Mar. 6. 2017
Home & Garden
Written By:
McKel (Hill) Kooienga
McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Founder of Nutrition Stripped® and the Mindful Nutrition Method™

Next up in the #NSKitchen, a fun take on the standard fridge tour, is my lovely friend Laura Wright. Laura is a chef and the brains behind the food blog The First Mess where she shares recipes with natural, plant-based foods, mostly from her own garden, and celebrates eating seasonally (two things I’m ALL for!). Laura lives in Ontario, Canada and is launching her first cookbook tomorrow, March 7th. I know how laborious creating a cookbook is so I’m so happy and proud of her for creating such a beautiful book and can’t wait for 1 of you lucky NS’ers to get your hands on it too. Keep reading to get a peek into her kitchen and learn a bit about her food and cooking philosophy. You guys are really going to love this one!

“In this series, I’m sharing the in’s and out’s of kitchens across the globe from fellow registered dietitians, bloggers, to friends. The mission behind the NS Kitchen is to embrace differences and help shine a light on the behind the scenes- we all have different ways of eating well, it’s here on NS that they’ll be celebrated!”

What are your 5 must have items in your fridge at all times? 
1. Greens! I usually have some assortment of kale, arugula, romaine, bibb lettuce, or chard on hand
2. Nut milk, preferably homemade
3. Sauerkraut or some other kind of fermented vegetable mix
4. Maple syrup #SoCanadian
5. Fresh citrus–lemons, limes, blood oranges, tangerines, all of it!
What are your 5 must have items in your freezer at all times? 
1. Frozen berries
2. Frozen bananas
3. Portioned out cooked beans and other pulses. I can’t stand canned beans, so always do a giant batch cook and freeze them in 2 cup portions.
4. Sprouted grain bread like Ezekiel or Silver Hills
5. Raw nuts like cashews, pecans, almonds, walnuts–it extends their shelf life big time.
What about your pantry?
Good quality canned tomatoes (I like the fire-roasted kind), a variety of different oils and vinegars, all the spices, dates, whole grain flours and gluten-free grains like brown basmati rice, quinoa, buckwheat, and rolled/steel-cut oats.
What’s the “weirdest/non-traditional” food item we’d find in your kitchen? 
I usually keep a bottle of that Farmhouse Culture Gut Shot stuff (in the garlic dill pickle flavor) on hand in my fridge. If I start my day with a shot of that and a green juice, you KNOW that I’m in boss mode.
What’s 1 word that describes your kitchen at home? 
What’s your philosophy on cooking?
Make it familiar and wholesome, but always keep the potential elegance and beauty in mind. My end goal is to always gently bring people into the plant-based way of life, and those guiding principles really help.
What’s your fondest or most special memory that took place in the kitchen? 
All of my partner’s and my big “life” talks seem to happen in the kitchen while I’m fixing up dinner or a Sunday breakfast, so it’s hard to pick 😉
If you were on 1 cooking/TV show, what would it be and why? 
The Barefoot Contessa because I just wanna hang out with Ina so bad. “What would Ina do?” is my guiding mantra in life, seriously.
What does nourishment mean to you? 
I think nourishment implies a certain overall satisfaction with life, rather than focusing on just food or a certain dietary way of life. When I listen to my body/intuition and eat what I need in the moment, but also meditate and break a sweat regularly, take screen breaks, talk to a friend, get proper sleep etc., that’s when I feel truly nourished.
You come home from a long day at work/etc.; what’s the first food you reach for in your kitchen? 
Depends what kind of day I’m having! Typically I crave something juicy and hydrating like an orange or a couple wedges of pineapple. But if it’s a rough day, I’m bee-lining for those salty snacks.
Fill in the blank: my kitchen is full of ____
good vibes!
If you were to describe your philosophy about cooking and healthy food in a movie title, what would it be?
“Every Day is Pizza Day if You Believe Hard Enough”
Coffee or tea: I love both.
Green juice or smoothie: Juice–but with a notation that my juice is all greens and vegetables.
Warm cereal or cold: Warm. Porridge is life.
Spicy or sweet: Spicy
Go to snack: Apple slices with almond butter.

What about YOU?

Do you and Laura have any of the same go-to’s? Is there something you think is a necessity for a well-stocked kitchen that we’re missing? Share in the comments so we can chat! And check out Laura’s cookbook which is being released tomorrow, March 7th. It’s truly beautiful and has some amazing recipes, check it out below!

xx McKel

All photos by Laura Wright


Laura’s debut cookbook presents a visually stunning collection of heirloom-quality recipes highlighting the beauty of the seasons. Her 125 produce-forward recipes demonstrate that plant-based wellness is both accessible and delicious. With recipes for every meal of the day, The First Mess Cookbook is a must-have for any home cook looking to prepare nourishing plant-based meals with the best the seasons have to offer.