Wiltonian says 'Yes to Yummy'
Click on a photo to access its recipe.
Seventeen-year-old Wiltonian Abby Schiff has been interested in food for as long as she can remember.
“Though I was picky as a child, my culinary horizons expanded when I started watching the Food Network in second or third grade, inspiring me to try more foods and cuisine,” said Abby, who just finished her junior year at Wilton High School.
“Throughout elementary school and middle school, I watched my dad make dinner on the weekends, often helping him chop up vegetables or stir a pot of stew.”
Abby said she wanted to try cooking on her own, but her parents were reluctant to let her use the stove without adult supervision. Instead, she said, she printed out recipes and put them in a binder labeled “Things I’ll cook when I’m old enough.”
“One day, my dreams came true,” she said. “Around the start of high school, I took over the kitchen, making dinner for my family every night and experimenting with baked goods over the weekend.”
Not long after she started cooking, Abby’s friends and teachers suggested she start a blog to chronicle her “culinary endeavors,” so she “signed up for a Tumblr account, got out [her] camera and put together what would become Yes to Yummy” in April 2013.
“In the fall of 2013, I moved over from Tumblr to my own yestoyummy.com domain, and that’s what I’ve been using ever since,” she said.
“My Tumblr blog only took a few hours to set up, but with my website — the one I still use today — it took several months to work out all the kinks.”
Abby describes Yes to Yummy as a “marriage between exciting culinary adventures and flexible ways to eat healthfully.”
“It’s the perfect solution for a gourmand who still wants to eat something nourishing,” she said. “The goal is to show people that healthy food can be delicious and it doesn’t have to be boring or tasteless.”
Abby said she makes and photographs all of the recipes featured on her Yes to Yummy website.
“With the exception of my travel posts, if I didn’t cook it myself, it’s not going on the blog,” she said. “All of my neighbors have probably seen me outside, squatting with my camera over a plate.”
She also has a professional light box in her basement for when the weather is dreary, she said, or when she just wants a white background.
While many of the recipes featured on Yes to Yummy are “gluten-free, vegan and/or paleo,” Abby said, she doesn’t “adhere to a specific diet,” but strives to “appeal to all different styles of eating.”
“While I am deeply interested in nutrition, I am also a total foodie — plain chicken breast, steamed broccoli and brown rice aren’t going to fly by me,” she said.
“My food must be made with wholesome ingredients, but it also has to have flavor and look appealing on the plate, too.”
Abby said she gets recipe inspirations from people she follows on Instagram and Facebook, as well as from food blogs and websites.
“When someone posts an intriguing photo or announces a new recipe on his or her blog, I often get inspired to make something similar,” she said. “I also have a massive collection of cookbooks from which I frequently pull inspiration.”
When she is developing a recipe, Abby said, she usually glances at one or two recipes to get an idea of ingredient ratios or to learn a particular technique, and then crafts the rest of the recipe herself.
Abby said eating nutritiously does not have to be restrictive.
“You can be incredibly healthy while still eating a plethora of tasty dishes and you can still indulge in pizza, cake and even ice cream,” she said. “I’ve made several healthy versions of all three.”
Abby said she doesn’t want Yes to Yummy readers to worry about counting calories or treat food as just “fuel.”
“I want them to focus on how eating nutritiously makes them feel in both a physical and emotional sense. Eating healthfully is about so much more than looking good in a swimsuit,” she said.
“When you fill your plate with nourishing foods, you have more energy, sleep better and just feel happier overall. That, to me, is far more important than a clothing size or a number on the scale.”
Abby said her favorite foods to make would have to be pasta dishes.
“What I love about pasta is that it’s incredibly versatile,” she said. “You can pair it with a rich tomato sauce for a cold winter night or mix it up with lightly sautéed vegetables, olive oil and garlic for a light summer meal.”
Another favorite culinary creation of hers is vegan spinach cannelloni.
“I make a ricotta ‘cheese’ out of cashews, stuff it inside of lasagna noodles, roll them up into little logs and cover everything with homemade tomato sauce and mozzarella ‘cheese,’ [which is] also made out of cashews,” said Abby.
“After baking it in the oven for half an hour, it comes out warm, bubbly and surprisingly very cheesy. You would have no idea the ‘cheese’ is made out of cashews. I’ve fed this cannelloni to cheese lovers who couldn’t tell the difference.”
When it comes to her favorite foods to eat, Abby said, peanut butter is her obsession.
“Crunchy, smooth, salted, unsalted — it doesn’t matter. I could eat an entire jar if I was so inclined,” she said.
“Peanut butter with anything — apples, brown rice cakes, a spoon — the possibilities are endless.”
In addition to her website, Abby has used her passion for food and nutrition to give back to the community as a member of the school district’s Nutrition Board, where she discusses food and physical education with parents, teachers and administrators from Miller-Driscoll, Cider Mill, Middlebrook and the high school.
“I’m really interested in learning about food on a molecular level, so this year I took AP Chemistry and next year I’ll take AP Biology, as well as organic chemistry,” said Abby.
“I’ve also pursued a few side projects in my health classes. Last year, for example, I taught lessons about healthy eating to the children at Helping Hands Preschool, which was an amazing experience for me.”
In college, Abby said, she hopes to study nutritional sciences and possibly become a registered dietitian.
“My dream is to find a profession that incorporates both nutrition and cooking,” she said, “so perhaps I’ll start my own catering business that also offers health coaching, or open a small café that offers healthy dishes made with fresh, local ingredients.”
Abby would also love to become a yoga teacher, “as yoga is another special passion of mine,” she said.
Click here to check out Yes to Yummy.