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.)

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