Alex Snodgrass of The Defined Dish talks food and body

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Alex Snodgrass, New York Times best-selling author of "The Defined Dish," joins Claire to dig into her food philosophy, from how she defines "food freedom," to modeling a positive relationship with food for her daughters, to a peak inside the process of creating her forthcoming cookbook, The Comfortable Kitchen (available now for pre-order), and more.

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Claire Siegel: You're listening to the Flourish podcast. I'm your host Claire Siegel, founder of Flourish. We're on a mission to help women get healthy for good. Join me each week for a new episode that'll help you sustain healthy habits and nourish your body so you can Flourish in life.

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Claire Siegel: Well, welcome back to the Flourish podcast. I am so incredibly delighted to be here with Alex Snodgrass of the Defined Dish, who I feel needs pretty much like no introduction. Um, I am sure I'm not, uh, introducing our audience members to you, Alex. So why don't we just, like, get right into it. How does that sound to you?

Alex Snodgrass: I love it. Thanks for having me. Let's hop right on in.

Claire Siegel: Let's hop right on in. Okay. So, obviously your, you know, career in so many ways is all about food, um, and the love of food and celebrating your love of food. So, I would love for you to kind of take us back and share how your upbringing has influenced, um, your love of food. Um, maybe describe kind of your relationship to food now and speak to anything that sticks out to you in terms of what has impacted or influenced what your relationship with food is like today.

Alex Snodgrass: Yeah. You know, I think to really kind of sum up my relationship with food is like, I just love not only food and the flavors around it, but I think now more than ever, I realize how much I love the sensations and how it can bring people together more than anything. Like I realized so much of what I do is because of my upbringing around food. I grew up in a small town. We really did not have restaurants. We had like one, like drive-through burger joint, but like, it was more like a lunch spot and going out to eat was like a... we had to get in the car, we got to drive to the city, we're going out to eat. That was like a very special occasion thing that we would do. Oh, we still did it quite often, but it wasn't our every night, like, "I don't feel like cooking, let's go down the street and get something to eat," or "Let's get takeout." That just wasn't really an option for us. So it was always cooking dinner at home and having dinner at home. And having dinner with my family.

And I realized most of my memories with my siblings and with my parents revolve around the dinner table or around the holiday table, and like most, some of my most fond memories around that. And so I really think after the stay at home orders and really realizing the value of that time of day and like putting stuff, even more of an emphasis than I already did, I was already somebody that, you know, put a lot of emphasis on dinner time.

I just realized like, there is nothing more powerful than that moment at the end of the day, to sit around and really connect and talk about our day together and enjoy a meal together. So I think that's the, that's the biggest thing that I feel around food.

Claire Siegel: Yeah. That, that genuine love of it. I think that for so many of us, especially as we, you know, focus on our health or focus on nutrition, we forget that that social aspect of food is a part of what it is to be healthy and to have a healthy relationship with food. And when you're having to like, sacrifice that, um, it's hard to, like, really, in my opinion, like, experience life kind of at the highest and most, whole level.

Alex Snodgrass: For sure. And it's like, you know, your weight can ebb and flow, but there's like nothing that ebbs and flows like that time with your family, and making that a foundation of your life is just, I think one of the most valuable things that you can do, um, as a person. Whether you're single and you just like make yourself a dinner and put your phone aside and like sit down and really take time to enjoy that dinner and like, just be a little bit more intentional about it.

I think it really shifts your mind so much about food. And instead of thinking of food as this stressor, that at the end of the day, you don't want to do. You have to clean the dishes... like of course there are some things that make cooking a little bit less delightful, but if you really focus on what the, the end result really is and like how wonderful it really is to cook yourself a meal, even though there's some like obstacles in the way, it's so wonderful.

And then you can kind of put the stressor of the cleaning, of course, a little bit more to the side and not make it like the end all be all, like, "Oh, I just don't want to clean, so I'm not going to cook."

And also the... there's also the other stressor, like you mentioned: What am I going to eat tonight? Is it healthy? How many calories is it— for some people? Like, it just turns into this evil thing, when really, it's like the most beautiful, wonderful thing. And if you can kind of shift your mind to that, It will, it will really help the other aspects that people struggle with, in my opinion.

Claire Siegel: A hundred percent. No, I see that in our, our members all the time, and a lot of the work that we do just revolves around like shifting their view of food.

As... Into like something that can be part of their self-care. Um, and that's something we'll, we'll get into a little bit later in our conversation, but how like fueling and nourishing your body is just as important, if not, I would argue, more important than, you know, so many other things that we do as, as part of our self-care. Whether that's exercise or, you know, of course, like sleep and then, you know, the fun stuff like massages or nail appointments or whatever else that we do or don't get to add to the list, um, on a regular basis.

Alex Snodgrass: Absolutely.

Claire Siegel: I love that. Okay. So something that I've just been like super excited to talk with you about, um, is body image. I know it's been something that you've touched on here and there and in your stories and things like that. And, um, certainly we've all experienced, you know, some... we'll call it craziness over the last 18 months, um, to say the least.

So, you know, you've been open about, you know, being challenged at times by emotional eating, you know, body image things. So just from like your personal experience, has there been anything that's been really helpful for you as you navigate what are, I mean, just probably the most, some of the most common struggles that we experience as women?

Alex Snodgrass: Yeah, you know, it's, it's so tricky because I feel like I've a really good relationship with my body and food, and I'm not necessarily certain of like how I've gotten to this point. I think it's a multitude of things, but like, you know, right before I got on this call, I was like trying to put on jeans and I do not— and I have a lot of jeans. Let me tell you. And I only fit into a small handful of them now, because I have put on a lot of weight over the last year. And it's, I, I found it pretty hard to get rid of right now. But it's one of those things that like I feel like probably in college I would have literally thrown a little emotional like breakdown down.

Like now I just, I don't really let myself go there, because I'm like, what, what good is that going to do me today in my day and my emotions? I also think, you know, I have two daughters. I really want to set a good example for them, and not, you know, kick and scream around and pout about the fact that none of my jeans fit. Um, so that's really important to me.

I also think my mom never did that around me. She always had a really good relationship with her body and never really talked negatively about her body around us. So I think I also have that foundation there. So I think it's just a lot of different things. I mean, I think even if you do have a really positive upbringing, there can still—because of society—be a lot of things that make you feel like you're not good enough.

Claire Siegel: Yeah.

Alex Snodgrass: And I think it takes a lot of time in pruning to really get over that. And my favorite kind of quote that I always tell myself is: I'm not going to punish myself, I'm going to nourish my body. So I say, "Nourish, not punish."

Claire Siegel: Love that.

Alex Snodgrass: So, when I do feel this way, it's like, what—? If I start doing the whole yo-yo diet thing of where I'm just going to try to cleanse to get rid of the weight in a minute.

Not only am I miserable because I'm not having the food and all the things that bring joy to your day, but also I am going to finish that cleanse and I'm just going to start eating again. And I haven't really taught myself anything about nourishing my body. I'm just trying to lose weight.

Claire Siegel: Yeah.

Alex Snodgrass: It doesn't have any other meaning behind it.

So I really try to focus on, okay, what am I eating this week? How can I meal plan to set up my week for success to eat a lot cleaner and more meaning— like more intentionally, rather than just going on some crazy cleanse to shock my body and get rid of the weight that quickly. So, I don't know. Um, we can get more specific in the nitty gritty, but it's just one of those things where I haven't really figured out like the perfect formula for why I feel really comfortable in my own body.

Um, but I do think that there's a multitude of things that I've just kind of just switched my mentality and I just really just shut off that noise when it starts to come in. And I'm not saying it doesn't try to come in all the time. I just have that off switch with myself where I just, I just really won't let it go there.

Claire Siegel: Yeah, that is so awesome. I can maybe point out a couple of things that I'm hearing since I talk with many women about this. I think what I'm hearing is that you learned a lot from your history, right? You've perhaps it sounds like, you know, tried the cleanses in the past and you know yourself at this point that like, okay, yeah, maybe that will result in short-term weight loss, but it's not going to, you know, support me in the long term. And then also, an evolution of your values. Right?

Whereas like having that kind of body image meltdown in, in your younger years would have made sense and it would have like riled you up to that point, now you have bigger and better things to think about and spend your, your emotional energy on. And plus, like you said, your, your daughters. I can't think of—I'm not a parent—but I can't think of something that's more motivating and, and kind of, um... yeah, just guiding than setting an example for obviously two, two young women who you love dearly.

Alex Snodgrass: For sure. I think you hit the nail on the head of summarizing for the most part! (giggles) Yeah, no, I, I just think it's so important to just not— I mean, it's, it's practice makes perfect, I think. And, and we can't all just get there overnight if we, if we are in a bad place. But I think with time and with intentions, you can definitely, um, achieve, uh, a positive body image.

Claire Siegel: Totally. And I think that's such a good reminder too, that even for someone who is in a good place with their relationship with food and their relationship with their body, it doesn't mean you don't have bad body image days. It doesn't mean that you don't care at all that, you know, your jeans aren't fitting you like that still like, yeah, it brings that that sting or that burn.

It's challenging. And then you also move on, and it doesn't impact the way that you choose to treat your body. I think that's kind of the biggest takeaway. Um, it's something that we work on a lot with our members is like, you're still gonna have bad body image days, whether it's in your control or out of your control, but what is in your control is your response to that.

And that... you can show so much like evolution in progress, um, just in how your response to bad body image days changes.

Alex Snodgrass: Absolutely. I totally agree.

Claire Siegel: I love that. Okay. So I want to, I want, do want to dig in a little bit deeper to how you kind of do set that positive example for your daughters. So I remember so I'm, like I said, not a, not a parent, but I am a new aunt, which is super exciting for me.

I have a one-year-old nephew.And I mean I knew that kids were kind of a sponge. I had this moment, I was with my brother and sister-in-law live in Dallas. I was in Dallas visiting them for the weekend, and my sister-in-law was feeding her son broccoli. And she heated up this broccoli, and it was too hot. So she blew on it before she gave it to him, so he could feed himself

And he picked it up, blew on it, and then put it in his mouth. And it was like, monkey, see, monkey do. Like, it kind of blew my mind. I was like, oh wow. You as parents, like, have to really like, be thoughtful, of course, about every action that you take. I guess I kind of, with that in mind, like how, how do you kind of, um, model a positive relationship with food or a positive relationship with your body, for your, your daughters?

Alex Snodgrass: You know, I don't think that there's like any perfect way of doing it and maybe sometimes I haven't been perfect, but my whole... what I try to do is teach them sometimes food and always foods. And the sometimes foods are the sugary treats. And like, I don't, I don't completely like eliminate... like they actually... you'd be surprised how much like junk my kids actually eat. Even though I, I do try to feed them, um, you know, healthier alternatives and limit those things. But I always leave that door open to go get fast food and to be, you know, a kid and just, you know, to live their life.

But I also try to remind them, like, these foods you shouldn't eat every day because they are not nourishing to your body. And we want to make sure that your tummy feels good that you're growing and that you're treating your body well so that you can be healthy, um, and not feel sick. And so, that's really how I kind of position the conversation around... "you can't eat—you should eat these things and you shouldn't eat these things, but it's okay eat these things, but just not always, they're not everyday foods." So I say "those are, those are sometimes foods, and these are always foods." Um, and that's kind of how we position that talk. And then I would say, the monkey, see monkey do thing. You know, if I'm not eating dairy or things like that, which again, I still do eat dairy and I still do eat gluten, and I am kind of like an always, sometimes foods person, by example. I lead by example, I think in a good way. But if they're like, "Hey mom, like, do you want this piece of cake?" And really, I don't want it.

Like, it's something that I want, not necessarily because the calories, but it's just, I'm not a huge sweet tooth person. I don't want to, you know, eat a piece of cake on a Tuesday night. Like I just say, "Ah, I'm okay. I'm really hungry today. Or, you know, "I don't really want any sugar right now." Um, and I limit it at that. My oldest has the sweetest sweet tooth. Like she just can not... like she wants dessert after every, every meal. She loves sweets.

And so to her, she'll sometimes kind of test me and be like, "Why don't you eat cake that much?" You know, and ask me those kinds of questions, and I'm just like, "I don't know, mommy just really likes salty foods more." You know, and I just kind of roll it off that way, I think. And, um, hopefully that helps where it's not just like, "Oh, I don't eat cake because of these negative reasons." It's just more like, I don't really feel like it.

Claire Siegel: Yeah.

Alex Snodgrass: And they do still see me eat those things, so it's not like they think I never eat them. But I definitely don't eat them as frequently as they do. So the conversation does come up and I, I just try to like respond in as smooth a way as possible to where there's not a lot of negativity around it, I guess.

Claire Siegel: Yeah, I think that makes sense, like framing it in terms of choice. Like I could eat those things, but I just, I prefer not to because I prefer not to, and leave it at that I think is really beautiful. And like that's... I think even that is something so great to, to model for kids. And especially for two young girls. I think a lot of the work that we do with our members is about kind of autonomy and choice.

And, you know, you have power over food. You know, that food does not have the power over you. So, you know, today you're feeling like cake, great, have a slice of cake. And if you're not feeling like cake, that doesn't mean you have to eat it just because it's there, because you fear it's gonna go away. It's, it's all about autonomy and choice, and you're a grown woman and can choose what to put in your body.

Alex Snodgrass: For sure.

Claire Siegel: I love that. Okay. Well, let's shift gears a little bit. Thanks for going there with me. I love talking about this stuff. Um, let's talk about your cookbook. Uh, we're... I'm thrilled. I remember to, to give the audience some history, you and I met first in person years ago. It was probably like 2017 or 18 when I was still working at, at Snap Kitchen.

And you told me—you were like, "I'm, you know, this is a secret, but I'm working on my first book." And now, you know, fast forward, however many years later, and your second book, The Comfortable Kitchen is, is coming out. So tell us all about it! How would you say it's similar or different from your first cookbook?

Alex Snodgrass: Yeah, so I think it's definitely like another step outside of like what I did with my first book. My first book was Whole30-endorsed. And while this second book has, again, a lot of recipes that are Whole30 compliant, it's not, um, endorsed by Whole30 this time. It's just kind of my own... whatever. (giggles) So I wasn't as focused on like, okay, 60% of the recipes or whatever. I can't remember like what I needed to do for the last one. It was a little bit more of, um, like my food freedom. They'd never really limited me with my first book at all. They were very open. Like we want you to express your own version of food freedom, and give our community options to eat Whole30 or, you know, the food freedom realm as well.

So I just think it's another step outside of that. I was just definitely more open to like, okay, if I was making this salad, would I add cheese on top of it because it would really make the salad taste better, and that's how I would actually eat it tonight? Or is it really just as good without the cheese.

It was kind of one of those things where I wasn't as, um, I wasn't overthinking it. Like, you know, what the cheese like before I just like, kind of left out the cheese because I was really trying to focus on it being more paleo, Whole30. So, I would say it's a, another step in the direction of my food freedom.

And it really shows a lot of like how I grew up eating mixed in with my kind of the ways that I've learned to eat around, you know, doing the Whole30 and, um, trying to, uh, eat, you know, with more healthful ingredients. Um, and how we kind of talked about earlier, I really try to set the intention of how important eating around the table with the ones that you love most really is.

Um, and just being comfortable in the kitchen and comfortable with the foods that you make and comfortable with the people that you love and really gathering around without letting those stressors keep you from doing something that's so beautiful and magical and can make so many memories with, with the people that you love.

So it's really centered around that intention. Then also the food is just all deliciousness. There's a lot of, um, paleo Whole30 options, just because I like to cook that way. But then there's also some really great pasta dishes. I have a cocktail chapter this time and a dessert chapter this time and some appetizers. So it kind of brings the whole dinner experience together and really is how I cook and eat at home, so.

Claire Siegel: I love that. That is so exciting. My, uh, my mom actually just threw a dinner party on Saturday and she said she used all cook—all recipes from your first cookbook, so she'll be super excited about—

Alex Snodgrass: Yes.

Claire Siegel: —the second one.

Alex Snodgrass: Now she's going to really be able to enter—it's not necessarily focused on entertaining, but it definitely brings to those elements to where you could either cook on a Wednesday night.

Or, if you were having friends over Saturday, you can bring it all together with some other elements to, you know, maybe elevate it a little bit more. So it's a, it's really fun.

Claire Siegel: I love that.

Alex Snodgrass: I'm really excited about it. And I love all the recipes and I can't wait for everyone to be able to cook them.

Claire Siegel: Yeah, and so when is it coming out?

Alex Snodgrass: It It'll be out in December,

Claire Siegel: But pre-orders are open now?

Alex Snodgrass: Pre-orders are open now. You can see a lot of the photos behind me.

Claire Siegel: Yes, so cool.

Alex Snodgrass: (overlapping) Not really because they're so far back there, but I'm really excited about it. It's wonderful. (giggles)

Claire Siegel: That's so exciting. Well, we'll for sure obviously have the pre-order links in our show notes, so our audience members—

Alex Snodgrass: thank you.

Claire Siegel: —Can get in on that. Um, I already have my, my order. Or my copy pre-ordered. Um, well, let's talk, I would actually love to talk a little bit about dessert.

I want to talk kind of about your... yeah, like your approach to eating, which obviously sounds like it's really been, um, kind of brought to life in the cookbook. So when it comes to dessert, we've touched on it a little bit, but I know you're not someone who naturally has a sweet tooth, but like walk me through like your decision-making process around having dessert.

I really want to like help. I think you have such a beautiful and positive relationship with food. And really what I'm trying to do is like, kind of, you know, take a look inside your mind, like how you're making decisions around, around food in such a beautiful and natural and intuitive way in a way that also serves your health.

I think so many of our audience members. That's not something that's coming naturally to them right now. So, let's dig into dessert specifically.

Alex Snodgrass: Yeah.

Claire Siegel: How, how do you decide, like when you're going to eat dessert versus when you're not?

Alex Snodgrass: Okay. So to preface this conversation, I want to be very clear that I am not a huge sweet tooth person.

I didn't grow up having dessert every day after dinner, but my dad always kept like those mini, um, candy bars, like Kit Kats or Snickers in the freezer. Always frozen. We love frozen candy at my parents' house. Um, and I think for me, like, I just don't have that like trigger in my head after I finish eating that I need something sweet. I think I went through this phase in college.

So I had a roommate that was a huge sweet tooth. And she had those dang Reese's eggs around. She would like stock up on them. They're delicious. And they were always sitting in a bowl like, um, in our kitchen. And so I got in the habit of like always having one after I ate.

And I swear, like it really kind of took me a while to be like, I don't need that. Like, I've just literally addicted to them, and like addicted to that sweet sensation after I eat. So I've really only gone through that phase about once in my life, where I was like, I have to have something sweet after I eat.

Claire Siegel: Mhmm.

Alex Snodgrass: Um, but I do think also, um, the Whole30 really helped me not feel like I need, you know, that topper at the end of my meal. Um, plus I just love savory things. Like I would rather eat a whole bag of chips. Like that's more of a hardship for me than being tempted by dessert. So just want to be clear on that before I say that I'm some like genius when it comes to like not eating desserts. Um, but to me, I just like, if I'm really craving something sweet, it's not it's, I will allow myself to eat it and I do make, um, you know, refined sugar-free desserts at home.

I'll make like my paleo chocolate chip cookies. I'm really obsessed with right now—it's a newer recipe on my blog. If you haven't made them highly recommend it. But keeping like... I'll make a batch of the dough and I'll roll them into balls, and then I'll freeze the dough balls. And so that way, if like, I really want dessert after dinner, or my kids do. I can put, you know, four cookie balls on there. I can bake it, and we can have those rather than making 24 cookies. And then you feel like you have to eat them because they're there, they're going to go bad. Yeah. I think it's, you know, being a little bit more strategic about, you know, using those ingredients, keeping them fresh, longer, being able to pull them out and only baking however many cookies you need rather than making too many and then potentially, um, going too far.

Claire Siegel: Yeah, totally. So a lot of like environmental... like sounds like in college, there was just like that environment of the Reese's eggs constantly out. So yeah, of course, what are you going to do? Especially if your roommate is also doing that thing, just like that kind of instinctual grabbing.

Alex Snodgrass: And if it's like a Monday night or like, you know, a night where I'm like, I've already had a lot of wine this weekend and I really don't want to eat dessert, but I have that sweet craving, I'll have some dried mango or like an apple, um, after dinner, if I'm like really wanting something sweet. So again, I don't have a huge sweet tooth, but that's kind of my best practices, I guess in my home. It's just not, not keeping a lot of it around and not keeping an abundance, you know, on the table.

I know I've so many friends that their moms were just like big bakers, so they always had delicious baked goods. And after dinner you had some deliciousness, and I think that's awesome, but that's just not how I necessarily grew up. And it's not what I do now either. So that helps.

Claire Siegel: Yeah, no me either. I'm trying to think... I don't think we like really ever had dessert. We would go— if, if we were going to have dessert, we would like drive down the street, go to Dairy Queen and get a blizzard. That was the highlight of the week.

Alex Snodgrass: So good.

Claire Siegel: And still is—Blizzards are freaking delicious.

Alex Snodgrass: So good.

Claire Siegel: Okay. Well then walk us through sweet, sweet tooth, not withstanding, speak a little bit more about kind of like your progression, I guess, from, you know, like a Whole30 style way of eating and how that has perhaps like influence your food freedom. But, but again, like how you developed like your own sense of food freedom.

Cause I talk to a lot of women who recognize—like you have, and like I have—that, like, I feel really good eating on the Whole30, but I can't eat like that all the time, but I cannot find like that middle ground without feeling totally out of control around food.

I feel like you've done a great job of like finding your, your kind of what we call "healthy, happy middle ground." Like, how did you do that?

Alex Snodgrass: Oh, I, I mean, I feel like it ebbs and flows. Like I feel like there's some vacations and trips. Where I'll go and, um, just, eat all the things and drink all the things and definitely, um, really let anything go.

Claire Siegel: Yeah.

Alex Snodgrass: But then again, I come home and I have that mentality of nourishing my body and not punishing it to help create that balance, rather than, you know, go the whole opposite way. So, um, I definitely allow myself those kind of weeks to just really be and not worry about it, but also you kind of feel like shit after you've done a Whole30 and you feel really good and you feel that energy and then you go the other way.

It's... you feel like, oh man, I took it too far now. I just don't feel good. I feel sluggish. I don't have that energy. I want that. I'm craving that sensation of feeling energized and, um, and good. And so I think it's more the feeling in my brain than it is necessarily in my body that I crave and want. Um, you know, of course the bloat is another element too, that helps me kind of like go towards that as well. But, you know, I, I definitely can tell when I've been eating a lot of junk, especially sugar. Um, the other things don't affect me as much, but if I've like had a lot of margaritas, like if we've been on vacation and wine and, and sweets, I can tell it really triggers my anxiety.

So for me, it's just not worth continuing to go down that route and just... ignore it, so I really have to take care of myself by nourishing my body and eating things that make me feel good to avoid going down in that slump. So for me, that's really what has kept me in check, is just that balance of, um, just feeling mentally on top of it.

Claire Siegel: Yeah. Yeah. I love that. Coming from like a place of just wanting to take care of yourself, again, kind of like back to what we were saying earlier, just like approaching food and how you nourish your body as a way of caring for it, versus a way of like, trying to, um, shapeshift it into something that you are willing to care for.

It's like, no, I'm going to take care of my body right now as it is today.

Alex Snodgrass: Yeah, for sure. And I think it's like important to... whenever I go on vacation. I'll try to eat a healthier breakfast and lunch, and then kind of after lunchtime is whenever I let the doors swing open and I'm like, all right, what kind of fun are we going to have tonight?

Where are we going to go eat? Like, what are we going to explore? And I'll kind of, you know, just try to create a little bit of a balance for myself so that I can, you know, keep it somewhat in check before I get home.

Claire Siegel: Totally.

Alex Snodgrass: So I don't lose my mind.

Claire Siegel: Oh my gosh. Y'all everything that you ate on your, your trip to... it was—you were in Hawaii, right?

Alex Snodgrass: Uh huh.

Claire Siegel: That looked incredible.

Alex Snodgrass: For sure. And honestly, Hawaii... Like, I feel like island food definitely leans to the healthier side, all the fresh fish— True. —and everything, so I felt fine when I came up. The Mai Tais are what hurt me.

Claire Siegel: There you go, I know.

Alex Snodgrass: My husband and I fell in love with the Mai Tais in Hawaii, but we just like, couldn't stop drinking.

Claire Siegel: Oh my gosh. I have a similar, yeah... with not necessarily food, but like alcohol and caffeine, I have to be very cognizant of how much alcohol and caffeine I'm consuming. Otherwise I'm just a total anxious mess. I don't sleep. It is a vicious cycle. So I'm actually taking a break from both this month.

Yeah. I, I need that.

Alex Snodgrass: I was literally telling my husband yesterday because we've just been having so much fun this summer. And definitely post-COVID, we just, our alcohol consumption, you know, has really increased. (laughter) And we're trying to, we're trying to get a grip of it. I'm like, I think the only thing that's going to really help us is to like do a 30-day alcohol cleanse because we just like, we'll be like, "Okay, we're not drinking this week." And then here comes Thursday. We're like, "Maybe just one glass of wine..."

Claire Siegel: Yeah.

Alex Snodgrass: And then three glasses later, you're like... dang it.

Claire Siegel: It's tough. It is really tough. I'm the, I'm the same way. I don't like love to drink a lot, but I just... yeah, like one glass of wine here and there I love, but I will say the sleep quality... I'm like it's—I'm enjoying it right now. So, we'll see.

Alex Snodgrass: Yeah. That's so great. Once you get over that hump, for sure.

Claire Siegel: Yes, we'll see. I think I'm mid hump, but anyway. Um, okay, so I'd love to dig a little bit more into kind of like your... more so like your process in the kitchen. Cause I think—you, you kind of alluded to this before—I think a lot, uh, for a lot of people what's hindering them getting into the kitchen is just kind of like the effort, and the planning and the cleaning and like all the drudgery of it.

So what is your process? Probably not cookbook time, like this is kind of like a distinct moment in time. But like average day in the life or week in the life, like, what is your process for planning meals for your family each week?

Alex Snodgrass: Yes. So, I would say like before I really became a recipe developer, my process was I would go to the grocery store and I would pick out like what my proteins were for the week.

I do eat a lot of meat and fish. Um, and so I, like I would go to the grocery store and I would pick out, you know, I would probably, I usually plan for about four days, sometimes five. Um, because I find after that you might have more food waste. So I would pick out four different like proteins or fish or whatever I was eating for my main course, and then I would go go, I would kind of go backwards and I'd go back to the produce section and pick out what I wanted to pair with that. Whether it be like grilled chicken with a salad or grilled chicken with broccoli and kind of go with it like a more Asian-inspired dish. And just, I would really map it out that way.

And then I'd finished by going through the pantry section and getting anything else that I may need there. Um, and so that's really how I would map out my dinners so that it would be kept a little bit more simple. And you wouldn't go— I think it's really important to remember that cooking doesn't have to be super fancy every time you cook. Of course, there's like a time... I really do—my recipes are like this, I think, for the most part too: they're, they're very simple and they're not supposed to, you know, be extremely strenuous in the kitchen. I do have definitely a handful of more strenuous recipes for like the holidays or special occasions, but, you know, you can make a stir fry, like a Chinese inspired chicken and broccoli stir fry and have dinner on the table and 20 minutes and it's freaking delicious. Um, you can also do sheet pan dinners, and while it's roasting in the oven, make a really great sauce. Cause otherwise sheet pan dinners suck. I'm just going to say it. You got to have a sauce on top.

Claire Siegel: You have to have sauce. They are really just a vehicle for sauce.

Alex Snodgrass: So while you're, while it's in the oven, whip up some sort of like vinaigrette or a sauce to drizzle over it, you've got a great dinner that way. So I think it's really important to remember that you can keep it really simple and still have that experience at the end of the day with your family or with yourself at the dinner table, um, without making some sort of bolognese, that's been simmering for four hours. Which, if you have the time to do it and you enjoy it by all means, go for it. But for the ones that are really stressed out to be in the kitchen, making this one pot dinners and making those stir-frys and making those sheet pan dinners or whatever you feel most comfortable with is so great.

And keeping it simple is always delicious, too. And you can't go wrong. So I think it just—you're reminding yourself that you can keep it easy and whip up these fast 20-minute dinners, 30 30-minute dinners is the way to go. At least four nights a week.

Claire Siegel: Yeah. What about leftovers? Do you, do you deal with leftovers often? I feel like maybe with a family of four, it's not as much of an issue. But any, any like hot tips for leftovers?

Alex Snodgrass: So for, for us, like I would say like the dinners that I cook for my family, we rarely have leftovers. We usually eat at all.

Claire Siegel: Yeah.

Alex Snodgrass: And if not, I just feed it to Jimmy, a.k.a my husband. (laughter) I'm like here my little garbage disposal, this is the leftovers.

Claire Siegel: We all have one.

Alex Snodgrass: (laughter) Is that what they say? Feed it to—I can't remember who it is, but there's a, there's a saying. Clayton always says it. But we usually don't have leftovers for dinner, but I do have a lot of leftovers from like my recipe testing, which I will either reheat for dinner at night after I've been doing it during the day.

Um, or I'll send it home with Katie or whoever, any, any friends that want to come pick it up. But, um, I think the key with leftovers is reheating them correctly. And the microwave is always the worst place to reheat—not for any health reasons. I'm not even going there right now. I'm just saying for flavor wise, reheating food is best reheated in a skillet or a pot. Or if you have an air fryer and you have like leftover salmon or chicken reheating in the air fryer is a really great way where it doesn't get tough or weird.

Claire Siegel: Yeah.

Alex Snodgrass: I don't know. So, I dunno if you have any specific brain busters for me, but...

Claire Siegel: No, I'm trying to think—

Alex Snodgrass: My generic answer. (giggles)

Claire Siegel: No, that's really helpful! I just, it just popped into my head because I think that's, I mean, in some ways like meal prep is basically leftovers, so—

Alex Snodgrass: For sure, and a lot of people do that. Yeah. And I think it's just not reheating it— and reheating in the oven too. Like just putting your oven on 350, and if you have like glass containers that you store all your individual meals in and being able to stick it in the oven for ten minutes or eight minutes, however long it is. Of course, leftovers are never going to be as good as the fresh thing, but you're still having a great meal and it's still going to taste good.

It's not perfect, but it will be as close to perfect as possible depending on what you're making.

Claire Siegel: Totally. Oh, and when you can eat your meal out of the same container that you cooked it in that's a dish saving hack. It's the best thing ever.

Alex Snodgrass: Totally. Yeah. The glass containers are, are great.

Claire Siegel: For sure. For sure. And the, and the air fryer. I, I plus one on, on that, for sure. Being able to do leftovers in the air fryer.

Alex Snodgrass: I've really fallen in love with my air fryer recently. Like, I I've had it forever and I just did it because everyone was like, "Please! Air fryer recipes!" And I honestly don't use it to create recipes, but I really do use it for throwing sausages in there for breakfast or reheating things, and making my kids chicken nuggets or whatever it may be. A lot of like the freezer things that I buy go in there really well. I don't necessarily like cook my meals with it cause I find it's too small, just going to say, for my family. But I find it very convenient for other things. It's basically a toaster oven, but way better.

Claire Siegel: Agree. No, I thought it was like a total gimmick at first, and then we got — we registered for one of course. And now I use it like most days.

Alex Snodgrass: Yeah.

Claire Siegel: It's very helpful.

Alex Snodgrass: I pretty much use mine everyday, too.

Claire Siegel: That's awesome. I love that. Okay. Any other kind of like top time-saving kitchen tips that you can think of for our listeners at home?

Alex Snodgrass: Yeah. I think if like you are meal planning and not necessarily prepping, I think if you go on Sunday and you get kind of what I said, like your four things for the week, um, if there's anything that is going to be something that, you know, when you're tired on like Wednesday night, that's going to be cumbersome to deal with.

Like, for example, stemming and chopping up kale. That's a pain in the butt. Um, kind of messy. Or, you know, cutting your cauliflower to florets or whatever it may be to really, kind of, making the salad dressings on a Sunday is a great thing to do or any sauces that you need, so that way your meals can come together fast.

Um, if you just spend 30 minutes getting a few of those things done that you know, are going to maybe be an obstacle for you later in the week, um, doing those are great. I think definitely making salad dressings or any sauces ahead of time. And mixing up, like if you have stir-fry sauce, that's going to go into your stir-fry, go ahead and have that in a little container where you just throw it all in and you're done. Anything that you could do to set yourself up for success for the week in any way I think is just always... you'll never be mad at yourself for doing it. You'll be so happy.

Claire Siegel: It's so true. Yeah. You have to like cash in on that, like, post grocery store energy and resist the urge to just put it all away and never look at it again.

Alex Snodgrass: And, I think, for me, keeping my refrigerator really organized brings me a lot of joy and it makes cooking a lot easier. So like today I did a grocery haul and I took everything out, I saw what was still fresh and what wasn't, I kind of took inventory. I even get my little vacuum out— which this is a tip that my, my followers gave me.

They were like—One time I was like wiping all the stuff and they're like, get that vacuum out. Get all the junk out of the refrigerator that like from the–

Claire Siegel: (astonished) Vaccum it!

Alex Snodgrass: —from the lettuce or whatever that kind of falls apart in the bottom. Or broccoli. Broccoli's always messy there. Like, I just take the little thing out where it's just the attachment, I vacuum it, I wipe them down, and then I put everything back in there that I know I have for the week. And it really helps me get my mind what I don't need from the grocery store. And when I get back from the grocery store, it's not like I have to do it all in one bulk time. Totally. So, I think also just keeping your fridge clean, making sure that you're taking inventory, not only saves you money, but keeps you sane.

And, um, keeps your meal planning a lot more beautiful.

Claire Siegel: I did not know that about vacuuming your fridge.

Alex Snodgrass: I know there was a, it was a hot tip from people, and I was like, why didn't I think of that before?

Claire Siegel: Yeah, I'm definitely a fridge wiper, but I'm going to change my ways as of today. Mark it down in history.

Alex Snodgrass: So good, so good.

Claire Siegel: I love it. Okay. A couple, a couple more questions before we wrap. Just on the topic of fridge and freezers, what are like three things that you always have in your freezer for you and/or your kids?

Alex Snodgrass: So, in my freezer, I, for my kids, I always have frozen peas, because if I'm making like a, a big salad, like a kale salad, like I know my kids are going to be like, "What is this?"

They're going to maybe taste it cause I made them, but like, they're not going to eat it. So, their favorite thing is peas for whenever that's the time, and I can just steam them really quickly. Um, so always have peas in there for the kids. I always have like smoothie stuff, uh, frozen fruits and vegetables in there to throw into smoothies.

And then, I always have Siete Food tortillas. So, if worse comes to worse and I'm like, I don't have anything but ground beef or some... um, I always have Fish Fixe in my freezer so I can like make fish tacos or whatever, um, on the dime. So I'd say those are...Fish Fixe is always in my freezer. I love— probably out of all of the things that I partner with, it's probably one of my favorite favorite things if you haven't tried them yet.

Claire Siegel: I haven't!

Alex Snodgrass: Their fish is really good. And it's individually packaged, packaged, so it thaws really quickly. And it's a great subscription service for if you're trying to eat more fish.

Claire Siegel: I love that. We—

Alex Snodgrass: Those are some of my faves.

Claire Siegel: Jon and I are like very... when we're cooking at home, it's like beef or chicken, beef or chicken, beef or chicken. And we would like to bring more, more fish in, but I get, I get a little nervous cooking fish. I'm just not as skilled with it or not advanced.

Alex Snodgrass: You'll have to start off keeping it simple and not trying to do any fancy techniques.

Claire Siegel: No, I generally speaking, avoid any fancy techniques in the kitchen as, as a general rule.

Alex Snodgrass: For sure. Well, you'll have to try it and see what you think.

Claire Siegel: Yes, um, okay. So last, last question for you. Um, kind of off topic here, but I think it could be helpful for our listeners here. So a lot of women that, you know, we work with— and I think, in general, women as a whole struggle with, with people pleasing or with spending a lot of time worrying about how they're perceived by others. And I've heard you on other pod—

Alex Snodgrass: Guilty.

Claire Siegel: Yeah. same, same. But obviously, I mean, yeah, I'm sure this is something that you come up against, just given the sheer number of eyes on you at any given moment of the day. So how have you dealt with this?

Alex Snodgrass: That's definitely been something that I feel like, I feel like it's been a really good thing for me as a person to grow. Because I have always been a people pleaser and I just want everybody to be happy around me, and I will sacrifice my own feelings to make sure that everybody else is satisfied.

Claire Siegel: Yeah.

Alex Snodgrass: Um, and obviously now I can't possibly do that. It's actually impossible. And with time I've realized, um, I've gotten better about dealing with it. I've gotten better about rolling it off. I've gotten better about not responding or responding in a way of saying, "Hey, it seems that like, when you come on my page, you're obviously annoyed or you're not really happy here."

And like, perhaps it's... And I really rarely have to say this because usually someone will say a snarky comment and I'm just like that's not worth going there. But every now and then, if someone really goes there and they really are just really trying to make me mad or upset me or say anything that just too far, I remind them that there's a freaking button that they don't have to follow me if I really bother them that much. (laughter)

Claire Siegel: Right. Oh my gosh.

Alex Snodgrass: You know, and so, um, that's kind of where I go. I either don't respond and just ignore it if it's something that's just, you know, "Ugh, I can't believe you're wearing your hair down while you're cooking today!" I'm like, okay, that's not worth my time.

Claire Siegel: People say that to you?

Alex Snodgrass: All the time. It's like the little things like, "Oh, you have stuff under your nails, that's so gross."

And I'm like, sorry, I've been making, I've been cutting avocados today. Why don't you go do your little manicure and leave me alone? Leave me and my dirty grungy nails alone. I mean, you'd be surprised what people like even go out of their way to email me because they saw my stories and like, really get to me, but it's pretty, it's pretty entertaining for the most part, and kind of comical. But then there's some that, um, really hit you deep. And I have definitely... I'd say it's the hardest thing about what I do.

And there's been a lot of tears that have come out of these eyes because I do, I am a human and I'm sensitive. And I'm just a more sensitive person in general, and, um, it has definitely been a big learning curve for me as a person, but I think a good one for me to grow and realize that like you can't please everybody.

And as long as like, you know, um, who you really are at its roots and that you are a good person and a good mom— I know people will give me mom comments, and I'm like, there's one thing that I really am certain about, that I'm a really great mother. And you just have to remind yourself of like who you know that you are and who people— the way that people might perceive you.

Claire Siegel: Mmhmm.

Alex Snodgrass: And that's, I think the only way to get through people that are, you know, that you're trying to worry about pleasing.

Claire Siegel: Yeah. That is, oh, that's so good. I think, yeah, knowing who you are and, and yeah, just having that self-awareness. And spending time with people who remind you of who you are, you know, if it's ever hard for you to remind yourself, because sometimes you can kind of get lost.

Alex Snodgrass: Yes, having those people, your ride or die people, whether it be one person or five people, I think you have like that close-knit group that will always remind you of like who you are and that you're a good person and that, you know, you're doing your best. And they can either help you, you know, manage those types of people when you're upset by them and tell you, like, "That's not worth communicating with," or like, "Hey, maybe the feedback that they gave you could actually be constructive criticism." You know, it's kind of nice to have other people to bounce that off of, because there have been things that people said to me and I realized, oh, I, I, I was being ignorant. I didn't realize that this was a sensitive thing, and, like, you can always better yourself from some comments. And it's really being able to decipher what people are just being ridiculous and hateful and just wanting to find something to pick you at, or if it's constructive. And having your, your tight knit friends to always turn to for that is so important.

Claire Siegel: I love it.

Alex Snodgrass: And at the end of the day, I realized like if this all goes away, like, of course I'd be devastated, but I have my family, I have who I am as a person and I know who I am as a person. And like that is ultimately the most important thing. Um, so, you know, cancel culture's real, and sometimes, I will admit, like being on a platform that you fear that. It's like, you built your business and your, your, your everything.

And it's, it's my job, but I'm like... I could lose this tomorrow, technically, if someone really came after me. And that's a scary thing. But, you know, at the end of the day, I know who I am, and that I have my family and, like, I'll get through whatever comes my way. You know, that goes in every aspect of life though, so.

Claire Siegel: I love it. No, it's such a, such a good reminder. And I think, you know, for those of us on the audience side of, you know, the, the empire that's The Defined Dish is, like, also just remembering that you're a person or like anyone you see on social media is a person, and therefore they have feelings and flaws and are a person just like everyone else is a person.

You know, we're all just out here trying to do, do our best.

Alex Snodgrass: And we'll finish on positive note. I will say that most people on The Defined Dish community, within The Defined Dish community are like the most kind, loving, uplifting people. And I wouldn't be where I am today without them because they are constantly lifting me up and not pulling me down.

And it's just like a really small percent, but, of course, it's like, it's kind of like the Amazon reviews whenever my first book came out. I could have four thousand, five thousand five star reviews, but, you know, that handful of the hundred people that have left negative ones took a toll on me at first. And I was like, so upset about it.

But then, with time, I'm like, it's just, it's just part of this. And I have to get over the fact that I'm not for everybody. Um, and my recipes aren't for everybody. And the way I write isn't for everybody. And you can't win it all.

Claire Siegel: Oh my gosh, I hear you. Well, I personally think your cookbook is fabulous.

I cannot wait for the second one. I think, when I was thinking about this podcast, interviewing you and like your style of cooking— when I, we actually have a joke in my house, there's a period of time where my husband and I and my younger sister, we're all living together in my very small home. And we were, it was kind of at the beginning of the pandemic, and we were cooking your recipes almost every single night.

And I'm like kind of a freestyle in the kitchen. I'm not usually one who follows recipes. And we developed this thing where I would go kind of off on my own with your, one of your recipes, and it never turned out very well, and so we developed this saying now that is: We listen to Alex. So if we're following one of your recipes—

Alex Snodgrass: Don't stray from Alex.

Claire Siegel: Don't stray. We listen to Alex. That's what we say in our house.

Alex Snodgrass: Well, good. I like that saying.

Claire Siegel: I'm sure. Yeah, share it with your, your kids and Clayton. That'll be a good one. Um, but no, so excited for everything that you have coming out and going on. Um, yeah. Anything else that our listeners should be on the lookout for? Or where, where can they find you on the worldwide interweb?

Alex Snodgrass: You can be on the look out for my new book and pre-ordered that, and it'll be out in December. And other than that, uh, hopefully we'll be doing a book tour, so I'd love to meet some of your amazing community in person when that happens. Um, which will be probably January. Um, and they can find me at thedefineddish.com or @TheDefinedDish. Pretty easy and straightforward.

Claire Siegel: Love it. We'll have everything linked below. Thank you so much, Alex. It was great to catch up with you, and we'll talk soon.

Alex Snodgrass: Thank you so much for having me.