Hi, thanks for being here! I’m Lauren, the founder and editor-in-chief of Zestful Kitchen. Thanks so much for being here, may we make your day more delicious!
I grew up in the heart of the midwest and home of the Cyclones—Ames, Iowa.
My love for cooking has always been strong, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be in the kitchen, standing on a step stool and begging my mom to let me help. I was even entrusted with a paring knife at age three, but that’s a story for another time.
Cooking for others brings me immense joy, but on a one-on-one level, food and I haven’t always gotten along. As life will do to us all, I was thrown some curveballs in my early college years. To find what I thought was control and solitude, I turned to running and food, which snowballed into a dangerous disease.
Some of the hardest years of my life ensued while I tried navigating back to a “normal” life. As time passed, Zestful Kitchen and working as a server at The Cafe helped me rediscover the delight of cooking and my love for the art.
ZK has changed a lot since the beginning, and although most of the recipes shared here are healthy-ish, there are a fair share of treats as well. What works for me may not work for you, but I believe in—and continually work towards—living a balanced life in all aspects.
I attended Iowa State University where I earned two Bachelor of Science degrees in Culinary Food Science and Journalism and Mass Communications.
While at Iowa State University I was a part of the Food Science Club, was honored as a Cardinal Key Member and was awarded the Distinguished Service Award for the graduating class of 2015.
During my college years I interned for The Soy Foods Council, even competing in a soy foods competition at the Iowa State Fair with my Basil Lime Dressing. I was also one of five Dotdash Meredith Apprentices from ISU and had the privilege of working for Diabetic Living Magazine (which has since folded and is now a part of EatingWell Magazine.)
And finally, I had the immense pleasure of interning with America’s Test Kitchen in Boston Massachusetts for a summer. Since working there I have had the opportunity to write for them occasionally and review some of their cookbooks and recipes.
- Review of The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook and America’s Test Kitchen’s Baked Eggs and Croutons.
- Review of Naturally Sweet Cookbook and America’s Test Kitchens Blueberry-Lemon Tart.
- Review of How to Roast Everything and their Roast Halibut with Red Potatoes, Corn and Andouille.
- Review of America’s Test Kitchen Cooking School and their luscious Chocolate Mousse Recipe.
- Review of The Perfect Cookie Cookbook and their Pumpkin Cookies Recipe.
Throughout my career, I have worked for countless food magazines and in numerous test kitchens including America’s Test Kitchen, Cuisine at Home Magazine and Test Kitchen, and Better Homes and Gardens (DotDash Meredith) Test Kitchen.
(I still write and develop for many leading food publications, check out my list of published work here or keep reading to see the list in its entirety.
I have also written and developed recipe for the likes of Eating Well, Midwest Living, Parents Magazine, Parade, Shape Magazine, Taste of Home, Sir Kensingtons, Pompeian, Simply Organic, Wusthof, Jim Beam, Old Amsterdam, and many more.
I’ve been awarded Better Homes & Gardens Stylemaker for 2021 and 2022 and had the honor of attending the 100th Birthday Celebration for Better Homes and Gardens Magazine.
About My Recipe Development Style
I pride myself on creating recipes that are expertly-tested (tested numerous times), trustworthy, and approachable. I have taken techniques and ideas from every test kitchen I’ve worked in to create a framework and style of development to create recipes you can trust. Learn more about how we develop recipes.
How Zestful Kitchen Came to Be
Zestful Kitchen has morphed and adapted quite a bit since 2014 (!!) when this site was a wee lad making its (sad) debut. I started Zestful Kitchen as a creative outlet and only started taking it seriously in 2016, when I made a commitment to—well—commit to this passion of mine.
Four years of working on Zestful Kitchen at night and during the weekends eventually led to me leaving my full-time Assistant Editor position at Cuisine at Home Magazine and purpusing the website and my freelance food writing and recipe development full-time. Since then, the website has grown to reach hundreds of thousands of readers per month and nearly a hundred thousand followers on social media (including Pinterest, TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Post.News) and email.
Outside the Kitchen
Aside from the food world, I am married to a fellow Midwesterner Greg who is an incredible residential architect and co-business owner of Unfold Architecture. We have a pup named Indiana who begrudgingly has moved all over the country with us over the past few years. Because we both can work remotely, we packed up and sold our house in Des Moines, Iowa and have been trying out different US cities for the past few years. We’ve lived in Austin, TX, Minneapolis, MN, Seattle, WA, and are currently residing in Manhattan near Central Park.
I’m oddly obsessed with CBS This Morning, CBS Sunday Morning and 60 Minutes, my heart will always belong in Northern Minnesota, I can survive off of frozen peas and pickles, and I think whisks are the most gorgeous thing in the world.
If you wonder what I’m cooking today, why I go through so many bags of peas, or just have a general desire to contact me, send an email to lauren@zestfulkitchen(dot)com
List of Features & Published Work
Interviews & Features
- Mixing & Mingling 2022 Holiday Feature with KitchenAid and Taste of Home
- Named a Better Homes & Gardens 2021 Stylemaker
- Taste of Home Holiday Baking 2019 ↠ Personal and Recipe Feature
- Hello Iowa ↠ On-Air Segment ↠ How to Pan-Sear Salmon
- Hello Iowa ↠ On-Air Segment ↠ How to Blacken Fish
- Fresh Pickings Magazine Fall 2020 ↠ featured on cover and in the magazine
- KCCI Iowa News ↠ Apps can make your Thanksgiving meal look picture perfect – November 2018
- Mediacom Smart Home ↠ Fall 2020 (lightreading.com)
- Mediacom Smart Home ↠ Fall 2020 (Oaoa.com)
- Must Love Food ↠ Cuisine at Home Podcast ↠ Summer 2020
- Food Print ↠ Support Farmers’ Market ↠ Summer 2020
- Made in DSM ↠ March 2017
- Young Alumni of the Month – College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Iowa State University ↠ Fall 2017
- Make Des Moines – Justin Salem Meyer Photography Series ↠ November 2017
- Stories in Agriculture & Life Sciences ↠ Creamy Blue Fruit Dip –Fall 2013
- Stories in Agriculture & Life Sciences ↠ Sweet Blue Melon Salad –Fall 2013
America’s Test Kitchen
- Features – Online Cooking School – July 2017
- Features – The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook – April 2017
- Features – Naturally Sweet Cookbook Review – September 2016
- 49 Comforting Noodle Recipes from All Around the World — Winter 2021
- 12 Refreshing as Hell Cocktails You Should be Making This Summer – July 2018
- Fast & fresh Smoothies: Delicious recipes for energy and weight loss – Cherry-Chia Smoothie – June 2016
- Fast & fresh Smoothies: Delicious recipes for energy and weight loss – Mango & Almond Smoothie – June 2016
- Fast & fresh Smoothies: Delicious recipes for energy and weight loss – Pear & Carrot Smoothie – June 2016
- Fast & fresh Smoothies: Delicious recipes for energy and weight loss – Pineapple & Kale Smoothie – June 2016
The Feed Feed
Taste of Home
- How to Make Corn Tortillas – October 2018
- How to Make Southern Bacon Fried Cabbage – March 2019
- Here’s Our Copycat for Applebee’s Beer Cheese – March 2019
- How to Make Chicken Salad—No Mayo Required – April 2019
- How to Make a Rhubarb Gin Cocktail – May 2019
- The Best Summer Beer Recipe for a Crowd – July 2019
- How to Make the Classic Negroni Recipe – May 2019
- How to Make Grilled Shrimp Salad – August 2020
- What is Aioli and How to Make It — Spring 2022
- How to Make Dijon Mustard — Summer 2022
- Strawberry Ice Cream Sandwiches – Summer 2022
- Zucchini Bolognese — Summer 2022
- How to Make a Bourbon Apple Cider Cocktail — Summer 2022
- How to Make Cranberry Margarita for the Holidays — Winter 2023
- How to Make a Cranberry Moscow Mule — Winter 2023
- How to Make Clear Ice — Fall 2022
- How to Make Cheesy Pull-Apart Bread — Winter 2023
- How to Make 4-Ingredient Cheesy Ranch Chicken — Winter 2023
- I Made Julia Child’s Chocolate Mousse and It Blew My Mind — Winter 2023
- We Made The Pioneer Woman Taco Soup Recipe and It’s Mind-Blowingly Simple — Winter 2023
- The Best Formula for Diabetes-Friendly Noodle Soups
- How to Make Easy Meal-Prep Salads for Grab-&-Go Lunches All Week – November 2017
- What to Keep on Hand for Easy 3-Ingredient Fast Dinners from Your Freezer
- The Best Healthy Shortcuts for Quicker, Easier Dinners
- How to Stock Your Fridge & Freezer with 2 Weeks of Meal-Prepped Dinners
- Fig & Walnut Wild Rice Dressing
- Green Bean Casserole Salad
- Garlic-Rosemary Roast Beef with Horseradish Sauce
- Smoky Mashed Sweet Potatoes
- Herb-Roasted Root Vegetables
- Caesar Salad with Cashew Dressing & Crispy Tofu “Croutons”
- Broccolini, Chicken Sausage & Orzo Skillet
Delicious Living Magazine
- 10 Save The-Day Hacks to Ease Your Stress – February 2018
- 5-Minute Wellness For Every Day of The Month – January 2018
- Affordable & Nutritious : 10 Plant-Based Foods with Health Power – September 2017
How to Make Sweet Treats for Kids That Use Less Sugar — August 2018
Diabetic Living Magazine
- One-Pan Chicken Dinners – Summer 2018
- Cooking School: Fish En Papillote – Spring 2018
- Cocktails – Orange Pear-tini – Winter 2016
- Oh, Scrap! – Herb Stems and Celery Leaf Pesto – Fall 2016
- Wasted Department – Oh, Scrap! – Overripe Citrus Vinaigrette – Fall 2016
- Wasted Department – Oh, Scrap! – Spicy Overripe Roasted Salsa – Fall 2016
- Meals in Minutes – Red Pepper Omelet – Spring 2016
- Meals in Minutes – Turkey Spring Rolls – Spring 2016
- Meals in Minutes – Sautéed Chicken and Edamame Salad– Spring 2016
- Protein Spotlight : Shrimp – Citrus Shrimp with Black Rice– Winter 2015
- Protein Spotlight : Shrimp – Shrimp and Cauliflower Bake – Winter 2015
- Protein Spotlight : Shrimp – Shrimp Salad Sandwiches – Winter 2015
- Feature Article – Help! It’s the Holidays – Winter 2015
- Making a Difference Department – Fall 2015
- Feature Article – 6 Weight Loss Traps – Summer 2015
- Eat Take Charge Department – Summer 2015
- Eat Take Charge Department – Microwave Blueberry Cobbler – Summer 2015
- Feature Article – Bag It – Fall 2015
- Making a Difference Department – Summer 2015
Cuisine at Home Magazine
- Crunchy French Toast – October 2016
- Oysters on the Half Shell
- Broiled Cajun Oysters
- Oysters Rockefeller
- Oyster Po’ Boys
- Spanish Meatballs
- Savory Spiced Nuts
- Bulgogi Beef Jerky
- Mini Cheese Crackers
- Fig Red Wine Jam
- Beer Cheese Jalapeño Poppers
- King Crab Legs with Champagne Beurre Blanc
- Pear & Curly Endive Salad with Fennel & Pistachios
- Mini Herbed Potato Soufflés with Creme Fraiche
- Champagne Poached Pears with Dark Chocolate Sabayon & Pistachio Brittle
- Monterey Chicken with Pico de Gallo
- Charred Corn & Black Bean Salad with Avocado
- Grilled Romaine & Chicken Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing
- Classic Pecan Pie with Bourbon
- Southern Veggie Burgers
- California Steak Kabobs with Creamy Chive Sauce
- Monterey Chicken with Pico de Gallo
- Charred Corn & Black Bean Salad
- Swordfish Kebabs with Garlic Parsley Sauce
- Squash Ribbon Salad
- Crispy Brined Salmon with Blackberry Relish
- Hazelnut-Browned Butter Linzer Cookies
- Double Chocolate Waffles with Mocha Maple Syrup
- Baked Popcorn Chicken (recipe development, styling and photography)
- California Frittata (recipe development, styling and photography)
- Indian-Inspired Nicoise Salad (styling and photography)
- Tuna Cakes (styling and photography)
- Steak Fajita Bowls (recipe development, styling and photography)
- Zucchini Boats (recipe development, styling and photography)
- Sheet Pan Chicken Thighs (recipe development, styling and photography)
- Vegetarian Tempeh Reuben (recipe development, styling and photography)
- Vegan Tofu Banh Mi (recipe development, styling and photography)
- Charred Corn & Halloumi Tacos (recipe development, styling and photography)
- Tuna Stuffed Shells (recipe development, styling and photography)
- Easy Salmon Burgers (recipe development, styling and photography)
- Chipotle Tomato Soup (recipe development, styling and photography)
- Grilled Chicken & Arugula Peach Salad (recipe development, styling and photography)
- Grilled Buffalo Cauliflower Steaks (recipe development, styling and photography)
- Korean-Inspired Nachos (recipe development, styling and photography)
- Moroccan Turkey Burgers (recipe development, styling and photography)
- Fish Torta (recipe development, styling and photography)
- Summer Potato Salad (recipe development, styling and photography)
- Grilled Chorizo Sausage Sandwich (recipe development, styling and photography)
- Zucchini Fries with Green Goddess Dipping Sauce (recipe development, styling and photography)
- Polenta Fries with Cheesy Chipotle Dipping Sauce (recipe development, styling and photography)
- Cheesy Skillet Monkey Bread (recipe development, styling, and photography)
- Healthy Breakfast Casserole (recipe development, styling and photography)
- Whole-Wheat Spiced Orange Muffins (recipe development, styling and photography)
- Rise ‘n Shine Open-Faced Breakfast Sandwiches (recipe development, styling and photography)
- Chicken Enchiladas Verde (recipe development, styling and photography)
- Classic Summer Gazpacho (recipe development, styling and photography)
- Skirt Steak with Chimichurri Sauce (styling and photography)
- Marinated Summer Squash (styling and photography)
- Asparagus, Fingerling, and “Melted Shallot” Frittata (styling and photography)
- Baked Chicken Parmesan (recipe development, styling and photography)
- Mediterranean Tuna Salad (recipe development, styling and photography)
- Easy Moroccan Carrots (styling and photography)
- Avocado Cilantro Black Bean Hummus (styling and photography)
- Lemon-Ginger Vinaigrette
- Lightened-Up Curried Chicken Salad Wrap
- Cajun-Inspired Shrimp Skewers with Turmeric-Bay Cauliflower Rice
- Fresh Spring Roll Bowl with Ginger-Peanut Sauce
- Spring Asparagus and Ham Frittata with Turmeric and Tarragon
- Grilled Tandoori Spiced Chicken with Naan
- Lemon and Black Pepper Salmon Bowl with Green Goddess Sauce
- One-Pan Shrimp and Vegetable Skillet with Dill
- Savory Spiced Quinoa & Chickpea Breakfast Bowl
The Soy Foods Council
Want to work together?
Check out my list of services or check out my list of published work.
Drop me a line when you are ready to chat.