Jillian Glenn of Peanut Butter & Jilly: “You don’t need a fancy kitchen or fancy ingredients to pull off some delicious dishes!”

You don’t need a fancy kitchen or fancy ingredients to pull off some delicious dishes! When I first started, I had 1 big mixing bowl, a few forks and spoons, and a couple of pots and pans I inherited from my mom! I used store-brand almond milk, frozen berries, and pre squeezed lemon juice. And […]

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You don’t need a fancy kitchen or fancy ingredients to pull off some delicious dishes!

When I first started, I had 1 big mixing bowl, a few forks and spoons, and a couple of pots and pans I inherited from my mom! I used store-brand almond milk, frozen berries, and pre squeezed lemon juice. And guess what, people still loved my recipes! These days, I’ve got a bit more to work with in the kitchen, but all of my recipes can still be made with simple tools and ingredients.

As part of our series about the lessons from influential ‘TasteMakers’, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Jill Glenn, blogger of the popular vegan and gluten-free site Peanut Butter and Jilly. She is an Instagram influencer, cookbook author, and received her Nutrition Certification through The Nutritious Life Studio. The Nutritious Life Certification is approved and accredited by the Commission on Dietetic Registration, the credentialing agency for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), and the American Association of Drugless Practitioners (AADP). Jill has a passion for healthy, balanced eating and creating recipes that are filling and nutritious without depriving your sweet tooth! Life is short… so, never skip dessert! Follow her on Instagram @peanutbutterandjillybeans for recipes and tips.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know’ you a bit. Can you share with our readers a story about what inspired you to become a chef?

Thank you! It’s an honor to be able to share a bit about what I do with you and your readers! I’m a self-taught chef. Growing up, my mom worked long hours and oftentimes, I’d prepare dinner for my family. As I got older, I realized I loved being in the kitchen, I loved cooking, and more than anything, I loved food! Fast forward into my mid-twenties, I made the decision to start following a plant-based diet (primarily for health related reasons). My friends and family told me I was crazy! There’s a stigma about “vegan food”. I took this as a challenge. I started whipping up delicious vegan meals for friends and family and they began asking me for my recipes. So, I started keeping track of my recipes on a blog and sharing them on Instagram. Little did I know that my audience would grow to where it is now. I still have to pinch myself these days because I can’t believe how many people have tried my recipes. And, how many people say my food has helped improve their lives! The fact that my recipes have helped as many people as they have is the biggest joy and blessing of my life. I’m incredibly thankful.

Do you have a specific type of food that you focus on? What was it that first drew you to cooking that type of food? Can you share a story about that with us?

I create vegan recipes that are easy, healthy (ish), and delicious. When I first started enjoying a plant-based diet, I had a hard time finding vegan recipes that were simple and were actually things I wanted to eat. I also found that many of the vegan recipes online had the most obscure ingredients that I had never heard of and would take me hours in the kitchen to make. So, I just decided to start coming up with my own recipes. I love dessert and comfort food, so that’s how I fell in love with vegan baking. Many of my readers follow a gluten-free diet so I always ensure that my recipes can be made gluten free and still taste amazing.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you became a chef? What was the lesson or take away you took out of that story? 
A few months ago, DeVon Franklin reached out to me asking for help with my Super Moist Lemon Loaf recipe! It’s my most popular recipe and one of the first recipes I ever wrote. I’ll touch more on this later, but early on writing recipes, I wasn’t as detailed as I needed to be for my readers. We chatted over a few days, making sure he had all of the instructions and ingredients he needed to pull off the recipe. He loved how it turned out! He ended up sharing the recipe with his nieces and with Meagan Good and shared a video of her trying it! Not only was I pinching myself with excitement, but working with DeVon on that recipe was a great lesson for me to learn about how important little details are!

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? How did you overcome this obstacle?

Very early on in my journey as a vegan chef, I realized a few things : I loved being a vegan chef, there was a need for easy vegan recipes like mine, and I wanted to help more people have access to my recipes by writing a cookbook. So, I came up with a book concept and reached out to a few publishers. Most of whom didn’t respond to me, and a few wrote back saying I was “too small” to work with. It was a tough pill to swallow, but I just kept pushing forward. I focused on sharing as many of my recipes with as many people I could. Fast forward a few months and I was contacted by a publisher who worked with a global book distributor. My cookbook, ‘Easy Low-Cal Vegan Eats’ , will be published next year! I believe every closed door is a blessing and an opportunity for a better door to open. If you have that mindset, it’ll keep you moving forward even when you receive bad news.

In your experience, what is the key to creating a dish that your audience is crazy about?

There’s never a shortage of recipe ideas running through my mind. My recipe inspiration comes from so many different places. Sometimes it’s because one of my readers says “hey, do you have a recipe for _____”, other times it comes from seeing something delicious at a local restaurant or bakery and thinking, “how can I make this vegan, gluten free, easy, with minimal ingredients, etc.”, and most of the time I’ll just wake up in the middle of the night and think, “Vegan Everything Bagel Biscuits!” Even though a lot of my ideas come from within, I try to always stay mindful of what kinds of recipes my readers gravitate towards and then I try to make sure that my new recipes align. No matter what, I think it’s important to stay authentic to your own personal style and perspective. Being a chef is like being an artist. You could put 10 artists in a room and have them paint the same bowl of fruit and each painting will look different. Creating recipes is a lot like that. It’s each chef’s own individual take on a dish that really makes it special.

Personally, what is the ‘perfect meal for you’?

As seasons change, my ‘food moods’ do too. All of my favorite meals are nutritious, filling, balanced — and full of flavor! Right now, it’s chilly outside and one of my favorite cold weather dishes is vegetable curry with chickpeas! I love curry sauce because you get the warm coziness of soup topped over healthy vegetables, rice, and whatever your protein is! I also love the complexity of this seasoned and spicy dish. In the warmer weather months, I’m a big burrito bowl girl. Peppers, onions, black beans, guacamole, salsa… where do I sign? I say, dinner isn’t complete unless it’s followed by dessert. My favorite desserts include cookies, a slice of homemade banana bread, or baked oatmeal.

Where does your inspiration for creating come from? Is there something that you turn to for a daily creativity boost?

I’m blessed to have a lot of natural creativity. From a young age, I’ve loved creating things : From sewing, to painting, to writing, and crocheting. I even took up origami at one point. So, a lot of my inspiration comes from within. We live in an amazing world where inspiration is at our fingertips. If I ever feel a dry spell coming on, I’ll open one of my favorite cook books, hop on Pinterest, or even scroll through my own photography to find more inspiration. I keep notes of all of the recipes I want to create and also keep notes of the recipes that my readers request from me. So there’s never really a shortage of ideas.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? What impact do you think this will have?

The biggest project that I’m working on is my new cook book, ‘Easy Low-Cal Vegan Eats’ ! Which is a recipe book that contains 60 exclusive recipes that are vegan, gluten free, super easy, and low-calorie. Even though they’re low-cal, they’re bursting with flavor and crazy delicious! The recipes were all inspired by some of my favorite foods that I enjoyed growing up. It includes tasty vegan recipes like Streusel-Topped Oatmeal Coffee Cake, Warm Apple Cinnamon Pancakes, Black Bean Burgers, Vegan Meatballs and Marinara, and Snickerdoodle Cookies. It’s been a very fun and exciting project. The book is available to pre-order on Amazon and it will be published in July. The process of writing my first cookbook has been an amazing learning experience and I’m hoping it’s a helpful resource for my existing readers and maybe some new readers who have never tried my recipes!

What advice would you give to other chefs to thrive and avoid burnout?

The number one piece of advice I’d give to other chefs (and to anyone, really) is stay true to yourself. I believe we all have to live life authentically in order to truly enjoy it. I also believe that whatever your craft is — cooking, baking, singing, sales, parenting, teaching, accounting, anything! — will resonate with others more if it is true to you. I’d say work hard but don’t exhaust yourself. Have you ever tried to do anything when you’re exhausted? Chances are you would have done it better if you were energized and feeling refreshed. If you’re feeling like you need a break, it’s because you do! Those few minutes, hours, days, weeks, that you’re giving your mind and body a rest will allow you to come back refreshed and ready to hit the ground running.

Thank you for all that. Now we are ready for the main question of the interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started as a Chef” and why? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Write for your readers!

When I first started sharing my recipes with others, there were steps within the recipe that seemed obvious to me. I’m very experienced in the kitchen so I would write the recipe as if I was writing it for myself. I’d skip over steps like “grease your muffin pan”. Well, it only took a few occurrences of readers reaching out to say “hey, my muffins stuck to the pan and I can’t figure out why!” for me to realize that I needed to really break it down for my readers. Now, I try to write my recipes as if this is the first time anyone will ever cook something in their life.

2. You might flop a few times before you land on the perfect recipe.

Early on, I used to get frustrated when I’d test a new recipe and have to make it over again because it wasn’t perfect. But, as a chef, sometimes you have to make the same dish many many times before you land on the right flavor, texture, and appearance.

3. You don’t need a fancy kitchen or fancy ingredients to pull off some delicious dishes!

When I first started, I had 1 big mixing bowl, a few forks and spoons, and a couple of pots and pans I inherited from my mom! I used store-brand almond milk, frozen berries, and pre squeezed lemon juice. And guess what, people still loved my recipes! These days, I’ve got a bit more to work with in the kitchen, but all of my recipes can still be made with simple tools and ingredients.

4. Don’t compare yourself to anyone!

There are so many talented and amazing chefs out there and they’re all at different stages in their career. Some own restaurants, some are on TV, some are New York Times Best Selling Authors, and so much more! I used to feel inadequate when I looked around at all the talent. But now, I feel inspired by them and the amazing things they’ve accomplished!

5. Work life balance is going to be a challenge!

Whether you are a chef in a restaurant or a food blogger, you’re going to be juggling a lot! It can be easy to get lost in the day to day hustle. Working long hours can wear on your body, your mind, and the relationships you have in your life! Remember why you started. I’d be willing to bet that part of why you do what you do is for the people you love. Don’t allow work to take over. Give yourself rest, do things you enjoy, and do them with the people you love!

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I’d say the biggest thing we can do to impact the world is to give and share with others. Yes, your money can help others. But, there are other ways to share with others that aren’t financial. Sharing a story with a friend who needs advice, sharing your ears to listen to someone talk about a struggle they’re facing, sharing your prayers to include people around you, sharing your time with friends, family, and strangers in need, sharing your talents and gifts with those around you — hoping to inspire them. Every person in our world is unique and special. We all have a gift that no one else has and it’s up to us to share it with others. Imagine what our world would be like if every single person thought about what they can give to others rather than what they can get for themselves.

Thank you so much for these insights. This was very inspirational!

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