Terry Walters is a healthy food oriented author based in the North East corner of the US. Her revised edition of the book titled controversially ‘Clean Food’, is a “seasonal guide to eating close to the source” for any home cook seeking clean, locally sourced inspiration for a dairy-free, vegetarian and vegan meals.
What she means by ‘clean food’? Her definition points towards a more nutritious food because it is based on whole, unrefined ingredients, that are minimally processed, close to the source (so you can trace how it was grown or raised) and sustainably produced as the farmers adhere to organic farming methods.
The healthy cook substitutes highly refined ingredients such as white sugar and agave nectar for brown rice or maple syrup, canola oil for heat-tolerating and nutrient-rich grape seed or coconut oil, corn starch for easily digestible Japanese kudzu, and more. Further, she suggests replacing animal produce packed with arteries-clogging cholesterol for tofu (the TOFU SCRAMBLE makes a great savory breakfast), tempeh (try the superb CURRY TEMPEH SALAD WITH RAISINS AND CASHEWS) or in place of eggs, ground golden flax seeds that bind ingredients also very well in cooking (in SKILLET CORNBREAD).
Sesame Almond BallsCranberry Coconut Balls
Other modern nutritional concerns such as gluten, sugar, chemical toxins (antibiotics, pesticides, herbicides) and artificial additives (hormones, sulfites) are also pushed out from her ingredients list, but also from the kitchen tools (shunning aluminum, plastic materials, and nonstick surfaces). Rebelling, she questions our malnourished reality: “Have we become a society, that is artificially sustained?” Renouncing most of the long shelf ‘living’ packaged food that adorns, boxed mostly in toxic plastic containers, the multiple rows of today’s supermarkets, she promotes in our homes “delicious and nutritious meals made from foods we all need more of” sustaining our daily diets. Myself, my family and friends who licked the bowls and plates of her dishes, that I made according to this easy to follow cookbook, can only nod to Walter’s mission.
But, she goes beyond the plain food items, as she writes: “The further we remove ourselves from the source of food, the less we are able to maintain physical and emotional balance.” Using simple, transparent titles for her recipes hinting at what is actually inside, without gimmicky titles, is in line with her philosophy.
Salad cooking
Food for the author is viewed mainly as a “connection” between our life, others and the environment. The book is filled with her personal stories, anecdotes related to the particular meal and recommendations introducing each recipe. Some are practical tips on when and how to serve the dish while others offer suitable variations so everyone in the family enjoys it. Walter’s two children were often fooled into enjoying very healthy foods, so this is a great source for moms struggling with putting more nutritious ingredients into the kids’ mouths.
Inspired by her mother’s made-from-scratch and natural cooking and how much she enjoyed the family meals as a child herself, she is not a fan of prescriptive nutrition and fad diets but intends to inspire the readers to find the right lifestyle that suits them personally. Slowing down, empowering ourselves with knowledge and understanding of our own body leads according to her to more healthy food choices. Her holistic approach of letting go lends itself to another advice: “Don’t let food control you”. Indeed, we should enjoy the fruits of our labor in the kitchen, but not become slaves of food and its preparation. Some cookbooks require hours or days of a meal preparation, but Clean Food will spare your time for the enjoyment itself. Most of the recipes take 30-60 minutes, and less if someone chops the onions, flips the pancakes on the skillet or washes the garnishes as you are busy with other parts of the preparation.
The pea green book is nicely and cleanly designed echoing its title. The recipes are divided into four seasonal chapters and an additional ‘snacking’ section. Very practical, yet some seasonal availability can differ depending on which part of the world you cook in. Walters overwhelmingly organic ingredients come mostly from the farmers markets in the North East of the United States, and these are not the same vegetables and fruits that I can find for example in the Mediterranean, where I am based. Although in summer we get probably the sweetest honeydew melons in the world, so the superb HONEYDEW CUCUMBER SOUP chilled many of our hot July afternoons.
Curry and raisins tempeh
Throughout the book, these ingredients tend to feature the most:

  • adzuki beans combine them with kombu for easier digestion, with black beans she works it into a satisfying CHILI
  • almonds everyone in my family loves the naturally sweet SESAME ALMOND BALLS
  • apple cider vinegar is not just a home remedy but she replaces most vinegars with its “warming, sour and bitter flavor”
  • arame seaweed features in dozens of dishes throughout the seasons since it is dried (I like it in the warm SEAWEED AND CABBAGE SAUTÈ)
  • avocado beyond the TRADITIONAL GUACAMOLE, which is also included, softens the RAW KALE SALAD
  • brown rice the whole rice, but also a flour, vinegar and syrup from it mostly in desserts (the CRISPY RICE SQUARES burn easily and were my biggest failure from the book)
  • carrots in smoothies with ginger, but also in soups, salads (it uplifts the best ever FINGERLING POTATO SALAD WITH FRESH HERBS) and the superb baked CRISPY SESAME CARROTS
  • chickpeas need improvisation for better taste in CRISPY ROASTED CHICKPEAS while they help towards a richer texture in CREAMY SHIITAKE AND CHICKPEA SOUP
  • cilantro freshening the FRENCH LENTIL SALAD WITH LEMON, RADISH, AND CILANTRO that became our summer staple lunch
  • corn should always be used organic in the US since it has been overwhelmingly genetically modified; this staple of the American table shines in the SWEET POTATO, CORN, AND KALE CHOWDER prefect in the fall
  • lemons in LEMONY ARTICHOKE DIP she lazily uses canned artichoke, but in spring, they are worth the laborious peeling
  • miso in dressings (CREAMY MISO), soups (try CREAM OF ASPARAGUS SOUP) and the sweet white soybean paste adds savory umami in many other plates
  • quinoa she often doesn’t specify the type, but if you want more nutty flavors use red or black instead of the light type
  • shiitake mushrooms in the ARAME WITH CARAMELIZED SHIITAKE create a perfect immune boosting bomb with a powerful detoxifying force
  • tofu can substitute milk products such as cream (it works well in TOFU SOUR CREAM and in TIRAMISU!!), yoghurt (not cheese, sorry), and great in by Asia inspired dishes such as PAD THAI
  • tomatoes should not be refrigerated to keep flavor, but if you get sweet ones use them in the WHITE BEAN SALAD WITH ROASTED TOMATOES AND ARUGULA, which takes more time to prepare but fills you up on a summer evening

Along with the meal assembling processes, the author also offers her tried cooking and soaking methods for the most used grains and legumes. The only aspect of cooking I missed in the book is an approximate duration of preparation so one can plan the family meal. Otherwise, my meat loving husband appreciated most of the meals I prepared from this meat-less, some (Marinated Tofu, Curry Tempeh, French Lentil Salad) he liked even more than the restaurant versions featuring the real steak, chicken or a sausage! I am happy to assist him in lowering his cholesterol and lift up his mood thanks to this delicious vegan cookbook! Try it yourself and savor every flavor-packed morsel!