You don't have to be a locavore to crave tomatoes, a vegetarian to love lentils, or a vegan to seek tofu curries.
"Dietary labels are restrictive and misleading," says Terry Walters, author of the new "Clean Food: A Seasonal Guide to Eating Close to the Source" (Sterling Epicure, $30).
"Healthy cooking doesn't need to be negative. Rather, it can be colorful, tasty, quick and easy," she said. Witness her ginger carrot soup. It's ready in 20 minutes, seasoned with miso and orange juice, and is simple, tasty and fresh.
This marathon runner, mother of two young girls and cooking teacher lives her kitchen values. She serves on the board of Urban Oats Organic Farm in New Brighton, Conn., near her home, and is deeply engaged in food issues. She helps with the harvest and marketing, children's programming and food-shelf donations and speaks about the importance of sustainable practices.
"Clean Food" was originally self-published in response to her students' demand for a recipe collection based on her classes. Its popularity brought it to the attention of a commercial publisher.
Trained at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, the Natural Gourmet Cookery School and the Chopra Center, Walters got started by sharing her recipes with other young moms concerned about their diets and the health of their kids.
None of the recipes contains meat, poultry, dairy, eggs or honey, and all are suitable for vegan and vegetarian diets. Yet Walters rankles under the weight of such dietary dictums.
"Nut butters, sea vegetables and grain sweeteners are just options to conventional ingredients," she says. "You don't have to turn your life upside down to eat well and feel good. These are things you can work into your cooking to lighten and add variety.
"I know from marathon training how certain foods affect my performance and I've been sharing my knowledge based on personal experience as well as my studies," she says.
A different approach
Bookshelves groan with organic, diet, local and healthy-focused books. What sparks Walters' work is her straightforward, practical approach. With a guide to the staple and less familiar ingredients, she gives no-fuss instructions, tips and hints. The recipes, organized by season, offer suggestions for pairings to create complete meals. For example, she suggests pairing her deep-dish pie of corn, beans and squash with cranberry chutney to offer the tastes and colors of fall.
Most compelling is Walters' breezy tone, can-do style and her nod to indulgence. What better way to follow kale with caramelized shallots and tempeh-stuffed pumpkins than with a chocolate lovers' tart in a pecan crust? Expanding new approaches beyond the labels, Walters shows us how eating well is simple and good.
Beth Dooley is a Minneapolis writer and cooking teacher.