About & Contact
Welcome to The Dirty Sifter! Sounds kind of fun-don't you think? Here you'll find a mixture of things that keep my mind busy, my kitchen dirty, and my life full. Along the way, I hope to share food that will energize you, tidbits about my life that will likely entertain you, and my passion for stuffing my face - I mean - food.
My name is Annaliese, I am a Wisconsin native, hailing from Brooklyn. I love to run, cook, bake, eat, read cookbooks, and stare up at the stars and moon. I grew up in a small town (population: 800!). The roads did not have yellow or white lines on them. There weren't rules to be broken. There were no buildings-except houses, farms and sheds scattered along the rolling fields. There were no trends to keep up with, and there wasn't a shopping mall in sight! Fun was running around the yard and the fields-winter, spring, summer and fall. There was nothing like a good game of chase-the-blanket or baseball with my cousins! My grandma, mom, aunt, and occasionally greenhouse helpers of my mom would look after "the kids"-me, my sister and my cousins. We all grew up together on my aunt and uncle's dairy farm and my mom's greenhouse. Seriously, I think it was the best way to grow up, and I realize now very special. Always making messes outside (ok, inside, too!), playing in the dirt, walking barefooted through fields, throwing mud and rotten tomatoes from my grandma's garden at things we shouldn't. My grandma fueled the family on a daily basis with Wisconsin home cooking. You know-the food that is now trendy in many Madison restaurants (but lacking the flavor, love and staying-power of food prepared by a real Wisconsin grandmother). A daily ritual for us was noon-time "dinner": a time for the "men" to fuel-up for their afternoon and evening milking, and kids to eat to fuel their growing bodies. Local and family-grown produce, home canned goods, farm-raised meats, free-range chickens and eggs, and fresh dairy were the staples of our diet. We rarely ate food that wasn't produced at or close to home. Our family was always busy-there was always something to do, and preparing food to fuel our busy lives was no exception. There were daily and seasonal favorites and traditions-many of which still hold true today. I hope to share some of these with you in my own unique spin: plant-based, sometimes vegan, sometimes gluten-free and always vegetarian.
Clearly my love for food was fostered my whole childhood, so it was no surprise that during my middle school years, I decided that I wanted to work with food. When my parents divorced, my dad's new house had cable. This was a big deal for a kid who grew up with only 3 channels, and very limited TV watching! I remember staying up at night, watching the Food Network, and dreaming of how wonderful it would be to make food all day long-especially baked goods and pastries (and also how crazy it would be to be a judge on Iron Chef...like, the original Iron Chef…). My dreams of going to school for pastry arts and baking turned into a passion for food science (in other words, my mom asked me: “do you really want to work in the service industry for your career?” and I said “well, maybe not….”). Many food preparation classes, several certifications with the state and private companies, three internships, two years in the food industry, and one undergraduate degree and one master's degree in Food Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison later, I find myself again where it all started. With the farms, the land, the livestock and the people.
I am currently living and working in small town of Viroqua, WI. I work at MOSA (Midwest Organic Services Association), primarily as a customer service specialist, and also as a material review specialist. I help people in the process of becoming certified organic, and also help them maintain organic certification by interpreting and communicating the USDA National Organic Program (no easy task!). Nestled in the heart of the Driftless region, Viroqua has a lot of character, personality and a peaceful sense of calm. It is tranquil, yet colorful, and full of personality. And also, I think a little bit of magic makes this place special...I feel grateful to be living and working in this community, and supporting the organic movement!
To back up a little, my journey back to my roots, so to speak, was a long one. And I would be lying if I said that I arrived here, un-scathed, without a lot of crying and self-doubt, as well as anxiety. You may sense this from reading some of my older posts! Indeed, I would also do you a disservice by not coming clean about my experience with a long-term abusive relationship. I feel this is so, because it has shaped the way I now approach my food choices right now, and how I choose to nourish my body!
My journey with vegan food started three years ago. The two years leading up to the transition to graduate school from a high-stress food industry job was mentally and physically exhausting. I would channel my anxieties from a high-stress job, a long commute to work, and not-so-great personal life into over-exercising. At the time, nothing made me feel better, lighter, and happier than a 6 mile run everyday after work, and sometimes, even more exercise in the gym. Even still, I felt guilty and was angry about working for a company that was supposed to nourish the minds and bodies of consumers, but was basically draining the life out of me (and not to mention, supporting the production of processed food products that I didn’t believe in, or would personally choose to eat).
Still, after returning to school to start my graduate studies in August 2013, those feelings of unrest, guilt and anxiety lingered. I struggled for a few months, wondering if I'd ever feel "normal" again. This rut transcended my work ethic, my exercise, my relationships with others and my diet. The cold and dark winters of Wisconsin and a draining relationship did not help the situation! Cold, pessimistic and confused about life, my sister unknowingly stepped in. Isn't that what big sisters are for?
In January 2014, my sister introduced me to a food blog that changed my life. It was all about vegan food-and how to find your "glow" again.After experimenting for a few months, I found myself feeling "good" again: I was sleeping better, I was less anxious, my energy levels were coming back, my chronic constipation was improving, and my skin was also improving. And even better-I felt proud of the food I purchased, prepared and put into my body. This most certainly produced a sense of security and happiness that emanated to other areas of my life. Compassion, patience, and ability to be in-tune with my body started to developed, and is still developing. Prioritizing my health and well-being went hand-in-hand with nourishing plant-based food. I also started to pursue behavioral-based therapy in 2014 to better my mental and physical well-being, and to help undo some of the habits and behaviors I developed while being under immense pressure and stress in 2011-2013.
In 2015-2016, the process of completing my master’s degree, writing my thesis, graduating in December of 2015 and successfully defending my thesis in early 2016 opened new doors to my future. My opportunities were, in theory, endless. But, old habits die hard, and I learned that my ability to suppress my own well-being and intuition to please others was still very, very strong. Enter: my second corporate food job as an R&D Scientist.
Long story short: the 6 months I spent at this job ripped through my soul, and ultimately made me realize in a very big, big way that life was too short to spend my time, energy and passion on people and companies that did not share the same values that I did. This was a very real, a very raw, and a very vulnerable time for me. Those 6 months included me ending a 5-year relationship, meeting a person that changed my life and the way I view the world in a very big way, and also included what I consider now as experiencing a complete mental meltdown (we’ll call this the Hot Mess of 2016). In this brief moment, I did not care about consequences. I did not care about anyone else except myself. And I did what I had to do to GET THE FUCK OUT!
I was finally free: free of past relationships, free of a job that didn’t suit my principles and values, and free to do whatever I wanted to do...no questions asked...no one to answer to, except myself.
Lesson learned: at some point, you will have to listen to your heart, soul and intuition. If you don’t, your true desires and intentions will bubble up, manifest, and come out in extraordinary ways that you least expect. At some point, you will have to look at yourself in the mirror, and be honest with yourself. You are responsible for your own happiness. And that, my friends, is one powerful lesson to learn. During this transition period, I found that my once strict vegan, no-animal product diet melted away into one that made me feel happier, more energized and whole. It was more loose, more free, more forgiving, perhaps because I was becoming more free and forgiving! Currently, I use locally produced eggs, and use dairy products with respect. I still don’t consume meat or animal flesh of any kind. But in the end, all food takes energy, time and resources to plant, cultivate, process, ship, store and prepare, and I try my best to respect this as I create in my kitchen! Being an educated consumer is key, as is making the choices that suit YOUR body and values.
So I promise you this: I will share recipes that I love, recipes that I want to inspire you with, and recipes that truly nourish my body and soul in hopes that they do the same for you. And to do this, they may not be all animal product-free (but always responsibly sourced!). I prioritize using local ingredients, sometimes organic. The recipes may not all be refined-sugar free. They may contain gluten. And they will most definitely contain chocolate! So with this, I encourage you to browse, and be creative. Open your heart, release judgement, and roll-up your sleeves.
The ingredients are beautiful yet imperfect. The end result is happiness, but not without genuine emotion. The yield is infinite. Let’s continue this journey together! With love and abundance,
If you'd like to contact me or request a recipe be featured on The Dirty Sifter, please email me at email@example.com.