Part 2: The Women Behind “Cooking with Trader Joe’s”

Today, I continue my conversation with cookbook authors and fellow food bloggers Deana Gunn and Wona Miniati.  Their first book “Cooking with All Things Trader Joe’s” is a must-have for anyone who is a fan. 

STT: What audience did you have in mind while writing your cookbook and blog?

Deana: We envisioned busy moms like us as our primary target.  However, we’ve been pleasantly surprised to hear from men who have discovered our book.  So it seems that our cookbook really appeals to both genders.  We’ve received emails from people in all walks of life, from busy professionals, to stay-at-home moms, to retired couples traveling the country in an RV.  It seems what everyone shares in common is a love of Trader Joe’s and limited time to cook.

STT:  When you are developing recipes, what is your main goal, besides incorporating TJ’s ingredients?
Wona: We want to make it possible for busy people like us to put dinner on the table in minutes.  So, making it easy and fast is really important.  We also like to eat healthy, so we try to make our menus varied and interesting by using fresh ingredients and different combinations of flavors.
Deana:  It’s also been great getting our kids involved in the kitchen – they love to help and they even come up with their own recipes.  For a while, my son was even insisting on photographing his plate of food before eating!  I think it’s so important to instill the fun of cooking and the habit of healthy eating in kids at a young age.  And when recipes are short and easy, you really can include them.

STT:  How do you test the recipes?

Wona: First, we test the recipes ourselves multiple times, and then the recipes have to be husband- and kid-approved.  Finally, we enlist the help of testers across the country, and our testers include complete novices as well as two trained chefs.  They test to make sure they understand the recipe, can find all the ingredients, and like the results.

STT:  Do you have a favorite recipe from the cookbook? 

Deana:  I think that the Black Bean Soup and the South Seas Chocolate Mousse are my current favorites.  I’m not a huge fan of sweets but I am completely hooked on good dark chocolate.  This mousse is made with light coconut milk, so it’s a lower fat version that tastes so creamy and rich. 

Wona: The 2 recipes my kids ask for over and over are Turkey Chipotle Chili and Spicy Szechuan Tofu (fondly called “Tofu Squares” in our home; I may have misnamed this recipe because it really isn’t spicy — even my 2-year-old gobbles it up).

STT: What’s up next for you? 

Deana: We are really excited about a new website we will launch in a couple of months, where Trader Joe’s fans can exchange their own recipes and share ideas for using their favorite TJ’s items.  They will even be able to print out a master grocery list they can take to TJ’s.  So many people have asked us for a second cookbook, such as a vegetarian cookbook – we’re considering a few different themes.  

Thanks to Deana and Wona for a great interview, and for sharing one of their favorite recipes! 

Chipotle Turkey Chili

On a cold night, warm your body and soul with a big bowl of homemade chili.  Refried beans thicken the chili, giving it long-cooked texture and flavor in just minutes.  Chipotle salsa adds a kick of heat, while a splash of barbecue sauce balances the spice with a touch of smoky sweetness.

1 ¼ lb. ground turkey (one package)
1 medium onion, chopped, or 1 ½ cups bagged Freshly Diced Onions
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1 (28-oz) can Diced Tomatoes
1 (15-oz) can Organic Black Beans
1 (16-oz) can Refried Black Beans or Refried Pinto Beans
½ cup Chipotle Salsa
2 Tbsp barbecue sauce, such as All Natural Barbeque Sauce
Sour cream (optional)
Fancy Shredded Mexican Blend cheese (optional)

  • Heat olive oil in medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook onions 5 minutes. Add ground turkey and cook until brown, breaking it up as it cooks. Add ground cumin and cook 1 minute longer.
  • Add remaining ingredients. Refried beans need to be broken up and stirred into the chili until dissolved.
  • When chili comes to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

•    Garnish with sour cream and cheese.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Hands-off cooking time: 15 minutes
Serves 4


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One Response to “Part 2: The Women Behind “Cooking with Trader Joe’s””

  1. Dara Says:

    Thanks for highlighting this great cookbook!

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