Get to Know Community Cook Molly Winsten
Molly is a registered dietitian who specializes in food allergies. Find out what inspired her to share her passion with the world.
Since being diagnosed with food allergies a a kid, this Boston foodie has had a passion for creating dishes that everyone can enjoy and teaches others how to do the same. Find out how she turned a negative into a positive.
Taste of Home: Tell us a little about your background. Where are you from, and how did you get interested in cooking?
Molly Winsten: I am a completely self-taught home cook! We moved around a bit as a kid, and I spent a lot of time watching cooking shows and reading cookbooks. I grew up cooking with my dad, and after being diagnosed with food allergies as a teen, I had to relearn how to cook and bake. I became fascinated with food science, and got my master’s in nutrition with a food allergy and food science focus. I can make anything allergy free because I know the science of cooking!
TOH: What are you most excited about with joining Taste of Home’s Community Cooks program?
MW: I have such a passion for sharing my style of cooking with the world—what I have dubbed the realm of food-inclusive cooking. My thought process is always about making people feel cared for and loved through food—and you do that by cooking with everyone in mind. I am so excited to share that “allergy free” does not equal “taste free!”
TOH: Can you tell our readers what you mean by food-inclusive cooking?
MW: For me, food-inclusive cooking is creating and preparing dishes with the dietary restrictions of my guests in mind. Making slight ingredient substitutions in a recipe, without sacrificing any flavor, can make a big difference on the amount of people who are able to eat it.
TOH: How long have you been a fan of Taste of Home?
MW: I’ve been a fan of Taste of Home from a really young age, maybe 9 or 10—I still have one of the binder cookbooks in my childhood bedroom! I used to cook from it all the time growing up.
TOH: You’ve been featured on Netflix and Food Network! What was your experience like on those shows and how did it impact your cooking?
MW: I absolutely love television cooking, as it combines my three favorite things: food (duh), talking (I never stop) and sport, as they are often competitive in nature and as an athlete I thrive in a competitive setting.
Ironically, my episode of Bakers vs. Fakers (filmed for Food Network in 2016) was entitled “Donut Dilemma,” and now I run a full-fledged doughnut factory. Talk about foreshadowing! I had a great time there and on Best Leftovers Ever on Netflix. They both pushed me to grow in the kitchen while simultaneously allowing to share my passion for food-inclusive cooking with the world. I have learned just how many people really value learning about food and I hope to continue to create and teach through food!
TOH: How has becoming a registered dietitian influenced your cooking style?
MW: Learning how food works, both in the cooking process and in the body, has been vital in my personal life and career. I can choose ingredients for a purpose rather just because “something sounds good.” I love adding nutritionally dense ingredients to recipes to change them up so they taste better and are better for you!
TOH: What would you say to those who may not believe gluten-free or dairy-free cooking can produce delicious dishes?
MW: To the naysayers, I completely understand the thought process—when you enjoy something, why substitute it?! But what I do is show that recipes do not have to be a re-creation with a million substitutions that strays from an original. You can create a recipe with food inclusivity in mind because a lot of things are naturally inclusive, such as produce and proteins. You start with great ingredients and you will end up with a delicious tasting final product. Who can argue with that?!
TOH: What would you consider your signature dish? (It’s OK to have more than one!)
MW: My signature bake is gluten-free doughnuts! I actually made an apple fritter on Bakers vs. Fakers that won the first round, and our apple cider doughnuts have become a huge seller at Freedom, based off my original recipe on the show. I also make killer fudge brownies that steal the show every time!
My signature dish on the savory side is my no-fuss tuna tartare. It is delicious, easy, good for you, flavor packed and it looks beautiful when presented!
TOH: Do you have a favorite recipe (or recipes) from Taste of Home?
MW: My spicy Brussels sprouts were featured in the Christmas issue of Taste of Home magazine last year, along with this Creole shrimp dip that sounded so good. I tweaked it just a bit to make it dairy free, and it is so good I make it almost every week! It’s an easy swap. I just use olive oil instead of butter, 8 ounces of dairy-free cream cheese (there are several brands available now!) and 2 tablespoons of mayo stirred in at the end to make up for the bit of richness lost by not using dairy cream cheese. Everyone I have made it for loves it and cannot believe it’s a dairy-free recipe!
TOH: Who do you enjoy cooking for most?
MW: While I enjoy cooking for both friends and family, there are two groups that stand out. One is of course my parents and siblings—my immediate fam. My dad taught me to cook, and as I am not the cleanest, my poor mother has had to spend many hours in the kitchen after our meals. It is so gratifying cooking for them, as well as my siblings whom I just adore!
Additionally, I live very close to a large group of aunts, uncles and cousins, many of whom have dietary restrictions. I have been able to make things for them that they have never had, and it is an amazing feeling to see their faces when they try something that has previously been “off-limits.”
TOH: What do you hope to accomplish by joining the Taste of Home Community Cooks program?
MW: I am so excited to have a space to field questions and continue to promote my message of food inclusivity. I hope to continue to educate people and show how amazing allergy-friendly food can be!