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We all need a little inspiration from time to time to find new, creative ways to put healthy ingredients on our plates. Amy Chaplin’s new book, At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen, provides just that, along with beautiful photos and practical tips on living a whole food lifestyle. Her thoughtful recipes show how incredibly varied a plant-based diet can be.

Amy’s book brings together insights from her impressive career as a vegetarian chef, recipe developer, and teacher and includes a refreshing array of healthy, delicious recipes. We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to speak with her and today we are excited to share our conversation with all of you.

OLDWAYS:  Your food journey is unique – can you share a bit about your travels and how they have influenced your current thinking?


AMY:  Living and working in foreign cities gave me access to different ways of approaching healthy eating and cooking, and also a variety of unusual ingredients. Sometimes I draw on methods I learnt back when I was just starting out as a chef. A dish I ate or made in another country may influence the way I’m approaching an ingredient I’m working with but mostly I’m inspired to try new approaches and flavor combinations when creating new recipes.

OLDWAYS:  Unlike many of us, you grew up making your own bread, beer, flour, and other foods, and your cookbook features recipes for making your own condiments and even fresh nut milk, for example. What tips can you share for those just beginning to venture into this type of from -scratch cooking?  (Are there particular condiments that you do fall back on in a pinch and just purchase?)
AMY:  I would suggest looking at the ingredients of your favorite condiments and if they contain things you want to be eating then its fine to purchase them, just keep in mind that anything you make yourself if going to taste much better and usually be healthier. Almond milk is a perfect example and I will go without if packaged almond milk is the only option, it’s just so much better homemade. Mustard is something I purchase as many brands have 3 ingredients, which is all you need.

OLDWAYS:  The recipes in your book are over 90% vegan, reflecting your diet. How do you manage to maintain this diet when you eat away from home?
AMY:  Its definitely more challenging to stick to eating well when travelling but I use it as a chance to try new foods and always get inspiration from what I find (depending on where I am).  I also pack things like toasted nuts, crackers and a few slices of good bread when travelling, they can help tide you over until you find a good meal. 

OLDWAYS:  You work as a private chef for celebrity clients including Natalie Portman and Liv Tyler. Many consumers might say that those with more moderate incomes can’t afford to eat a “whole food” diet based on sustainably-sourced foods that you advocate for in your book. What suggestions do you have for making this lifestyle more affordable?
AMY:  Focusing your diet around whole grains and beans is actually very affordable, especially if you get them from the bulk food section of your health food store. Seasonal vegetables are also less expensive and can be steamed, roasted or sautéed. Serve all three components with a simple dressing and you have a tasty, healthy meal that is not at all expensive.

OLDWAYS:  The photos and recipes in your book are very inspiring and make us want to dive right into each and every page and get cooking! What inspires you in the kitchen?
AMY:  Nature is what inspires me most.  I’m always flooded with ideas when looking at beautiful vegetables and motivated to create delicious recipes.

OLDWAYS:  And speaking of the recipes in your book, would you share one with our readers?
AMY:  Yes! I think with kale slaw is a great choice. It’s easy to make and everyone loves it.

This mustard dressing is undeniably delicious—the cashew butter makes it rich and creamy, while the vinegars and whole-grain mustard add just the right amount of bright, tangy flavor. I often make extra and serve it as a dip for fresh, crunchy vegetables. If you’re used to a dairy-based dressing on your slaw, then you’ll enjoy this as a change. Although any kale will work, here Lacinato kale is the easiest to slice and looks the best.

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2 tablespoons raw cashew butter
2 tablespoons filtered water
1 small garlic clove, pressed
1 tablespoon unpasteurized apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon ume plum vinegar
2 tablespoons whole-grain Dijon mustard
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
5 cups thinly sliced kale (from about 1 medium bunch)
2 cups thinly sliced red cabbage (from about ¼ small-medium red cabbage)
1 medium carrot, cut in matchsticks
1 small bulb fennel, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 thinly sliced scallions
2 tablespoons toasted sunflower seeds

Place cashew butter and water in a small bowl, and mix until smooth. Stir in garlic, vinegars, mustard, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Add olive oil, mix again until smooth and creamy, season to taste, and set aside.
Place kale, red cabbage, carrot, fennel, scallions, and sunflower seeds in a large salad bowl; toss to combine. Drizzle with dressing; toss until slaw is evenly coated and serve.

From At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen by Amy Chaplin, © 2014 by Amy Chaplin. Photographs © 2014 by Johnny Miller. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications Inc., Boston, MA.

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