Last summer, we had the pleasure of meeting cookbook author Terry Walters at the Rhinebeck, NY Farmers Market. Terry’s first book, CLEAN FOOD, presented recipes that deliciously explained the benefits of eating locally grown, seasonal, and fresh foods. Her new book, CLEAN START, features 100 exciting new recipes designed to inspire you to make that clean start yourself.
Terry was kind enough recently to take some time out from her busy book tour schedule to answer a few questions for our blog.
Terry, tell us about your earliest realization about clean food — how did it come about for you?
I grew up in a home where we sat down as a family to dinner made from scratch every night, where soda was kept in a removed cabinet for company only. Every now and again we would get lucky and mom would let us pick a “sugar cereal.” I knew the difference between junk food and healthy food, but when I was in college, my father had a heart attack and I discovered that I, too, had high cholesterol.
My family already ate almost no meat, never drank milk, and ate what we thought was a healthy diet. My choice was to go on cholesterol-lowering medicine, or figure out a diet that would allow me to maintain a healthy cholesterol level.
My cookbooks are full of the recipes and information I wish someone had given me all those years ago when I was trying to figure out how to make brown rice and kale both satisfying and delicious!
The day we met, your young daughter was helping you with your demo. What is your daughter’s perception of Clean Food? Do you ever have to steer her away from junk food?
That was my youngest daughter you met. She never had baby food. When she was 7 months old she reached across the table, grabbed a roll of brown rice and avocado in nori and gummed it until it was gone! She’s always been a healthy eater, but she’s human too. I served kale and collard greens for dinner for years before my girls gave in and started eating them. Now they are among their favorites.
I’ve never kept foods in the house that I don’t want my girls (or myself, for that matter) to eat. That makes my role more like the cruise director, directing my children to healthy choices, as opposed to the police, always having to say “no.”
We follow the 80/20 rule. At home (80% of the time) we eat clean, so that when we’re out, we can eat whatever we want. My children like the freedom that gives them, but what they don’t realize is that 80% is not only good enough for good health (thankfully), but also enough to influence their tastes and choices the other 20% of the time. We splurge, we treat ourselves and we enjoy a variety of food, but we also talk about how to make healthy choices and empower ourselves with the knowledge to do so. All that said, if you asked my girls what CLEAN FOOD is, they would tell you it’s their mommy’s cookbook!
Talk to us a little bit about your whole family’s food habits. How do they manage their meals while you’re traveling on book tours and such?
I can tell you that feeding a family-on-the-go is a challenge, and I’m sure many (if not all) of your readers would agree. It’s been clean for my family from the start, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a process and a constant challenge. Even when I’m home, the girls have activities most nights after school, and more often than not I’m picking them up with dinner prepared for them to eat in the car! It’s far from ideal, but I still do my best to make sure it has a rainbow of color and comes from the green kind of plant and not the cement kind of plant!
My traveling for work definitely makes things harder on everyone. Sometimes the choices are not nearly as clean as they would be otherwise, and sometimes they’re even cleaner! In the colder months, I make a lot of soups and stews that I freeze so they can have them easily in my absence. I’m blessed to have a mom that not only helps out when I’m unavailable, but also prepares lots of delicious clean food for my husband and girls.
My oldest daughter likes to create in the kitchen and has a few healthy meals she likes to prepare. My youngest isn’t nearly as comfortable or even interested in cooking, but before I went on my first trip she asked me to teach her how to make her favorite collard greens so she could have them while I was gone. I know they get more take-out and treats in my absence, but I also know that their comfort foods, the meals and recipes they’ll come back to year after year, are healthy and clean.
We watched you at the cooking demo, and you made it look so easy. What’s it like to do cooking demos? Any stories about when things may not have turned out, or you forgot something you needed?
I’ve been teaching for over a decade and I’m a mom, so multi-tasking comes naturally to me. Is there any other way? Talk, chop, talk, stir…it’s what I do! I love connecting with others, benefiting from our shared perspectives and wisdom and, of course, sharing the journey.
There are all sorts of cooking demos – from 2+ hour in-depth classes to 3 ½ minutes on live television to make 3 recipes and get your message across. I love them all. The message that eating clean can be easy, delicious and help you live a great life is what fuels me. If one person leaves my demo with newly gained tools and the confidence that they can improve their health and diet, then I am happy. One demo, one person at a time…that’s how we’ll change the way we nourish ourselves as a nation.
I forget things all the time, but as my mother taught me, “If you put good things in, you’ll get good things out.” Fortunately, that’s been true for me. There have, however, been a couple of tense moments in cooking demos. There was the time when we had 10 minutes left in class to bake the apple crisp. Did you know you can cover a crisp with foil and bake it at 500 degrees? I don’t recommend trying this at home, but it definitely saved me that night!
There was also the time I put the tofu kale lasagna in the oven, the oven switched to self-clean, the door locked, the temperature started to rise and my heart skipped a beat! I kept tugging on the door to no avail. After 15 minutes I discreetly broke the door free and casually said, “Well look at that! The lasagna really got done quickly!”
Finally, my favorite blunder was during a class focused on getting children to eat clean. My daughter thought it would be nice if we co-taught the class, so I asked her to show everyone how to make nori crisps. She laid out all the ingredients, was just about ready to go, and then sneezed all over everything! It was clearly a room full of moms who took instant pity on me, and they said, “Don’t worry about it! It’s fine!” which of course it was absolutely not! Everything was cleared and thrown away, the work surface sanitized and a new batch of ingredients taken out to start all over again. She did a great job, but none of us will ever forget it or let her live it down!
Have you noticed any particular “fan favorites” from your demos?
Favorites really depend on the season. When you and I met at the Rhinebeck Farmers Market, the Yellow Plum and Tomatillo Salsa was definitely the hit that day, and many days thereafter! This past winter, people were devouring my Carrot Cashew Miso Spread, the Shallot Fig Spread and the Red Lentil and Turnip Soup with Parsley – all from CLEAN START. More recently, I’ve made dozens of batches of Cocoa Brownies and I guarantee you there have been no complaints!
The Watercress and Fennel Salad with Blood Orange Thyme Vinaigrette is popular, as is are the Stuffed Mochi Dumplings… I could go on and on, and the point just becomes clearer and clearer. We don’t need to sacrifice our good nutrition for convenience. Eating clean is fun, it’s quick, it’s easy and it’s delicious!
The day we met you, you were traveling with our cinnamon. Do you have a favorite recipe for our cinnamon?
Was it Frontier cinnamon or was it cumin? I recall making my Black Bean Salad, which would have used cumin. It could have been any number of Frontier or Simply Organic products. I grind your milk thistle and flax seeds nearly every morning to add to my granola (which is full of Frontier cinnamon and whole nutmeg), I thicken my soups, sauces and even my brown rice pudding with your arrowroot. My favorite always depends on what I’m craving at any particular moment, but I’ve made a lot of friends by gifting my granola recipe! It’s from my first book, CLEAN FOOD, and you can season it with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves…whatever suits you!
MAPLE NUT GRANOLA
The key to making delicious granola is to bake it at a low temperature for a long time. Of course, a little bit of shredded coconut and a lot of cinnamon and maple syrup help, too! My husband devours this granola every morning and at the end of each week leaves the nearly empty Mason jar on the counter to remind me to make more.
4 cups rolled oats
2 cups crispy brown rice cereal
1 cup toasted sunflower seeds
1 1⁄2 cups shredded dried unsweetened coconut
1 cup sliced almonds
1⁄2 cup pecans, cashews, or walnuts
1 cup raisins
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
3⁄4 cup canola oil
3⁄4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon almond extract
Preheat oven to 250°F.
In large bowl, mix together all dry ingredients. In separate bowl, whisk together oil, syrup and almond extract. Pour wet mixture over dry and stir to coat. Transfer granola to 9 x 12-inch glass casserole, spread evenly and push raisins into granola so they are not on the surface.
Place on top rack of oven and bake 60 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and cool completely to set. When cool, slide spatula along bottom of casserole to release granola. Break into chunks, and store in airtight container.
Makes 10 cups.
As we’re headed into summer, you may want to try my Black Currant Plum Crisp with hints of nutmeg. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!
BLACK CURRANT PLUM CRISP
Crisps are so easy to make and so satisfying – whether you’re serving them for breakfast, a snack or dessert. Make sure your plums are ripe, and be sure to select a variety of plum that is more sweet than tart to avoid ending up with an overly tart crisp. A scoop of vanilla rice cream or ice cream is the perfect accompaniment.
2 1⁄2 pounds plums (10–12)
1⁄2 cup dried currants
2–3 dashes ground nutmeg
Pinch of sea salt
1⁄4 cup maple syrup
1⁄4 cup ivory teff flour
1 cup almond meal
1 cup ivory teff flour
1⁄4 cup sliced almonds
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Pinch of sea salt
1⁄4 cup virgin coconut oil
1⁄4 cup maple syrup
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Leaving skins on, halve plums, remove and discard pits and slice into thin wedges (about 1⁄4 inch thick). Place in large mixing bowl and set aside.
In small pot over medium heat, place currants with just enough water to cover, bring to boil and simmer 5 minutes to soften and plump. Drain well and add to bowl with plums. Add nutmeg and salt, and stir. Add maple syrup and teff flour and stir until plums are evenly coated and ingredients are combined. Pour mixture into 8 x8-inch casserole and set aside.
Using same mixing bowl, combine almond meal, teff flour, almonds, nutmeg and salt. Over low heat, melt coconut oil in small skillet. Remove from heat, whisk in maple syrup and vanilla and pour over flour mixture. Stir to combine and crumble over plum mixture.
Bake 45 minutes or until top is golden brown and plums are soft. Remove from oven, and cool slightly before serving.
Visit Terry’s website for more inspiration about making a clean start, recipes, her blog and much more.
Terry and her publisher, Sterling, have given us 4 copies of CLEAN START to give to you! We’ll randomly choose 4 winners from comments here. Leave yours by May 5, and you’re eligible.
With farmers’ markets on the horizon (finally!) tell us what produce you’re looking forward to finding at your local market, and how you plan to use it in your own healthy cooking.