Featured Chef Noelle
Featured Chef Recipes:
Q: How did you get involved in cooking to begin with? Was it something you learned to love early on or did you come to it later?
About 6 years ago, I developed a passion for cooking and creating flavors after switching to a more paleo-friendly lifestyle. Before that, meat was intimidating to me because I grew up in a vegetarian home. Once I began engaging with my local farmer’s market and purchasing produce and meats from the local farms around me, I gained a new appreciation for food and the experience you could create with it. This, in combination with moving into a home with a beautiful gas-range stove and being gifted my very first cast iron pan was the perfect storm for developing a love for cooking.
Q: Why is eating grass-fed meat and sustainably-caught fish different? How does it affect your cooking?
While there are so many reasons I’m passionate about supporting local farms that practice sustainable agriculture, to me – the main difference is in the nutrition. For example, as I talk about in The Grass-fed Difference: Why You Are What They Eat, grass-fed beef is higher in antioxidants including in beta-carotene and vitamin E, B vitamins, and important minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium in comparison to grain-fed meats.
It’s also naturally leaner, contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), and has five times more omega-3 fatty acids. And that’s just the start of it.
Q: Is it just about health? Or is there more to it than that?
Of course, there is so much more to sustainable agriculture than the impact it has on our health. For starters, the health of the animals and the life they live, and the impact sustainable processes have on our environment are so incredibly important.
Consuming grass-fed meats means supporting diversified farms that rotate crops and animals in order to cultivate nutrient-rich soil (and the enormous resident population of organisms living in it) from the ground up. Participation in the conventional system basically means supporting operations that are completely striping our land, and environment, of the nutrients that are needed to support our population as a whole.
Q: How did you learn about grass-fed meat?
While I can’t pinpoint the exact origin, I would probably have to say I was introduced to grass-fed meat from one of the many paleo podcasts I’ve listened to over the years. Once I heard about it, and eating locally, it made sense – and I went after figuring out how to make it a part of my family’s life.
Q: Why is it so important to have the right ingredients?
As I’ve learned the hard way, having the right ingredients is so important because when things aren’t right, cooking becomes a battle. When you have the right ingredients, you are free to enjoy the process of cooking because it happens naturally, and sometimes – effortlessly. And seriously – don’t we all need a little bit more of THAT in our lives.
Q: What are the most important keys to success for the home chef?
Because my husband and I both work full-time and have limited time in the kitchen, one of the most important things for us is planning. On the weekends, we cook a lot of foods in bulk, and figure out what ingredients need to be prepared, purchased or defrosted in order to make dinners happen for the week. We also both share the task of making dinner, so that it isn’t a burden on just one of us. As a result, cooking becomes our “us” time, and it is more of a relaxing activity then a duty.
We also always have multiple recipes on hand that we know we can get on the table in 15 minutes in the event things don’t go as planned. Having recipes that allow us to be flexible make cooking an enjoyable experience that can be a part of any day.
Q: What are your best tips for home cooking?
First, purchase proper cookware – and allow yourself time to experiment with it. While it did take some time to learn how to use things like my cast iron pan and stainless steel cookware, it’s been one of the most impactful changes I’ve made to my cooking.
Second, be willing to try new things. Growing up as a vegetarian, there were many things I didn’t want to cook because I assumed I didn’t like them, or thought that preparing them would be too complicated. There are so many amazing food blogs and recipes available for free – and you can almost always find simple recipes that allow you to branch out of your comfort zone. Being intentional with trying new things is really the way to improving cooking skills, and finding ingredients or new meals to love.
And lastly, have patience. You may screw up quite a bit in the kitchen, but that is totally OK. Cooking is an experiment, and experience is your best teacher.
Q: What is your favorite recipe using grass-fed meat?
I’d actually have to say that my Shepherd’s Pie recipe is quite possibly my most favorite recipe of all time. The combination of ground beef, bacon, and whipped sweet potatoes is something I haven’t been able to top… yet.