Coming from a health-conscious background Danielle Jonas, wife of Kevin Jonas and an entrepreneur who has appeared on the reality TV show “Married to a Jonas,” has her own jewelry line called Moments, and who partnered with her husband to launch an app called Amazing Baby Days, is now focusing her time on food.
During the lockdown period she has spent a lot of time whipping up delicious meals with her chef sister, Dina Deleasa-Gonsar, incorporating her new food obsession, Hood Cottage Cheese.
amNewYork Metro sat down with the two foodie sisters to discuss how important healthy food is for overall wellness, and also creative ways to incorporate health food fuel into your everyday lives.
When did you both first become passionate about nutrition and cooking?
Dina: From a very early age I was pushing a chair up to the counter trying to help my mom cook. Also, my mom was always big on what was actually in our food. I remember her taking us to the “health food store” because there was no organic section in the supermarket. She never let us have sugary cereals, or drinks like HI C, there was no soda at the table. Then when I got married I started focusing on more of the specifics of how food is fuel for your body. Wanting to make sure I was creating more of a balance for my husband and I, and now our daughter.
Danielle: Ever since we were young our mom always tried to feed us with health in mind. She would hide things that we didn’t like in other foods. I do the same now for myself and for my active kids.
Dina, when did you decide that culinary/cooking was going to be your career?
Dina: I was actually working as a school counselor and recipe developing on the side. It started taking on a life of its own, so I decided to take a risk and start DishItGirl full time about 8 years ago. I figured all I do is read about food, watch food TV, my hobbies consist of traveling with my husband and finding the best places to eat. So I might as well make it my career as well!
I can’t cook, at all, because I grew up with a single mom who just didn’t have time! Did you guys grow up in a foodie family?
Dina: We definitely did! Dinner time was non negotiable as was Sunday dinner. My dad was always talking about the “hole in the wall” he found while on the road. Or taking me on trips to the deli or bakery. My mom was always cooking and planning, always asking if we were hungry. Food was often the centerpiece of holidays and celebrations.
Danielle: Completely! Food was a part of our connection to family. Sunday dinners in Jersey were always how we spent time together and to this day we try not to miss one.
How do you sneak in nutrition into things like deserts or kids meals?
Danielle: Hood Cottage Cheese. It’s always been a favorite snack of mine, but Dina taught me how to use it in recipes, too. It works from breakfast through dinner as added nutrition and protein. My daughters especially like it when I make them Blueberry Protein Waffles, that I top with Hood Cottage Cheese with blueberry, fresh berries and maple syrup- it’s also gluten free!
Dina: The best thing about Hood Cottage Cheese is how versatile it is. I can make something that the whole family will love, even the kids, and it gives my kids nutrition they need! I love subbing it in for ricotta, drizzle honey or pepper flakes in it to dip into with chips or veggies, bake it into mac and cheese. There’s just so much you can do with such a versatile food like Hood Cottage Cheese that also gives my kids nutrition they need.
Danielle, does Dina introduce you to new foods?
Danielle: Dina is constantly introducing me to new foods and new recipes- one of the many perks of having a chef sister! My favorite thing she has introduced me to is Hood Cottage Cheese as it’s so versatile and my whole family loves it!
Has it been a struggle to be a mother during quarantine? How did you both deal with homeschooling?
Dina: There have definitely been pros and cons. As a mom you are playing every single role, managing everyone’s feelings, all while trying to keep your own mental health in check. Homeschooling helped give a sense of routine. Anything to hang on to some kind of structure day-to-day helped us get through.
Sure, it made my work hours more challenging, it changed some of our family dynamics, but while a tough transition at first I feel like our family unit is now more of a team, and we have learned to give ourselves a lot of grace!
Danielle: Home schooling was definitely a shock! I find that the time at home is great for the family, but we are definitely missing some of the social aspects that kids need at this age. Luckily we have a small POD (bubble) that allows us to see a few friends. It is also great that my two kids and Dina’s daughter, Siena get to play together all of the time.
How did you explain COVID and quarantining to your children? In a way that wouldn’t scare them?
Dina: Trying to focus on how to practice safe habits to keep healthy rather than what will happen if you get sick. Also positioning it as we are in this together, we are watching out for each other and keeping each other safe. Also encouraging them to let us know if they are scared or confused about something. The worst thing is to not let them feel like it is an open conversation. Instead of focusing on what we are missing out on we are trying to be creative with every little thing we can! I think another great piece for our children is our faith—they already have a good foundation. So being able to encourage them in that sense has been really helpful.
Danielle: We did our best to explain it as something we have to take seriously, but that it would eventually pass just like a runny nose. The hardest thing is not seeing their faces through the mask when doing fun things together.
Danielle, can you tell us more about your jewelry line? Are diamonds really a girls best friend? Do you go for ostentatious or everyday designs?
Danielle: The jewelry company is definitely meant to be accessible. I love that I’ve been able to work with my family on it and design pieces that speak to me. It’s fun to do the larger collection drops quarterly but I also love that we have the Essential pieces drop each Friday to keep things interesting. One of my favorite pieces that we just dropped is the Enamel Ring. It has been hard to keep that one in stock!
What is your favorite downtime activity after the kids are put to bed?
Danielle: I love to find a great show to binge with Kevin. We like a lot of the same content. Good, bad, doesn’t matter, just nice to be together and have our time!
Dina: I’m honestly pretty basic, I grab my fav tea catch up on what I missed during the day, plan for the next, and then watch a travel show with Brian. Currently loving Stanley Tucci on CNN!
Do you have any cheat days or unhealthy foods to indulge in occasionally?
Dina: I think balance is key. If you deny yourself too often you will end up in a cycle of binging. I try not to even think in the sense of “cheat days.” I just make thoughtful choices based on my current goals. If I want to “cheat” I may try to make sure it’s 3 cookies not 10!
Danielle: Absolutely, I try to instill healthy habits for myself and my children so that they have a good relationship with food. My favorite things to indulge in are Raisinettes or ice cream.
Obviously wellness includes exercise. This was interrupted by the pandemic too. How did you both keep in shape?
Dina: Virtual training sessions were helpful, as well as exercise videos. Also, doing “gym time” with Siena. We would do a kiddie yoga class on YouTube or freeze dance.
Danielle: Luckily we work with some great trainers that were able to adapt and do virtual classes. Kevin got a Tonal home gym and loves it. I really enjoy Pilates and was able to do a lot of mat work from home.
Dina, would you consider yourself a health-conscious chef?
Dina: Conscious, yes, obsessed, no. I know what ingredients are good for and I aim to include them in as many meals as possible. However, if that means it is paired with pasta or the dish includes cheese, I am not losing sleep over it. I love being creative with different ingredients and find a lot of satisfaction when I can make a nutrient dense dish feel decadent!