About The Sun Grown Kitchen

Hello!  The Sun Grown Kitchen combines two of my favorite things that naturally go hand in hand…cooking and gardening.  I have been cooking professionally for about 12 years.  While in college studying business at the University of Wisconsin, I got my first restaurant job.  I was cooking, prepping, grilling, bartending, learning, and cutting and burning my fingers countless times.  After graduating, that job led me to culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in Chicago.  From there I’ve worked in a handful of restaurants, probably my favorite being the famous Pump Room at The Ambassador East Hotel in Chicago.  It was also a long ago favorite of Frank Sinatra, Humphrey Bogart and countless other celebrities, including the late Dennis Farina – which was quite a thrilling bartending night for me serving the actor (and martini enthusiast!).  I made my way back closer to home in Minnesota, got a job managing my first restaurant for a local deli, gave it up to become a mommy, and found that my favorite place to cook is in my own kitchen for my family.

As for gardening I am no expert, but how can anyone not want free fresh veggies in their backyard?  Gardening for me started several years back in my 300 square foot studio apartment where I planted a few herbs in my windowsill and convinced my landlord to allow a tomato and zucchini pot on the roof of the building.  From my tiny rooftop I moved in with my husband and we cleared a few feet in our backyard.

I am from a small town in Wisconsin and somehow have always managed to live in big cities since I left.  Someday soon we hope to find a more country home with more room to spread out!  I dream of a few apple trees, more tomatoes than I know what to do with, a handful of brown and blue egg laying chickens, and raspberry picking in the Minnesota sun!  As for now I happily enjoy meals from our tiny kitchen and garden, and hope you will too!


About My Food

Homemade food…I love to cook meals from ingredients in their most basic form~simple, fresh, seasonal, and usually pretty healthy.  The world has gotten very busy, but I think cooking dinner every night, and eating good meals together is worth making time for.  There are many shortcuts out there but in general I try to steer away from processed foods, and try to spend my “shopping time” in the garden, the produce aisle or the farmers market.  I think my mom is to thank for this, to this day I’ve only tasted boxed mac & cheese once and decided her version was far better.  Both my parents are fabulous cooks, and cooking and meals together are a big part of all of our lives.

I don’t claim to be a nutritionist, but we learned to eat right in elementary school-fruits, veggies, meat, whole grains, dairy – I eat what I think is good for me (and my husband and two little kids), but never skip dessert!   Cooking homemade food from scratch is better tasting, better for you, and usually cheaper and easier on the environment…and its fun!  My life has changed from restaurant cooking to my kids pulling chairs up to the counter to help, measuring ingredients, stirring and learning to love real, delicious food.  My time in the kitchen with them is worth the extra mess, I want to see them cooking for their own families someday.

And being from Wisconsin, we eat a lot of cheese!


PS…In order to help pay for this site, you may see a few advertisements and I may occasionally put links that generate a small commission when clicked.

  • Dave Rice

    Pretty cool site and cool concept. How about some new recipes even though is winter. Do you have a great spinach gratin recipe using fresh spinach or is frozen just as good for the gratin?

  • Matthew Shilts

    Meryl I really like the site. I will have to try some of your recipes soon.

    • Meryl Downing

      Hey Matt! Glad to hear that, let me know if you try any you like!