By Maggie Creamer / News-Sentinel Staff Writer – Bea Ahbeck/Photographer
When nutritionist Timaree Hagenburger sat down to work on her first cookbook, her mind wandered from seasonal, fresh California cuisine, to the rich flavors of Italian cooking to enjoying dessert for breakfast.
Having written recipes since she was a child, Hagenburger has conquered many different cuisines while putting her own healthy spin and staying true to her “love the food that loves you back” philosophy. With so many options, she struggled with narrowing it down for a book.
While talking about her challenge at the gym, her friend suggested the answer. She wanted to know what Hagenburger cooks after a full day of work that her husband Scot, son Austin, 12, and daughter Mia, 9, would eat.
The result is “The Foodie Bar Way: One meal. Lots of options. Everyone’s Happy,” a cookbook with 94 recipes to create 32 different foodie bars where every one choose what they want to put on their meal.
“Everyone is eating the same thing, but it’s build-your-own with your own personal likes and dislikes,” Hagenburger, who is known as the Nutrition Professor said. “It meets people where they are no matter how adventurous or picky they are.”
From a granola bar to a loaded potato bar to a kale chips bar, the book covers every meal and snack options. Within each bar, there are basic instructions and a few more advanced options. Each includes recipes of different items you can make to put with a bar.
For example, the Mediterranean Fajita Bar includes the basics: Corn tortillas, store-bought hummus, grilled veggies and fresh greens, and her recipe for Italian seasoning.
Then, for the more advanced bar, she provides recipes for more than a dozen dishes, including garlic mushrooms, homemade hummus, two-minute boiled asparagus, pickled onions, vegan feta cheese, creamy Italian dressing and baked sweet potato fries.
Even though her job centers around creating delicious, healthy recipes and she loves to cook, Hagenburger said nutritionists still hit the same problems other families experience.
“This is how I make it through having way too many jobs and wanting my kids to have the best food possible,” she said. “This gives everyone options. If you make a casserole, someone is not going to eat it; even if they liked it the week before, they aren’t going to like it this week.”
Shaping of a lifestyle
Growing up, Hagenburger’s mom was a dietitian and she often cooked with her two grandmothers, Nonna and Gram Crax. They both used food as a way to express love.
“I was always trying to have them make healthier versions of what they were making,” Hagenburger said.
She decided to turn her passion into a career and pursued her bachelor’s degree in nutritional science from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and then got her master’s degree in public health from University of California, Los Angeles.
The registered dietitian is now a professional speaker, works with corporate wellness clients and is a monthly columnist for the News-Sentinel.
She especially enjoys her job as a nutrition professor at Cosumnes River College, where she gets to help students see the benefits of eating healthy.
She talks with them about the importance of avoiding oil and sugar, two things that do not appear in her cookbook.
“Students just feel better in their own skin. They tell me, ‘I feel better just being me,’” she said.
Working with students greatly influenced the cookbook because she said many of them grew up on processed, pre-packaged foods, like Top Ramen and Cheetos.
“I’m always thinking about my students who are coming from a place of a lack of confidence in the kitchen,” she said. “Their parents didn’t cook, so we are two generations out. They are the generation that grew up on Pop-Tarts.”
At the front of the book, Hagenburger takes some of the uncertainty out of cooking with reference sheets. There’s a section on setting up a kitchen for regular cooking, when to get fresh versus frozen, how to pick out a knife and use it and a section on how to make produce last longer that starts with apples and ends with zucchini.
She also strived to include recipes that are perfect for weekday or weekend meals.
Breakfast can be an Oatmeal Bar, meal choices include the Burrito Bar or Asian Un-fried Rice Bar, snacks can be the Banana Bread Snack Cake Bar or the Popsicle Bar and desserts include the Dessert Nacho Bar or the Refreshing Fruit Soup Bar.
There are even drink bars for smoothies or flavored water.
Ideas take off
For CSU Chico student, Makayla Hopkins, Hagenburger changed not only how she eats, but her entire career path.
Hopkins used to be 120 pounds overweight. When she moved to Berkeley, she was able to get back to a healthy weight with diet and exercise.
When she moved back to Sacramento, she decided to take a nutrition course to help with her horticulture studies. She discovered her true love was nutrition and became a vegan after learning all the benefits of plant-based nutrition.
“I had heard of vegetarian but I didn’t know what vegan was,”Hopkins said. “While taking her class, I started cooking more and realized I actually knew how to cook.”
Hopkins is now studying nutrition food science with an emphasis on sports nutrition.
As a vegan, Hopkins said the cookbook has given her options to share meals with others and also make large portions that she can eat throughout the week.
“What I enjoy most about her recipes is they are so simple,” she said. “Anyone, even if they are not vegan, will enjoy them. They are packed with flavor and very affordable.”
As a mom of two teenagers, Woodbridge resident Anita Robbins said it can be hard to get them to try fruits and vegetables. Robbins took one of Hagenburger’s classes she teaches at Hutchins Street Square and has been cooking the bars from the book for her family.
“My kids have always pushed back when it comes to eating healthy,” Robbins said. But when she started including them in the food prep as Hagenburger suggests in the book, it made them more open. “They take ownership of it and enjoy it a lot more,” she said.
Her family has loved the Loaded Potato Bar. Robbins herself is a vegetarian and struggled with veganism because she loves cheese. Hagenburger’s plant-based feta cheese substitutes with tofu helped solve that
“Friends come over and try the cheese substitute, and they are surprised it’s not cheese,” she said.
And sharing with others is one of Hagenburger’s goals with her new book. She is working on a new movement called Cook2Gethers, where her students, families or groups of friends get together during the week to create one of the recipes from her book.
Parents can assign one item to each child to prep or party hosts can have each guest bring one item.
She also encourages people to take her basic ideas and put their own spin on them.
“It’s a challenge,” she said. “Anyone can use a pound of butter and sugar to light up the dopamine center, but the best is to do a kale pizza and get a thumbs up from my kids.”
Book Signing Event
Timaree Hagenburger will be discussing Brain Health and Nutrition, and signing her new cookbook, “The Foodie Bar Way: One meal. Lost of options. Everyone’s Happy.” at the Lodi Public Library at 6 p.m. April 7. Or purchase the book at www.foodiebars.com. $14.99 for the ebook, $24.99 for full-color paperback.