INSPIRING YOU TO EAT CLEAN AND LIVE WELL

Jan 22

EXAMINER.COM | Get Back to the Basics |Terry Walters Interview, Part 3 of 4

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Interview Part 3 of 4 | examiner.com | January 21, 2015 | A. Michelle Blakeley

Don’t be afraid to experiment with food. Try something different. You won’t know if you don’t like it unless you try it. For a long time (over 40 years), I turned my nose up at Brussels sprouts. I had envisioned that they were hard and bitter and just “nasty.” Mind you, I had never even bothered to cook or taste one. This was all an assumption I had created in my head. I saw an image of Brussels sprouts browned to perfection and seasoned so well, I could taste it from the page. I was smitten. They looked too good to be true, but I went to the store, bought some Brussels sprouts, got home and prepared the recipe. Needless to say, I am currently addicted to the very vegetable that I had despised all of these years. The first thing I thought was, “My God I have been missing out on something really delicious!” My second thought was, “never again.” I will try everything at least once. Maybe even twice to make sure (by preparing it differently).

More recently, I had my first poached egg. All this time before, I couldn’t get past the thought of the gooey yolk and the whole “it’s not cooked” issue. I made my husband poached eggs for two weeks to improve my technique. It’s not the best, but it’s pretty good. So your lesson today is to try something new, something different. Go out and get something that you sworn off without even trying it. Get it, try it and check off the list or keep it on the list.

It’s Part 3 of my interview with Terry Walters, author of Eat Clean Live Well. I’m reminded to keep an open mind about food, allfood and just continue to enjoy the journey of life. (see Part 1 and Part 2)

What do you think is missing from food scene?

There’s a lot coming into the food scene. I think we’re forgetting where our roots are. But I’m seeing some of that coming back. Whether it’s fermentation or becoming familiar with what grains are or seeds like millet and quinoa. People ask me all the time, “what would I use if I wanted to take out the wheat in a recipe or egg, or the shortening, etc.?” I never learned how to cook the conventional way. So, when I use millet flour and chickpea flour, it’s not because I can’t have wheat. I’m using all of these different ingredients because they have great taste and I love their texture. I love helping people become more aware of all of these other phenomenal ingredients that taste really great and sustain their health, which happen to be good substitutes for things they can’t have.

Is there any food you’ve been dying to try, but for some reason haven’t gotten around to or been able to?

You know, if someone were to recommend something, I would love to try something new. I learn so much from going to the Farmer’s Market. When I’m at the Farmer’s Market and see something I don’t recognize, I force myself to buy it. And I force myself to have that conversation with the farmer. “What is this strange thing?” I feel fairly familiar with quite a variety.

I’ll be in Chicago next month promoting Eat Clean Live Well. And I’m picking restaurants that I know are going to introduce me to new things I haven’t had. I have no culinary education. I’m completely self-taught, so I’m very experimental.

What’s your favorite cookbook?

When I started out, there weren’t a lot of cookbooks that didn’t have dairy or sugar in them. Most of my favorites are the ones that I found along the way and found something inspiring in them or I met the chef and that inspired something in me to continue in the journey. Peter Berley, who wrote The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen, taught me how to make sourdough bread. I love his book, it’s an old one, but it’s great. I love the book Plenty. A friend of mine gifted me the Australian version. There are brilliant line drawings and a simple aesthetic in that book that is refreshing and combined with Ottolenghi’s approach to food.

What’s your favorite kitchen gadget?

I love my chef’s knife. When I first started cooking I didn’t really know what I was doing so I had a pot and a food processor. I didn’t have a clue as to what to do with a knife. Even cutting vegetables, I would just throw them in the food processor and then into the pot, so everything was turned into soup.

I really do appreciate my knife. I’m not a really a gadget gal. I’ve got a good cutting board, my knife and I love, love, love my cast iron skillet. That is the best deal in the kitchen; a well seasoned cast iron skillet. You can make anything in it.

Any kitchen pet peeves?

I don’t think so. I started cooking in the most minimal of kitchen with coil burners and I already told you about my “lovely” oven. Today I have a pretty phenomenal kitchen with ventilation, quite the luxury from days past. If anything, it’s running out of storage containers. I hate when I don’t have enough lids for the containers. I don’t know how that happens.

Where do you go or what do you do to unwind after a long day in the kitchen?

I’m actually a runner and that’s my go-to to unwind. I also love to take my dog for a walk and just spend time with my family; a hike in the woods, skiing in the winter. I used to say reading a book, but I spend so much time at the computer, my eyeglass prescription can’t keep up with my visual needs. In the Summer I love being in the garden. I’m not much for sitting, I like to be physically active. If I’m going to sit, it’s to watch my girls and their activities. They are my greatest joy.

This Week’s Featured Recipe | Chinese Cabbage Soup

(Full disclosure: I received a copy of Terry’s book for review. However, all of my reviews, opinions and/or other commentary expressed here are my own and based on my experience with a product. I am not affiliated with any brands mentioned in my column nor do I endorse them and they do not endorse me.)

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Jan 14

EXAMINER.COM |Get Back to the Basics | Terry Walters Interview, Part 2 of 4

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Interview Part 2 of 4 | examiner.com | January 14, 2015 | A. Michelle Blakeley

This week on Part 2 of my interview with Eat Clean Live Well author, Terry Walters, Terry reminds us that not everyone has access to healthy, locally grown food. Food deserts are a real issue in the United States. Faced with having to travel by bus for an hour just to get fresh food, most low-income families find it difficult to justify the means. Urban and community farms are growing, but we need more. Each of us can help bring this issue to the forefront until fresh, whole food is within reach for everyone. Think about volunteering at a local community farm, start a community farm, start a Farmer’s Market… sure these are lofty ideas for some of us, but at the very least each of us can further the conversation simply by talking about it and asking “what can we do to make sure people in the low-income neighborhoods have access to the same fresh food we do?” Sometimes it’s as simple as connecting dots. One person with another person. One idea with another idea.

Terry has spent quite a bit of time at her local urban farm and has worked with local schools to help educate youth and their families on quality and healthy food options; including how to plant their own gardens. Learn more about Terry on her website or connect with her on Instagram at @terrywalterscooks. Here’s Part 2 of 4 of our conversation… (also see Part 1.)

What are your thoughts on the “farm to table” movement?

I think it’s a trend generated by our increasingly adulterated food system. I do think it is here to stay. We’ve had a tremendous amount of growth here in Connecticut in small farms. I think community farms are the answer. It’s empowering and achieves so many goals in addition to feeding and nourishing communities with economic support, cleaning the air, being stewards of the land and crop diversity. In Connecticut, the largest segment in the number of farmers has been women. That is really cool to me. That whole sense of empowerment is phenomenal.

Sadly, I think it’s only for certain segments. From what I see, it’s accessible to the wealthy and the not-so wealthy. It’s the folks in the middle that are getting a little bit lost. Fortunately, we have a lot of role models in New England who have been very successful in making it accessible to everybody. There are so many people working towards that and I’d like to think I’m one of them. We are moving in the right direction, but we have a ways to go.

Are there issues with food deserts when you are?

Urban Oaks is in the middle of a food desert. I can’t image the struggle of having to source fresh produce miles away from my home. I’ve worked with Urban Oaks for over 14 years and served on their board. Food deserts are unimaginable. Urban Oaks reaches out to the schools, showing them how to grow their own food and bringing them out to the farm and offering volunteer and educational opportunities and having translators come in to speak Spanish and Polish so that they can really understand. It’s really an amazing place and a gift to be part of that community.

What won’t you eat?

I’m not a huge fan of eggplant. Although I’ve had people make it where it’s just delicious, nothing makes me say, “I think I’ll order that again.” I think that happened after I had my children. Before children, I really loved eggplant. After children, not so much.

Coffee or tea?

No thanks. Water with lemon.

Savory or sweet?

Salty. Savory and salty, unless it’s chocolate. Then it’s bitter.

What’s your guilty food pleasure?

Pizza. I love thin crust. I’m pretty flexible after that. Fresh greens. Kale. Mushrooms. Thinly sliced potatoes.

Sometimes dining out can be challenging for vegetarians and clean eaters, what’s your favorite go-to restaurant?

There are some clean food options, locally. There are some vegan and non-vegan restaurants that value the local farm scene with really phenomenal food. One of our main food chains, Plan B makes their own veggie burgers sourced from locally grown greens. When they make that effort; that’s what I want to see because I know the food is made with care. Remember the days when you’d go to a restaurant and the “vegetarian” option was just a stack of vegetables? A plate of steamed zucchini, mushrooms and eggplant with some sauce around it? We’ve come a long way.

This Week’s Featured Recipe | Acorn Squash Cups with Ginger Apple Stuffing (It’s good enough for breakfast!)

(Full disclosure: I received a copy of Terry’s book for review. However, all of my reviews, opinions and/or other commentary expressed here are my own and based on my experience with a product. I am not affiliated with any brands mentioned in my column nor do I endorse them and they do not endorse me.)

Jan 7

EXAMINER.COM | Get back to the basics, Eat Clean Live Well with Terry Walters

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Interview Part 1 of 4 | examiner.com | January 7, 2015 | A. Michelle Blakeley

With The Official 2015 Vegetarian Cookbook List in hand, we’re going to start this journey and exploration of provocative and flavor-filled food with Terry Walters and her new cookbook, Eat Clean Live Well (Sterling Epicure, 2014). I chose Terry’s book for January because I know everyone is full of resolutions to eat better and be healthier. Cleansing, fasting and selective deprivation. What about just good old fashion clean food eating? Taking it back to the basics. No label reading, no calorie counting, no measuring, no pills and no potions. Just real and whole food from as close to the source as you can get it; your local Farmer’s Market, community garden or CSA.

I spoke with Terry before the holidays and her perspective on food is as fresh and wholesome as it gets. She keeps things simple, clean and full of flavor. She’s genuine, creative and experimental with food. With a heart for environmental stewardship and access to healthy food, her book is a great place to start for new and recommitted vegetarians and serves as a gentle reminder to the rest of us that real food feeds our soul. It’s not just about health, but about a mindset to be respectful of that which is given to us by nature. Eat Clean Live Well is fundamental. Get a copy on Terry’s website and connect with her on Twitter at @terrywalters. Here is Part 1 of 4 of our interview…

Was there a catalyst for your clean food lifestyle? What’s the story behind Terry Walters? 

There was absolutely a catalyst. My mother was very natural food oriented, she cooked from scratch and used whole ingredients. But while in college, I learned I had high cholesterol. The doctors were shocked because I was a female, young and an athlete. I was in a little bit of a crisis because at 20 years old, I didn’t want to be on cholesterol medication and my dad had recently had a heart attack (he’s a healthy 86 now), but it was a wake up call for all of us.

Fortunately, I had one doctor along the way who told me, “You need to start eating brown rice and kale.” I bought it, went home and cooked it and it was disgusting. So, I said, “if this is what real food is, I need to figure out how to make it delicious.” I taught myself how to cook and began to teach classes as a way to connect with others who were on the same journey and as a way to share the journey. It was a lifestyle change and I’ve been able to forge a career from my passion. My first book, Clean Food, was created from people asking me to bind my recipes.

What’s a favorite moment in the kitchen?

It changes from season to season, but I would say when my children cook for me. A lot of my recipes come from cravings or dietary restrictions or inspiration from being out at the farm talking to farmers or at the Farmer’s Market. But in the end, when I can sit down and have someone else make me something and I can taste all of the love that they put into it and go through the effort to make it, that’s the best.

What’s the worst experiment you’ve had with food?

When I first started my cooking classes, it would take weeks to put together the menus and recipes. Now, I can do that fairly quick. However, my original oven had some issues. It would only cook on one side. One side would be stone cold and the other side would heat to the set temperature. So halfway through, I’d have to flip my meals around. I was teaching a crowd favorite, Tofu Kale Lasagna, and after we got it all made and put it in the oven, I pressed the timer and heard this strange suction noise. Sure enough, it was preparing to self-clean and the temperature was rising. The oven was locked and set at 500. I had 15 people watching me negotiate the oven. I was finally able to jam it open 15 minutes later and turned to my students and said kind of miraculously, “Well, look at that, our lasagna finished early!”

What’s your go-to ingredient?

I do have a few. Vegetables change by season, but I am a huge fan of kale. I like it raw, massaged with avocado and winter vegetables with curry, tumeric, currants and cashews and all of a sudden my Summer raw kale salad is now my Winter raw kale salad. I like it in my smoothies. I like with cannellini beans and sweet potatoes. There’s a heartiness there that makes my head clear and body function well. I just feel really good when I eat kale.

My books are organized by season and everything I do is seasonal. I also love that when eating with the seasons, when Spring comes around I fall in love with artichokes all over again. When Summer comes around, I fall in love with zucchini and cucumbers. Then fall comes around and I’m like, “what’s better than a Brussels sprout?” But kale is the perpetual favorite.

As an ingredient, I love sea salt. It just brings out taste in everything. And I’m a runner, so I’m always craving a little salt. Ume plum vinegar is one of my all-time favorite secret ingredients.

Who’s your favorite chef?

I have a favorite farmer, more than I have a favorite chef. But I do love Jean George and the things they are doing at ABC Kitchen and all of his other restaurants. It’s really inspiring and fresh with locally grown ingredients. He’s brilliant. Hopefully, I’ll get to meet him one day.

My favorite farms/famers are Urban Oaks Organic Farm, which is in a food desert and surrounded by low-income housing, but there is so much phenomenal community work going on there. Farmer Mark and Farm Mike are tremendous. There are Meyer lemons, avocados, grapefruits and oranges growing in the greenhouses right here in New Britain, Connecticut.

Sub Edge Farm is brand new and Farmer Rodger was an apprentice at Urban Oaks and now has his own farm. I love the energy and their commitment to being stewards of the land. I just love everything that they are doing and I’m grateful for the wonderful produce they provide for my family.

Check back next week for Part 2 of my conversation with Terry Walters and another recipe from her latest book, Eat Clean Live Well.

This Week’s Featured Recipe | Collard Green Sukiyaki with Buckwheat Noodles

(Full disclosure: I received a copy of Terry’s book for review. However, all of my reviews, opinions and/or other commentary expressed here are my own and based on my experience with a product. I am not affiliated with any brands mentioned in my column nor do I endorse them and they do not endorse me.)