Gary De Mattei, Find Your Kitchen!
REAL Co-Founder joins Caryn Hartglass to inspire people to get into the kitchen and making simple, healthy, delicious meals. They offer tips to get you started.
Caryn Hartglass: Hello everybody! Hello everybody! How are you today? I’m Caryn Hartglass. Thank you. Thank you for being you. Thank you for joining me here today on It’s All About Food, and I promise you today, as in every program, you will agree with me that it is indeed all about food. Everything is all about food, at least in my house. And I want to bring on my guest, who happens to join me all the time in my house, my life partner, the co-founder of Responsible Eating and Living, our non-profit organization, which is also all about food, Gary De Mattei. He’s an actor, or producer or a director, a chef, a great cook, a wonderful guy, my muse and inspiration, and I hope the comic relief in this program.
Gary De Mattei: Hi!
Caryn Hartglass: Gary, thanks for joining me!
Gary De Mattei: I will be the comic relief, that’s for sure.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, great. How are you today?
Gary De Mattei: I’m doing well. I’m in paradise. I’m in northern California looking out this beautiful window at pine trees, and oak trees, and beautiful grounds, and a swimming pool. Very lucky to be here house sitting for a family member, and just enjoying it. How are you?
Caryn Hartglass: I’m great. I’m sitting in a similar space at this house fortunately is big enough, so that we can be in very different places at the same time.
Gary De Mattei: Yeah, so there’s no feedback. That was a food joke. Oh, sorry.
Caryn Hartglass: Right.
Gary De Mattei: Anyway, yeah, I’m excited about this show today, because we’re going to talk a lot about getting back into the kitchen.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s right, find your kitchen. That’s the name of this particular episode. Find your Kitchen.
Gary De Mattei: I’ve got some great ideas. I’ve got twelve great ideas, but we’ll get to that later.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, let me just say why I wanted to do this program today, what inspired me. I like reading the New York Times. I’m a New Yorker.
Gary De Mattei: Yes, who doesn’t?
Caryn Hartglass: I read the New York Times. You don’t have to be a New Yorker to read the New York Times.
Gary De Mattei: No, not at all.
Caryn Hartglass: And I also like supporting the New York Times. It’s one of the few newspapers that are left today that I like.
Gary De Mattei: Right.
Caryn Hartglass: I don’t agree with everything, but I’m glad they’re out there.
Gary De Mattei: Right, and you really shouldn’t agree with everything. You should have your own opinion about things, but they give you some unbiased points of view, or maybe some people think they’re biased, but unbiased.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, and as you know me Gary, I do have my own opinions.
Gary De Mattei: Noooo. Do you really?
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.
Gary De Mattei: You don’t have your own opinion, do you? Yeah, no. You do. You really do. You’re very, very opinionated.
Caryn Hartglass: I am, and I’m happy to be opinionated. Okay, so I want to bring up a blog writer that’s on The New York Times, Jane Brody. Everybody’s heard of Jane Brody, haven’t you out there? You all know who Jane Brody is? Maybe not. Gary?
Gary De Mattei: Is she related to John Brodie, the quarterback, hall of fame quarterback that used to throw for the 49ers?
Caryn Hartglass: I have no idea.
Gary De Mattei: No, oh Jane Brody, no. She spells her name with a “y” at the end instead of an “i”.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, there you go. B-R-O-D-Y. Jane Brody is an American author on science and nutrition topics. She’s written a number of books and extensively for The New York Times as its personal health columnist, which appears weekly in the paper’s Science Times section. She’s also been called the “High Priestess” of health by Time magazine.
Gary De Mattei: And do you always agree with Jane Brody, Caryn?
Caryn Hartglass: Absolute not. I remember when her new nutrition book came out decades ago, and I thought she really was somebody, and she is somebody. We’re all somebody.
Gary De Mattei: This has turned into a Marx Brothers movie.
Caryn Hartglass: Foo-roomp-boom. But I don’t agree with a lot of what she says, but I liked something in her blog this week, which inspired this program today, and the title of the blog is called Rediscovering the Kitchen and Other Tips for Heart Health.
Gary De Mattei: Yay! We love that. That sounds like you. Sounds like Jane copied you; because I hear you say that all the time.
Caryn Hartglass: I always say, “Find your kitchen”.
Gary De Mattei: “Find your kitchen”. Okay, Well, that’s kind of like rediscovering your kitchen.
Caryn Hartglass: Exactly. So, before we get into finding and rediscovering our kitchen, I just wanted to mention in this blog, she talks about a new study and the latest report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There was a new report published in JAMA Cardiology, and it covered the years from 2000 to 2014, where they concluded that declaration in the decline of all cardiovascular disease and stroke mortality rates, have occurred since 2011. What does that mean? That means that the risk of these diseases, mortality rates, are going down, but the rate at which they’re going down is slowing, so it’s leveling out, and the study said if this trend continues, strategic goals for lowering the burden of cardiovascular disease set by the American Heart Association and the Million Hearts Initiative, may not be reached.
Gary De Mattei: Wow. That’s an interesting discovery.
Caryn Hartglass: It is, and we all know here at It’s All About Food and the Progressive Radio Network that cardiovascular disease is a food disease. It is reversible and preventable by choosing nutrient dense plant foods, whole foods, minimally processed foods, and we at Responsible Eating and Living, show you how to do that deliciously. But Jane Brody ends her blog with the following, “Which brings me to a final recommendation of my own: Rediscover your kitchen. No matter how busy you are finding time to prepare healthy foods for yourself and your family should be a top priority.”
Gary De Mattei: Wow. Good for Jane. I agree.
Caryn Hartglass: Good for Jane. Yeah, we agree with that. Thank you Jane.
Gary De Mattei: I mean, we’re all about that at Responsible Eating and Living. We’re all about getting you back into your kitchen, and giving you great recipes to do that as a starting point, not as an ending point, because there’s a lot of different degrees of difficulty that our recipes have. Some of them are extremely easy to prepare. Others are a little more difficult; require a little more skill —
Caryn Hartglass: And time.
Gary De Mattei: — And you can kind of sift through them and see what works for you. It’s very important to start with the basics when you get back into your kitchen.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, now I want to reference Dr. David Katz. I interviewed him once on this program. I also appeared on the same Dr. Oz program that Dr. Katz was on. And he has a book out called Disease Proof, and the one thing I really liked in what he said is that, “Preparing food is a skill. It’s a skill that everyone can learn, but it takes time, and it’s just like learning to crawl, and then learning to walk, and then learning to run.”
Gary De Mattei: Hopefully not through any of the food that you’ve dropped on the floor, but yes. Absolutely.
Caryn Hartglass: Ew.
Gary De Mattei: That wasn’t funny, that was just a little icebreaker.
Caryn Hartglass: And I want to say that my priorities have changed. I remember when I was a girl scout decades ago. To get one of the badges on my sash, was a cooking badge, and what we were required to do, we learned. It was one of the first things I learned how to prepare, was a white sauce. Just a gravy made with flour, refined white flour — hello everybody — butter, animal saturated fat (not healthy), and water.
Gary De Mattei: Right. Wow. That’s like a heart attack waiting to happen.
Caryn Hartglass: Exactly.
Gary De Mattei: Now a lot of people like to smother their food in gravies, and have them be thick, and creamy, and salty. And we have a lot of recipes that you can make a gravy, but it’s not going to clog your arteries. It’s going to actually help you unclog your arteries, but you’ll think you’ll be eating something that is far more rich and fattening and creamy than it really is.
Caryn Hartglass: There’s nothing wrong with gravy if gravy is made with whole minimally processed foods. Creamy, great, gravy can be made with, like a cashew cream, which thickens up so quickly.
Gary De Mattei: Right. Exactly.
Caryn Hartglass: I made a gravy last week with red lentils!
Gary De Mattei: Exactly. So it’s safe to say that you can get all of those great tasting things that you’ve always had, starting with when you were a girl scout making a white sauce, a white gravy, a béchamel I guess is what they probably were thinking, which is one of the basic sauces. And we do have a béchamel online at Responsible Eating and Living. As a matter of fact, it’s delicious, and it can be made simply by doing the basic steps of what you just outlined: soaking some cashews, blending them up in a blender or a Vitamix, which I think a Vitamix is an essential tool in anyone’s kitchen, because we’re going to talk a lot about how you can make these creamy dressings and these creamy gravies. For example, we do this thing called Seed Caesar dressing, which is really a thick mayonaisey type dressing. Very close to a Caesar dressing, only a Caesar mayo. And we do it just by blending up pumpkin seeds with a clove of garlic, some vinegar, some nutritional yeast, maybe a touch of miso, and you’ve got this little couple of grinds of pepper, you’ve got this most amazing creamy dressing that you can smother all over, and it’s just basically pumpkin seeds!
Caryn Hartglass: I know. It’s amazing. You’re a genius.
Gary De Mattei: It’s what it is! It’s pumpkin seeds! And so it’s got all the fiber, and you put a little dash of mustard in there. It’s amazing! And it’s so easy if you have a blender or a Vitamix. I’m getting really excited about this, but I know a lot of people are like, “I have to have white, thick, creamy stuff to put on my food”. Sure, and you can have it, but it’s not going to kill you. It’s actually going to make you healthier. Think about that.
Caryn Hartglass: Let’s talk about appliances, since you jumped ahead of our outline and went right into appliances, but I think it’s important. We’ve been traveling, as you mentioned, and we’ve been in different spaces where we’ve had efficiency little kitchen, and then we’re in a place right now with just an amazing kitchen. Sometimes we have the tools, sometimes we don’t, but we’ve still been able to eat pretty healthily if you’ve followed the What Vegans Eat blog and see what we’ve been eating. It’s all there. Let’s talk about appliances. The good, the bad, the expensive, but oh so worth it.
Gary De Mattei: Right. Well again, I’ll just start by saying the Vitamix. I think the Vitamix is an amazing tool, and it can really do a lot for you in so many different ways. Making pancake batter for example in a Vitamix is… I mean we make a lot of gluten free pancake batters, and waffle batters, and things like that. And so when you have a powerful blender like that, it really does make the batter so much more wonderful.
Caryn Hartglass: So let me just say here that we’ve used a conventional blender for a very long time, and it was only recently that we got a Vitamix, and most of the recipes we have, you can use with a regular blender. It will take longer, you’ll have to chop a little more, you’ll have to help the blender along, pulsing a lot, and you may need to add more liquid to get things moving.
Gary De Mattei: Absolutely. And a Vitamix is expensive.
Caryn Hartglass: And a Vitamix is expensive, but I really think if you can get one, get one. The refurbished ones are available, which were a little less expensive, and they’re just as good as the new ones.
Gary De Mattei: Oh, absolutely.
Caryn Hartglass: We did have the opportunity to try a Blendtec, another high powered blender, and I have to say, I didn’t like it as much as Vitamix. How about you Gary?
Gary De Mattei: No, I didn’t. I didn’t like it as much as Vitamix. Now, the refurbished Vitamix, with the speed dial, and the two switches is very basic. There isn’t a computerized digital board. It’s basically just a switch, so you’re not going to get all of the little buttons and LED readouts. It’s going to just be your basic turn it on, and change the speed, and turn it off. So, there’s some skill involved in operating something manual. You do have to read the instructions, because you can’t just turn it on, and not know where your speed is set. It’s not going to be childproof. So, it’s an industrial machine. I don’t know if anybody walks into Starbucks and watches them blend their drinks, but it’s the same thing Starbucks uses to blend a smoothie, a coffee drink that has a lot of sugar and bad things in it for you, but that you can’t resist. So you can make your own smoothies at home, your own coffee drinks at home, and they can be healthy, and lovely, and delicious, and they’re not going to kill you.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s right
Gary De Mattei: And speaking of smoothies, my nephew, Zachary, is starting to get into making his own smoothies, health smoothies, and it’s really wonderful to watch him. And he puts in a lot of kale and a lot of greens and things. He tests this thing to limit, and it’s still operating. And I’m telling you, he puts like an entire head of kale in, and he’ll put in large pieces of root vegetables, like carrots and all kinds of things, and blends it up and drinks it, because he’s really into health and fitness. I’ve seen him torture that Vitamix, and it just kind of laughs at what he’s doing.
Caryn Hartglass: It laughed at it, yeah, but he’s looking amazing. We’ve really seen the difference in his look, and his skin, and his glow, since he started eating vegetables.
Gary De Mattei: Right. He’s not a vegan per say, but he eats a lot of vegan meals, and it’s really showing. It’s showing tremendously well. But, my point in bringing up my nephew was the fact that I’ve watched him now since we’ve been here in North California work this Vitamix to its limits, and it holds up really well.
Caryn Hartglass: So more about appliances. We like food processors, like the Cuisinart food processor. The larger, the better, and I’ll tell you why. I was visiting with two old friends of mine. One I met in junior high school, and one I met in high school. The three of us decided to get together. The three of us together haven’t been together in a really long time. I’ve seen both of them individually, and one of them recommended that we pick some of REAL’s recipes and we would make them for lunch.
Gary De Mattei: Yeah!
Caryn Hartglass: What I didn’t realize is the host who is a lovely person and very smart, and she’s had a great engineering career. She’s a great mom. She is lost in the kitchen. I had no idea. And her husband seems to make all the meals that they make at home. She’s okay with breakfast, but otherwise, they eat out. And she’s been working at getting healthier. She’s eating a mostly vegan diet. And we were making this kale salad that I didn’t think was very complicated, but we started preparing a little ground parsley and ground cilantro for the salad, and then chopping a little onion, mincing a little garlic, and it was taking a very long time. And then, this particular recipe, which you came up with Gary, where you put the kale in a food processor and pulsed it a little bit, which quickly chopped it.
Gary De Mattei: Right.
Caryn Hartglass: She didn’t have a big food processor. She just had one of those little mini choppers.
Gary De Mattei: Right.
Caryn Hartglass: So the mini chopper was really helpful in mincing the garlic, and the herbs, and the onions, but I ended up manually chopping the kale. I didn’t want her doing it, because everything was taking a really long time, and I knew that we wanted to sit down and have lunch.
Gary De Mattei: Right. Right. So you manually chopped the kale with a kitchen knife?
Caryn Hartglass: I did.
Gary De Mattei: Yeah, but you know that’s a skill you should really learn first before you go crazy with appliances, because learning how to work with your knives is really an essential and a key step. Now, if you don’t have time to take a cooking class to learn how to use knives, or you don’t have the desire to do it, then I would suggest getting a very large Cuisinart that’s going to do the chopping for you. But, take the time to get to know your knives in the kitchen. People buy all of these big blocks of knives, and they don’t even know what they’re for. You know how I learned how to cook?
Caryn Hartglass: I don’t.
Gary De Mattei: I didn’t go to any expensive cooking school. I watched PBS. I learned how to cook from a very young age, and cutting school when I was in elementary school, and watching Graham Kerr, the Galloping Gourmet use his. It’s out there. It’s on YouTube now, and there are tons of cooking shows. I wouldn’t suggest starting with a food network show, because they really stopped teaching people how to cook.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. It’s just entertainment.
Gary De Mattei: Yeah, but if you can find some old food shows where they actually do teach you how to use a chef’s knife.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. You can just Google on YouTube: “How to use knives. How to use a chef’s knife. How to chop an onion”. You’ll learn quickly.
Gary De Mattei: Right. The tools are out there for you. You don’t need to take any classes. Although, I know a lot of Sur La Table and a lot of different cookware stores, retailers, have cooking classes now. I don’t know if they have a basic “how to use your knives” class, but that’s really important.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay. Here’s a ridiculous analogy. Okay? Cars. Driving an automobile. Most people think this is essential. It’s not that essential for some of us who don’t own cars, and we live in big cities, and we use mass transportation, but cars are great. But, you have to have a driver’s license first. You have to learn how to drive the car. Learn the rules of the road. It’s not any different in the kitchen. You need to learn how to use your tools.
Gary De Mattei: Right, and you need to learn how to drive your kitchen. I know that you want to talk about, and I don’t want to jump ahead, but you want to talk about how to organize your kitchen, and the different kitchens that we’ve lived in on this trip to California have — Everybody has their own method of organizing their kitchens. And so that’s a personal touch. That’s your own personal touch. The key word I guess would be to organize it on how you would like to have things available for you at your fingertips. And that’s really important to at least take the time to organize your kitchen so that it works with you, instead of against you, and the way you do that is just by experimenting with cooking a meal. And I always think that it’s a meditative process when you cook. I think that cooking is meditation, and it’s very relaxing for me. A lot of people, maybe one of your best friends that you’ve just cooked with in her kitchen, maybe cooking is really stressful and not that all enjoyable, and so maybe that’s why her husband does it. And that’s cool. Some people just have tried it, and they just don’t get it. They don’t understand it, and it’s usually people that aren’t really that into eating. You have to admit, you and I are really into eating, and I think we have put a lot of focus on eating.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, I know people that love eating and don’t know how to cook, and I know people that love eating and do know how to cook, so it doesn’t necessarily correlate. But I just wanted to say before I forget, because I typically forget, we are open for calls if you have any burning questions about working in the kitchen. You’re free to ask us.
Gary De Mattei: Yeah, I like the choice of words too, “If you have a burning question about cooking”. If you have a burning question about burning food, and believe me, we’ve all burned food.
Caryn Hartglass: And there’s ways to salvage a lot of mistakes and burned food, which everyone’s done.
Gary De Mattei: Right. A while ago we did this piece at Responsible Eating and Living that we put together called “January Dishes”. We did it at the beginning of the year. January 7th, 2016, and it’s got to be relabeled, because it’s really just twelve steps on how you can organize your kitchen with respect to the essential ingredients that are going to make a bunch of dishes from all of these twelve basics. So if you search for that on our site, you’ll see vegetable stock is number one, tomato sauce is number two, tofu is number three, tempeh is number four, greens number five, roots number six, flour number seven, grains number eight, miso number nine, dried goods number ten, eleven is nuts and seeds, and twelve is legumes, pulses, and beans. And again, it’s called “January Dishes”, but those twelve basics in the plant based kitchen are really a great place for you to start to get to know these items, and it kind of gives you a brief run down. Vegetable stocks for example, you can add vegetable stock to a lot of your savory dishes instead of water. It makes them richer. It makes them more flavorful. A vegetable stock can also be made into a soup immediately. You can freeze it. It lasts a long time in the freezer. Same thing with tomato sauce. A lot of people are afraid of tofu, but don’t be afraid of tofu. Tofu is not going to give you cancer. Soy is not going to do all the horrible things that a lot of people are frightening you into thinking it’s going to do. If you don’t believe me, watch a program that we produced here at Responsible Eating and Living called… What’s it called?
Caryn Hartglass: Soy Story.
Gary De Mattei: Soy Story. It’s a takeoff on Toy Story. It’s on the website. It talks about all of the misinformation that you get about soy. And Caryn has done a lot of research on soy, and so she talks to you about how not to be afraid of soy.
Caryn Hartglass: In summary, I want to say that we’ve covered appliances, and we recommend a large food processor, and good knives, learning how to use them, a Vitamix is you can afford it. It’s really wonderful. Otherwise, a blender can do the trick. Some great cutting boards, and then you’re good to go. Of course measuring cups and measuring spoons are helpful. Some really good stainless steel bowls to do your mixing in and some basic stainless steel pots.
Gary De Mattei: Let’s talk about stainless steel a minute and why we’re saying stainless steel as opposed to like the kind of pots and pans that you would maybe have a non-stick surface on. A non-stick surface comes off, and yeah, they tell you to use plastic when you use a non-stick surface, but I don’t want to cook with plastic, and I don’t want to cook with anything that’s been sprayed onto a pan that’s going to come off. I don’t care what they’ve told me. And so stainless steel is the way to go, and they’re going to be a little more expensive, and no, don’t use aluminum pots and pants. Don’t use cast aluminum. You’re going to see a lot of really fancy looking pots that are made with cast aluminum, and they’re going to tell you that they’re perfectly fine. Don’t believe them. They’re not fine. Use stainless steel, and again, it’s going to be a little more expensive. You’re not going to be able to find it on sale. Well, you might be able to.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, there are some sales.
Gary De Mattei: Not as readily available on sale as some of the cast aluminum pots and pans, but look around for it. And again, stainless steel lasts forever, so if you can find a set that’s been refurbished, that’s okay. You can buy a refurbished set of stainless steel.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, and take care of all these things. So you talked a little bit before about organizing the kitchen, and a lot of people are concerned about making food quickly. People work all day. People have kids. They’re busy. They’re tired. Making healthy food seems intimidating, and it just seems very time intensive. And this is where organization is so important, because if you have a kitchen that it thoughtfully planned out, you know where things are, and they’re accessible, and clean, and neat, and ready to go when you’re ready to make food. That makes a big difference.
Caryn Hartglass: One of the first things I recommend, you want to keep your kitchen clean. And I like to clean up as I’m making food, and this is something that takes practice. But if you’re cleaning while you’re preparing, then the cleanup is that much faster.
I also like to make sure the kitchen is clean before going to bed for a number of reasons. I mean we live in an apartment building, and you know we’re never going to get rid of all the cockroaches. But we don’t like them in our kitchen, and we don’t want to give them any opportunity to visit. So our kitchens are clean.
Gary De Mattei: We don’t want them to come over to our apartment.
Caryn Hartglass: No, we don’t.
Gary De Mattei: But a lot of times when you live in an apartment building, and I think it’s important to bring this up, and you are one who had this happen I’m sure–those of you who live in apartment buildings. If an exterminator comes to the apartment next door, those little roaches are going to go to your apartment. So, it always pays, now especially if you’re someone who doesn’t want any toxic poisons in your kitchen, to understand the non-toxic ways to keep the vermin and the roaches out. So invest some time into searching out ways of doing that. I’m not going to give you any of my ways because I don’t really have any other than boric acid. And I know if you have children or pets, boric acid is not a good thing to spread around. But there are different ways you can do that, and I don’t really know of any ways off the top of my head. But if you think of something, let us know, and we’ll share it with our listeners.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, so when you get up in the morning, and you want to get your breakfast going, or any other time in the day, it’s really difficult if you’re approaching a kitchen that needs to be cleaned up. You want to give yourself the gift of a clean kitchen so that when you’re ready to make food, everything’s clear. Counters are clear. Sink is empty. You’re ready to start making food.
Gary De Mattei: It’s really important to empty the garbage every night and do all of the things that you’re taking for granted. But someone out there might not think, “Well, I could leave these dishes soaking in the sink overnight, or I could leave them sitting in the dishwasher. I could leave the garbage until the morning.” But really, we’re talking basically about people who are living in apartment buildings. These are the things that you can do to keep your kitchen clean. And clean as you go, as Caryn said. You always should go as you go. And before you start a new meal, make sure that the counter is clean from the last meal. And if you’re a vegan, you’re never going to have to worry about disinfecting your cutting boards like you have to do when you cut flesh–chicken and things like that. But if you aren’t a vegan, you really do have to be careful about all of the things that you cut on your cutting boards because that’s how people die, and that’s what stopped me from–I don’t like going into non-vegan restaurants anymore and ordering vegan food. And I’m not being a snob or smug about this, but I’ve worked in restaurants. I’ve owned restaurants. I’ve seen what goes on in kitchens. No matter how clean your kitchen staff is, no matter how wonderful they are and how well they take care of your kitchens for you in restaurants, there are still going to be some disease. And I really feel this way, and I don’t have any facts to back this up with, but I think a lot of the things that people say–I think a lot of the flu is not the flu at all. I think it’s food poisoning. And so, whether you’re at home or at a restaurant, if the next day you’re not feeling well, think about what you ate or how you prepared that because it may not be the flu. It may be food poisoning.
Caryn Hartglass: Food borne illness. [singing] Bum Bum.
Gary De Mattei: So it’s really important to keep clean, to be impeccably clean in the kitchen, and that’s the first thing on my list. So when you’re organizing your kitchen, when you’re organizing your cabinets, make sure you take cleanliness into consideration.
Caryn Hartglass: All right, so another thing that some people don’t think about because it’s not necessarily obvious is what you store around the stove. If you’re using the stove, if you’re not a raw foodist, and if you’re cooking, the stove gets hot, and that heat spreads. And it can spread into the cabinets around the stove. I remember growing up, my mom used to keep the spice rack on top of the stove in a nice little shelf. And those spices and herbs got hit with a dose of heat every time the stove or the oven was used. Spices should be stored way far away from the stove in a cool, dark place. They can last a year or two or more if they are kept in tightly sealed containers in a cool, dry place.
Gary De Mattei: Right, very important, and–go ahead Caryn.
Caryn Hartglass: We love using herbs and spices. They are very nutritious. Some of them have remarkable anti-cancer fighting properties. They give so much flavor to the food. You don’t need to cook with salt. You can cook with herbs and spices, and we love them. And we like to have a big variety of them. We buy them in bulk so they are less expensive in the one-pound bag sometimes, quarter pound bag. They’re much cheaper than buying in the little two-ounce variety, and this way we have all of them ready to go for anything. But we keep them in tins that are well sealed in a cool, dark drawer. Or actually, they’re not in a drawer anymore. They’re in a cool, dark place between cabinets.
Gary De Mattei: And so when you go to–and again, it really does help you–because I think a lot of reasons people kept their spices above the stove was because they were kind of making it up as they went along. So they were thinking, “Okay, what can I add to this?” So they want it in front of them so they could just toss it in as they’re cooking it. But if you plan ahead, you can bring a small dish over to your spice area. You can put your spices in your small dish and mix it up. We use a mortar and pestle, and we put our spices in there. And then you bring it over to the stove already measured out, and then you just add it to your dish. It makes life so much easier in the long run.
Caryn Hartglass: Just a little planning, right?
Gary De Mattei: Plus, when that spice rack is above your stove, it gets all greasy and dirty, and your spices get all contaminated with other stuff. And just keep them on the side, and deal with it. [laughter].
Caryn Hartglass: Just deal with it. Another thing I like to mention, I’m really into the Pyrex bowls that come with covers, and they come in all different sizes–half cup, one cup, two cup, four cup, seven cup, and so on. They come round. They come square. They come rectangle, and I really recommend using them for storage and then for presenting at the table and for reheating in. They are so, so versatile; I just go nuts over them. I don’t like using plastic. We’ve been using a lot more plastic on the road because we’re fortunately able to be visiting with people who are welcoming us into their kitchens, and we use what is available. But what I wanted to bring up here are the covers. So often we can’t find the right lid to fit the right bowl or the right container. I say, plan ahead, and keep them all in the same place. You can neatly stack the covers by size. You can neatly stack the containers in a certain way. But know where they are so that when you look for them, they are where you want them to be. And when you’re cleaning up and putting them away, you know where they’re supposed to go.
Gary De Mattei: I mean we’re a little–this is our life’s work, preparing food, so we are going to be a little over the top. Some of you are going to be listening to us, and you’re going to be saying, “Oh, I don’t have time for that. That’s way too much trouble.” But, we could be a little bit like the–remember the old Saturday Night Live sketch, Phil Hartman–God rest his soul–one of the funniest and most creative and most brilliant actor/comedians alive–is no longer alive. His life ended tragically, but he used to do this character called the Anal Retentive Chef, [laughter] and we are seriously bordering on Mr. Hartman’s creation. So we are going to give you the extremes here. You need to find the balance that works for you, but organizing your drawers is a really important thing to do. And it doesn’t really take that long when you think about it, and then you always know where it’s supposed to go. Sure, this is stuff that you are saying to yourself now, “Yeah, duh, Gary. I mean, that’s obvious.” But you really don’t think about it. We’ve been into a lot of kitchens, and I guess they work for the people who work in them. But as far as a method to the madness, again I’ll point out that it really is up to you, but lids and storing the containers with the lids is a really great thing. And Caryn mentioned Pyrex. Pyrex has a set of bowls out that have color-coordinated lids, and glass is preferred over plastic in our kitchen. But the lids are also plastic, but the lids are the only things that are plastic.
Caryn Hartglass: They’re actually; some of the lids are silicone.
Gary De Mattei: Silicone, right, and they’re genius. These Pyrex bowls are genius, and the lid is great. So you just take the lid off, and you truly can just serve it in the bowl that it comes in. It’s attractive, and it’s not like serving it in one of these Glad plastic things that they’re trying to sell you at grocery stores that they think replace Tupperware. But they really don’t replace Tupperware because they don’t last that long. Tupperware lasted–I think it was made out of bowling ball rubber–so it lasted forever.
Caryn Hartglass: No, actually Tupperware is plastic, and it does leach. And I don’t recommend using plastic.
Gary De Mattei: No, no, I’m not saying you recommend it. I’m just saying that it lasted forever, and this other stuff–
Caryn Hartglass: It did. It lasts much more than these Ziploc and Glad storage containers that you can buy in the store. Absolutely.
Gary De Mattei: We don’t want anything to do with any of that stuff anymore. That’s why we use Pyrex. Good old Pyrex. I think it’s the greatest thing in the world. You can microwave in it. We don’t use a microwave either, but you can bake it in the oven. You can put it in the freezer, and it works terrific.
Caryn Hartglass: Gary, you mentioned that when you were in the kitchen, you’d find a sort of relaxing Zen. And many people find stress in the kitchen, and that’s why I think it’s really important to organize and plan ahead. That will really reduce stress because every time you think you want to make a new recipe, you want to try something, you’re finding yourself in the kitchen again, you’re giving yourself another chance, and you get frustrated instantly because the recipe says you need this, and you can’t find it. And you need something else, and you can’t find it. And you’re looking around, and it’s very frustrating and very stressful.
Gary De Mattei: And I think that it’s not only a Zen-like experience for me to be in the kitchen, but it’s also a great workout. You could wear one of these step counters on your wrist or FitBits while you’re working in the kitchen, and it really can take the place of your workout because you’re always moving when you’re cooking a meal for your family or for yourself.
Caryn Hartglass: Good point.
Gary De Mattei: And I have counted thousands of steps at the end of prepping a meal. Just try it. You know, a good time to try it is Thanksgiving when you’re making things for dinner because you probably get in 10,000 steps, and if you think of it as–this food that you’re making for yourself is going to help keep–it’s going to help make you live a long, happy, healthy life. And while you prepare it, you’re going to stay in great physical shape, so it’s a win-win. If you’re adopting a healthier lifestyle, and you’re getting to know your kitchen better than you’ve ever known it before, you’re going to be keeping in shape both physically and you’re going to be nourishing your body with great food. And as Caryn always says on this program, you’re worth it. You’re worth this kind of extra effort. You’re worth getting back into your kitchen and learning more about it.
Again, I can’t stress enough, going out and eating in a restaurant is lovely on the surface. You’re being waited on; somebody’s serving your food. And you’re eating this meal that you think tastes wonderful, but you have no idea what’s going into your food. You have no idea how much fat is in there or salt or sugar to get it to taste that way, and yeah, we go out to dinner and we have a lovely time and we treat ourselves. But there are only so many restaurants we completely trust that has our interest at heart. Most of them are just there–you know, they’re a business, and they want to get you in there and get you to eat their food. So they’re going to deep fry it, and they’re going to do all these crazy things that you’re going to absolutely go back for because that stuff is addicting. Salt, sugar, and fat–it’s an addicting property just like anything else.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, so I want to talk about getting started in the kitchen and the foods you might make, and I think it’s really a great thing to start with making salads and salad dressing. It doesn’t even require any cooking, but it will help develop your chopping skills, which you can ultimately extend to and expand to cooking dishes. But making salad–some people complain that it is very time-consuming, and it’s because you need an organized kitchen. You need to plan, and you need to have a few skills right at your fingertips.
Gary De Mattei: I’m going to push back a little bit on the salads in a bag that a lot of people are using where they say it’s already premixed. Just open the bag and toss it in there, and put your favorite bottled dressing on it. I’m going to say don’t do that. I’m going to say learn how to clean a head of lettuce. Start with learning how to clean a head of lettuce. Start with getting a head of romaine, knowing how to chop off the bottom of it, pull the leaves off the bottom of the head, wash each leaf individually, pat those leaves dry, or get yourself a salad spinner, get the water out, and then make a Seed Caesar dressing and toss it in there with some tomato and avocado. It’s going to change your life, and make sure it’s an organic head of lettuce.
Caryn Hartglass: Can we just talk about the romaine that we had last night as compared to the romaine you get in one of those bags?
Gary De Mattei: Yeah, that’s unbelievable. If you go to a good grocery store that has a nice organic vegetable section and get a big, muscular head of romaine like we got at Staff of Life in Santa Cruz. I think Caryn said it last night, Staff of Life is–we would move to Santa Cruz if we could just so we could be near Staff of Life. It’s the greatest grocery store I have ever been to, and there’s a few others around. I know New Leaf Market in Santa Cruz is also an amazing grocery store, and I used to think this way about Whole Foods. But Whole Foods is now kind of shifting into some other place. I don’t know quite what. I mean, they took out their fresh juice bar in a couple of the Whole Foods, and I just can’t abide by that. Anyway, a muscular head of romaine lettuce is amazing, and you add an avocado that, sliced tomato, and some of my Seed Caesar dressing. It’s going to change your life. It’s going to be the greatest thing you ever ate.
Caryn Hartglass: So the bags of salad that are prewashed and ready to go–if you’re going from eating a mostly animal product diet, sure. These prewashed bags of salad are a much better option, but you want the best for you, the best for your family, the best flavor, the freshest. Those prewashed salads in the bag have been made–the bags are filled with carbon dioxide and some other gases in order to keep them fresher longer. So you don’t know how old they are. You don’t know when they were harvested, and they taste that way. They just don’t taste as good, so the fresher, the better. Farmer’s markets, grow your own, whatever. Fresher is better.
Gary De Mattei: And, again, we’re going on ad nauseum about this, and I’m sure many of you out there are like “Oh gosh, this is just old news,” but you know, you have to understand that these things need to be–we need to keep saying these because we’re going to slip into these habits of saying “Oh, it’s just going to be so much easier for me to buy that big plastic box of five dollar organic mixed greens at Safeway.” You see them now, they have the big five-dollar label on them, and it’s organic.
Caryn Hartglass: We buy them. We do. We use them.
Gary De Mattei: It’s in a plastic box. The thing you have to think about, the plastic box is contaminating this lettuce, this lettuce that you have no idea how long it’s been sitting there. So we have to keep pushing ourselves to not fall into the trap of the plastic box or the plastic bag because it’s just so much cooler to get the big, muscular head of romaine from a reputable market that buys from local growers and local organic growers.
Caryn Hartglass: The greens are really important. You want them to be fresh, and you want them to taste good. That’s what makes a salad good, but let’s talk about all the other things that we add to a salad to make it more nutritious but make it also delicious. The first thing is the dressing, and you mentioned our Seed Caesar Dressing. So the idea is that rather than using oil, because oil is not a healthy food–olive oil is not a healthy food. It contains no fiber. It’s a processed food. It’s just a lot of calories. I love a good olive oil, okay. Don’t get me wrong, and occasionally, I indulge, but I don’t make a habit of it. Salad dressings should be made with a fat and an acid like vinegar or citrus, and the fat can come from whole foods, seeds, raw nuts and seeds, avocado, coconut. If you can soak your nuts and seeds, all the better. They’ll be more nutritious, and they’ll be more easy to blend.
Gary De Mattei: Again, this is a fact, so essentially what you’re doing is, if you have a Cuisinart or a blender or a Vitamix, you’re making your own oil. But you’re making it with–at the source, and you’re keeping the fiber with the oil. You’re not pressing the oil out of the seeds or the nuts. You’re actually getting the entire whole food, but you’re still getting that oil that you love the taste of so much. And you’re pulverizing it to the point where it’s becoming this thick, wonderful dressing. And you think it’s very mayonnaise-like, but in reality, it’s nothing like mayonnaise because it has got all of the goodness. But it’s going to fool you, and it’s so easy to make.
Caryn Hartglass: So then you’ve got your dressing, and you can make a dressing that lasts for three or four days if you make enough of it and chill it in the refrigerator. They don’t last forever, and that’s intentional. That can be frustrating because I know bottled dressings have artificial preservatives in them that allow them to last for months or years. I’ve seen bottles of salad dressing that have been in some people’s refrigerators for years. That should not be.
Gary De Mattei: Even a lot of vegan dressings are doing that too. There are a lot of horrible things in that.
Caryn Hartglass: Then you add to your salad whatever you like. A little chopped raw onion is very nutritious. Not too much, just enough. You can add any kind of cooked bean. Legumes make a very filling and satisfying salad. In the summer, when the fruit is just sweet and delicious and ripe, I like to add a little fresh fruit to the salad, either some chopped pear or some fresh berries, some citrus. It makes it really fun and exciting.
Gary De Mattei: Another thing that is really fun to do in the summer, and Caryn has interviewed the author of the book–who is the author of that tomato book, Caryn? One of the first videos that we did about the tomato land. Tomatoland. The author of Tomatoland. He was talking with Caryn once, and said that you eat all of these things during the summer when they’re readily available. Then you eat so much of them that you really don’t want them in the winter when they’re not available, and I picked up on that. You know, how we can get produce in the grocery store 12 months out of the year. We can get ripe tomatoes, and we can get–
Caryn Hartglass: Strawberries.
Gary De Mattei: But they are never as good as they are when you can get them in season from local growers.
Caryn Hartglass: It was Barry Estabrook. Barry Estabrook.
Gary De Mattei: Barry Estabrook, and that’s interesting because tomatoes are berries. So that’s a great way to remember Barry’s name, but you know what would be fun is at the end of the summer when the harvest comes is to make, to get back in the kitchen and make your own tomato sauce. And learn how to bottle your own tomato sauce, and your own strawberry preserves and things of that nature. If you don’t have the time to do that, we have an amazing recipe for apricot preserve that is just made with dried apricots. That’s it. No sugar.
Caryn Hartglass: Unsulfured, organic dried apricots. The easiest thing, and you can do it with prunes. You can do it with raisins. You can do it with a lot of different dried fruits, so you can have them in your cupboard as dried fruit all the time. Then when you want some jam, you just add a pound of dried fruit to three cups of water in a saucepan, boil it up, and then put it in your blender. Carefully, because it’s hot. You can let it cool. Blend it up. Put it in jars, and you’ve got a fantastic jam that has no sugar added.
Gary De Mattei: It’s really unbelievable. I’m not kidding, you guys. Listen, I am talking to you, the person out there like me who likes to put jam on everything. This is the way to do it, okay? So get our recipe for apricot butter, I think we call it, and you can adapt it to whatever dried fruit you like. Or mix the fruits, and do your own mixture.
Caryn Hartglass: This is an example of a very simple recipe. Now some people would think “Oh my God, this is so complicated, make my own jam?”
Gary De Mattei: No, it’s not complicated.
Caryn Hartglass: When you get into the habit of making these things, you realize they are not complicated, and then you can have a supply of basics that you’re using all the time. That’s what we do.
Gary De Mattei: Can you boil water? If you can boil water, then you can throw dried apricots in the boiling water. Let it cook until it gets really soft. Throw it in a blender after it cools so you don’t burn yourself, and blend it up. Pour it in jars, and keep it in your refrigerator. And use it on everything, and it’s terrific. It’s really great. I put it on my oatmeal. I put it on my spaghetti. No, I don’t think I put it on my spaghetti, but I would if you let me.
Caryn Hartglass: So Gary, I can’t believe it, but once again, we just have a few minutes left. We’ve managed to talk away the last hour pretty easily, so I hope you don’t mind me mentioning, but next week there will not be a new It’s All About Food program. I am taking the week off, and the reason is that particular day we are actually premiering a reading of a new play that Gary wrote called “Bad Hemingway by the Bay,” and I am very excited about it.
Gary De Mattei: Thanks for the plug. It is a private reading. It is the first reading we will ever do that is with an invited audience, and hopefully they will not leave before it is over.
Caryn Hartglass: [laughter] You know what is funny about it? The play is actually about food, so I can bring it up on this show because it is about food.
Gary De Mattei: It is about food and other things, but it’s about food.
Caryn Hartglass: It is about food. You know, and I wanted to mention that, but there are a number of other things that I did not get to that I wanted to talk about, which always happens on this program. And I have a minute left, so maybe I should hold off and save these for another time.
Gary De Mattei: I think so. Good night everybody. Goodbye.
Caryn Hartglass: [laughter] Thanks for joining me, Gary.
Gary De Mattei: Thanks for joining me, Caryn. Talk to you later.
Caryn Hartglass: Talk to you really soon. All right, well that’s another It’s All About Food show that has come to a close. I hope you join me at responsibleeatingandliving.com and you can follow our travels with food during our three-month stay here in Northern California Bay Area at my blog What Vegans Eat now in day 537 where we made an incredible stack of corn cake pancakes. Have a delicious week. Bye Bye!
Transcribed by Rachel Settle, 9/26/2016 and Kevin Zhao 10/14/2016