Lake Norman resident Jill Dahan has published a cookbook through Lorimer Press, brimming with more than 150 healthy recipes.
For seasoned cooks or those who rarely turn on the oven, the book demonstrates how easy it is to make a fresh start and enjoy better health and well-being.
Dahan is passionate about preparing, eating and sharing foods that nourish the body and the soul. She sees food as the best investment in our overall health and believes the time is now to make changes and get cooking.
After two of her sons experienced serious health issues, including a rare form of cancer, she found she could no longer rely on standby ingredients while cooking. In her quest to help her sons regain their health, she began using products she never knew existed and in unexpected ways.
The result is a collection of delicious dishes that deliver exceptional nutritious benefits.
As she began to develop new recipes, she realized the transformative power of food and set out to share her newfound knowledge so that others might enjoy the same life-enhancing benefits.
In “Starting Fresh,” Dahan has combined everything she’s learned about foods, flavors and nutrition to create mouthwatering dishes that nourish the body and delight the taste buds.
She teaches cooking at Earthfare supermarkets and works on behalf of many nonprofits to raise money, awareness, and life skills that support healthy minds and healthy bodies.
A portion of the proceeds from sales of “Starting Fresh” go to Boston Children’s Hospital.
“Starting Fresh” is available at fine bookstores, Earthfare supermarkets, Amazon, or at www.jilldahan.com.
What led you to write “Starting Fresh?”
Believe it or not, there was a time when my friends didn’t think I could make anything that didn’t come out of a box!
My love affair with cooking began when I knew next to nothing about food. Exposure to different cultures and foods while living and working in London marked the start of my culinary adventure. I later traveled across Europe, to the Middle East, and then Australia and New Zealand, gaining lifelong friends along the way.
After my family and I moved to the States a few years ago, I baked everything from scratch so my kids wouldn’t get used to the sweeter taste found in many American foods.
Even though my boys begged, “Please, no more homemade stuff. Can’t we just have store-bought like everyone else?” I ignored them. And while my sons clamored for store- bought treats, I noticed their friends gobbled up everything I made.
Health challenges forced me to rethink my approach to cooking. It became important to nourish my family – not just feed them.
In “Starting Fresh,” I have combined everything I’ve learned about foods, flavors and nutrition to create mouthwatering dishes that nourish the body and delight the taste buds.
What exactly does healthy eating mean to you?
Life is about balance. I like to apply the 70/30 rule. If 70 percent of what we do is healthy, we can afford to splurge once in a while on those Double Stuf Oreos or a serving of potato chips.
I hope to dispel the myth that healthy food always tastes bland. Healthy food is not the health food you may remember from the “weird and wonderful” aisle in the grocery store where everything was brown.
I limit the number of jars and boxes in my pantry, and I use ingredients such as fresh herbs, fresh produce, Greek yogurt, grass-fed beef, combining them in simple recipes, that make it easy to incorporate healthier habits in our everyday lives.
What is, from your perspective, the main obstacle that keeps people from eating better?
As with most things, it is fear of the unknown and an aversion to change that keeps us from doing things that are in our best interests.
There is also the misconception that making these changes to healthier habits will be difficult, time consuming and that it will be hard to convince others to try new dishes.
Actually, there is nothing simpler than making Lemon Spaghetti for dinner, just 20 minutes from cupboard to plate. And pull out your blender, toss in some almonds, eggs and coconut sugar and you can whip up some Fairy Cakes; after 13 minutes in the oven, you’ve got dessert.
What is the starting point to starting fresh?
There is no magic or rocket science to healthy cooking and eating. All it takes is a bit of planning, a tad more time, and a good sense of ad venture!
As with most things, the first step is to get organized. “Starting Fresh” includes a kitchen primer and a list of ingredients to keep on hand that will help you get started.
Who did you write this book for?
Anyone who likes to eat!
Seriously, there are recipes here for experienced cooks and beginners alike, from Roasted Veggies to Beef Bourguignon. This book is also for cooks who want to not only feed their families, but nourish them.
“Starting Fresh” is also ideal for those with specific dietary preferences. There are many vegetarian recipes such as Tomato Feta Roulade, Mushroom Goat Cheese Parcels, Asparagus Tart and the Veggie Man Sandwich.
Vegan recipes include The Tastiest Veggie Burger, made with lentils, mushrooms and walnuts; and Apple Pie Bars. There are gluten-free options that use almond and oat flour rather than wheat flour, as well as recipes like Warm Chocolate Almond Tart for those who are lactose intolerant.
What’s the most surprising combination, or unexpected use, of ingredients in this book?
Because of the distinct lack of nutritional value in processed sugar, I prefer to use coconut sugar, dates, figs or mangoes. Not only is the nutritional value of the dish increased, the dish then has layers of flavor and is ultimately more satisfying to the palate.
People may be surprised to add avocadoes to chocolate mousse, but they make for the creamiest, not to mention healthiest, mousse ever.
Likewise, slipping shredded beets into a chocolate cake makes it moister, richer and again, healthier.
Best of all, no one needs to know about these healthy additives.
What are your favorite recipes?
Breakfast on the Fly is one of my go to recipes. It’s incredibly simple and you can even make it in a dorm room, enjoying a healthy breakfast on the run.
In the fall, I love making the pumpkin dip. It looks gorgeous and tastes absolutely delicious.
My favorite winter holiday salad is the Spinach, Avocado, Feta & Pomegranate Salad. The pomegranates seeds add color and crunch.
A super simple dinner is Herby Chicken with New Potatoes & Artichokes. This is a one pan dish, roast everything along with some lemon slices (that get nice and caramelized while they roast) and is great for a dinner party. Cheesecake is my all-time favorite dessert and with the Cranberry Raspberry Cheesecake, I don’t have to feel guilty while enjoying it.
“From Starting Fresh” by Jill Dahan. (Lorimer Press; September 2013; $29.95/Trade Paperback; ISBN-13; 978-0983893677). http://lorimerpress.com.