Before Jeanine Donofrio buckled down to work on her site, Love & Lemons, full-time a year ago, the Austin-based blogger spent her days as a graphic designer. And you can tell. Love & Lemons boasts a wonderfully clean look, plus eye-poppingly colorful photos of veggie-centric dishes.
"I used to be a graphic designer—I still am!—but I really got passionate about food when I started traveling with my husband," Donofrio told us. "We’d go to Italy and Japan, and when we got back, I’d want to get into the kitchen and create things. I just love colorful vegetables."
Donofrio’s two primary passions proved to be more compatible than she’d originally realized. Love & Lemons started as a side project in 2011, but it quickly amassed an impressive following: Today, the site boasts nearly 60,000 followers on Instagram, plus roughly another 28,000 on Facebook and Twitter combined. In 2014, it snagged Saveur’s Reader’s Choice Award for Best Cooking Blog. Nowadays Donofrio is working with Penguin Books on a cookbook.
But there’s a lot more that’s fit to print about this Renaissance woman.Here’s what you need to know, from her most transformative meal ever (spoiler alert: falafel!) to why you should never call her a “vegetarian.”
1. Donofrio hails from the (currently frigid!) Chicago suburbs and appreciates Austin’s more temperate climes.
“I don’t like cold weather. Austin is great: There are seasons, but they happen a little bit sooner. We’ll have tomatoes in May. And then in August, the peppers”—which get spicier as the plant soaks up late-summer sun—”are really spicy.”
2. She’s not big on dietary labels.
"I eat fish now, so I’m not a strict vegetarian. I don’t like to have labels, because I don’t want to tell people they shouldn’t eat meat. [My husband] Jack eats meat! But after college, I became mostly vegetarian.
3. A hearty meal of falafel and hummus changed her life forever.
"I was in college, and my junior year, all my friends were from California and vegetarian. The things they cooked were entirely new to me, like hummus and falafel. I remember thinking, ‘I probably don’t need to eat meat after this.’ It had so much spice and flavor, and it wasn’t trying to be meat. It was its own thing. That was an epiphany."
Donofrio’s ginger miso soup with Tokyo turnips.
4. She’s not above tricking her husband…into eating vegetables he hates.
”The funny thing is that he’s not a picky eater. I think when someone doesn’t like a certain vegetable, it’s because they had a bad experience when it wasn’t cooked right. [My husband] has a list of six things he doesn’t like, and I’ll go out of my way to make him like them: asparagus, beets, carrots, avocado, grapefruit, and peas. Last spring, I made a large raw beet salad with a lemony dressing. It had thinly sliced raw beets, because I knew he didn’t like the taste of them roasted. He asked me, ‘Are those beets?’ I said ‘No! They’re turnips.’ He loved it. And then once I didn’t tell him there were peas in a pesto I made until I wrote about it on my blog. (Afterwards, he just kind of sneered at me. He knew I pulled one over on him!)”
Donofrio’s rendition of the Indian dish aloo gobi.
5. Japan is a special place for her.
"[My husband and I] loved Japan: You have to go to Kyoto and just eat! There are amazing restaurants, and everything is local. Plus, there’s fish in everything, and lots of vegetables. It gave me lots of new ideas, like eggplant with miso on it. Miso is so good, so salty and rich."
6. Her neurons start firing at the farmers market.
"I’m inspired, most of the time, by what I see at the market. I’ll show up without any ideas and without an ingredient list, and usually something pretty or colorful vegetable will catch my eye. I’ll go from there."
This is how Donofrio does roasted veggies.
7. Kale is her spirit vegetable.
"I could probably eat a kale salad every day! My husband gives me the hardest time. I love big hearty meal salads that are filling and have texture. Sure, I like pastas with fresh vegetables, and I love to make soup. But if it’s a day that I’m not cooking for the blog, Jack will be like, ‘What are we having for dinner? Kale salad? Of course.’"
8. She doesn’t let an intolerance for lactose get between her and a hunk of cheese.
"When I first found out I was lactose intolerant, I think I was 11 or 12. My mom was like, ‘I don’t know what to do!’ Before, she would buy four or five gallons of milk for [my family] a week. We had milk with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The doctor said, ‘You should probably stop with the dairy.’ I never really cut it out, though—I take the pills. I can eat a little bit, and a little feta goes a long way.”
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