Pad Thai

I LOVE Pad Thai. 

The fact that Jen Haugen, RDN, LD, School Nutrition RD and Chief Blogger at Down-to-Earth Dietitian, sent me a photo and link to her Perfect Pad Thai recipe made me smile.   Jen and I met a few years ago–I honestly can’t exactly remember how or where-but I knew I liked her instantly. Maybe it’s because she’s from Minnesota. Maybe it’s because she was championing a garden-in-every-store project at her former job as a Supermarket Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist.  Maybe it’s because her recipes are uncomplicated and are totally do-able for busy moms trying to feed their family healthfully.

I KNEW she was solid when I saw this: 

A TedxTalk? 

Guts, right? Amen, right? Go Jen, right? 

Want to see what else she’s all about? Check her out here: and Facebook: Jen Haugen RD.

After that lengthy intro, here’s our interview….

Where do you shop for food?

In the summer, I shop in my garden!  I also order a weekly CSA box from a local farmer/grower, and supplement with supermarket stops and even a frozen food delivery service for high quality frozen fruits and vegetables (and ice cream!)

Do you love food shopping or dread it? Why?

Somewhere in the middle – I used to like it more but after being in the supermarket every day for 6 years, I think I just like to get in and get out at this point!  My husband is a great shopper as long as I give him an aisle by aisle list of things we need.

What is the single most important thing on your mind when you are shopping for food?

Quality – nothing perturbs me more as a shopper than poor quality produce or expired food on the shelves.  Price is important too. 

How many do you shop for? Ages?

4 in my family – my husband, myself and our two kids, Riley, age 11 and Emma, age 9.  

How do you plan your weekly meals? Create a spreadsheet or fly by the seat of your pants?

I may be crazy, but I’m working on a yearly meal plan with seasonality.  Rallying up our favorite recipes and incorporating seasonal produce – I think I’m inspired by all the planning that goes into the school menus!  I like writing and visual ways of seeing things, so I plan to put this all in a scrapbook of sorts.


What is the most coveted food in the fridge right now for each member of the household? Why?

My husband – smoothie ingredients (yogurt, fruit juice puree)

Son – ham and bacon  – he loves ham sandwiches on fresh baked buns

Daughter – chocolate milk (she’s also a Milk Maid – an advocate for dairy)

Me – fresh fruits and vegetables, so we can have them with each meal

Do you believe in leftovers? 

I live for leftovers!  Thursday nights tend to be leftover nights in our house – a great way to use up everything from the week before the weekend.  I even like to eat some leftovers at breakfast – a bowl of chili, meatballs and mashed potatoes, I guess I like savory!

What convenience product can you not live without?

Taco seasoning – Tuesdays are Mexican night and a lot of times that means tacos!

What brands do you swear by? Why?

We love Chobani yogurt – we’ve tried a lot of the others!  And we love Cabot cheese, Welch’s grape juice, Tropicana orange juice and products like Bolthouse Farms/Naked Juice for smoothies.  You can find these in our frig all the time.


fridge door

What food/s are important when recalling food memories?

Picking apples from the tree and eating fresh apple pie, picking vegetables from our family’s garden and strawberry picking.  I also loved making cookies with my mom as a young girl.

How have your cooking/shopping habits changed over the last 10 years?

I am smarter – I stick with brands my family loves, I don’t get caught up in the hype of what’s trendy unless the science is there to back it up.

What are your go to food/nutrition/culinary/cooking website, book or cookbook?

My mom gave me a cookbook at my bridal shower with all of my favorite recipes as a child – that’s something I take out a lot.  And I like “best” recipes, so I rely on America’s Test Kitchen cookbooks.

What was the last meal you cooked from scratch? What was the menu?

Homemade chili in the crockpot with cornbread and a strawberry banana smoothie.

What words of wisdom or advice do you have for other folks who are doing their best every day to fill the fridge?

Keep your fruits and vegetables at eye level in the refrigerator so you won’t forget about them.  Make sure they are user-friendly – cut them up right when you get home from the grocery store.  And stock your freezer with them too.  Also, get to know a brand, what it stands for and what they value by checking out their website, their YouTube channel, their social media pages and reading a little more.  It can tell you a lot about the food they produce.

  What are you working on these days that you’d like to tell us about?

I’m working on a project to help moms plant gardens with their kids by giving them tips on what to plant, how to do that and what to do with it when it’s ready to harvest.  I’m thinking of turning it into a monthly feature on my website.


Thanks, Jen. Let us know when that garden feature starts! 


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