From Restauration to Restoring Health

Bare Organics

For those reading this who loved and missed my restaurant, Restauration, I want to explain the trajectory that takes me from Restauration to my new business, Small Wonder Food.  Many have asked why I am not reopening as a restaurant and I want to explain why.  When my husband and I opened Restauration, the guiding vision was my personal life goal of changing the way people eat.  Our tagline was “restoring authenticity to food from the ground up” and our hashtag #eatrealfood.  At Restauration, my team and I followed my approach to food developed after years of studying it as a farmer, a consumer, a patient, a restaurateur, and a nutrition professional.   The principles that make up my approach are as follows:

  • Inspiration is seasonal and local.  Well-raised local food is healthier, fresher, and more sustainable. We designed dishes seasonally and often to showcase an amazing artisanal product.  Examples of this include the lamb sausage we had custom prepared for us by St Adrian’s Meat and Sausage in Lebanon that was so good that we built a burger to showcase it and a spring time appetizer featuring a Tulip Tree Creamery cheese so sublime that we had to give it a dish on the menu.
  • Food should be “veggie-forward.”  Instead of creating dishes based on restaurant norms and standards, we created dishes around questions like “what is the most amazing way we could prepare swiss chard?”  We had amazing proteins, but the produce was always the star.
  • Creativity reigns.  There is nothing interesting in serving what everyone else serves. Fresh foods, prepared simply, but imaginatively were a big part of our attraction to diners but also the part most satisfying to me and the chefs.  Much of this creativity toward food was born out of my need to “think outside the box” in feeding my family with our many food allergy issues for so many years.
  • Support local farmers and food artisans.  Investing in our local economy was not just the right thing to do and made for sublime food, but it kept us creative and inspired. This is a big part of restoring authenticity to food.  We made seasonal menus and jumped on fleeting opportunities to include local foods like paw paws and chicken of the woods mushrooms in specials whenever they arose.
  • Serve real food.  That seems straightforward but was the most difficult and vital principle.  I think it was also the hardest to convey to the casual customer.  Here’s an example:  As we prepared to open, we needed a ketchup.  We looked and found Local Folks ketchup.  Not only is it local and fantastic, but it is real food.  If you made ketchup at home, it would most likely have the same real food ingredients that Local Folks puts in theirs.  No highly processed high fructose corn syrup that would be found in the industry standard– Heinz ketchup.  Multiply that decision by 1,000 and then run a restaurant with those standards.  No easy feat.  No corn syrup, no food dyes, no nitrites, etc.  Just real food.  The sad thing is that serving real food in a restaurant is revolutionary.
  • Food should be transparent and accessible.  This meant a detailed menu and lots of educating of staff.  It also meant that we as we approached every dish, we asked ourselves if we could make it free of the 10 top allergens that we tracked and make it just as delicious.  For example, if we were going to serve lasagna, we prepared it with brown rice lasagna noodles.  That means the product is just as good and it is now accessible to our gluten free customers.  If a menu item was just as tasty dairy free we either served it that way or constructed it in a manner that the diner could specify no dairy.  For every dish on the menu, we told customers what allergens it was free of and if they could modify it to be free of even more.
  • Cater to special diets.  This means whenever we were creating menus, we made sure to have plenty of choices that were vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, Paleo, low carb–you name it.  It was very important to me to create a welcoming, safe restaurant where everyone could eat something delicious regardless of health restriction and eating philosophy.  The flexibility and accessibility of our dishes were only possible thanks to our commitment to serve real food.  Every single product in the restaurant was checked for common processed ingredients that introduced allergens like corn, soy, gluten, etc.. Of course, this meant that we often made from scratch.  Items like mayonnaise, salad dressings, and sundae toppings were handmade by us every time.  It also meant they were unique, tasted better, and were real food.

I went back to school (again) to study nutrition formally 6 months before we started the process of opening Restauration.  I finished my studies a few months after Restauration was forced to close due to a disaster.  All along, my plan was to use Restauration as the location to do group and individual nutrition consulting and to teach culinary health education classes.  We even had plans to add an outdoor garden to supplement the restaurant beyond what I was already growing at our farm and to use as a demonstration and teaching urban farm.

After the disaster, we took a step back and regrouped.  Owning 2 restaurants was not just insane, but taxing on us as a family to nearly a breaking point.  No industry is harder than the restaurant industry and doing it times two left room for little else.  I decided to move ahead with my plans to offer nutrition and culinary health education but not reopen as a full-service restaurant.   Small Wonder Food may someday have a food service aspect, but not in the immediate future.

So, Restauration and Small Wonder Food have the same goal–to change the way that people eat.  They also share my food approach as laid out above.  Same goals, different vehicles.  Food should be real, creative, local, seasonal, accessible, produce driven, and safe.  The fact that food is not easily and readily available like that already, shows how unauthentic, unhealthy, and profit-driven our food culture is.  In fact, Small wonder Food is a more efficient delivery model of what I have to offer my community.  I get to concentrate on education and not keep restaurant hours and deal with restaurant headaches.   Small Wonder Food is a food literacy company that uses nutrition and culinary health education to reconnect people with real, authentic food. Kirsten empowers you to use food and lifestyle habits to improve and regain health.  You can deftly navigate our distorted food landscape where convenience reigns at the cost of flavor, health, economics, and individuality.  The ability to feed ourselves well and to fuel ourselves to fully enjoy life are skills every person needs but many lack.

I can help you harness these principles to take charge of not only your food but so that you become the most important member of your healthcare team.  If you are interested in my first group class, please fill out this form.

Please read on if you are wondering about my own health story and how my approach to food developed.  It explains everything you need to know about my passion for this work.

Hello! I am getting ready to schedule my first group class series. This series is the best place to start and is entitled “Eat Like a Nutrivore.” The class series is 6 once-a-week 75-minute sessions. Read on for more information about what the class covers and to fill out a survey signaling your interest and availability.
Small Wonder Food is a food literacy company. Food literacy is the knowledge you need to take control of your health. Group classes are the best way to get a firm foundation in food literacy. I am happy to start working with someone one-on-one, but highly recommend starting with a group class so that you understand the fundamentals and get the “big picture” that will allow you to see the possibilities and where you may need one-on-one help. For many, the group class will give you the tools you need to proceed on your own. For others, you can continue by meeting one-on-one so we can customize help to meet your specific needs.
I also recommend starting with this series if you want to continue on to the group series “Diet and Lifestyle Intervention for Autoimmune Disease” which will be offered following the “Nutrivore” series.
About the class:
A nutrivore eats to nourish their body. It’s about promoting well-being (not pant size) with nutrient dense foods. This 6-week series will cover everything from the basics of macro and micro nutrients to figuring out how to maneuver the slick marketing and contradictory nutrition advice that we encounter on a daily basis. This course will empower you to make confident choices about how to fuel your body and eat delicious food. Classes will include lecture, time for discussion, and always include a tasting element and a recipe. The series cost is $300. This is a savings of over $260 compared to individual counseling.
Here are some examples of questions you may have that will be covered in the course:
Why is the fat ratio of grass-fed/pastured protein a game changer in terms of health?
Why were the vegetables your grandparents ate when they were kids more nutritious than those you are eating now? What can we do about it?
Is low-carb the answer? Is low fat? What about veganism or the Paleo Diet?
What do the bacteria in our gut have to do with our brain?
How are diet and lifestyle being used to reduce autoimmune disease symptoms, fatigue, pain, inflammation, etc?
What’s a leaky gut and do I have one?
What do I need to do to detoxify my life?
How do I prioritize my spending so I can eat clean and not break the bank?


Please fill out this online survey to signal your interest in the class and when you would be available:
https://goo.gl/forms/Fx7V3KpVORyyH2ng1

 

 

 

Changing The World

Food has changed the world many times over and will continue to do so. Food is health, but also culture and tradition.  From the earliest forms of cultivation, to nomadic lifestyles, to crushing poverty, to the obesity and disease epidemic—food is front and center.  We have to eat to live and many of us live to eat.

Food, when championed by people, can change the world.  In my lifetime, Big Ag and food processors changed the world by changing food to amalgamations of food-like products comprised of highly processed chemicals and food parts and pieces.  I am certain history will look back on this period of time with wonder that we could be so gullible and easy to seduce.  Lambs to slaughter. Chemical farming; GMOs; fractionated and overused foods like wheat, dairy, sugar, soy, and corn; and blatant disregard of nutrition and seasonality, have gifted us with a revolution of disease (autoimmune in particular), malnutrition, behavior and mental disorders, environmental degradation, and mind-numbing indifference.

My purpose in life is to use food as a tool for good.  To me, it is THE TOOL.  We have to eat. Doing it well gives us our health, our families, our communities, our humanity, and our planet BACK.

Yep.  I’m that much of a zealot.  I think food is the key to EVERTHING.  Like Margaret Mead, I do think that a small group of committed individuals can change the world.  I think it happens all the time. I know that the groundbreaking work being done on reversing autoimmune disease with diet and lifestyle alone is and will change the world.  Dr. Terry Wahls has reversed her MS with diet and lifestyle.  Really think about that.  Have you ever heard of ANYONE going from a tilt-recline wheelchair to jogging when diagnosed with a progressive and devastating illness like MS?  No, you haven’t, because no one ever believed it could be done. She is not the only one.  Returning to a whole foods lifestlyle and removing inflammatory foods has changed the lives of many, including me.  It’s miraculous.  We seem to be beginning to come out of our fast food collective coma and caring again about what we put in our bodies.

Let’s change the world…and save it too.

Good News About Chocolate

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Check out this handout I created about Theobromine–a phytonutrient abundant in chocolate.

Theobromine–The Good News About Chocolate

‘Tis the season to overindulge. Instead of overindulging with coffee and chocolate, I propose a much healthier alternative.   If your body tolerates chocolate well (it can be iffy for some folks with autoimmune diseases,) then here is the good news for you.  I gave up coffee last January to help with my thyroid issues and switched to drinking either brewed cocoa or a combo of dandelion root and chicory root. I will save my recipe for chicory & dandelion root coffee substitute for another post, but I really encourage folks to try brewed cocoa.  Brewed cocoa is a hot beverage made from ground cacao beans.  That’s it.  Nothing added.  Just chocolate in it’s pure unadulterated form. Brewed like coffee, it is best made in a french press.  You simply add enough ground cacao beans to give you the strength you want (I like it strong), let it brew for about 10 minutes, press, and enjoy.  Since this is just ground cacao, you get the health benefits of the cacao without added sugar, dairy, and fats.  The handout goes into depth about the health benefits of cacao and theobromine in particular.

I use the Crio Bru brand, but there are others.  I usually have a cup or two in the afternoon or before bed. It’s warm and indulgent without disrupting my sleep.

Eating a Rainbow With Your Child

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I care very much about child nutrition.  It’s a lot of the reason I have gone back to college.  I am getting certified as a Nutrition Consultant by Bauman College

As I go through the program, I will be authoring many client handouts.  I plan to share many of these along the way.  Today I am posting my handout about Eating A Rainbow With Your Child.  I hope you find it useful.  

The 21 Day Sugar Detox—My Review

On August 4th, I started a 21 day sugar detox, otherwise known as the 21dsd.  This 21dsd program is the creation of Diane Sanfilippo, the NY Times Bestselling author of Practical Paleo.  It is an online program with lots of resources as well as a book and companion cookbook.  I highly recommend the program, but keep reading because I had to modify it mid-way to work well for me.

I felt like I needed a reset after a summer of “treats”–even though they were Paleo treats.  I follow a Paleo diet.   I also started an elimination diet last January to find out what other foods were holding me back from completely healing my gut and reversing all my autoimmune disorders.  So, pre-detox and post elimination diet, here is what I did not already eat:

  • Grains and Pseudo Grains–yep, all of them.  wheat, corn, rice, oats, quinoa, etc.
  • Legumes
  • Dairy
  • White potatoes
  • Processed Foods
  • Conventionally Raised Meat
  • Eggs
  • Nightshades—Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant. etc.
  • I also mostly avoid coffee and eat low sugar.

So, you might say I am already pretty hard core.  My diet consists of pastured and grass-fed meats, wild seafood, and lots of fruits and veggies–many of them grown by me.  What else is there to give up on a sugar detox?  Here’s how it affected my diet:

  • One piece of fruit per day (green apple, green-tipped banana, or grapefruit)
  • No sugar–in any form, in any amount—no honey, maple syrup, date sugar, no sweeteners at all–not even a small amount in salad dressing
  • No sweet potato, plantain, or yucca (all regular players in our diet)
  • Limited amounts of beets and butternut squash

Here’s a little Q & A about my experience:

  • Was it hard?  Yes, but not too hard.  When you are already not eating processed foods, you are used to making it all from scratch and it’s not so hard to cut the sugar out.  Make no mistake, sugar is in EVERYTHING.  It all adds up and we are addicted.  It adds nothing to our health and subtracts a lot.
  • Did I have withdrawal symptoms?  I’m not sure, but I think so.  I had several days where I thought I might be coming down with a cold.  My daughter had one at the time.  I had a sore throat and was achy and fatigued.  Who knows?
  • What did I miss the most?  Starchy vegetables like plantain, sweet potato, and yucca.  Also the ability to eat beets with abandon.  They are my favorite vegetable.
  • Did I feel great?  Yes.  For the most part.  In the middle, when I was supposed to be feeling great, I got grumpy and blue.  I will explain below.
  • Did it help control my hunger?  Paleo has already done a lot of that, but yes, I noticed a big difference.  I just felt fueled and energized longer.  My blood sugar was better regulated and I wasn’t on the carbohydrate roller coaster of hunger and craving.
  • Was I daydreaming about all the sweet treats I would eat after I was done?  Nope.
  • Were there any other effects?  Yes, my skin got really smooth. Really smooth. Like it had been polished.  That’s my body saying happy from the inside out.   Also, I fell asleep easy and felt more rested overall.
  • Did I cheat?  Yes, but nothing I’m not willing to own up to.  I went out with some friends, and instead of having a cocktail and an entree like they did, I had prosciutto and melon with iced tea.  I also had watermelon on another occasion.  That time, I was spending my weekend building a greenhouse for my daughter’s school and was working out in the heat all day.  I burned that sugar right off!  (and I grew the watermelon –that counts for something)

So, I give the 21dsd a thumbs up.  However, I am a big believer that every individual is different. The 21dsd does have some modifications.  One of those is for energy.  On days with a hard workout you should bump up your carb intake. I added those in on workout days or days that I did a lot of farm work.

I knew going in that the 21dsd might have that grumpy and blue effect on me.   I had done the program halfway through about 1.5 years ago and stopped because it was making me very grumpy and blue–downright despondent actually.  Since then, I have learned a lot about nutrition and about my own diet needs and I was prepared to modify the program if needed this time.  I knew the glitch for me had to do with my thyroid.  Through nutrition and lifestyle changes over the past 7 years, I have turned around a long list of autoimmune disorders, including out-of-control asthma (haven’t taken an asthma med in 4 years), depression, fibromyalgia, seasonal allergies, and constant illness.  The only autoimmune disorder I have left to slay is Hashimoto’s Thyroidistis. This means my body is attacking my own thyroid gland and destroying it bit by bit. I’m still working on halting the attack.  Follow the link above for Hashimoto’s  to find out all the really crappy things low thyroid hormone comes with.  It isn’t pretty.

So, what does the 21dsd have to do with thyroid?  My hunch was the 21dsd was too low carb for me and my thyroid.  I had read and heard about the potential problems with thyroid and low carb eating. Low thyroid hormone causes depression–among a long list of other things.  I tested my theory that the 21dsd was too low carb for me, by adding in some more carbs this time when I started to slump in my mood and energy level.  I did not start eating cookies!  I just added more already approved (but limited) starches—including a bit of sweet potatoes every now and then and an extra piece of fruit occasionally (like my melon). Then I felt great!!  I had just tipped the low sugar balance a little too far for my body.  Interestingly, when I attempted the 21dsd the first time, it made me VERY depressed.  This time, my body felt much more prepared for it and the depression was grumpiness not despondency. I think this is also proof that I am getting healthier and my thyroid situation is on an upswing.

Right as I was mid detox, I heard about and then watched a presentation from the 2014 Ancestral Health Symposium.  I knew that the thyroid, adrenal, and the ovaries are interwoven glands that affect each other.  Weakness in one means weakness in all.  How carbohydrates are related to this triumvirate was the subject of this presentation by Dr. Sarah Ballantyne and Stacy Toth.   Both of these ladies are bloggers, authors, and podcasters that have turned their entire lives around with the power of nutrition and are very inspiring to me.  Dr. Ballantyne has literally written the book on how to reverse autoimmune disease with nutrition in her NY Times Bestselling The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body.  Stacy Toth, along with her husband Matt McCarry, have authored 3 amazing books.  Both women have lost over 100 pounds, reversed autoimmune disease, and much more.  Stacy, in particular, is a great inspiration to me.  You can check out Stacy’s story and Sarah’s if you are interested in the presenters of this great talk.

Here is the official description of the presentation:

Ancestral Health for Women in the Modern World: the HPA Axis Meets the HPT and the HPG Axes

The evolutionary biology perspective has proven to be an invaluable tool in creating dietary guidelines for the optimal human diet. However, we are learning that there may be stark differences between optimal nutrition for women versus men. In particular, the female body responds differently to changes in macronutrient ratio as well as meal timing due to links between the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and both the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal and the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axes, in part due to the combined roles of leptin and cortisol. Women may experience adverse health effects, including hypothyroidism and hypothalamic amenorrhea, in response to low carbohydrate diets and intermittent fasting.

 

Watch the presentation and see why I think the 21dsd did not work perfectly for me.  As I said, I like the 21dsd a lot.  I’m glad I did it and it helped me reset.  It also helped me tweak my diet to the right level of carbs for me to function best.  Many thanks to Diane Sanfilippo, Stacy Toth, and Sarah Ballantyne for the knowledge bombs.

 

 

 

Parent University–Healthy School Lunches

I may be referred to as “the Garden Lady,” but it would be more accurate to call me the “Food Lady.” You may know that I own a restaurant and am a farmer.  That itself might qualify me to talk on the subject, but I’d like to tell you the reasons I know that the decision on school food may have more impact on the lives of our students than any other decision you will ever make for NCS.
 
By the time our daughter, Lily, was 3, I had a large collection of autoimmune disorders and was getting sicker by the minute.   I routinely was sick from August until April and frequently on antibiotics and steroids.  I took 3 inhaled steroids and 2 different prescription pills to “control” asthma.  When I was mothering a toddler and added on Fibromyalgia (body-wide pain–debilitating at times), Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, and soul-sucking fatigue, I just got fed up.  I got tired of being handed prescriptions and just feeling worse.   I had always been interested in nutrition and I thought I was doing a pretty good job—-I had no idea what I would learn over the next few years.
 
Meanwhile, Lily was suffering.  No toddler should have constant stomach aches and be tired. So,  I went looking for answers for both of us.  I learned a TON and found excellent doctors and nutrition gurus. I found out my daughter reacts to a very long list of foods and controlling her diet means everything to her health and mood. Because of her extensive food issues, I was forced to feed my family nearly ZERO processed foods—NO small feat in today’s world.
 
Everything got better.  I learned A LOT and I still am.  In the past 7 years, I have rid myself of asthma, depression, sinusitis, IBS, fibromyalgia, 65 pounds (and counting), and fatigue.  I feel better now than I ever have and am improving all the time.  I only share this, so that I can tell you that 95% of this has been accomplished with good nutrition.
 
I follow nutrition info like some people follow sports teams. I read, listen, and experiment all the time. I started my own farm to heal my family.  It is the center of my life.    My bachelor’s is in Russian Civilization and my Master’s in Library Science, but my passion is nutrition and the natural world. Thanks to NCS, I have seen first-hand the power of good food (from seed-to-mouth) for a child. My personal goal is to connect as many children as possible with their food–from seed to plate.
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Resources referred to or inspired by my “Building a Better Lunch at NCS” presentation on 4/10/2014:
 
EWG Good Food on  a Tight Budget—a downloadable guide to healthy eating on a budget
Real Food–Good, Better, Best—doing the best you can with what you have
Better Kid Food: Snack Girl
EWG Dirty Dozen/Clean 15: Guide that tells you what to prioritize buying organic and when it doesn’t matter as much
Food Facts–guide to what’s really in food and what to watch out for
Farm to School USDA site–about the Farm to School lunch program
Food Quality Guide from Balanced Bites
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Books:
Rich Food, Bad Food — great grocery store guide to making better choices–HIGHLY RECOMMEND
 
 
 
 

 

The Amazing Ordinary

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I happened along this poem recently and it sums up my philosophy of life.  It certainly is the heart of the farm and the reason why I work so hard to connect children and nature. It’s everything. It’s the joy, the work, and the meaning of life.  It’s everything I want for my daughter.   The magic of life is in the Small Wonders of it–whether they be joyous, ordinary, or tragic.

I am thinking a lot now about the joy and sadness of every life.  We have a dog, an Australian Cattle Dog, that came into our lives 2 1/2 months ago.  We are his permanent foster home and he is a hospice patient.  We are his family.  The family he took 13 years to find.  We call him Spots.  I will write more about him soon.

Now, I am ending a long day of planting seeds and plants, working soil, and finding joys in all the details—from the little garter snake in the greenhouse to Spots napping in the sun, to my daughter squealing with glee as she swings so high that “it makes her tummy feel funny.” It was a perfect day.  I’m bone tired and content. We had a good day. There was nothing extraordinary about it–other than its complete ordinariness.

Make the Ordinary Come Alive

Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is a way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples, and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.

By William Martin, The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents.