Midwest ‘ventures | A Couple Cooks Podcast Episode 45

Think the Midwest is all cornfields and cow tipping? Shelly Westerhausen, author of the cookbook Vegetarian Heartland, joins us for this episode about adventurous eating in the Midwest. Shelly shares about her story growing up in the Midwest as a vegetarian, and how this overlooked region is full of culture, vibrant food, waterfalls, caves, and forests. We chat recipe ideas galore, and her favorite delicious restaurants in the heartland of America. (Giveaway included!)


Vegetarian reuben sandwich

Coconut curry shakshuka



Bloomington, Indiana:

King Dough | Instagram

Siam House

Taste of India

The Owlery | Instagram



The Chicago Diner | Instagram


Shelly Westerhausen, Vegetarian Ventures

Website | Instagram | Facebook


>>Order the cookbook: Vegetarian Heartland


A Couple Cooks on Instagram and Twitter


We’re partnering with Chronicle Books to give away a copy of Vegetarian Heartland, along with a delicious artisan barbecue spice blend made by the author herself! US Only, entries good until June 2. For a chance to win, leave a comment below and answer this question: Tell us about an adventure in the Midwest that you’ve had, or hope to have?


  • Reply
    Genevieve Crum
    May 24, 2017 at 2:55 am

    In answer to your question about eating meat, I eat almost completely vegetarian most of the time. I love fish but I eat it more rarely, and when I do, I make sure to find a quality source. I realized that I didn’t want to completely remove meat from my diet, so I recently gave myself the challenge of cooking with meat every 2-3 weeks just to practice with a new recipe. I think my approach to meat, fish, eggs, dairy and even vegetables is all the same in that whatever I eat, I try to find balance and to source as locally and sustainably as possible. And I always seek to view food as a source of both nourishment and joy!

    An adventure that I really hope to have next summer once I’m back in the states is a tour of some of the best craft breweries in the Midwest. I absolutely love craft beer (especially IPAs and gose-style) and we have some of the best breweries in the country right in the Midwest! Some of my favorites near to my home in South Bend, Indiana are Bare Hands Brewery, Iechyd Da and Goshen Brewing Company. I would especially love to participate in Paddle for Pints in Traverse City: http://paddleforpints.com/. It perfectly combines my love for the outdoors and for craft brews, so I really can’t think of a better way to explore the Midwest. :)

  • Reply
    Rochelle Fjestad Byklum
    May 24, 2017 at 10:59 am

    Duluth, MN all day everyday! Lake Superior, Canal Park, Point Park Beach. You cannot go wrong!

  • Reply
    Valorie Coffland
    May 24, 2017 at 12:42 pm

    What a great find I’ve made today in your podcast series! As a lifelong Midwestern gal I really enjoyed the conversation and am now envisioning new cooking adventures ahead for my family as the Farmers Markets open here in KC. My five year old will be an easy sell on plant based meals. The other kid and Dad? More of a summer project indeed!

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    PS. Genevieve, put Kansas City (St. Louis and Springfield too!) on your list of craft beer tour destinations!

  • Reply
    May 24, 2017 at 3:59 pm

    I’m from Minnesota and as a kid we went to the boundary waters camping and we had some of the best memories growing up. Now that I have my own family I can’t wait to bring them there to camp experience canoeing,portaging, and taking in the beauty that mn and the Midwest has to offer!

  • Reply
    Rebecca Gordon
    May 25, 2017 at 8:53 am

    My husband and I recently moved to Western Wisconsin which makes weekend road trips and getaways even easier for so many places we want to go to Up North! On my “Wisconsin Bucket list” is taking a long weekend and heading up to the Apostle Islands for some kayaking and exploring with a stop on Madeline Island as well! After listening to the podcast I think those Hoagie Sandwiches in Shellys book would be great to bring along! Thanks for your amazing podcast that I always look forward to and showcasing the great Midwest!

  • Reply
    Kristen Klemann
    May 25, 2017 at 12:45 pm

    I live in Minnesota and have spent many childhood summers visiting our gorgeous State Parks. MN also has tons of bike trails and bike lanes which are great. And my CURRENT MN adventure is learning to row on the Mississippi River with the MN Boat Club.

  • Reply
    Jo Grabarek
    May 25, 2017 at 1:07 pm

    With some strong encouraging from my boyfriend, I’m starting to tip my toes (more appropriately, hiking boots!) into hiking and camping! We’ve been spending most nice weekends down at Brown County and Fort Harrison parks, hiking, snacking and enjoying the finally green trees of an Indiana spring. Excited to see the camping chapter that Shelly mentioned!

  • Reply
    May 25, 2017 at 1:52 pm

    My friend Amber and I took a road trip from Indianapolis, IN to Grand Haven, MI. We left directly after work and sped up north to catch the sunset at the pier (we’re both amateur photographers) but…we got lost. We drove around trying to find the right spot and got there just in the nick of time to catch the light. We then went for beers at a random restaurant and totally lucked out on the spot we chose! We ate delicious hummus, drank local beers and listened to an awesome folk duo that happened to be playing that night. It was a lovely bit of Midwest magic!

  • Reply
    Jennifer Essad
    May 26, 2017 at 12:08 am

    we’re from Michigan, our parents would pack up a picnic basket with sandwiches, apples and dad always made a paper bag full of butter/salt popcorn. Dad always bought station wagons and I often would get to sit by myself in the 3 row seat but my 2 brothers would want to switch. There were some summer trips to the small coastal town around Traverse City that I remember best. We loved being by the water. If we could stay at a hotel with a pool or on the beach we wouldn’t want to leave.

  • Reply
    Dina Osakue
    May 26, 2017 at 11:44 am

    I love your podcasts! I totally cook vegetarian more often than I thought about! Your recipes inspire me! My Garden has always been generous and I utilize it daily! I’m eating 50/50 at this point. Can’t wait for your cookbook!

  • Reply
    Eva-Elizabeth Chisholm
    May 26, 2017 at 12:22 pm

    This episode did my Michigan-born heart so much good, especially as I head home for the weekend. I can so relate to the “cozy food” idea….and now I’m craving sloppy joes. A favorite Michigan adventure is definitely camping along the shores of Lake Huron in a tiny state campground near DeTour village.

  • Reply
    May 26, 2017 at 2:46 pm

    I’ve recently ditched processed foods and began eating a diet rich in real whole foods. I have more energy and am able to push further when enjoying one of my favorite activities — hiking! The midwest is a hiker’s paradise (Starved Rock State Park, Ottawa, Ill., Shawnee State Forest, Herod, Ill., Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, Strong City, Kan…) I’d love to visit the Midwest and conquer some trails!

  • Reply
    May 27, 2017 at 4:44 pm

    I particularly enjoyed this episode, as I went to college in Valparaiso and my husband went to IU! I’ve heard the Valpo foodie scene is growing, but haven’t been back in several years. We like to drive down to the Bloomington area to hit up some of his favorite restaurants (I.e. Runcible Spoon) and then head over to Brown County or Griffy Lake for a lovely hike. I also grew up in St. Joe, Michigan and my family loved to pack up a picnic and sit on the bluff overlooking the lake. Can’t wait to check out Shelly’s cookbook!

  • Reply
    May 29, 2017 at 8:23 am

    My husband and I got kayaks last summer, and we’ve loved exploring different lakes and rivers around Michigan!

  • Reply
    Steph Peterson
    May 29, 2017 at 1:24 pm

    I’ve never actually been to the Midwest, but from the podcast it sounds just up my alley! I’m from the southeast (Appalachian mountainish area) and one of my favorite places to visit is out west (Utah and Colorado are my fave!) so I’m kinda a mountain girl, but hearing y’all talk about the Midwest it sounds really awesome! I love hiking and the food scene sounded really cool. I also am all about local music/concerts and community art scenes!! Do y’all have any suggestions for where I should check out?

  • Reply
    Josephine Gingerich
    May 29, 2017 at 10:52 pm

    Although I’ve lived and worked all over the country I somehow always come back to my hometown in southwest Michigan! I can’t get enough of the dunes and lakeshore, it’s such a peaceful and bright place with polite and friendly people! My family always goes camping and I remember one of the best trips was touring the Sleeping Bear Dunes and then heading to the upper peninsula to the Pictured Rocks shore line along lake Superior. It’s really a gem with such a unique ecosystem.

  • Reply
    May 30, 2017 at 6:14 am

    I am from NYC but my best friend lived in the midwest when we were growing up (she moved there when we were 13). During the summer I would go visit her and we would spend our days enjoying the slower paced life, playing in lake Erie and enoying midwest delacicies such as fried balogna,

  • Reply
    Andrea Kirschling
    May 30, 2017 at 4:25 pm

    Midwest is best! Totally related to Shelly when she said her parents did not know how to feed her as a child, I too lived off of peanut butter and pasta as a child. I love camping in Indiana but have yet to visit Lake Michigan for a camping trip. I would love to go hammock camping on the beach!

  • Reply
    June 1, 2017 at 10:54 pm

    I also echo peanut butter and pasta as a child vegetarian! Fun to hear Shelly spread the midwestern love! I went to college in West Michigan ,but never made it up to the UP– I hope to get up there once our toddler handles lengthy car rides a little but better. Thanks for the fun episode!

  • Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.