A big part of growing an edible garden is eating the food that you grow. This can also be the most challenging part. It requires attention to the garden, time to harvest and clean, and then preparation of the food.
Starting now, preparing your harvested food no longer needs to be a challenge. It can be easy and delicious with inspiration and guidance from my friend Sarah Adler, Founder of Simply Real Health. Sarah is dedicated to helping people eat in a healthy and simple way that happily works in the context of daily life, not against it. She takes the mystery out of eating real, whole food and makes it a lifestyle. Her cookbook and blog not only make it easy for me to turn my harvest into a meal, but inspire the vegetables and fruits that I choose to grow in the garden.
I had the opportunity to ask Sarah a series of questions about incorporating eating real food into your daily life. Let’s be honest, it is hard enough to find the time to grow a garden, let alone harvest and prepare the food. Sarah was kind enough to provide advice and tools that make it easy to whip up your fresh harvest. Plus, learn how she developed Simply Real Health and what she believes is the key to making a healthy lifestyle an intuitive part of our daily lives.
Megan: What is your advice for taking the intimidation out of cooking food? How can it feel less overwhelming and time consuming?
Sarah: Oh my gosh. YES. Healthy cooking has a weird connotation—that it’s either super complicated with obscure ingredients, or that it tastes so boring and bland. It doesn’t have to be either way. Honestly, if you start with fresh and good quality ingredients, it becomes more about slightly enhancing them, than trying to cover the flavor up.
I would say start with roasting a vegetable. All you need is a baking sheet, olive oil, good sea salt and some pepper at 400. Actually—you can cook MOST things this way, so don’t over complicate it. Butter/olive oil and sea salt and pepper are often times all you need to elevate most things.
Megan: Do you have any tips for making it easy to whip up something delicious with your fresh harvest without having to go to the grocery store?
Sarah: Yes! Make sure your pantry is intentionally stocked well. I don’t mean packed with random things—I mean just some basics. Butter, olive oil, sea salt and pepper, maybe some Italian herbs, some quinoa or brown rice, a few cans or jars of dried beans, organic sausages or chicken breasts in the freezer, and a good block of parmesan. Maybe some eggs and a harissa paste or Dijon mustard, and you can literally make 6 different kinds of meals there, with your fresh produce as the star.
Megan: What advice would you give to those who love real food, but struggle with finding the time and energy to prepare meals each week?
Sarah: Well, if you can find 1 hour to think about your food each week- whether it’s getting yourself to the store to buy healthy pre-made stuff, or to keep your pantry stocked so you can whip up some simple things that you know work well for your lifestyle, you can work a lot of magic.
But you have to have the value of eating well first. And the value that you are worth it- worth feeling great, worth investing in yourself. Because even that ONE HOUR of time can be the center domino that shifts and changes so much else in your week for the better. It starts there—not the other way around that everything else in life comes first, then food as an afterthought.
Because it impacts so much else, it has to be something you dedicate at least 60 minutes to. And it doesn’t have to be cooking huge meals from scratch everyday. It’s just the intention of feeding yourself well, whatever that means to you.
Otherwise, that Netflix marathon or those trashy magazines, or that instagram feed scrolling will always sneak themselves in. We all have the time, it’s a just a matter of making food a little bit higher on your priority list.
Megan: Why did you write the Simply Real Health Cookbook?
Sarah: Well, two reasons really. One, I’m a cookbook lover, and I have so many- they’re beautiful and so soothing for me to read and wander through. But. I started to realized that I never really cooked from them—they’d sit there most of the time, because all of the recipes were either a) healthy and required 15 different ingredients and spices (and ain’t no one got time for that on a busy weekday), or b) they were “simple” and “quick” recipes that were all pasta or flour based. And as much as it would be nice to feel amazing eating pasta every single night, I knew my body well enough to know that wasn’t going to fly either.
So, I wrote the book as a solution, to my own problem really. That I am a small business owner first- and thus my days are totally packed to the brim, but I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my health and energy on food that was just quick and easy and non-intentional.
Because Simply Real Health started as a food blog, I knew all the recipes that people loved and commented and shared all the time, so the book became my little gift to them- a way to have everything in one place, beautifully styled, and a true guidebook into HOW you make healthy eating and living doable, easy and delicious (all at the same time).
Megan: What do people need to make eating real food an intuitive part of their everyday life?
Sarah: A basic understanding of what real food is vs. what is marketed to us as healthy food. The two are wildly different. And, starting to notice how connected your energy, mood and hunger are to what you eat. Once you realize how powerful food actually is to the things that matter most in your life, it becomes a little bit more motivating and encouraging to want to eat well.
Megan: Why did you start a career and business in teaching healthy lifestyles?
Sarah: Because truly, in this country, we are never taught how to eat in a way that creates a balanced and joyful relationship to food. In so many other countries, food is this centerpoint of a beautiful and celebrated life. Here in the US, the only way most of us learn about food is through marketing or through diets, which creates a terrible relationship to food, and it doesn’t have to be that way.
Knowledge is power. And in the world of fad diets, extreme workout plans, social media, it’s so easy to get lost in all the clutter. I want to help people clear that clutter and confusion and see that it’s actually really easy (and such a better, happier way to live your life) if you can actually KNOW and appreciate good food, in all its beauty.
All of this comes from my own personal experience of course—I use to be obsessed with eating healthy, and counting my calories, measuring carbs, tracking my workouts, etc. But I had a TERRIBLE RELATIONSHIP with food that I didn’t realize was taking over so much of my life. Real food started the journey for me out of that more limited way of thinking and my life has changed because of it.
Megan: What is your greatest learning from helping hundreds of people to live a healthier lifestyle and eat real food?
Sarah: That getting clear once and for all about what healthy food actually is (instead of what we’re taught it is by the media) is the best gift you could ever give yourself- physically, mentally and emotionally. It changes everything.
Megan: What is your favorite edible plant to grow and why?
Sarah: I am currently working on my gardening skills, and so far, mint makes me feel like a gardening queen. Isn’t that because it’s the easiest to grow? So whatever that says about me. Ha! But I do love it—fresh mint tea, in greek salads, fun cocktails, marinades, etc. Give me all the mint. And the basil, although I eat it too fast for the poor plant to keep up. I could bathe in it.
Megan: What is your most favorite recipe to make?
Sarah: I love the Pesto Kale Salad from the cookbook. I will never ever get sick of making or eating that salad- it transforms kale into this hearty, delicious and filling meal. And the process of making it—rubbing each leaf to help soften it, smelling the basil whirling around in the blender.. ah it’s heavenly! Not to mention it gets better the next day, so it is always such a great use of time for more than one meal alone.
Megan: What is your favorite food?
Sarah: I love mezze night. Like, lots of little jars of things, sauces, crackers, olives, good cheeses, smoked salmon, salami, nuts. AH, I die. You get a little bit of everything, and goes so well with a glass of wine, literally in any season. That’s my dream. Or, a huge salad and lamb burger on top.
Megan: If you were given a few more hours in the day, what would you choose to do?
Sarah: Oo, I’d do a yoga class or take a luxuriously long walk or read, or cozy up by the fire, or find a farmers market (so I could buy myself flowers) ha! Such girly things, but all of them give me fuel and make me feel relaxed and inspired.
Megan: What resources do you provide through Simply Real Health that make it easier to cook and prepare your own meals?
Sarah: The cookbook, for sure. There’s over 150 easy and healthy (and naturally gluten-free) recipes in there, every single one of them with a picture, and most of them with 5 ingredients or less.
I also write seasonal meal plans every quarter that help people learn to efficiently shop and cook and eat healthy delicious real food, all in under 3 hours a week.
Then there’s the online Food Academy, which is like a 3 week masterclass school in real food: what to pay attention to, what to ignore, how to navigate the store, cooking, eating out, dinners, traveling, and just REAL LIFE stuff, with a more balanced and joyful approach to being healthy.
I also work with people one on one, speak to a lot of different groups, teach cooking classes once a month or so, and run a big 8 week group coaching program twice a year. (all the details are over here).
Megan: Are there resources you recommend for making it easy to cook real food?
Sarah: Yes, there are so many!
I love Sara and Hugh Forte of Sprouted Kitchen (both their books and blog are amazing)
Dishing Up The Dirt by Andrea Bemis is such a beautiful farm to table food blog
Podcast wise, Shawn Stevenson of The Model Health Show is my all time favorite, as well as the Cherry Bombe Radio Podcast (from Cherry Bombe Magazine that celebrates women and food—another of my favorites).
Megan: What is next for you?
Sarah: Oh gosh. So many fun things are coming, most of which are still under wraps right now. But, more than ever I feel so excited about being able to help more people address and create a more joyful, longterm and sustainable relationship to food, without ever having to diet or be continually doing program after program. I don’t think it’s talked about enough—but we all have a relationship to food, and when it can be a more positive thing in life, everything else lights up even more. I love seeing that light in other people, and feel so honored to play just a tiny role in that journey for someone.
And stock the pantry with those key staples so that your fresh harvest can shine all season long.
Photography by Jasmine Pulley and Carina Skrobecki