aprons, cookbooks and mixing bowls for her birthday and whose dream job was to be a celebrity chef!” says Antil who, as a little girl was drawn to the Food Network and magazines like Better Homes and Gardens and Good Housekeeping.
“I would spend hours watching, reading and cooking with my sweet grandmother, who passed away in 2007 after a battle with cancer,” says the Springboro resident.
On her blog Antil documents her life as a newlywed and shares tips on how she stays healthy — both at the gym and in the kitchen.
“I adore writing and have always felt a wonderful peace in sharing my thoughts through words,” says the Ohio State University journalism grad.
For Our Good Cooks, Antil talks about her love of cooking and the creation of her blog.
Q. Tell us more about the blog and what you hope your readers will get from it?
A. My goal is to encourage women of all ages to find self-love and happiness in their own lives, while also whipping up yummy dishes in the kitchen. My blog shares my everyday life with readers, including what it’s like to be a newlywed, my favorite fitness activities, fashion finds, home decorating, and of course, tons and tons of healthy, simple recipes.
I share original recipes of my own, as well as links to the best recipes from around the web that I have found and tried. I enjoy giving my readers variety so they too can become confident and skillful in the kitchen. I like indulgent dishes as much as the next person, but I love taking traditional recipes and putting a healthy spin on them.
Q. What are your earliest memories of food?
A. Food has always been a big part of my family’s every day life and celebrations. I grew up on simple comfort foods and wasn’t the least bit picky when it came to my meals. I seemed to love it all! In fact, I actually was obsessed with fruits and vegetables.
I remember distinctly sitting at my grandma’s kitchen table while she washed and pitted bing cherries and fed them to me one by one so that I wouldn’t choke on the pits. I also enjoyed everything that came out of my mom’s garden and I would help her pick juicy tomatoes and crisp cucumbers right from the stems. I needed nothing more than a little salt and pepper to enjoy those fresh sliced produce.
Q. Who taught you to cook?
A. I have always been fascinated by good cooking and food and was taught how to cook and bake by both my mom and my grandma. My grandmother instilled in me a spark for enjoying all things — baking, cooking, and taking a house and making it a home.
A lot of the recipes they taught me were simple comfort food staples like lasagna, meatloaf, spaghetti with sauce, chicken and dumplings, and more. I still use a lot of the base recipes I learned as a child and just add to them for a new taste on an old favorite.
On the Food Network I learned a lot from Rachel Ray, Giada De Laurentiis, Ina Garten and Bobby Flay about flavor combinations and ingredients I had never heard of. I think watching these chefs encouraged me to step outside the box in the kitchen and to take risks.
Q. What kind of feedback do you get from your readers?
A. My readers are sweet, kind and really encouraging to each other, which makes blogging that much more enjoyable. I like to think that people come back to my blog for the recipes, but also to build each other up and have thoughtful conversations.
I find that my readers enjoy simple, budget-friendly dishes that don’t seem too intimidating or require a lot of ingredients. Readers really seem to appreciate when I am open with them about my life — both the good and sometimes the less-than-pretty because it’s easy for bloggers’ lives to seem perfect if only the great times are shared. I want to be relatable and want my readers to know that I am only human and I am not afraid to make mistakes.
Q. What are your favorite cookbooks?
“Just Married & Cooking” by Brooke Parkhurst & James Briscione, “Giada’s Feel Good Food” by Giada De Laurentiis, “My Father’s Daughter” by Gwyneth Paltrow, “The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook” by Ina Garten, “The Oh She Glows Cookbook” by Angela Liddon.
Q. What are some of the dishes you most enjoy making?
A. I love whipping up homemade pizzas at least a few times a month. I make a couple batches of whole wheat dough in my bread-maker and then separate the dough into two balls, one to use now and one to freeze for later. Homemade pizzas are such a great go-to dinner for families because it can feed a crowd and the toppings are endless so you can mix up the flavor combinations to your heart’s content. One of my favorite pizzas is loaded with a tomato sauce, grilled Italian turkey sausage, rounds of fresh mozzarella, torn fresh basil and sauteed mushrooms.
I also really enjoy baking quick breads and putting healthier spins on an otherwise decadent baked goods. One of my favorite quick bread indulgences is the Walnut Banana Bread recipe from my great grandmother’s cook book. The trick is to not let it cool before slicing even though the slice may crumble. Immediately slather the bread with a dollop of butter to complement all of the shortening already loaded in the batter. Delicious!
Q. What are some of the ingredients you couldn’t live without?
A. I use a lot of oatmeal and not just at breakfast. I make oat flour by simply grinding my oats in the blender or food processor and then use them in everything from baked goods to even meatloaf in place of typical breadcrumbs.
My top healthy ingredient choices would be kale, coconut oil, almond milk and ground turkey breast. I also adore sweet-cream butter and good cheese. Those are two ingredients that are so rich and delicious that a little can go a long way.
Q. What advice would you give to a new cook?
A. Don’t be afraid to fail! My family laughs now at some of the dishes I used to make them eat. Thankfully they were always good sports and did nothing but encourage me to keep trying. Also, try new ingredients. Don’t be close-minded.
Finally, find joy in cooking in your kitchen. Rather than looking at it as just another household chore, try and find a peace and relaxation in playing with recipes.
Q. What are the special challenges for newlyweds when it comes to cooking?
A. I am extremely blessed to be married to a man who literally tries every single thing that comes out of my kitchen, and for someone who specializes in green smoothies, kale chips and mashed cauliflower, that is saying something!
In all honesty though, it is important to take the feedback your spouse offers to heart. I know that my husband does not like spaghetti squash so I will make him whole wheat spaghetti and myself the squash to pair with our ground turkey bolognese. However, he doesn’t even flinch when I serve him a turkey, apple and swiss quesadilla or lay out a big bowl of homemade hummus as an appetizer.
It’s all about compromise and finding what works in your own home. Also, if you are a spouse whose significant other is the cook in the family, try to be as encouraging as possible. I promise that nothing will make the one you love stop cooking faster than a feeling of complete rejection by the dishes they serve!
Jana’s Simple Slow Cooker Chipotle Tacos
2 cups salsa
1 pound chicken breast
4 ounces canned chopped green chilies
1 can black beans, drained
1 can pinto beans, drained
1 can sweet corn, drained
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chipotle powder
Place all ingredients into the slow cooker beginning with salsa, followed by the rest of the ingredients in the order listed. Cook on low 8 hours or high 4 hours. Shred the chicken and stir until all ingredients are combined. Serve with sour cream and fresh grated cheddar, along with tortilla chips, in a tortilla wrap, or on a bed of lettuce.
VIDEO: To hear Jana Antil talk about her love of cooking and her blog, see MyDaytonDailyNews.com
ABOUT THIS SERIES
In this weekly feature, Meredith Moss profiles folks in our region who love to cook — whether professionally or for family and friends. If you have someone you’d like to suggest, e-mail Meredith: Meredith.Moss@coxinc.com