Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
If you’ve been around for a while, you know I come from a big family. Crazy as it may be, my family recently grew, and I’m now one of EIGHT kids! My littlest brother, Oslo, arrived in 2020, and he is the greatest thing that came out of that whole year. While most of my siblings are scattered all over the place now, I’m still up in the mountains of Colorado. I live in a renovated log horse barn steps away from our separate studio barn, where I cook and shoot photos and generally stay busy. A lot of days, I’m on my feet all day cooking and testing new recipes. Other days, I race against the setting sun to get photographs of the finished dishes. And then there are the days I huddle in front of my pizza oven to keep cozy while catching up on emails and calls.
I do all this with my family just next door, which I love. They LOVE food, always have, and they are what started my cooking and keep me cooking—if only because they are constantly hungry! My little sister, Asher, and my brothers (whenever they roll through town) are constantly popping into the studio looking for something to eat. Somehow, no matter how busy I am, I can’t resist stopping what I’m doing to make them their favorite foods—that’s just what you do for the people you love!
But when my schedule overfills and stress sets in, taking care of myself is usually the first thing to go. And I bet the same is true for you. But it doesn’t have to be! No matter what else is going on, we all need to eat—every single day.
Food is, quite literally, fuel for life. So sometimes you need a quick sheet pan meal thrown together from whatever’s on hand, while other times you can leisurely enjoy both the cooking process and the meal. Sometimes you crave a clean, light, nutrientpacked dish, while other times you just want a big plate of something comforting. For me, the days are all different, but one thing is constant: I always want to be sure my loved ones and I are eating well.
To me, “eating well” means not only sustaining your body but also giving yourself what you feel you need. I am definitely NOT an expert on any sort of healthy eating. What I have learned, though, is that I care about how food makes me feel, but I don’t want to spend a lot of time stressing about it. I want to know where my food came from, what’s in it, and who made it. I want to feel good about what I eat without sacrificing flavor or overcomplicating the process. And that’s the approach I take in my cooking every single day: I aim to make food that is delicious, usually healthy, sometimes decadent, and always satisfying.
what “balance” means to me
We’re always hearing about the importance of “balanced meals.” I don’t disagree, but if you’re looking for rules and regulations on health, I’m afraid you’re in the wrong place. I’m not a nutritionist, and I would never want to tell you how you “should” be eating. For me, feel-good food is not about caloriecounting or restriction. But it IS about lots of flavor and satisfaction. That means cooking with plenty of good fat, reducing sugar when possible—or using natural sweeteners like honey, dates, and maple syrup—and, most important, using non-processed ingredients that are whole and real. The other piece I feel is equally important is to give my body what it wants. Some days that’s a heaping plate of hearty, well-seasoned, yummy vegetables, and some days it’s a bowl of cheesy, buttery, gooey noodles. That’s what balance is for me.
I set out to create a book that embodies the way I eat. I also wanted to give you guys more of what you’ve been asking for: the “healthy-ish” recipes I usually share on the blog at the start of each year. You—and I—want to eat those sorts of meals throughout the year, too, so I wanted to share more of them here. But my biggest hope is no matter what you’re looking for on any particular day, you will find something here that works for you. Whatever you’re feeling, that you can flip through the pages and find something super satisfying. And, of course, that some of these recipes will be on repeat in your kitchen!
I’ve organized the recipes by types of meals and ingredients. Some dishes are lightened-up versions of old favorites. Others are heavy on superfoods. If you’re all about clean living, that’s here. And if you just NEED chocolate cake, that’s here, too. (Spoiler alert: it’s really good . . .) Whenever possible, I’ve indicated where you can make a choice of ingredients. There’s tons of flexibility here, and you should feel empowered to make the decision that works for you. I do a lot of cooking “research” on my family—some of my most popular recipes have come from Creighton’s insane imagination or whatever Red is craving. They are all picky in their own ways, and believe it or not, so am I. So it’s very important for my recipes to be flexible and fun. Maybe the way I prepared a dish isn’t exactly how you want to eat it that day—that’s okay! You can leave out the cheese, use gluten-free pasta, add in more greens, or do whatever else sounds good. I’ve also given multiple options for how to cook some things, especially when it comes to the slow cooker and pressure cooker, since I know we don’t all have them (but those of us who do LOVE them).
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