Spoiled by her mom’s cooking and too tired to cook herself after working all day Yumna Jawad decided after getting married to change all that. Calling her mom—there was no Facetime back then–Jawad would have her stay on the phone and tell her step by step how to make a meal. It took just two weeks and from there Jawad, who moved to Kalamazoo, and now lives in Grand Rapids, used her new skills not only to cook for her family but as a springboard to creating Feel Good Foodie, her healthy, quick, and creative food blog. She also keeps an active Instagram account with three million followers.
I came across her blog when researching healthy recipes since I’ve moved on during the pandemic from trying all those dessert recipes I’ve been clipping and saving for years and was very impressed. Besides recipes, she also offers nutritional information, substitutions, how to videos, how long does it take to make the recipe and links to similar recipes. So I emailed Jawad and she responded within ten minutes even though it was late at night but then judging by how often she updates her blog, she may not sleep much if at all.
It turns out that she worked in Branding and Research & Marketing for consumer packaged foods and the retail food industry and eight years ago began sharing recipes on her Instagram account. She now has over two million followers which is pretty amazing. I have like 2000. Her blog has 400,000 visitors a month. So I asked her why she thought she was so successful.
“When I first started sharing recipes on social media, my photos were all taken on an iPhone and it was always the meals I made that day for myself or my family,” she says. “The food wasn’t styled or edited, but it was easy and approachable. I think it resonated with a lot of people seeking ways to eat healthier that was attainable and easy-to-manage. And when others tried recreating my recipes, they had similar results without ‘Pinterest fails’. That encouraged them to try more and share more, which I believe helped me establish credibility in my brand and recipes. And all of that was before I even knew that I was even building a health and wellness brand.”
The Flavors of the World
Jawad has an international background that adds to the creativity of her recipes. She was born in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo and also lived in Sierra Leone until age 11. When Civil War broke out there, the family moved to Dearborn, Michigan. After marrying, she and her husband, a cardiologist, moved several times as well before ending up in Kalamazoo and now Grand Rapids She first learned to cook traditional Lebanese food but now has exponentially expanded her repertoire but there’s often a Middle East/Mediterranean aspect to her recipes because of their focus on vegetables and healthy ingredients.
Her culinary inspirations, besides her mother include Ina Garten of Barefoot Contessa fame.
“While not all of Ina’s recipes are low calories/low fat, I love her realness, approachability, and passion for cooking,” says Jawad. “She inspires me to be who I am and allow that passion to come through with my recipes without any fluff.”
Curtis Stone is also another food idol because, she says, he is all about eating unprocessed and unpackaged foods as much as possible, which is actually healthier and cheaper.
“This is something that I focus so much on with my wholesome home-cooked meals,” she says.
And because, as the mother of two children, she likes meals that are quick to prepare, she’s a fan of Rachel Ray.
“Rachel rally popularized the idea of 30 minute meals that made home cooking so accessible for so many people; and that is directly in line with my thinking,” says Jawad.
Currently she adds three recipes a week to her blog—meals she’s been making for her family since she learned to cook 12 years ago. Some are inspired by tradition, others by watching cooking shows, reading food magazines, and following social media and focuses on new approaches creating healthy wholesome meals.
“This includes, for example, trends like quinoa crust breadsticks, or cauliflower pizza or sweet potato toast,” says Jawad. “I keep up with the latest trends and test new ideas myself and then add my own twist to them, usually by making the prep easier or by swapping some ingredients to personalize the recipe.”
Recipe Data Base
She’s also adding to the recipe data base on her blog.
For those who wonder how to incorporate new foods into their kitchen repertoire, she has some tips. When she used to discover new produce at farmers’ markets, she’d ask the grower for suggestions. Now, Jawad uses the vegetables or fruits in a way that makes it more connected to what she knows.
“I recommend experimenting with it in a way that you normally eat other similar foods,” she says. “For instance, since rutabaga is a root vegetable, I would prepare it similar in a similar way to other root vegetables by roasting it because I know I would naturally enjoy that more than steaming it. I would also recommend trying something new in smaller quantities and having others to share it with. It makes the process more enjoyable to try a new ingredient or recipe with other taste testers. When it comes to kids, the same advice applies. But also, I strongly recommend having kids help in the purchase and preparation of ingredients. It gets them more excited about what they make because they feel more invested in the process. When all else fails, mask it in a smoothie or blended soup.”
The following recipes are courtesy of Yumna Jawad.
Chicken Lemon Orzo Soup
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 1 onion diced
- 3 large carrots peeled, halved lengthwise and finely sliced
- 3 celery stalks small diced
- 2-3 bay leaves
- 1 Tablespoon butter or olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 3/4 cup orzo pasta
- 1/8 teaspoon turmeric optional
- Juice of 1-2 lemons to taste
- Fresh parsley
Place chicken and scraps from the outer layers and end of the onions, carrots, and celery along with a couple bay leaves in a large stock pot. Add bay leaves and 8-10 cups water and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until chicken is fork-tender, about 30 minutes.
Remove chicken and shred; then strain the chicken broth using a fine-mesh sieve and discard the vegetable scraps and bay leave
Heat oil in the same pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onions, carrots, celery, garlic and cook until tender, about 4-5 minutes. Stir in the shredded chicken, orzo, rosemary, and turmeric (if using). Then return the broth to the stockpot and bring a boil.
Reduce the heat and simmer until the orzo is cooked, about 20 minutes.
Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with fresh parsley or mint, if desired.
Air Fryer Sweet Potato Fries
- 2 medium sweet potatoes peeled
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- Preheat the air fryer to 380°F. Peel the sweet potatoes, then slice each potato into even 1/4 inch thick sticks.
Place the sweet potatoes in a large mixing bowl, and toss with olive oil, salt, garlic powder, paprika and black pepper.
Cook in 2 or 3 batches, depending on the size of your basket without overcrowding the pan until they’re crispy. I recommend 12 minutes, turning halfway. This may vary based on your air fryer.
Serve immediately with your favorite dipping sauce
- 1 cup cooked quinoa
- 2 eggs beaten
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ½ red onion finely chopped
- ½ cup mozzarella cheese
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- Water as needed add moisture
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
For the Avocado Yogurt Dip
- 2 tablespoons cilantro chopped
- ½ cup yogurt
- ½ avocado extra ripe
- Salt and pepper to taste
Combine quinoa, eggs, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir in onions, cheese, garlic, and cilantro. Add the breadcrumbs, stir, and let sit for a few minutes so the crumbs can absorb some of the moisture. Feel free to add water if the mixture feels too dry. Form the mixture into 6-8 patties.
Frying Instructions:Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Place add quinoa on the heated pan, making sure not to overcrowd the pan and cook until the patties are golden color, about 7 – 10 per side minutes.
Baking Instructions:Place the quinoa patties on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush the oil on top of the patties. Bake in a preheated oven at 400°F for 15 minutes, until golden.
To make the avocado yogurt sauce, whisk together the cilantro, avocado and yogurt. Season with salt and pepper and serve with the cooked quinoa patties.
Storage: Store any leftovers in an airtight container. They will last up to 5 days in the fridge.
Freezing Instructions: You can also freeze the patties before or after cooking them.
- To freeze them prior to cooking, lay them on a flat baking dish in the freezer for at least 4 hours. When frozen, place them in an airtight bag. Thaw in the fridge overnight and cook per instructions.
- To freeze them after cooking, simply store them in an airtight bag after they’ve cooled. To re-heat, thaw in the fridge overnight and bake in a 350°F oven until heated through.
Substitutes: For best results, follow the recipe as is. However here are some common substitutes that would work well in this recipe.
- Instead of eggs, you can use a flax eggs. For each regular egg, use 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed + 3 tablespoons water.
- Any type of shredded cheese can be used in place of mozzarella.
- If you prefer not to use breadcrumbs, you can use a gluten-free flour like almond flour or oat flour, or you can also use panko breadcrumbs.
“Satisfy your sweet tooth with a plant-based treat in under 10 minutes,” Jawad says about the following recipe. “3-ingredient chia pudding is the perfect pick-me-up. High in fiber, protein, and healthy fats, this recipe is as good for you as it tastes.”
3-Ingredient Chia Pudding
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
- ½ cup almond milk or milk of choice
- 1 teaspoon honey or other sweetener
- Strawberries, blueberries, or other fruit
Pour all ingredients into a Mason jar and mix well. Let sit for a few minutes and then stir again until it is smooth and there’s no clumping.
Cover the jar and store in the refrigerator for at least two hours.
When you’re ready to eat, top with your favorite fruit and serve.