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Spilling the Beans with… Terry Walters

Hartford Courant | December 16, 2010 | MaryEllen Fillo

The Hartford Courant talks to Terry as “an expert on the clean eating lifestyle” and dubs “CLEAN START a Healthful Prequel to CLEAN FOOD.”

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When it comes to a clean eating lifestyle, nutritionist and cookbook author Terry Walters is an expert. The Connecticut resident — who writes the popular blog, “Eat Clean Live Well,” and is the author of the cookbook “Clean Food” — has added yet another cookbook to her repertoire, “Clean Start.” Designed to inspire eating fresh, local food to insure living well, the new cookbook is organized by seasons to take advantage of locally grown ingredients. It contains 100 all vegan and gluten-free recipes that are fresh, tasty and wholesome, ranging from tomatillo and yellow plum salsa to blueberry tarts. Walters, who is in the midst of a book-signing tour that includes a stop today at Nature’s Grocer in Vernon, was more than happy to Spill the Beans recently about eating fresh and eating better.

Q: Is this book about good eating or good food?

A: Yes. It always had to be good food, because what is the point if you’re not going to enjoy it? The point of healthy eating is not only ‘is it delicious’ but quick and nutritious, so we can nourish ourselves every day. It shouldn’t take an enormous effort. It is called “Clean Start,” not for people just starting out a relationship with food but for everybody, no matter where they are starting their journey to eat healthier. I want them to be motivated to try new food. That is what good health is about, making good choices one at a time.

Q: You also wrote “Clean Food” and this seems to be a sequel. Do you have a series in mind?

A: I actually think of this as the “prequel.” “Clean Food” is the bible with sensible information. The recipes are my signature style: dump and stir. “Clean Start” is the inspiration with much more significant emphasis on fresh produce and eating seasonally. I hope that by writing it by seasons that makes it easy. There is a third book along the same lines that focuses on clean, minimally processed, food. The third book is more about lifestyle, recipes for food and cleaning your home. It focuses on everything that goes into and around and how we connect with food, how we create our environment. It is not a “this is what you should do and what you should not” book. It will be a book people can pick through and use what works for them.

Q: What is the biggest fallacy about “clean food?”

A: Probably that it is expensive. I don’t think so at all. When we are eating seasonally and minimally processed foods, we are getting maximum nutrition. These are the foods that grow around us and are most in demand and usually on sale. I recently did a program at Whole Foods earlier in the fall where we made a huge pot of butternut squash soup and three other recipes for 50 people. A whole meal and it cost $35. When you remove the box or package from something you are getting more nutrition, more satisfaction from the food. Fresh food fuels us more efficiently.

Q: The book contains recipes that seem to be aimed at those who are vegetarians or need a gluten-free diet. Are you either?

A: No. I began writing cookbooks not to promote a certain diet but to emphasize the foods we all need more of like whole grains, non-animal sources of protein and leafy greens that will compliment any dietary approach.

Q: What is the first step for someone who wants to make a change to better eating habits, especially as a new year approaches?

A: There are two ways of doing it and it is different for every person and you need to accept that. One way is to look at what you are eating and identify what is missing and find a food that brings that in. The other way is to forget about looking within and just go buy something green. Especially at this time of year in this part of country, we can all do better with more greens. They are healing and restorative. If you are making stew or soup, add collard greens or kale. Buy something fresh you have never eaten before and then find a recipe and make it. If you do that once a week for a whole year, you have 52 new foods in your repertoire. And you have done it slowly, which means you will probably be more successful.

Q: Can you ever cheat and eat things that aren’t so healthy?

A: Chocolate passes these lips regularly. I don’t think of it as cheating. There is a time and place for everything. Eating is not a black-and-white thing. My suggestions are just some tools and if you try them you will feel better. It is not about giving up something for something else. It is not about deprivation. I eat chocolate and pizza and treat myself with a lot of food. But I like all good food. I do love pizza, really good pizza with roasted butternut squash, kale, caramelized leeks and Beltane Farm goat cheese. It was amazing.

Q: Gomasio, kombu, almond meal flour and mirin are ingredients you include in many of your recipes, but honestly, are you really going to find these in your average grocery store?

A: You probably can find it, and if you are unfamiliar and say a recipe calls for mirin, a sweet cooking wine, you can make substitutions. I try to give tips and variations in my book so it will accommodate whatever you have in your refrigerator. And my recipes also give you other recipes so you can do something with the leftovers.

Q: And how do you get the kids in the family to buy into this healthier eating?

A: The “Clean Start” recipes all had to pass my children’s approval before they were considered for the book. If you were to take kale and steam and put it on a plate in front of someone, he or she might turn up their nose at it. But if you caramelize some leeks and serve it with steamed kale and balance the roasted with the sweet and bitter, it is a lot more appealing. You have to combine flavors, and you will be surprised what kids will eat.

Q: I know you are a huge supporter of places like New Britain’s Urban Oaks Organic Farm and an advocate for homegrown and fresh. The future of that kind of effort: fad or fact?

A: I think it is a necessity. It is putting a face on our food, connecting people to the source. The only way to truly nourish ourselves and sustain health, the economy and the environment is to understand where food is coming from. We need to make it accessible. Urban Oaks does a ton of programming and I agree the snowball is rolling and eating fresh is becoming more popular. But it is still a struggle for organic farms. There is not a lot of support from the national level. Ten years from now my hope is that places that are doing sustainable it now will be on more solid ground. That the idea will be more supported and accepted and that there will be more funding and that we will return to good wholesome food from the earth.

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