Ree Dolnick has created a whole range of healthful cookies and energy bars that nourish both your body and spirit. In this interview, she talks about why it’s important to get kids involved in the kitchen and cooking with love.
Q: What is your own favorite personal family kitchen memory?
A: Oh, boy, there's so many. I was always in the kitchen as a kid. I do have a distinct memory of this one time my mom was trying to make kimchi - that’s spicy pickled cabbage if you’re not familiar with Korean food.
There was always this big production whenever Mom was getting ready to make kimchi. She'd try to shoo me away and I'd just kept getting in the way. She finally gave up and let me help out with mixing peppers and things. I can’t remember how the kimchi turned out, but I do know that I made such a big mess. My whole family laughs about that now, but I think the excitement of being active in the cooking process stuck with me.
Q: What's your favorite recipe to cook with kids and family members outside of the Jeca products, of course?
A: With my daughter, one of the first things that we made together were little cutout cookies. I would make the dough and she always had fun punching out the different shapes and figurines. That's always easy and fun with kids. As she got older, I think what I enjoyed most with her was actually involving her in the entire process of cooking - going shopping and picking out really fresh produce, bringing it back home and showing her the best ways to cut or peel or prepare ingredients, and all the while talking to her about how to combine different flavors and spices, and what goes with what. I felt happy being able to share my experience with her, I think she learned a lot, and it was a really wonderful way for us to spend time together.
Q: That time was so important to you, in fact, that there's a bit of a story behind the name Jeca, isn’t there?
A: Right. My daughter, Jessica, she represents everything that's good, and pure, and honest in my life. So I used her childhood nickname as inspiration because I wanted the company to be a manifestation of my love for her and how I want only goodness and health for her in her own life. So the name is an indication not only of what the product means to me but also symbolic of what we stand for and the values we wish to promote.
Q: Jeca Bars and Cookies are made with love. That's an actual ingredient that's put in them. Finally, what are some general words of wisdom you'd like to pass on to busy working parents trying to balance work life and healthy food?
A: Wow, I can’t claim any great wisdom, but I can definitely relate to the difficulties of being a working parent. I know what it’s like to work full-time, and also to be taking care of family - the struggle of assembling a healthy meal for the ones you love even when you’re just so exhausted. It’s hard, but I think the key is to try to plan ahead of time and make sure you have the right ingredients available.
There are all kinds of strategies - cooking on weekends for the whole week, making crockpot meals in the morning so it’s ready to go for dinner, learning which vegetables you can stir-fry in just minutes and throw together with some brown rice - I would recommend experimenting to see what works best for you. Getting everybody involved in the preparation is also a great way to spend some family time together..