Carla Wescott, Ricki Heller


Part I – Carla Westcott, Cruelty-Free Handbags
Carla Westcott graduated from the Parsons School of Design BFA program in 1994 and one year later founded Westcott, a designer eveningwear company. She is adjunct faculty in the Parsons BFA program and is a member of The Council of Fashion Designers of America.

Carla Westcott is founder and designer at Westcott, a New York design house specializing in evening wear. A graduate of the Parsons School of Design BFA program, Westcott, a Vicksburg, Mississippi native, was recognized at Parsons with both the Jennifer George and Mary Ann Restivo Gold Thimble awards for her gown designs. She worked briefly for a Seventh Avenue dress designer before founding Westcott Design Group in 1995. She is a member of The Council of Fashion Designers of America.

Westcott’s guideline in creating her modern eveningwear is one of engineered harmony. The minimal silhouettes are clean and elegant, defined by luxuriously rich fabrics and traditional construction inspired by couture sewing techniques and by her affinity and respect for architecture. She cites artists as diverse as German photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher and architect Frank Lloyd Wright as influencing her work. The details and garment construction of the garments are often drawn from architecture and its sympathetic discipline, industrial design. Pioneering the use of Swarovski crystals as graphic embellishment in her first collection, Westcott continues to develop this signature primarily on matte jersey.

Carla Westcott’s collection is emblematic of stark elegance characterized by flawless draping, couture construction and detailing, and always, body-conscious shapes. Following the launch of her first collection in October 1995 by Saks Fifth Avenue, Westcott continues to attract the finest retailers in America and Canada including Barneys New York, Neiman Marcus and Holt Renfrew.

For Spring 2014, Westcott launches her first handbag collection. Made exclusively of Italian textiles and hardware, the collection embodies Westcott’s esthetic of minimalist elegance. The collection is proudly manufactured in New York City’s garment district and is currently available at

Part II – Ricki Heller, Naturally Sweet and Gluten-Free
Ricki Heller is the voice behind the popular food blog, which celebrates sugar-free, gluten-free, allergy-friendly whole foods through a low-glycemic, vegan lifestyle. With over 600 foolproof recipes, humorous anecdotes and comments from two chatty canines, the blog illustrates Ricki’s philosophy that “a healthy lifestyle CAN be sweet.” In 2011, Diet, Dessert and Dogs (the blog’s name then) was nominated for the SHAPE Magazine “Best Healthy Eating Blog” and as a “Best Healthy Cooking Blog” by The Kitchn in 2013.

Ricki’s latest cookbook, Naturally Sweet & Gluten-Free: 100 Allergy Friendly Vegan Desserts was published in September, 2013 and became an amazon best seller the day it was released. Her first book, Sweet Freedom: Desserts You’ll Love without Wheat, Eggs, Dairy or Refined Sugar caught the eye of Ellen DeGeneres and is one of only three cookbooks recommended on DeGeneres’s website. Ricki has also written three anti-candida ebooks.

After being diagnosed with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), Ricki first began to change her eating habits and realized how much the food we eat influences or health. Later, after suffering from candida and following an anti-candida diet for more than 3 years, she determined to learn more about the healing power of foods and obtained her Registered Holistic Nutritionist designation.

These days, Ricki still shares her recipes through her blog, books, speaking engagements and by teaching cooking classes in the Toronto area. She is an Associate Editor for the hugely popular Simply Gluten-Free magazine, for which she writes a regular column. Her articles and recipes have also appeared in Clean Eating magazine, Living Without Magazine, Allergic Living magazine, Canadian Living Magazine,, The Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, and others. She’s also a regular contributor to The Daily Digest (Attune Foods blog), The Balanced Platter and

Ricki’s television appearances include Canada AM, CityTV’s Breakfast Television, as a featured guest on York Region Living, In the Know, and as a regular guest on Rogers’ daytime (York Region and Toronto). She was also a speaker at the inaugural Nourished conference in Chicago in 2012.

Ricki lives and works in Vaughan, Ontario, with one husband and two lab-border collie cross dogs.


Caryn Hartglass: Hello everybody this is Caryn Hartglass and your listening to It’s All About Food, here we are on November 26th, 2013. It’s a good week, even though it’s kind of cold and damp outside, that’s okay because it’s holiday time and this is a very special holiday time for those of us who chose not to eat birds, right? This is the big unfortunate week for turkeys and many of us who don’t eat them vegetarians, vegans have our turkey free events. It’s kind of a hard time with family and friends when we all get together with the foods. It’s such a food focused holiday and it’s hard for a lot of us because I think when we ‘re giving thanks, thanks for all of our abundance it’s hypocritical perhaps or I’m not exactly sure the word I’m searching for, but how is it we can give thanks when we have something tortured and abused being served on our table and it’s something that I have tried to avoid for along time now. I’m really looking forward to this Thanksgiving because we’re having it at home and were making all the foods that we love and you might wonder what some of those things are and I made it really easy for you if you visit where I live, you can see our thanksgiving celebration feast video. You can watch me make all of those great recipes and all the recipes are there on the website and we just added a new recipe that I just got to taste yesterday and today. We’re having Thanksgiving all week at home but this is a Thanksgiving squash with polenta stuffing. We use this beautiful red, curry squash we found awhile ago when we were touring out on the east end of long island going to some of the organic farms, but it is a stunning red squash and you can use another large orange pumpkin or orange squash in this recipe, but I just found this particular one to have just to a very exciting shape and color and we stuffed it with a fabulous polenta stuffing and it makes a great main event, you bring this out and you can slice it too which is kind of fun. So check that recipe out, and it’s also Hanukkah starting on Thursday and I don’t know who plans these calendars but you know sometimes the sun and the moon collide and they do on our calenders because the Hebrew calender is based on the lunar cycle and we got Hanukkah the same time it’s thanksgiving. There’s been all kinds of crazy names for the new holiday. ” thanksgivikah” and anyway I’m making my baked potato pancakes as an appetizer for my thanksgiving feast this year and what I love about them is I’m saving the oil for the lamp and I’m not using it to fry my potato pancakes. This is a easy recipe, you can see it on our website, baked potato pancakes, they are really delicious. You can make them in advanced, which is especially nice. Okay a few more things I wanted to mention, the Swinging Gourmets were out swinging this weekend at the Dr. Fuhrman’s Weekend Health Immersion, yes we we’re out there and if you go to you can see some pictures from the event. Now the Swinging Gourmets, in addition to doing a few food shows online, we have a show where we tell a story about how foods are healing and are great for weight loss and we do it with song and we do it with fun and we really had a good time sharing our show with the folks at the weekend health immersion for Dr. Fuhrman, but there were something interesting that I learned talking to a lot of people at this event. A lot of people ask me: “Do you sell your food? “Where do you sell your food?” I keep telling people you have to find your kitchen and learn how to make foods and learn what’s in your food and the only way to do that really is to get in the kitchen and put things together and then you start to realize goes into food, and then maybe realize that the stuff that you’re buying in packages or in restaurants isn’t quite the same because they’re putting other things in those dishes that maybe you shouldn’t be eating. It’s frustrating when I hear people say “do you sell your food?” On one hand, I think maybe I should be starting a manufacturing business and I just may do that, I’ve been thinking about it for along time, but I think it’s so important to at least, make a lot of your meals. New, simple meals, clean wholesome, healthy plant-based meals. Find your kitchen. If you can’t find it… email me and maybe I can help you locate it. My email is and the last note is, I can be a bit chatty, okay so I’m chatty because I’m talking here for an hour every week, but I love it when I’m walking in my neighborhood and I strike up a conversation with a stranger. Now, I’m an adult. I’m aloud to talk to strangers. I don’t encourage children to talk strangers, but as an adult there are some strangers that can turn out to be really good connections. There’s a new receptionist at our bank and I started talking to her about making this baked potato pancake recipe and all the people in the bank started listening and everybody chimed in and it was really fun, but she ended up telling me the next time I came into the bank that she had a few friends over and she got a box grater because she didn’t have a food processor to grate the potatoes and they all had a great time grating the potatoes and the onions and it was a big social event and they made the pancakes and it was fabulous and that’s what it is all about, not just eating delicious whole nutritious food, but making it with your family and friends. Finding your kitchen and making an event of it because it’s fun and it’s good for us and in the end you feel good. That’s what I want you to do. I want you to feel good, in and out. Okay, I’m gonna stop with that chatter now and bring on my first guest and she’s here with me in the studio, Carla Wescott, she graduated from the Parsons School of Design BFA program in 1994 and one year later founded Westcott, a designer evening wear company. She is adjunct faculty in the Parsons BFA program and is a member of The Council of Fashion Designers of America and you can read more about Carla Wescott at or you can go directly to but we’re going to be talking about her new handbag collection made exclusively of Italian textile and hardware. The collection embodies Westcott’s aesthetic of minimalist elegance. The collection is proudly manufactured in New York City’s garment district and you can see more of them at Carla, but the reason why were talking about them is because they are cruelty free. Welcome to “It’s All About Food” , Carla.
Carla Wesott: Thank you Caryn, thanks for having me.
Caryn: Now we don’t eat your your handbags aren’t really food, but I think it’s important to talk about it because when people realize that they’re eating animals and chose not to eat meat, then I think that opens the door to being mindful about everything that is going on and then some people might realize. “Oh my goodness, my shoes, my handbags, my clothing are made from animals” and what happens to those animals before they became my accessories. And some of us make choices. like myself, I don’t wear leather. I don’t wear wool, I don’t wear silk, my shoes are all man-made and so are my handbags and what we need more and more and that’s why I got you here today and I’m grateful for you is.. we need access, we need access to these things and they need to be lovely.
Carla: That’s why I started making them. You know the only other vegetarian designer out there “of note” is Stella McCartney, I love her stuff.
Caryn: Don’t you like to put your name with Stella McCartney in the same sentence?
Carla: I do, we’re best friends, let me tell you, but her things are in the thousands, as they should be, they’re very beautifully made, but I couldn’t find that middle price that was accessible. I just wanted a nice handbag not over $500 and it was impossible for me to find. There are vegan handbag makers out there, but to be blunt, I wanted something “edgy” and urban that looked very chic, I live in New York. I’m a freakin’ fashion designer for crying out loud, you know, but I like black and I want it to be cool, so I started the company simply because I couldn’t find what I wanted.
Caryn: Okay, a lot of the vegan handbags are made..we don’t know where they come from and many of them come from China or third world countries and yours?
Carla: New York City.
Caryn: New York City!
Carla: I always had control over where my clothes was made. I’ve been making clothes for fifteen years. They were made on 36th street and now my handbags are made on 38th street so I can go to the factory. I know the people. I also know a sweatshop when I see one and I don’t use sweatshops. God bless China, but you don’t know what’s going on ten thousand miles away.
Caryn: I’m not knocking China and I’m not supporting them. We don’t know what’s going on with.. unless you go there and I really believe that we can be making most of the things that we need in our own country. Every country should be making what they need and there might be a few exotic items because of the weather or because of the weather or because of some particular artistic skill that’s developed in a specific country that you might want to import these things, bust most things, most of our foods, most of our clothing, most of our phones, all of our phones and computers should be made in our own country.
Carla: It’s a self fulfilling thing if you’re manufacturing here in the job states, in the money states the product you’re making will sell, but if we don’t keep manufacturing here, everyone knows this, people don’t have jobs, they don’t have money to spend and the very items you’re trying to sell in your own country, people don’t have the money to spend then. So really you’re helping your own business by helping your own economy.
Caryn: This is something I want everybody to think about because the holidays, the big consumer holidays are coming up. There’s that Black Friday day that some people tend to boycott and then some people like to take a lot of advantage and now it’s not just “Black Friday”, it’s like all week 24/7, but the point that I want to make is if you’re going out and consuming and buying gifts, I would really love it if you could think about what you’re buying, think about where it comes from, don’t just go for the least expensive because… and it’s so hard, that short term impact of getting all the gifts that you can for a great deal is so overwhelming and very powerful, but thinking ahead, long term when you invest in a quality product that’s made in the United States even better in your own state, your own hometown… New York City, yeah, think about buying less and spending your budget on quality items that are made at home.
Carla: You know it’s such a difficult thing because when you buy something made in the USA., it’s much more expensive.
Caryn: It’s much more money.
Carla: … and for individuals, what I teach my students at Parsons, I tell them to consider instead of buying 10 shirts from the large stores. I guess I can name names. Say H&M, the shirts are 20 bucks, take that $200 and buy one good shirt made in the United States. Buy a Phillip Lim, buy something local made in New York and take care of it. It’s less in the waste steam as well. It’s clogging the earth. I know people are out shopping and they say “well gosh this is so expensive”, switch gears. It’s better to buy a chocolate bars made in Brooklyn than to buy a sweater made by who knows where by who you don’t know. It could be someone under age. They’re probably making fifty cents for eight hours of work. So switch gears, it doesn’t have to be a goofy sweater, it could be a food products. Most of the food products we have here are made here, so seek them out, you know there’s a lot of businesses in Brooklyn… these small businesses making these little gourmets things. Or how about a bottle of wine either from the United States or New York state. It doesn’t have to be the typical things we’re used to because I know that buying USA made products is difficult for some people.
Caryn: Because they’re expensive.
Carla: My bags are expensive compared to things made in China.
Caryn: … and not all the time, but I think most of the time the quality is better. When they’re made in the United States, it’s either from a company that’s been around and has been able to survive ever thing that’s been going on because their product is so good or it’s a new company that’s just getting started and they just want to do good. So there’s only good reasons to support.
Carla: If you didn’t care about quality there would be no reason to manufacture here. You would absolutely go over seas with no quality control and get your cheap product and run with it.
Caryn: Okay, so I’m sure that people in the garment district are happy to have your business.
Carla: Yay, I hope so.
Caryn: What was their reaction when you told them what it was that you told them you wanted to make or did they follow instructions?
Carla: They just follow instructions. You know usually you get “oh” because people in the garment distract are pretty blasai. It’s whatever you want me to make or make you if you pay the price. There were some challenges. This was a company, for the most part used to working with leather so we both sort to had to learn together how to handle these textiles and some didn’t work and we had to start all over, but once they got it, they really got it and did a beautiful job.
Caryn: Great, now some of these materials come from Italy.
Carla: Right now all of our textiles are from Italy. There are a few linings that are from Korea simply because I can’t get the right color from Italy. We’re looking at more textiles from Spain so it will be pretty much be Europe but the Italian company that provides our textiles is so amazing, I can’t see using anyone else.
Caryn: Well, I like that, I know in Italy there have been a number of clothing manufacturers that have been sticking to very traditional methods of making Italian suits and their fabrics and it’s getting harder and harder to compete with the rest of the world, but okay this isn’t made in the United States, but it’s made in a country in a way that they’re making high quality products and they’re not necessarily mass manufacturing them or abusing their workers. They’ve got very highly skilled workers who are making quality products and so I can support that too.
Carla: Yes
Caryn: I know that there are a number of vegan shoe makers that are going to Italy and they’re probably using some similar materials.
Carla: Yes, the company we use also have a line for shoes so this company is wonderful at providing textiles that are just stunning. A lot of people don’t realize the ubiquitous, Luis Vuitton bag with the LV print.
Caryn: We like to say Vuitton.
Carla: Vuitton!
Caryn: Because it’s so much fun to say stick out your lips and say Vuitton.
Carla: It’s okay, I know you enjoyed that, but that’s synthetic and it doesn’t really click with people why the bag is $1,800 dollars. It’s synthetic and it comes from the same company that I use and they just print it on their and I’m glad I’d rather it was synthetic than leather. Like otherwise those cows would be all over fifth Avenue.
Caryn: But interesting what a brand can do to the price tag.
Carla: Exactly, it’s all in the image.
Caryn: Now let’s talk about image because I think that’s really important and I want to give some examples before I jump into where I’m going with this, but I remember reading not too long ago about lobster because lobster’s name has recently had dropped considerably price per pound and there restaurants that use the lobster and are concern because lobster is considered a luxury item. I’m not promoting lobster here folks, I’m a vegan I don’t get into dropping animals into or sentient beings into boiling water, but this is just for an example. So the restaurants are concerned they want to keep the dishes with lobster in it at a high price, even though their price per pound wholesale has dropped considerably and I was reading this article that said several hundred years ago there were servants that worked for people and they were fed lobster everyday because lobster was so cheap. Lobster was not always considered a luxury dish and it changed traditions and impressions change over time. So lobster went from a food for servants to a luxury item and it’s now, we’ll see where it goes depending on where the price goes. And you may remember me interviewing, okay his name escapes me at this moment, but we talked about whitebread, he wrote the history of white bread and we learned that white bread originally was a product for the wealthy and now since we’ve come to learn more about white bread and it’s so cheaply made now that it’s a bread that’s more affordable for the poor. And it doesn’t have the same image that it used to have. So there’s another product that goes from a luxury item to a not so luxury item and you may have had this when you would tell people you’re not wearing leather shoes. They’ll tell you that they must be cheap. Shoes that aren’t made from leather have an impression of being cheap and as we get really better at making these man made textiles and synthetics and when they’re made in a quality way, not only are they superior because they’re not exploiting animals by using there skins or exploiting workers who are manufacturing them, but they are actually comfortable, and breathable and wonderful and long wearing and I’m looking for the name. It’s Aaron Bobrow-Strain, who wrote White Bread: A Social History, a book I really enjoyed. Alright, so tell me about … some of the materials that you’re using.
Carla: Most of them are polyester based and a lot of them are pbc, which sounds so much nicer than polyvinyl chloride. Also a lot of them are cotton. It’s a coated canvas with a sort of , probably a polyester coating on it. So, that’s pretty much where we are. I don’t use cotton because of the lack of durability unless it’s coated because otherwise the bag would be in New York City, you have a hole in it after one day. We also, …I like synthetics that appear to be sort of satin and silk because I like that luxury side because I’m an evening wear designer. I have an impulse to make this sort of suede lux bag and so the synthetic satin silk among my favorites.
Caryn: Okay, I had a thought.
Carla: We we’re talking about bread.
Caryn: I know we were talking about bread, I think I’m hungry. All of a sudden I’m tongue tied, can you believe it? , I said I was “chatty” and now it’s not going anywhere. Okay, so let’s talk about the different kinds of bags that you have. You have some that are for evening wear and then I saw there are some that are more for business wear, a boxy shape or a briefcase kind of shape?
Carla: Yeah, in the industry, bags are divided into soft and hard and that’s pretty much it. So the hard would be like a “clutch” or a stiff briefcase, things like that. I started with soft because it was still a learning experience for me.. accidentally went to the hard things just because I chose the tougher textiles and when they sewed it up it was very stiff and beautiful and what’s ironic, is that even though, I’ve been doing evening wear for fifteen years, every evening bag I tried to make has “bombed”. The sample just really sucked. So most of them are day bags or tote bags. I find that.. who doesn’t need a tote bag in New York City? So I have some that doubles as an hand bag and tote, it’s got enough compartments inside to put your wallet or valuables in and then I have the soft black one, I showed you earlier, it’s very roomy and happy, but now I’m going through my third round of the perfect evening clutch, so I’ll let you know how that turns out.
Caryn: Well every blog, every story, every book that you read about entrepreneurs . they are always like seven failures until you get the eighth win or numerous failures.
Carla: I think it was R.H. Macy who failed like nine times. I’m holding on to that..I’m really holding on to that, but I did my homework with the handbags, it was actually three years of preparation, you know, from day one, when we started the research so I feel like maybe I did enough so it’s been going well.
Caryn: I remembered what I want to talk about before, plastic. Now pbc…you mentioned polyvinyl chloride and some of us will go “oh” plastic but in order to make leather. it’s a very toxic environmentally, unfriendly process and plastics are not the most environmentally friendly, but we can use them. I think responsibly and I read different reports weighing one versus the other and I think leather comes up a loser.
Carla: It’s just not the leather, you know it. I mean I don’t have to tell you the farming of the animals what that does to the environment so it starts long before the animals ever slaughter.There’s an impact on the environment the tanning of leather is horrific as far as toxins go and it’s not nice to kill animals.
Caryn: It’s not nice.
Carla: I am hoping that I can find more textiles that don’t start with pbc or something like that. That doesn’t make me happy, but I’m doing what I can do and this goes back to the issue of quality when we make our hand bags they are built to last. If they’re taken care of they should have a life span of ten years so that your not buying a new bag every year. You shouldn’t have to if you buy a quality product use it until it falls to pieces that’s what I truly believe so that you’re not throwing crap away.
Caryn: Right, I’m just thinking I have a friend who subscribes to this handbag of the month club where she gets a handbag and returns it and gets another one and those handbags have to be durable if people are going to be sharing them.
Carla: I think if you get one that’s good quality and if the textile is wisely chosen and I test drive all of the samples. I carry them around for a few days. I’m on the subway. I’m throwing them at my husband, running from my cats whatever and if they don’t stand up to that test it’s off.
Caryn: Okay, where can we find these bags? Are they in stores?
Carla: No, I’m doing my own ecommerce at
Caryn: I’m looking at it here and your also on the PETA mall.
Carla: I am on the PETA mall. If you click in the PETA mall. I’m like a business supporter, so you’ll find me in there somewhere.
Caryn: Excellent, well if you’re thinking about those holiday gifts, here’s something that’s cruelty free and made in the United States and rather lovely.
Carla: Thank you.
Caryn: Thank you Carla for joining me.
Carla: Thanks for inviting me, your welcome.
Caryn: Alright so we just have a couple of minutes left and I wanted to mention something else made in the United States because now that we’re on this thing and I got this bug about made in the United States, I mentioned this before, but I really believe in clean water and I distill my water and I have used a variety of different distillers and they’re all made outside of the United States. Most of them are made in China and even some of the best brands that we know, I’m not gonna drop any names, but then I discovered one brand of water distilleries made in the United States and if you want to find out more about them you can go to scroll down a little bit on the right side there’s a water made wonderful. It’s about water distillers made in the United States ant they’re my favorite water distiller products so if you’re looking for one for the holidays, this is the one I recommend. Okay, clean water, cool bags. When we come back, we’re gonna be talking about naturally sweet and gluten free vegan deserts. That sounds pretty good. Let’s take a break.

Transcribed by Marci Skinner, 12/3/2013


Caryn Hartglass: Hello everybody! We’re back; I’m Caryn Hartglass, you’re listening to It’s All About Food here on November 26, and it’s holiday time! And I can’t wait to get home because I’m cookin’! I’m gonna be cooking up a storm; I love Thanksgiving, I love Thanksgiving foods and I am going to be making my favorites. What are some of my favorites? Oh! I just realized that I left off one favorite from my menu that I put together this morning and I’m going to have to add that in. But if you watch my Thanksgiving Celebration Feast food show, at I’m going to be making the cornbread and the cassoulet, which I love; cassoulet is a white bean French dish, only I’ve taken the things in it that I don’t really care for, like the variety of meats, and only left the good parts: The dijon mustard and the vegetables and the herb de provence and it’s a lovely dish. And we’re going to be making our new Thanksgiving Squash with Polenta Stuffing, which you can also see at I’m going to whip up some pies: Pumpkin and Apple. I can’t wait to get home and start cooking, but not yet! Not until we talk with Ricki Heller about Naturally Sweet and Gluten-free, her new allergy-friendly vegan desserts cookbook. Ricki Heller is the voice behind the popular food blog which celebrates sugar-free, gluten-free, allergy-friendly whole foods through a low-glycemic vegan lifestyle with over 600 fool-proof recipes, humorous anecdotes and comments from two chatty canines. The blog illustrates Ricki’s philosophy that a healthy lifestyle can be sweet! In 2011 Diet, Dessert and Dogs, the blog’s name then, was nominated for the Shape magazine “Best Healthy Eating Blog” and as “Best Healthy Cooking Blog” by Kitchen in 2013, and now we’re going to be talking about her latest cookbook, which was published in September, and became an Amazon bestseller the day it was released! So, let’s talk more about that. Ricki, welcome to It’s All About Food. How are you doing today?

Ricki Heller: Oh, fine. Thank you so much for that stellar introduction! Wow.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, that’s you! and there’s a lot more information about you that people can find, where?

Ricki Heller: I’m at, that’s my blog, and basically every form of social media just look for Ricki Heller.

Caryn Hartglass: You’re everywhere!

RIcki Heller: Yeah! All my pages, they’re called Ricki Heller.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay, very good.

Ricki Heller: I must say, your menu for Thanksgiving sounds amazing!

Caryn Hartglass: Well, it’s all gluten-free, or can be. I do use corn, cause I don’t have a problem with corn; I don’t have a problem with gluten either but I like to make things gluten-free; but I love these foods, and Thanksgiving for me, it’s an important holiday and I’ve kind of taken a backseat to Thanksgiving for a few years and I’m takin’ it back this year! I’m cookin’!

Ricki Heller: Good for you!

Caryn Hartglass: Okay, beautiful cookbook.

Ricki Heller: Thank you.

Caryn Hartglass: Beautiful pictures. We don’t always see beautiful color pictures, so many of them, in cookbooks these days because people are cutting costs and they didn’t seem to wanna cut costs for you, why is that?

Ricki Heller: Oh, well, I didn’t wanna cut costs; I worked with the photographer and I actually hired her, so we worked together and she’s a local Toronto photographer whose work I thought was just fantastic so I sought her out and asked her, and as it turns out this is her first cookbook.

Caryn Hartglass: Wow! Really?

RIcki Heller: So, really incredible photos and it was such a learning experience for me to work alongside her because we actually photographed the food in my kitchen where I do all of my blog photos and I basically cooked up the stuff that we were going to photograph that day and then we spent incredibly long days, I had no idea how long it takes to professionally set up and photograph food, but she was just a consummate professional and I just love her work I just think it’s fantastic. And as well Sellers has been known for many years as makers of beautiful coffee table books so they know what they’re doing, they really did, I think, just a stellar job, just gorgeous.

Caryn Hartglass: Right. Okay, so just briefly tell us your story about how you got to where you are today. Everybody loves the personal story.

Ricki Heller: Sure. Well, I’m a sweets addict, that’s how it all starts, every time I tell the story.

Caryn Hartglass: Sweets addict, yup.

Ricki Heller: I grew up in a home where there was always home-baked goods and my sisters – I have two sisters – we’re all kind of stuck on sweets, so that’s fine if you are able to do this in moderation but as I got older it just became an addiction! I mean really that’s the only way to put it, and I ended up being diagnosed with Candida-related complex or Candidas it’s called, which is an overgrowth of yeast in the body. The first time was in 1999 and I went on this very, very strict diet which is designed to eliminate excess yeast – kill off excess yeast so you can return your body to its normal equilibrium, and I did that for two years, everything was fine I went to nutrition school I was so fascinated by the process, loved it, I was just doing so well for about ten years. Then, I don’t know, I guess I was feeling too good! One holiday season I just was like “Oh, what the heck, I can have a piece of cake!” just a regular cake with flour and sugar, and that was kind of like somebody who hasn’t smoked for ten years and then smoked a pack of cigarettes in one night, and after about a year I just went back to my old ways! I was diagnosed again, but the second time it was really, really much more severe and I think I really learned my lesson the second time, so it took a lot longer to get under control, I had to be much more strict with the diet and I’ve basically come to accept that I will be on what I’m calling a maintenance form of this diet for the rest of my life; I will never eat white sugar again and I can say that with quite a bit of confidence because it’s just not worth it for me. So these recipes are the outgrowth of my learning how to cook and bake this way and not being willing to give up sweet treats!

Caryn Hartglass: I’m imagining the middle of “Gone With the Wind” the movie, it’s just before the intermission and Scarlett O’Hara digs up a dirty carrot from her torn-up old property and she says “As God is my witness, I will never go hungry again!” and I can see you going “As God is my witness, I will never eat white sugar again!”

Ricki Heller: Exactly. Yeah, it’s true; I tell this story, my best friend, when we were in our late 20s she quit smoking and she said “I will never have a cigarette again for as long as I live” and I remember being incredulous and saying “How do you know that? I couldn’t say that for sure” But you know what! When you’re in that situation you can say that for sure. So, yeah, I have no desire to ever eat white sugar again.

Caryn Hartglass: Well. life is a mystery and we’re all very, very similar in many, many ways but we are still unique and many people find that certain foods don’t work for them. And the beautiful thing is that this world is vast and full of variety and there are so many different wonderful foods out there that we can literally have our cake and eat it too, and you’ve put together a great book of treats and baked goods, that you can eat!

Ricki Heller: Yeah, exactly, it’s true. I have to say – for people who don’t know, the cover of the book it has a vanilla cupcake with chocolate buttercream frosting on it – so my purpose really with this book was to show people that you don’t have to give up your favorite foods just because you’ve given up certain ingredients and so a lot of the recipes are those classics that you’ll find in any kitchen except that they’ve been revamped so that they’re vegan, gluten-free, and no high glycemic sweeteners and most -I think all of the recipes in the book but one – of the recipes are corn-free and most are soy-free or can be soy-free, so you don’t have to really forfeit the foods that you love just because you can’t eat certain things.

Caryn Hartglass: Let’s talk about most people don’t know what’s in their food, how many times has everyone heard me say that…most people have no idea what’s in their food and most of the food that they buy that’s processed and packaged in their supermarket is filled with things that they can’t pronounce that they don’t know where it came from that’s man-made, not good for them and they don’t care, and that’s why we’re in this mess that we’re in with healthcare and chronic diseases. So people don’t know what’s in their food and they don’t care. Now, for those of us who want to feel good, and want to eat well and care, then we do a little education and we’re learning so many different things and one of the things that I love about gluten-free baking – not necessarily that wheat is this big bad evil, although some people absolutely cannot eat it – is that there are so many other wonderful products out there! Let’s live! Variety, the spice of life!

Ricki Heller: Oh, absolutely, and I have to say I really enjoy baking a lot more now that I’m baking gluten-free. Like most people in North America who bake from scratch, I thought that everything was made with all-purpose wheat flour; you can bake anything with that and all of the recipes I’d made up until that point were made with one flour all the time, whereas with gluten-free baking you have multiple flours and not only within each recipe but the choice is so vast and it depends on my mood, it depends on the specific recipe whether it’s something that I want to be delicate and light and fragile or whether it’s something I want to be dense and rustic and savory, the different flavors the different textures it’s just so much more interesting and I enjoy it so much more because it’s kind of a fun process now to decide on the flours and if I want to use an all-purpose flour I can but it’s just, there’s so much more variety, I find.

Caryn Hartglass: I agree. Now let’s talk about these all-purpose gluten-free flours. Now one of the things that irks me – maybe you too – is in some cookbooks today, a lot of vegan cookbooks and maybe some others, they give a nod here and there in a recipe saying “This recipe can be made gluten-free, just substitute all-purpose gluten-free flour” and I’m like screaming inside because it’s not fair; you can’t just substitute an all-purpose gluten-free flour in most recipes that use wheat and expect to get something good. Sometimes! But yeah, it’s not fair, and I don’t know why they do it because if somebody thought “Okay, I’m gonna make this recipe for somebody I care about who can’t have gluten and they make it and it’s a disaster, it just – ugh!

Ricki Heller: I’ve actually used my own all-purpose gluten-free mix in pretty much any recipe I’ve ever wanted to revamp and I’ve had success with it, so I don’t know if it depends on the mixture of flour in that particular but the whole notion of an all-purpose gluten-free flour mixture is that it should be able to be substituted one-for-one instead of wheat flour and if it isn’t it’s not a very well-constructed all-purpose mix in my opinion.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, for example I use Bob’s all-purpose gluten-free mix…

Ricki Heller Mm-hmm!

Caryn Hartglass: …but I don’t want to use it for everything. You mention this in the book, there are a variety of different flours and some of them have different grains in them, some of them have beans in them, some of them are nut-based, and the ones that have beans in them, I prefer for savory dishes. It’s hard – unless you’re putting in a lot of flavor and a lot of sweetener – it’s hard to mask that beany-ness

Ricki Heller: I have heard that from people! Mine does have garfava flour but I think it’s less than 25%, and I added that for a certain level of protein because when I designed my all-purpose mix I actually looked at the percentage of protein in all-purpose wheat flour and I wanted to match that so that the texture would be similar when it was baked but it’s not a huge amount and I certainly don’t notice and I’ve never had anyone that I’ve served baked goods to mention it, however when I was testing for the book I did have two out of the 29 testers who said they simply couldn’t tolerate bean flour in any amount, they could taste it no matter how small the amount so they actually went ahead and – one of them has her own mix that’s all grain-based and she used that all-purpose mix for all the recipes and they were fine…

Caryn Hartglass: Well good.

Ricki Heller: …so I’m with you on that, I don’t think you need – especially with gluten-free flours how they have so much choice – you don’t have to use a particular mix if that doesn’t appeal to you, there are always other options and I think they can work just as well. If I were doing something like a shortbread or a really light vanilla cake I probably would just combine flours on their own rather than use my all-purpose mix in that case just because of that issue of wanting it to have a particular flavor and a particular texture.

Caryn Hartglass: I use sorghum flour and I usually mix it with other things, but I love the taste of sorghum flour.

Ricki Heller: I like it too, yeah. My favorite is millet, I have to say. It’s, to me, the one that’s closest to wheat in terms of its neutrality and it’s light-colored, and so is sorghum though I guess but I find that millet, for me, as the major flour in any mix is usually my favorite.

Caryn Hartglass: Some of the things that scare people about gluten-free baking is they need to have more ingredients.

Ricki Heller: Mm-hmm. But not that many more.

Caryn Hartglass: I’m not afraid of it, I do it all the time, but I’ve heard it, even my partner Gary he’s like – when he sees me combining my starches with my flours – it just seems too complicated! But it isn’t.

Ricki Heller: Well, I think if you have a good recipe and you can follow it then that’s one way to avoid that complication, but I think that’s also why all-purpose gluten-free flours were developed in the first place, so that people wouldn’t have to go out and buy four different flours every time they want to bake something, but once you have the stock in your cupboard though, it’s there! It’s not any more difficult than pulling out your flour and sugar for your regular baking, I find.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, just like everything in life, we need to be organized, we need to plan, and when you’re cooking you need to organize and you need to plan. I don’t know what your refrigerator looks like, but I have – I love my refrigerator – and I have one shelf that is three glass jars deep, I think it’s three-by-five jars or something, they’re pretty big square-shaped jars and they’re filled with grains and flours, and I keep all my flours in there and it’s just whatever I want to make I just go in there and I have everything! And I have back-up in the freezer and I happen to use Subsribe and Save, I’m not promoting it but it’s just what I do and I queue up all my flours and I know I’m gonna get a case of whatever’s out and I always have everything. I have brown rice flour, sorghum flour, tapioca starch and potato starch, buckwheat flour. I haven’t used millet and I really need to because I love the grain millet, and I read in your book that I can make my own flour!

Ricki Heller: Yeah, really easy, I don’t even have a flour mill I just grind it in a coffee grinder.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, I’m gonna do that! Exciting.

Ricki Heller: And then that way too because flours can go rancid especially when they’re made from whole grains and they have the oils in them, they can go rancid pretty quickly so it’s great you store yours in the fridge and the freezer. When you’re making your own you can make only as much as you need at that time and so they’re much fresher too.

Caryn Hartglass: I do that with my oatmeal, I make my oatmeal flour and I do it with almonds and you mentioned doing that with almonds too.

Ricki Heller: Yeah, almonds, and you can do it with buckwheat, I had buckwheat pancakes this morning, just ground up some buckwheat, groats, it was great!

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, I have to do that too! I get groats and I get flour but I haven’t tried grinding my own! I’m very excited.

Ricki Heller: We’re good foodies, yes, we get excited about these things.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, yeah, but personally I think this is the kind of thing we should be getting excited about and I was reading an article – I’m trying to catch up on my New York Times magazines, I’m a few weeks behind I hate to say, I hate when I get behind, but I’m catching up and that’s what holidays are for, catching up – but there was this one article about outsourcing in your personal life and focusing on the things that are important to you and in the long run it’s going to help you be successful in your career and you’ll make a lot of money and so they were talking about outsourcing in terms of getting people to clean your house and pick up stuff for you and make your food, and there was something – I was knee-jerking all over the place – because something about that I just didn’t like about that; I want people to find the time to make their own food I think it’s so important for their health and for their social well-being.

Ricki Heller: I agree, yeah, and for me anyway there’s something therapeutic about cooking and baking, I find.

Caryn Hartglass: Yes! It’s Zen!

Ricki Heller: Yeah!

Caryn Hartglass: Some people get stressed out about cooking and they just shouldn’t. They should become one.

Ricki Heller: Yeah, really, I mean what’s the worst thing that could happen? If it’s really bad? Well, give it to your dog.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, that’s the fun thing about it, you shouldn’t be afraid and if you have a recipe and it doesn’t come out the way you expect you can probably turn it into something else.

Ricki Heller: Yeah! There’s a – I don’t know if it’s a cliche – but it’s a common saying among chefs apparently that “There are no mistakes in cooking, just new recipes”

Caryn Hartglass: That’s right! And that’s happened many, many times.

Ricki Heller: To me, absolutely; but some of my favorite recipes were created that way!

Caryn Hartglass: Now, you don’t eat white sugar, or refined sugar or evaporated cane juice

Ricki Heller: Right, nothing from the sugar cane plant, although sucanat, which is sugar cane natural is a really healthful unrefined sweetener; for me it just simply triggers a reaction and I just can’t have it. Same thing with maple syrup I looove maple syrup, I mean I used to love maple syrup, but it’s very high on the glycemic index, like a 98 on the glycemic index and for my metabolism right now that’s just not something I can tolerate.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah it’s fascinating and there’s a lot of research going on about our digestive system, there’s a lot of study about bacteria and what we have and what we don’t have and what we start with at birth and it’s just fascinating and we really don’t know anything and we’re at the tip of the iceberg, and we have a lot more to learn.

Ricki Heller: Yeah, and I know for me at this point I’ve learned enough about what happens to your body with Candida and I know my reactions to things. I’m still working at repopulating the good bacteria to the extent – and healing what they call leaky gut – so that my digestive system will be working as well as it can again and when that happens then it’s possible I may be able to tolerate some of those things again but for now I’m trying to just heal.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah but the point is, sure it would be nice just because if someone had something that you wanted to try you could have it but you don’t need it and your life will be luscious and delicious even without using cane sugar or maple syrup.

Ricki Heller: Oh, absolutely. There are just so many things I eat anyway, I don’t feel as if I’m missing any of my favorite foods I have to say. I missed it a little in the summer because I use to really enjoy a good gin and tonic in the summer so I miss alcohol a bit but it’s not like I’m dreaming about wine every day or anything like that.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. Okay, so the beginning of your book there’s a lot of muffin recipes and I’ve always been a huge muffin fan and like decades ago I used to make muffins and I was really good at – like in fifteen minutes – putting all these different things together and I would have muffins, because there’s something easy I find about muffins once you get the hang of it and then I started making them gluten-free too and it’s great because the morning comes around and I think “Okay, what are we going to have for breakfast?” and it’s so empowering once you figure this out, folks – and get over the fear – that you can do this quickly, efficiently and easily and make something wonderful and different almost every day.

Ricki Heller: Yep.

Caryn Hartglass: And I’m always making new muffin creations based on whatever I have in the house but you have some very lovely ones here.

Ricki Heller: Well, thank you! And I even just this morning one of my favorite recipes, which in the book, is the single-serve high-protein pancakes, I’m a big fan of pancakes for breakfast and to me the pancakes are something that I can just whip together really quickly and easily but that recipe, it makes two pancakes and so it’s perfect for one person and it’s sort of infinitely adaptable because you do grind your own grains in the coffee grinder and I mix up the grains each time I make it so it’s a slightly different recipe and from start to finish I’m able to make it and sit down to eat within 10 minutes so it’s not anything that difficult or that complicated.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, it’s just practice and organization.

Ricki Heller: Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: I’m looking at for this week sweet potato chocolate chip mini muffins.

Ricki Heller: Mmmm. Those are a favorite.

Caryn Hartglass: Now, you eat chocolate? Or you don’t eat much chocolate?

Ricki Heller: I do eat chocolate but when I eat chocolate I have to buy unsweetened and then I sweeten it myself.

Caryn Hartglass: Ohh, I see.

Ricki Heller: So that chocolate chip recipe I did give the readers the option to use chocolate chips because I know there aren’t that many people who can’t have any chocolate at all or any sugar at all so when I make them I use unsweetened carob chips and I have to say they kind of look the same and by the time you’re eating the flavors all together, you’re having a bite of this delicious muffin, you don’t even realize that it isn’t chocolate even though it’s carob and I like carob so if I have a recipe like the chocolate chip cookies, there’s a recipe in there for butterscotch oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, my friends who make them use dairy-free chocolate chips but I use the unsweetened carob chips and they’re just, they’re great like that too.

Caryn Hartglass: Hm! So you’re going to need to manufacture your own chocolate chips with a sweetener that works for you.

Ricki Heller: I think that the company that decides to create Stevia-sweetened chocolate chips is gonna hit the jackpot!

Caryn Hartglass: Now let’s talk about Stevia for a minute. I interviewed a few years ago Jim May, the founder of Sweetleaf Stevia, and I learned from him he calls it “Steh-via”.

Ricki Heller: I actually remember you telling me that actually now that you say it.

Caryn Hartglass: And I learned so much from that interview. I talk to different people every week and yet there are few interviews that just stay with me forever and that one fascinated me just in terms of what he went through to get this approved in this country and now how so many countries are jumping on the bandwagon and mixing their Stevia products with other things. I didn’t get to the back where you recommend, or do you? Where do you get yours from?

Ricki Heller: Well, my favorite brand is NuNaturals and I also really really like SweetLeaf, I’ve just started using theirs as well but here in Canada, New Naturals is not yet available but SweetLeaf is, so it’s great that we can now have all those wonderful flavors that they make, so those, and I think what I do talk about in the book is that you really should avoid the ones that are combinations or extracts like Truvia, PureVia I would not use those simply because they’re not true Stevia.

Caryn Hartglass: Right, and those are the ones that are getting more of the supermarket share because they’re associated with big conglomerates and corporations that have money and pull.

Ricki Heller: Yeah, and because they can patent that because it’s a combination of products, whereas you can’t patent a plant!

Caryn Hartglass. Ah, patents! Goddamn those patents.

Ricki Heller: So there’s more money in it obviously if you can patent it.

Caryn Hartglass: Was there a similar problem with Stevia being approved in Canada, like it was here in the United States?

Ricki Heller: Yeah, I mean, it’s still considered an herbal supplement here.

Caryn Hartglass: Wow!

Ricki Heller: So you can buy it freely, it’s in the health food stores, but they don’t market it as a sweetener.

Caryn Hartglass: That’s funny, now you sell and grow and make hemp products in Canada, but we can’t make them, we can’t grow hemp here.

Ricki Heller: Is that so?!

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.

Ricki Heller: Oh my goodness! But you can sell it?

Caryn Hartglass: Well, we originally couldn’t do that either but a while back we were allowed to have hemp products but I believe we still can’t grow hemp.

Ricki Heller: Wow that is fascinating! Yeah because Manitoba out there one of the provinces out west is really big, they’re really quite well-know now for their hemp production.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, it’s a crazy world. Anyway, we just have about a minute left so what’s going on for you now, next Ricki Heller?

Ricki Heller: Well, I’ve already started working on the next one! The next book’s going to be a combination of savory and sweet and it’s going to run the gamut for more concentrating on Candida and what you can eat on that diet so that’s where I’m looking toward at this point.

Caryn Hartglass: Very good. I tend more toward savory. There was a transition point in my life where I lost my sweet tooth and it was a good thing.

Ricki Heller: Wow, how lucky!

Caryn Hartglass: I was actually on a raw food diet for a couple of years and during that time the whispers in my ear to have a cookie and things went away.

Ricki Heller: Isn’t that wonderful?!

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, and now I drink a lot of green juice and most of the time I crave more savory than sweet which is, I’m happy about that.

Ricki Heller: I find that makes a huge difference; the more I eat greens the less I crave sweets.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah! Something like that. Well, Ricki, have a great Thanksgiving!

Ricki Heller: You too!

Caryn Hartglass: I hope to see you sometime soon, and share some good naturally-sweet gluten-free bites, perhaps?

Ricki Heller: That would be wonderful! Next time I come to New York I’m lookin’ ya up.

Caryn Hartglass: Let’s do that. Okay, thank you for joining me today on It’s All About Food

Ricki Heller: Thank you so much.

Caryn Hartglass: Bye-bye.

Ricki Heller: Bye.

Caryn Hartglass: I’m Caryn Hartglass you’re listening to It’s All About Food. Have a really wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and Hanukkah if you celebrate it. Remember, save the oil for the lamp and bake those latkes, don’t fry ‘em, okay? And have a delicious week. Bye-bye.

Transcribed 1/13/2014 by Katie Mabry-Rairigh


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