Welcome to the September Lo Down, Zestful Kitchen’s monthly newsletter! (Don’t want to wait until the end of the month to read the Lo Down? Subscribe today and get it sent right to your inbox at the beginning of the month!)

I’m excited and so glad you’re here because I have some big news to share with you.

For the past 2½ years I’ve been working for Cuisine at Home magazine as an Assistant Editor, researching and developing recipes, writing and editing articles, running their social media, and helping to run Cuisine’s website. If you aren’t familiar with Cuisine at Home, it’s a food and recipe magazine designed for the cooking enthusiast.

Graduating college with degrees in both Culinary Food Science and Journalism, this job truly married my two passions of cooking and writing. For all intents and purposes, this was the dream job.

Cuisine has challenged, pushed, and taught me to be a better recipe developer and food critic, which has proven to be both a blessing and a curse. It has taught me to trust my instincts, question the status quo, and to own my experiences and knowledge.

Aside from working at Cuisine full time, over the past few years, I have worked and taught myself to be a better photographer, business owner, freelancer, and blogger.

I’ve taken classes and watched tutorials, spent countless hours photographing muffins and soups, tried, failed, and tried again to code parts of my website, have learned to stand up for the value of my work, and most of all have learned that this passion of mine is not going away anytime soon.

Woman standing next to a tall desk with a computer and a book.

These past few months my freelance work has slowly increased to the point where I can’t physically take on any more, which is a good problem to have, but free time has become nonexistent at times.

With weeknights and weekends filled with work, there has been very little time for building friendships and relationships, or simply taking a few minutes to myself. Or even just a haircut, I really need a haircut.

After much thought and a lot of questioning, I have finally made the decision to leave Cuisine at Home and dive into freelancing and blogging full time. And although Zestful Kitchen is still pretty small, my hope is that it will only continue to grow.

Starting out, most of my day-to-day work with be freelance recipe development, writing, and photography as well some sporadic ad work thrown in here and there.

I’ve said it more than a few times, but I’m excited, sad, scared, and nervous all at the same time. But if there’s any time to try this, it feels like it’s now.

Aside from all that, you can expect to see a few small changes on Zestful Kitchen over the next few months. Nothing big, just a slight shift in focus. The style of recipes will stay the same, wholesome and seasonal. But after being in the food magazine industry for a few years now—and being the hospitable midwesterner that I am—ZK will be shifting its mission towards helping you come up with wholesome, seasonal menus.

No worries, you can still expect brand new recipes, probably even more, they’ll just designed to be apart of a menu. Whether you’re throwing a small gathering, putting together a casual dinner party, planning for a holiday, for staying in for date night, Zestful Kitchen will be your go-to site for planning a menu that tastes as good as it makes you and your guests feel.

Because entertaining or enjoying the holidays shouldn’t mean eating food that doesn’t leave us feeling nourished. The bottom line, wholesome food can be worthy of celebrating.

That being said, if there’s ever an event or instance that your looking for a menu, don’t hesitate to reach out!

Lastly, I want to thank you for following along with me and Zestful Kitchen. I’m excited to get to work and to continue growing my small business. This feels like a huge leap, a scary one at best, but I’m very excited for what lies ahead.

Now, let’s get to it, shall we?

Applesauce in a metal cup with a large jar of applesauce in the background

This month’s recipe for Cooks’ Emporium was a classic recipe for Classic Homemade Applesauce. And I have to tell you, I’ve already made two batches of this for snacks / dessert.

It’s a great go-to when you want something sweet, but healthy. It’s naturally sweetened and classically spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg, which makes for a healthy treat that offers a bit of nostalgia, too.

What I’m reading:

Book: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life By Mark Manson

I’ve always been curious about this book and after our friend Nick said he had enjoyed it, I finally decided to give it a read. I’m not even close to finishing, and sometimes Manson is a bit brash (what do you expect when the title has f*ck in it?), but I find a lot of his messages in the book to be incredibly refreshing. Manson’s no-BS style of encouragement to own who you are and what you are passionate about is undeniably empowering.

If you’re someone who, more often than not, cares too much about what people think of them, then this might be a good book to pick up. However, if you’re easily offended by swearing, it may not be the read for you. Just a fair warning

What I’m listening to:

Artist: Matilda by Elizabeth Moen

A few weeks ago I was listening to NPR while driving to the grocery store (for the 3rd time in one day). My attention was immediately grabbed by the song playing, and for the first time since owning an iPhone (hard to believe there was a pre-iPhone time) I made use of Siri. I asked Siri who the artist was three times before coming to the conclusion that she (he?) seemed pretty trustworthy.

Ten minutes after getting home from the store and I had already listened to 3 or 4 other songs by Elizabeth Moen. Matilda, the original song I heard on NPR is still one of my favorites. And her music varies from album to album, but I love a lot of it. She has great vocals, is easy to listen to, and mildly folksy at times.

 What I’m snacking on:

RXBAR Kids Bar

In the debut Lo Down newsletter a few months ago, I shared a list of the Healthiest Granola Bars you can buy. RXBAR topped the list, but working at a food magazine and attending taste panels every half hour (or so it felt), well, you just rarely need a snack. At the very least you don’t need a bar that could potentially replace a meal, or part of one.

So for the days when taste panels were more infrequent, I started to keep the Kids RXBARs on hand. Made with the same wholesome ingredients as their larger, more mature counterpart, the smaller, tyke-sized bars were perfect. Whether traveling, heading to the gym, or simply having a late morning or lull, these bars are the perfect size.

What I’m lovin’ in my kitchen:

Instant Pot

OK, I know I’m late to the party, and I don’t even own one yet (thank you Nick for always letting me borrow it). But I recently developed a few recipes for EatingWell using the Instant Pot, and holy smokes. So freaking easy, so freaking quick, and if you do it right, so freaking good! I don’t care what you celebrate, put this on your wish list. You won’t regret it.

Speaking of EatingWell…I recently developed a few 3-ingredient dinner recipes for their site. Yes, 3 ingredients is all you need to get a unique, wholesome and satisfying dinner on the table.

This 3-ingredient Shakshuka (or eggs baked in tomato sauce) recipe is one of my favorites.

Baked eggs in tomato sauce in a cast-iron skillet.

A quick note on the Lo Down: If you want to receive the Monthly Lo Down in your inbox and at the beginning of the month be sure to subscribe to the newsletter! Either way, I’m glad you’re here! I hope you enjoy this month’s Lo Down.

This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting all things ZK! 

Share it with the world


About The Author

Lauren Grant is a professional culinary food scientist, food writer, recipe developer, and food photographer. Lauren is a previous magazine editor and test kitchen developer and has had work published in major national publications including Diabetic Living Magazine, Midwest Living Magazine, Cuisine at Home Magazine, EatingWell.com, AmericasTestKitchen.com, and more.

Learn More

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *