About the Blog

Cooking Up An Idea
Yesterday, as I was cutting carrots for a squash soup, a thought came to me. You can probably relate– the big ideas just come at unexpected times, when there is open space. A day earlier I attended my two year old’s early childhood class (ECFE). The parent discussion topic of the day was eating and nutrition. Almost everyone in the room spoke and I’m sure we could have continued talking for a couple of more hours, maybe days!

As I was chopping the next day, there was actually time for my mind to wander as my 5 year old and 2 ½ year old played contently in the next room. I LOVE food (something that has evolved over time and I’ll explore this further in different posts), and so does my husband! It is a lot of what brought us together. On one of our first dates Pete made me an amazing Amatriciana sauce served over pasta. I knew with the first bite, that he had found his way to my heart (and my stomach). Soon after I made him a delectable dish of eggplant parmesan, if I say so myself. Over the next 16 years, the explorations of tastes have never stopped. It often seems our days and life revolve around food and a zest for healthy eating is rubbing off on our kids. Almost daily, my five-year old son asks what are we going to have for dinner, and tomorrow, and the day after that?

As I was at ECFE and listened to all of our questions and concerns about eating, it got my head spinning. As I thought more, other questions came to mind, like: Why do we eat what eat? With the bombardment of media and onslaught need for convenience, what are ways to get back to the basics while preparing REAL, yet simple and nutritious food? How can we use food to address some of the health issues we currently are facing as a nation? How do we develop a hunger for nutritious foods for our children? The concept of a blog began forming as I thought more about some dietary changes we have made in the last several years: more organic, more local, less processed foods, no peanuts/tree nuts, an egg allergy, a reduction in gluten, lots of vegetables from the brassica family, all while creatively preparing foods that bring magic to our mouths, heart and soul.

What Will the Blog Be? A Way To:
Share what is working for us and what we continue to work on

Discuss ways to introduce variety and create a love of food

Create delicious meals to fit dietary restrictions: Peanut/Nut Free, Limited Egg & Gluten

Provide ideas for SIMPLE, DELICIOUS, HEALTHY meals, or as I like to think of it, well-balanced days/blended into well-balanced weeks

Explore foods ability to imprint our lives: memories, sensory, & connections with others

Include an educational component – expose different cultures; tie to books/activities for kids; healthy, local, organic eating while keeping it simple/back to basics

Explore ways to impact a community through food

Share organizational tips and tools for meal planning and grocery shopping

Discuss how to involve the kids, including gardening

Discover additional ways to make mealtime prep fun and not a chore

Remember the simple joys, laughter and fun we have during mealtime…which will be a keepsake for the future

A Little More History
My name is Renee Willesmsen and lots of thoughts have been spinning in my head lately. 2010 marked my 40th birthday milestone and thoughts about the next chapter of my life are prevalent. My husband, Pete, and I also celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary this year; major life-changing experiences seem to occur in multiples for us and in multiples of five. After graduating from college, I worked in marketing research (with a few other stints in between); fell in love and married my husband in Iowa City, Iowa; attended graduate school at the University of Iowa; and then at the age of 30 found my way to an educational organization called Utah Education Network (www.uen.org).

In the summer of 2000, we packed our belongings and drove across the country to Salt Lake City where we lived for five years. My husband decided to accept a post-doctorate position at the University of Utah, after I inquired if he might have any opportunities in Salt Lake City. Long story short, I thought I was going to pursue an opportunity at Sundance Catalog, but the company experienced organizational changes and I learned after arriving in SLC that it was not to be. After some soul searching and redirection, I began working at UEN. It was an incredible job and we had great fun exploring the statewide outdoor activities and eating our way through the restaurants in SLC. We even were part of several groups that cooked up some pretty amazing dinners and conversations!

Sprouting the Beans
2005 was filled with more life-changing experiences!! My husband was now working as a Research Professor at U of U, but it was soft money, and it was time to search for a tenure-track position. Just shortly after the arrival of our son, in February 2005, Pete accepted a position at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, Minnesota campus. For Pete, it had been a childhood dream to live in Northern Minnesota. It took a little more time for me to be part of that same “dream.” In fact, Pete had interviewed there once before (we ended up in SLC instead). In 2005, the time seemed right and we arrived in time to enjoy Duluth’s beautiful summer. I was fortunate to continue working for UEN and moved into a grant writing position and began telecommuting.

In June 2007, our daughter peacefully came into our arms. After taking a three month maternity leave, I continued working for UEN. But by the summer of 2008, I made a decision to take a break from working outside of the home. A series of health issues (some known others lying below the surface), limited sleep, and undiagnosed food allergies with our daughter led to the decision for a change. During the last year and a half, our little beans have continued to blossom along with our family’s passion for food. It is a journey I call… Sprouting the Beans, and there are so many more adventures to come.

Current Blog Format

Weekly Menu
Section to Aid With Weekly Menu Planning: More T.B.A.

Community Corner – Pass it On!
Stories, ideas and projects that center around food and its positive impact on a community

The Sprouts
Educational section including tips for food-related activities, books, & gardening

Brassy Brassicas
Ideas for incorporating more of the brassica family vegetables into your diet and the many benefits provided: arugula, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, Chinese broccoli, kale, radish, rutabaga, watercress

Throughout the blog, I’ll refer to my little beans using the nicknames they have given each other: O and Skoogie. I look forward to sharing this journey with you and hope we can learn together along the way.

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