Oct. 21. 2015
Good Vibes Articles
McKel (Hill) Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel (Hill) Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Dietitian, Founder

I’m happy to share an interview with Dana (and John), the duo behind Minimalist Baker.

Together, they create vegan comfort food for everyone to enjoy, with their colorful photos they’re bound to get you in the kitchen! If you’re new to Minimalist Baker, Dana and John are a couple living in Portland Oregon and have a mutual love of all things food! They’ve built an amazing blog full of recipes from nachos, hearty stews, smoothies, ice cream, coffee milkshakes, and so many more goodies; every time I see a new recipe of theirs I immediately want to try it. Dana answers and shares with us her favorite foods, what she does when life get’s challenging, how they started the blog, and dreams for the future.



  • Dana Shultz
  • John Shultz

If someone were to ask you what you “do”, what would you say?

  • I’m a food blogger and photographer. For people who don’t understand that, we just say that we ‘eBay.’ That usually gets some laughs (or weird looks).

If you can, in two sentences how would you describe your philosophy about food and living well?

  • Eat whole foods, not too much, and indulge occasionally.

Tell us about your health and wellness journey, how did you get started creating your passion into this career?

  • I was raised by very healthy, active parents who fed me well and demonstrated the importance of exercise. My default has pretty much become eating well and working out almost every day. Otherwise, I don’t feel like myself. As far as diet goes, I was lactose intolerant growing up, and it presented itself again in my mid-20s, so I’ve been off dairy for several years now. That big dietary change led to my experimentation with dairy-free (and later egg-free) baking and cooking, which later shaped my focus for the recipes on Minimalist Baker.

What’s your favorite quote or mantra you can’t live without?

  • It’s so overused, but, “Life is short.” It helps me appreciate the little things in life I would otherwise overlook, and to remember to be grateful. It’s an especially good motivator when I am feeling afraid of taking risks. Life is short, what’s there to lose?

Where do you draw most inspiration? Who? What?

  • Hmm, that’s a hard one. I’d have to say food itself. I’m so inspired by what’s in season – the colors, the smells, the shapes. My mind runs a little wild with recipe ideas when I’m walking around a farmers market. Sometimes I think if I wasn’t making recipes for the blog, I’d probably just photograph grapes and apples all day. Food is so beautiful on its own.

Picture this, you’re living your most perfect day- what does this look like?

  • Wake up at 7:30, go for a run, shower, have hot lemon water, read a little, get ready, make breakfast, work a little, go for a walk, grab coffee with John, eat something for dinner, watch something on Netflix, fall asleep on the couch with a glass of wine.

It’s not always an easy road, can you tell us about challenges that occur and how you deal with them or stress?

  • It’s so important to have someone you can trust to talk to on your journey, whether that’s healthy eating, blogging, or your career. I’m so thankful to have John to talk everything over with, to commiserate with when problems arise, or to just lean on when I’m having a particularly rough day. Find someone you can confide in – that’s my best advice. It doesn’t have to be a business partner. It could be your mom or a close friend or a coworker. Share your feelings, struggles, and ideas with that person often. In my experience, having someone to hold me accountable and cheer me along has been the thing that’s helped me stay true to myself, overcome challenges, and keep the bigger picture in mind.

What was the biggest game changer that turned your blog into a career?

  • Probably when we started selling products. Before that, we were basically working for free.

What’s your typical meal for…

  • First thing upon waking: Hot lemon water with ginger
  • Morning: Hummus, roasted vegetables + potatoes, a green smoothie, almond butter toast, and sometimes an egg.
  • Lunch: Something I’ve made for the blog. Otherwise a salad or veggie sandwich.
  • Supper: Pad Thai or tacos.
  • Snacks or sweets: My favorite snack is a spoonful of almond butter dipped in roasted unsalted sunflower seeds. My favorite sweet is a square of vegan dark chocolate.
  • Favorite beverage: Coffee.

If you could pick one meal to eat over and over again, what would it be?

  • Chipotle veggie burrito bowl with so much guac and chips.

What’s the one item that’s always on your grocery/market list?

  • Bananas. Oh dear, do I eat bananas.

Living well isn’t just about nourishment of food, it’s also about managing stress, sleeping well, and exercise. What’s your typical…

  • Exercise routine you can’t live without: Running, 2-4 miles three times a week.
  • Way to decompress from a busy day: Reading a magazine, going for a walk, or having some wine.
  • Favorite bedtime ritual: A mini facial – cleanse, exfoliate, mask, moisturize.

Beauty talk, what’s your…

  • Beauty and skin routine look like: I’ve gone pretty natural lately. I use manuka honey as a face cleanser morning and night, witch hazel as a toner, an SPF + grapeseed oil as a moisturizer, and a simple chapstick on my lips. I wear a little makeup, but try to keep it natural. To remove makeup, I use an organic cleansing balm by Boots Botanics and a hot washcloth.
  • Your ultimate self-care tip: Sleep at least 8 hours, not too much sugar or alcohol, lots of water.
  • Your secret (not so secret anymore) beauty tip: Find a good concealer – it makes life more bearable.

What makes you laugh, smile, and be joyful?

  • John – everything he does lights me up. He’s such a clown. Living and working with him is like living in a comedy hour. I’m constantly entertained.

Do you have advice, personal tips, tricks to living well and whole that you can share?

  • Listen to your body and treat it as best you can every day. Don’t follow diet “trends” or someone else’s advice for your health. I think if we’re honest, we already know what we need to do to be our best selves, we just so often get in the way.

Saving the big one for last, where do you see yourself in the next 2-3 years? Any big plans you want to share!

  • Hmm, probably still blogging! I truly do love it. But perhaps I’ll be doing something in addition to Minimalist Baker. I’ve always loved beauty and am getting more interested in the natural side of makeup and skincare. If I were to guess, I’d say something in that realm.

I hope you all enjoyed this interview with the duo behind Minimalist Baker, you can check out their blog and instagram for more! Your turn: I want to hear from you who you’d like to see featured on Nutrition Stripped next, share below! 

xx McKel

Photography Whitney Knutson