We were wowed by Danielle’s Rhubarb Scones recipe in 2014 and have since fallen in love with her creative, healthy approach to recipe creation. As a registered dietitian, we know we can count on her for recipes that are full of whole grains, fresh ingredients and flavor.
Taste of Home: Tell us a little about you. Where do you live, what do you do when you’re not cooking, and who’s in your family?
Danielle Lee: I live outside Pittsburgh in a quaint little town. You can walk to multiple local restaurants and cute coffee shops. You literally do not have to leave the town on the weekend. It is a very friendly neighborhood, with a local farmers market on Saturdays. I love to walk there and pick up local finds: fresh mushrooms, leafy greens, ramps and apples. Yum! My boyfriend and I stop there weekly. We plan our menu based on what’s in season.
TOH: How did your love of cooking get started? Was there someone in your life who taught you?
DL: I always attribute my love for food to my grandparents. They taught me how to appreciate gardening and all the fresh, tasty food it produces. My grandma Harper was always making zucchini treats with her harvest. She even made a mock apple pie with the zucchini. She loved to can pickles, peppers and dilly beans. I always helped her can jam with fresh fruits.
My mom played a role, too! She always received Taste of Home magazine and I loved to sit and read through them, looking for new dishes to try. As I got older, I would just try new recipes when I had the ingredients.
TOH: What inspires you to cook?
DL: I get my inspiration from the many fresh ingredients available at the store and local markets. Plus, I love reading food magazines and articles about food. I like to pick whatever looks best at the farmers market or at my favorite grocery stores, then go home and whip up something delicious.
Trying out new restaurants when I travel is super fun, too! My boyfriend and I went to Florence last November. There we would eat something wonderful at restaurant; then go to the local market and purchase similar ingredients to try and re-create what we had eaten. We love to cook and experiment in the kitchen together to create something yummy.
(What a coincidence, Danielle—we love copycat recipes, too!)
TOH: What is your favorite cooking method and why?
DL: Hands down, I love to bake. My oven and Kitchen Aid mixer are my best buds. Baking bread is one of favorite pastimes. There is nothing quite like the smell of fresh bread baking in a warm, cozy kitchen. Everyone in my family loves bread, especially my dad, so I always make extra just for him. Plus, bread goes with everything.
My favorite recipe is definitely the crusty bread recipe from Taste of Home. I love how versatile it is! You can make it as written or add in any number of extra flavors. It is by far my most requested recipe.
TOH: What kitchen gadget do you reach for most frequently?
I’d have to say my Kitchen aid mixer or my Vitamix blender. I love that Kitchen Aid has so many attachments. I love them all, from the veggie spiralizer to the ice cream maker. I would say I use the traditional attachments most often though. Believe it or not, I have 10 bowls and lids just for my mixer! No joke. I make a lot of cupcakes and cakes and all those bowls come in super handy. I love my Vitamix for my daily protein shakes. It’s also great for grinding nuts for fresh nut flour to make macrons. Makes the whole process much easier.
TOH: What recipe do you get asked to make the most?
Oh my, this is tough! Probably my own Rhubarb Cinnamon Vanilla Jam Recipe. The recipe is really special because my grandpa grows the rhubarb in his garden for me. He just turned 89 in April and still keeps up with his garden and orchard.
(Be sure to check out our 5-star rated Strawberry Rhubarb Jam in the spring. We think you’ll love it.)
TOH: What’s your favorite recipe?
My mom’s peanut butter pie, for sure. She makes a no-bake cookie crust using my grandma’s cookie recipe and fills it with a dreamy, creamy peanut butter mixture. I ask for on my birthday every year. Her recipe was inspired by a pie at one of our favorite restaurants in Mercer, Pennsylvania. I’ve tried to get the recipe from her but my mom keeps it top-secret. It took me seven years just to get her macaroni salad recipe (complete with secret ingredients). She is an amazing cook! I’ve been blessed to learn so much from her over the years.
TOH: On the nights you don’t want to cook, what’s your go-to takeout fave?
DL: I hate to say, I don’t really like takeout. Instead, I’ll just have the occasional steamed veggies with steamed tofu for a quick dinner. I just find it more fun and quick to make things at home (and my fridge is always full). I do a lot of meal prep on the weekend I’m ready for whatever the week brings. That helps me pack healthy lunches as well as make dinner at home all week.
(Check out these ingenious meal prep products to help tackle all that work!)
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