alaina hinkle: new T&S columnist
Food lover Alaina Hinkle was a bit of a reluctant blogger at first. She wasn’t sure others would be interested in the kitchen wisdom she had gained by experimenting with new dishes and flavor combinations, but friends and family encouraged her to give it a shot. “They said, ‘We love your recipes, so why wouldn’t everyone else?’” Hinkle recalls. She began sharing fresh ideas for everything from salads and soups to dips and cookies, paired with her own vibrant photos, and the blogosphere took notice.
Now, the Kirkwood native, elementary school teacher and busy mom to a 2-year-old has a loyal following of kitchen enthusiasts who enjoy the fun, healthy spin she puts on home cooking. She’s the creator of the Honest Grub, Honest Foodie blog, and next month, she will join the Town&Style team to share her ideas on making healthy eating easier. “I’m interested in making food more relatable,” she explains. “When you watch a cooking program, it’s usually in a perfect kitchen done up just right, and that can make the process seem intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be that way. I focus on what is attainable at home so people can lead healthy, balanced lives and have fun with food.”
Hinkle says she developed her interest at an early age, cooking dinner with her mom and even acting out a make-believe cooking show together. “My mom always wanted the family to have homemade meals, and those bonding experiences got me hooked,” she says. “Later, when I was pregnant, I wanted to create healthy recipes that would fuel my body since I was feeding another life as well as my own.” She loves coming up with unexpected ways to mix texture, flavor and nutrition into everyday dishes, like adding the crunch of popped quinoa to salads or soups. Her personal tastes tend more toward savory than sweet. “I’m the person who asks for another helping of macaroni and cheese instead of a cookie for dessert,” she jokes, but she still enjoys stirring up recipes like cake pops and frozen yogurt treats.
Hinkle says she made all of her daughter Ainsley’s baby food at home and figured out ways to save money as well. “I duplicated my own meals for her, blending and freezing ingredients I had bought for myself,” she says. “There was a real shift in my thinking; I realized that healthy meal prep was not that hard, and I could do it even as a busy single mom.” She also discovered that eating well shouldn’t be about denying yourself certain foods, but learning to eat them in moderation.
She loves making nutritious wraps, salads, flatbreads and other fresh concoctions, and while many of her dishes are plant-based, tacos, pizza and steaks still have a place in her heart. “I’m really looking forward to sharing my ideas and recipes with Town&Style readers,” she says. “I want everyone to know they can use real ingredients to make healthy dishes that also happen to be quick and easy.”
As busy as she is, Hinkle says she never skimps on her creative time in the kitchen, and she enjoys getting her daughter involved. “I make a lot of cooking videos, and Ainsley loves being in them,” she notes. “She likes helping with my food photography, too.”
Today, Hinkle muses about how she would feel if she had given in to her doubts and opted not to share her passion. “It’s so special to me, and the kitchen is a real sanctuary in my life,” she says. “If my daughter ever finds herself in the same situation, deciding on a dream, I’ll definitely tell her to go for it.”
perfect pear crisp
yields: 4 servings
2 ripe but firm pears
3/4 c old-fashioned oats
1 T maple syrup
2 t honey
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 c chopped pecans
1 T shredded coconut
pinch of salt
1 can coconut cream (not milk)
1 T coconut oil (plus a small amount to rub on pears)
▶ Heat 1 T coconut oil in a medium frying pan. Whisk together the oats, pecans, cinnamon, salt and coconut. Add syrup and honey, and stir until evenly covered. Pour granola mixture into frying pan and cook 7 to 10 minutes until toasted.
▶ Slice pears in half and remove stems and seeds, hollowing out a small portion of each center. Rub the cut surfaces with coconut oil and place pears on a baking sheet, insides facing up. Bake at 350 degrees for 5 min.
▶ Fill pears with granola and bake another 5 min. Serve warm with a dollop of coconut cream and a drizzle of honey.
Follow Alaina’s blog at honestgrubhonestfoodie.com and find her on Instagram @honestfoodie_blog and Facebook and Pinterest at Honest Grub, Honest Foodie. Look for her first T&S column in our Feb. 12 issue!
Photo at top: Elizabeth Wiseman