Eight questions with The Gouda Life’s Kelly Brisson

By Stacey Stein

Celebrate Canada 150 with homegrown eatsWhen Kelly Brisson started her blog “The Gouda Life” in 2007, she says she had no idea she’d still be doing it 10 years later. The site was originally designed as a repository for recipes she found online, back in the days before Pinterest. In 2009, she overhauled it and started creating original content.

“I was just learning how to cook, and the blog gave me somewhere to document my journey and to share with friends and family,” said Brisson, who is based in Ottawa and has a background in the tech and food industries. She now devotes herself full-time to recipe development and food photography for The Gouda Life.

Brisson said the blog started taking on more of a family-oriented bent after she gave birth to daughter Ruthie Mae, who just turned two. Packed with mouthwatering whole-food recipes and stunning photos (all taken by Brisson herself), The Gouda Life attracts about 2,000 readers a month.

With summer winding down and back-to-school fast approaching, we asked Brisson to share some of her favourite go-to recipes for easy – yet tasty – lunches, dinners and snacks to help busy parents during the school year.

What do you do to make your routine easier in the morning when it comes to packing lunches and preparing snacks for your daughter?

Kelly: I usually prep my husband’s lunches as I prepare Ruthie's snacks for the week by cutting up cheese, fresh vegetables, toasting some pita to make chips, soaking beans for hummus or other protein-rich dips, making granola for our yogurt - having all those things handy makes mornings run smoother.

What are some of your favourite go-to back-to-school lunch ideas that you know will be a hit?

These Pea and Parmesan Hand Pies have been a hit with our friends’ school-age kids and we've been told they mix up the fillings depending on what their kids are eating at that point in time. We also love making a double batch of these Peanut Butter Oatmeal Toasted Coconut Cookies for my husband’s lunch and our snacks on car trips. They are full of good-for-you grains and fats and fill you up when you’re bordering on hangry. If you’re sending them to school, simply sub in sunflower seed butter for the peanut butter.

What kind of homemade snacks does your daughter love?

Kelly: Ruthie loves beans, so we make dips out of white beans, chickpeas, and navy beans pretty regularly. One of her favourites is a can of white beans pulsed with the juice of one lemon, 2 tbsp parmesan, 2 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. I also make a lot of biscotti since it makes a great snack for us adults who dunk it in our tea/coffee or for Ruthie who just plains loves anything cookie-like. This Whole Wheat Triple Chocolate Oreo Biscotti is one of our favourites – there’s also a more savoury version with corn, black pepper, cheddar and honey here.

Your new Raspberry Smoothie Freezer Bark recipe is a great snack for both kids and adults. What was the inspiration for this recipe and what makes the bark healthy, yet appealing, to kids?

Kelly: I wanted to make something that worked for both parents and kids as a quick pick-me-up in the morning or after work while you're making dinner. It's a colourful frozen treat that tastes rich and dessert-like but it's filled with healthy fats from the avocado, potassium from the banana, tons of protein from the cottage cheese and hemp seeds, fibre from the chia seeds and omega fatty acids from the flax. It's topped with crunchy, eye-catching granola and cereal to entice the little ones and dark chocolate for us adults who like a little treat, too.

How do you incorporate Gay Lea’s Nordica Smooth in your bark recipe? Why did you choose to include this product?

Kelly: When I think of a smoothie, I usually think Greek yogurt which comes in at about 10 g protein per 100 g. But Nordica Smooth Plain has even more protein and still provides a rich, decadent taste. I like that the plain cottage cheese lets me control the sugar I put in the bark recipe, and that it has a lovely tang you don't always expect with cottage cheese.

How can your website help busy parents who are trying to come up with new ideas for school lunches and quick and easy dinners during the school year?

Kelly: Many of the recipes I make on the blog are easily accessible, affordable and quick to make. These Baharat Lamb Flatbreads are a fast favourite in our house. They make use of pre-bought flatbread and require nothing but a quick mixed spice blend and a fast cook-time before you're topping with herbs and serving. Like everyone else, I want to spend time relaxing with and enjoying my family instead of hovering over a stove.

Where do your recipe ideas come from?

Kelly: All over the place – friends and their families, magazines, personal experience and experiments, restaurants… when I taste a specific flavour profile that I love, I will go to no end to create it myself.

What do you hope readers will get out of reading your blog and visiting your website?

Kelly: I hope for nothing more than inspiring readers to get in the kitchen. I try to make recipes that are approachable, fun and seasonal. If I can teach a new technique, great. But generally I try to keep things pretty accessible so anyone can do it. I also like to try and keep ingredients affordable for readers. I hope they'll realize that the dishes they thought were daunting really aren’t so bad, it's all about breaking it down. I love introducing people to new dishes, ingredients or spice blends from around the world and how to incorporate them into their kitchen. There is so much inspiration to be had in food, and it can be hard and intimidating when you first start cooking.

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