Deb Wehrli grew up on a farm is Tiskilwa, Ill., about 50 miles north of Peoria.
“I learned how to prepare food for family and farmhands,” she says of her childhood. “My mom and grandmother were good cooks, but they also taught me that cooking is an expression of love.”
When she went away to college, Wehrli took some cooking classes but settled on a major in retail. She learned about all aspects of retail sales.
“As fate would have it, I ended up with a job in gourmet houseware sales,” she says. “I was surrounded by very good cooks and great equipment.”
Her career provided her with some fantastic cookware as well as strengthening her attraction to all things culinary.
When she was married and had two daughters, Wehrli developed “a repertoire of dishes we all loved to eat.” Having dinner together as a family every night was a goal, but Wehrli says there were some impossibly busy nights when dinner was on the run.
“I really believe that if you can pull off dinner together as a family three to four times a week, the kids will remember it as having dinner together every night,” she says.
Wehrli happily cooked family favorites until her daughter came home from college and announced she was vegetarian.
“She no longer wanted to eat my repertoire of meals,” Wehrli recalls. “I just made what I always made, and she would eat what she could. It created a time of conflict between us.”
Gradually, Wehrli began to understand the real cause of the friction: “I realized that she had always received love through my cooking.”
Her daughter missed sharing great meals served with love for the whole family. So Wehrli decided she had to add some vegetarian dishes to her repertoire. Then her younger daughter became a vegetarian, which confirmed the need for recipe expansion.
Her two daughters have changed her cooking style. They introduced her to kale and quinoa. They told her that wild Maine blueberries had more antioxidants than other blueberries. When she strained the pulp out of fresh squeezed orange juice, they pointed out she was straining out the nutrition. Together, the family began to eat healthier.
Wehrli, 58, and her husband, Win, start most days with a cup of coffee followed by a fruit-and-vegetable smoothie. She cuts ripe bananas into chunks and freezes them to use in her smoothies along with frozen berries and fruits. She suggests that beginners use less kale in the smoothie mix until they adjust to its piquant flavor.
“We like the flavor of kale now, but it takes a little time,” she says. She also admits that the green color of the drink can take some time to accept.
“When we drink the smoothie, we have three servings of fruit and vegetables to start our day,” she says.
The couple gets busy with the day’s work and tries to stop for a late breakfast or early lunch about 11 a.m.
“If I want to have some junk food later in the day, I don’t feel so guilty because of the good way I started the day,” Wehrli jokes.
To keep meals nutritious but quick, Wehrli says she becomes a “weekend warrior” and cooks meals to freeze. She has developed a mix of quinoa, sweet potatoes and kale that can be precooked and frozen or refrigerated until ready to use. To make a quick meal, she heats the mixture, adds an egg and has a veggie-and-grain scramble perfect any time of the day.
Wehrli challenges those who try her Fruit and Kale Breakfast Smoothie and Quinoa Scramble to make the recipes their own by varying fruit choices for the smoothie, or adding cheese, potatoes or other ingredients to the scramble.
“Eating healthy makes a difference,” she adds. “We have more energy and stamina throughout the day.”