Turning the page to Pretty Simple Cooking with A Couple Cooks

It’s Friday night, 5 o’clock. Sonja and Alex Overhiser are in their new home, hovered over a Julia Child cookbook. Their only goal is to make a delicious meal—so they do. The couple is enthralled with cooking, empowered by Julia Child’s philosophy: There is going to be a lot of failure. After much trial and error, the two realize the joy of being in the kitchen; Sonja and Alex fall in love all over again, this time with food. They take interest in cooking healthful meals and do some research, learning how much better it can be to eat plant-based. Rather than flipping their diet altogether, they settle on a “flexitarian” style of eating—essentially a relaxed form of vegetarianism.

In 2010, Sonja and Alex begin to share their kitchen ventures online as A Couple Cooks, testing and photographing meals for their blog. “We develop all the recipes together,” says Sonja. “The ability to work as a team is invaluable.” A Couple Cooks has created a livelihood out of experimenting in the kitchen.

“When we started, everyone was [blogging] as a hobby,” says Sonja. “For us, it’s now grown into a business.” The couple collaborates with national food and cookware brands, creating original recipes with their products and sharing them online. Alex is the main photographer and manages website analytics, web design and technical work. Sonja handles client communication, social media, writing and art direction for A Couple Cooks’ brand. “It’s definitely a collaborative effort,” she says.

The Overhisers aim to inspire their audience to enjoy the kitchen as much as they do. Their main motivation is health—for the body, the planet, the community—and the love of food and each other. Sonja and Alex went from fast and frozen food to cooking each day, and have found a comfortable, fun way to explore the kitchen. They believe in investing themselves in their food and encourage all cooks to respect their ingredients, to eat mindfully and form relationships around sharing food with one another.

A Couple Cooks’ endeavors have recently furthered as they’ve transcended the digital world by illustrating their work on paper. Pretty Simple Cooking is Sonja and Alex’s vegetarian cookbook, inspired by their love for making vegetables more delicious. Although they don’t eat 100% vegetarian, the couple wanted to share fun ways of making vegetables more desirable. Pretty Simple Cooking is geared toward all eaters, made with the motivation to instill healthy eating habits. Sonja insists: “It’s a vegetarian cookbook for non-vegetarians.”

The Process

Pretty Simple Cooking showcases 100 eclectic vegetarian recipes and 10 lessons describing how Sonja and Alex fit cooking into their lifestyle. It started as a master spreadsheet, listing 100 possible recipes for use. Sonja and Alex outlined different concepts, tested their recipes at home and reached out via social media to find independent volunteer food testers. Hundreds of volunteers gave feedback on the ease and success of each recipe they made.

Testers’ positive and negative remarks were used to tweak recipes, eventually leaving Sonja and Alex with a crowd-tested list of delicious, simple vegetarian meals. Once the bare bones were lined up, they instilled their philosophy. Ultimately, the heart of the book sprouts from the idea that there can be great joy in cooking, so long as you are willing to find it.

Sonja emphasizes that her and Alex’s journey has been nothing but encouraged by those around them. “Our community has been incredible in supporting our book and our work,” she says. But the publishing process was not an easy one. It began with finding the right agent, one that understood the book’s mission.

“It took several years of honing our pitch, writing a proposal and finding the right publisher for the book.” In February 2016, the team landed a book deal with Hachette/Da Capo Press and the ball started rolling.

A New Addition

For Sonja and Alex, it seems good things tend to happen all at once. Even as their cookbook brainchild was finding its footing, their efforts to adopt a child also took a step. Two weeks before the first draft of the Pretty Simple Cooking manuscript was due, they received a text over coffee. It was Mariah, the fourth potential birth mother match they’d found after three previously failed adoptions. Tensions ran high as the couple raced to the hospital, a two-hour drive, with loose ends and no answers.

Sonja was in the room when Larson was born. She and Alex were in shock as they fed him his first bottle—parenthood was finally here after waiting so long. It appeared that Larson Ames was the baby that Sonja and Alex Overhiser were meant to have.

Pretty Simple Cooking reflects Sonja and Alex’s diet and who they are, but it also reflects Larson. Welcoming him into their family has only affected Sonja and Alex’s kitchen habits in a good way; Larson helps them shake things up.

“He has made everything more fun,” says Sonja. “Having a kid is like everything happening again for the first time. New flavors are really exciting.”

Naturally, teaching and watching Larson has fostered the new parents’ love for food. They are beginning to branch out into more kid-centric meals, though Larson mainly eats what Sonja and Alex eat. Pretty Simple Cooking’s vegetarian essence is not a deterrent for children— feedback from Larson and other young eaters proves that kids love the veggie-forward cuisine.

Sonja and Alex are thankful for the support they’ve received for Pretty Simple Cooking and the helping hand that Larson gives. “We cook all the time, exactly how we used to. Now that he’s a toddler, Larson gets to test the recipes we’ve made.”

Pretty Simple Cooking has only motivated the Overhisers to grow their brand online. A Couple Cooks’ blog is updated with new recipes, from seasonal treats to hearty meals. Eating mostly plant-based doesn’t have to mean giving up anything, it simply means finding new, fun ways to eat.

Pretty Simple Cooking is proven perfect for date night or family gatherings. Sonja and Alex have been no strangers to hardship. Through 11 years of marriage, the couple has stood through cancer, miscarriage and gray clouds galore. Their kindness and sympathy for those who endure similar situations is evident; A Couple Cooks is dedicated to their readers’ personal health inside and out. Not only does their blog showcase their own story, but it gives advice for self care.

The Overhisers are humbled by their sorrow and success and are more than happy to collaborate. They want to help others through business, whether that is behind the scenes or for publicity. The husband- and-wife duo are healthy food influencers who specialize in recipe development, food photography, blogging, social media and brand ambassadorship. Visit A Couple Cooks’ website to read more about working with or learning from Sonja and Alex.



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