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  1. 5 flavor-boosting cures for the food blahs

    Hi all!

    Before jumping into today’s post, Marco and I just want to thank you for all the book love. It’s incredibly gratifying to see such an enthusiastic response! A Good Food Day is in Amazon’s top 10 natural foods cookbooks and has been featured in Tasting Table, The Kitchn, The Wall Street Journal, and the February issue of Food & Wine magazine, among others. What?! It’s so exciting, and it wouldn’t be happening without your support. Thank you!

    Ok, onto today’s topic. Let’s talk about a familiar phenomenon that’s rampant this time of year – falling off the wagon of healthy eating.

    Lack of willpower and lack of time are the two reasons I hear the most. In many cases, neither one is accurate.

    Willpower is hugely overrated. It’s only a small part of success and not a particularly reliable one because it’s a finite resource (so, have a little compassion for yourself, will ya?!)

    The not-enough-hours-in-the-day reason “I don’t have time to come up with a shopping list, get to the store and cook!” is almost always a disguise for an uncomfortable truth – “this isn’t a top priority for me right now.”

    So what throws off so many truly dedicated healthy eaters? I’ll share a common one that I see in my health coaching practice.

    A case of the food blahs.

    You know that sinking feeling you get when you look at the baked chicken breast dinner you’ve already had three times this week? That sad sigh you exhale as you lower your fork into same bowl of greens you eat for lunch everyday? Food blahs.

    If you eat the same foods day in and day out, or prepare meals that lack flavor and an element of excitement, you’re bound to get bored.

    You don’t feel satisfied. Old habits creep in. You start picking up more salt- and sugar-loaded processed convenience foods at the grocery store, dialing take-out joints, or mindlessly eating bigger portions than needed. Getting the food blahs is a sure-fire way to blow your good intentions.

    I hear you…it’s hard to come up with new, creative ideas for meals when you’re in the go-go-go pace of everyday life. The good news is, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel with every meal you make or master complicated cooking techniques, you just need to add a boost of interesting flavor to keep things enticing.

    Let’s tackle the food blahs head-on, shall we? Here are five easy tips and basic ingredients that offer the triple whammy of versatility, healthfulness, and flavor. You’ll be surprised at how much these little tweaks can make a tired dish seem entirely new and delicious. Give ‘em a whirl!

    Parsley + garlic

    I picked up this one from Marco as we were working on the book. I love it because I always have these ingredients around, and it works with just about every vegetable and protein (chicken, beef, shrimp, etc.). In A Good Food Day, it’s used in the Shrimp and Chickpea Trifolati (that gorgeous dish above). The recipe is included in the free downloadable preview of the book.

    Trifolati refers to the classic Italian method of preparing mushrooms with parsley, garlic, and olive oil. All you do is finely chop a huge handful of fresh, flat-leaf parsley and a couple of garlic cloves together. Make sure there aren’t any big pieces and that they’re well combined.

    Toss just about any chopped vegetables – onion, carrot, cauliflower, zucchini, asparagus, mushrooms, etc. – and/or thinly sliced pieces of chicken, beef, or shrimp – into a pan with extra virgin olive oil and cook until the vegetable has softened a bit and the meat is not quite cooked through. Toss in the parsley and garlic mixture and cook for a few more minutes. You get tons of bright flavor – and fast!

    Anchovy

    If you heave at the mere thought of whole brown anchovies on top of your pizza, please know that’s not what I’m suggesting. I mean anchovies used as a background element in your cooking. They’re stealthy little flavor bombs, bringing depth of flavor and umami, a sense of savory meatiness, to your food. And you have no idea they’re there. I’m sure that if you’ve ever ordered Caesar salad, used Worcestershire sauce, or eaten Thai or Vietnamese food, you’ve had anchovies – and liked it.

    Look for canned or jarred anchovies packed in olive oil (make sure it’s not vegetable oil) or salt-packed anchovies. The curing process softens them, so you can mash them into a paste that easily dissolves. Add a mashed anchovy filet to vinaigrettes, sauces, sautés, soups, and stews. If you have the book, you’ll find anchovies used in the Sweet Pepper Peperonata, Lemon Vinaigrette with Garlic and Anchovy, and Mushroom, Barley, and Kale Soup.

    There’s also anchovy paste and anchovy liquid extract, if you want the umami but don’t have or don’t like the whole filets. And if you want to go next level with anchovies, you can try Marco’s new thing: dehydrating anchovies, crumbling them, and sprinkling them on a salad like a salt.

    Acid

    Have you cooked a dish that tasted good, but you knew something was missing? You probably added a bunch of salt, and it still tasted flat. That’s because the dish needed acidity. The brightness from a squeeze of lemon juice or splash of vinegar perks up the flavor of just about ANYTHING you make, savory or sweet. A few ways to do this:

    Lemon juice – there’s really nothing that can’t benefit from freshly squeezed lemon juice. Lemon is a go-to for fish, meat, salads, and vinaigrettes.

    Vinegars – there are so many different kinds, and they vary substantially in flavor and acidity level. Red wine vinegar is very sharp, apple cider vinegar is mellow (and comes with medicinal properties, so I use it often), sherry vinegar is super complex and potent, and balsamic vinegar has a sweet-sour quality. Anytime I sauté vegetables in garlic and olive oil, I add a teaspoon to a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar in the last couple minutes of cooking. That little tang it adds makes all the difference in the world.

    Grated citrus zest – add finely grated zest to anything from meatballs, soups, and salads, to smoothies, cookies, and granolas. Citrus zest has highly concentrated flavor, so a little goes a long way. Ideally, you can use a Microplane, but if you don’t have one, use the fine holes on a box grater.

    Animal fat

    Just a little fat from a grass-fed or pastured animal can add immense flavor and richness to your food. You know about butter, of course, but there is a whole wide world of animal fats out there! Ghee, lard, chicken fat (schmaltz), duck fat, pork fat, and beef fat (tallow, suet), to name a few.

    The best places to find quality animal fats are your local farmers’ market and butcher shop. Whole Foods and similar stores will have good options too. If you pan-roast a duck breast or cook bacon, save the pan drippings! I’m a Southern gal, and I was taught early on that those drippings are liquid gold.

    Use animal fat when you scramble eggs, brown meat, sauté or roast vegetables, make pie crust, bake cornbread and cakes.

    Remember, you don’t need to fear the saturated fat found in animal fats (and other fats, like coconut oil). Despite what we’ve been told, saturated fat is NOT associated with an increased risk of heart disease (or being fat!). It’s a natural fat, unlike processed vegetable oils, and has been a staple of a healthy human diet for thousands of years. If you’re totally horrified by this idea, check out Chris Kresser’s post on this, or read The Great Cholesterol Myth or Nourishing Traditions.

    Condiments and sauces

    Plain, intact grains like quinoa and brown rice day after day gets old, but if you stir in a spoonful of pesto one day, your favorite hot sauce the next day and a little tamari the day after that, you won’t get bored eating the good stuff. The same is true for eggs, raw, sautéed, or roasted veggies, roasted and grilled meats and fish, sandwiches. A few of my favorites for adding a pop of healthy flavor to meals:

    Pesto

    Romesco – a Spanish sauce made with red peppers, nuts, garlic, and olive oil (recipe in A Good Food Day)

    Hot sauce – I’m a Cholula fan for life

    Preserved lemons – chop them up and add as a condiment to roast chicken

    Harissa – a North African paste made with hot peppers, garlic, olive oil, and spices

    Salsa or pico de gallo

    Chimichurri – great on grilled foods, it’s made with finely chopped parsley, garlic, oregano, olive oil, and vinegar

    Tahini – a paste made from ground sesame seeds. You’ve had it in hummus, but I love it as a salad dressing base.

    Olive tapenade

    Tamari – similar to soy sauce, but smoother, less salty, and it’s gluten-free

    Homemade mayonnaise – store-bought mayo sucks because they’re all made with highly processed, omega-6-loaded oils, namely canola oil. Making mayo at home requires nothing more than four simple ingredients and a blender. I love this recipe by the Whole 30 folks.

    Which one of these flavor-boosters are you most looking forward to trying?

    Do you have another cure for the food blahs?

    Photo by Michael Harlan Turkell/ harlanturk.com

     

  2. My favorite podcasts for health, nutrition, and being better at life

    Before opening Hearth over 11 years ago, I was constantly learning from others. A lot about food and cooking, but so much more too. I miss that. As much as I like the idea of continuing education classes, I barely have time to read these days, much less sit in a classroom for hours.

    Getting the Podcast app was revolutionary for me. There’s a podcast out there for whatever it is you may be into…a free education on demand and at your fingertips.

    Most shows don’t have to answer to producers, advertisers, or network bigwigs, so you get awesome, independent programming with high-quality content and none of the two-minute sound bite bullshit.

    From a practical standpoint, I like that I don’t have to stop what I’m doing to listen to a podcast. If I’m cooking, prepping, cleaning, exercising, or commuting, I’m probably listening to one. They fit pretty seamlessly into my life.

    Podcasts have been around for a while, but it seems like they’re getting in a lot more ears lately. I’m all for it. In that spirit, here are four of my favorite podcasts about health, nutrition, and being better at life.

    1. The Tim Ferriss Show

    I love the diversity of Tim’s show, regardless of the topic. Tim is all about learning and how to learn more efficiently. His guests run the gamut from a chess prodigy to a nutrition expert to technology and business gurus. Basically, Tim pulls useful nuggets of information from interesting people at the top of their game in an effort to help you do better – exercise better, eat better, learn better, etc. He  asks the questions that drill down to what makes a person tick.

    2. Bulletproof Radio

    Dave Asprey is the man behind bulletproof coffee, the combo of coffee, grass-fed butter, and MCT oil that I’ve had every morning for the past year and a half. His approach to bio-hacking and mission to find ways to completely optimize the human body are fascinating. Every episode digs into some aspect of nutrition, fitness, or wellness with the goal of learning to perform better (or kick more ass, as he says). He’s constantly promoting his products (and he has a lot of them), but I keep coming back for the great, detailed insight from his (mostly) solid guests.

    3. Revolution Health Radio with Chris Kresser

    The world of nutrition research is so vast, and it can be pretty flawed (as you’ve probably noticed with all the conflicting and confusing information out there). What I love about Chris is that he picks through the research and explains (in somewhat layman’s terms) why it’s bunk or why it’s sound. He is always quick to admit that when it comes to health and nutrition questions, there is no better answer than “it depends…we are all wired differently.” I like that much of his content is based on listener questions, so it moves around a lot.

    4. Ben Greenfield Fitness

    Ben Greenfield is an Ironman, triathlete, and top trainer for elite athletes, but you don’t need to be an endurance athlete to take away valuable information. Ben and his guests cover topics related to training, nutrition, injury prevention, supplements, etc. He’s also a father to two young kids and occasionally discusses topics related to being a parent. Ben does a great job of turning a complex topic into an easy-to-follow discussion, and he addresses a variety of listener questions.

    I’m always open to suggestions, so I’d love to know…what are your favorite podcasts? 

     

  3. NYC Jewish-Style Chicken Soup + the cookbook is here!

    A Good Food Day is officially in stores and on sale TODAY, and we’re super excited for it to be out in the world!

    Thank you, thank you, and thank you again to all of you who have shared your congrats, cheers, and support for this book. We can’t wait for you to have it in your hands and in your kitchen.

    A cookbook is by no means a cash cow, and while the temporary boost in press and attention is nice, that was never the motivation behind this book. As Marco explains in his introduction, it’s not about trying to impress you with his chef-genius either. A Good Food Day is about sharing “the most important and basic knowledge that will empower you to begin cooking delicious, nutritious food for yourself.”

    If you love food and want to eat well to feel good, this book is for you. If you’re already kicking ass in the healthy eating department and you want to breathe some new life into your favorite ingredients, this book is for you. If you’re just getting going on a health kick (’tis the season), and you’re freaked about being hungry or bored with the good-for-you stuff, get yo-self a copy. Get inspired and get cooking.

    Where to start? How about giving old man winter the bird (literally), with a bowl of hearty, warming Jewish-style chicken soup. It’s one of our favorite recipes in the book.

    It utilizes the elixir of the gods that is homemade chicken broth (recipe also in the book). Your soup can only be as good as the quality of your broth, and nothing compares to the deep flavor and nutrient density of a long-simmered, homemade bone broth full of health-giving amino acids, collagen, and minerals. It has legit healing powers. See what it did for Marco.

    You can use a shelf-stable boxed broth here, but we don’t recommend going that route. It’s lacking in flavor, has more salt than needed, is often filled with ingredients you can’t pronounce (a sure sign to stay the hell away), and most importantly, it doesn’t have the nutritive value of homemade. Ask yourself a question…do you really want to eat a meat-based product that is shelf-stable at room temperature??

    If you’ve never made your own, prepare to be blown away. Your chicken soup will be richer, more full-bodied, and more satisfying (not to mention more affordable) with homemade broth.

    Now that we’ve shared one of our favorites from the book, let’s see yours!  Post your dish pics on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #AGoodFoodDay. We want to see everything you make!

    New York City Jewish-Style Chicken Soup
     
    Classic Jewish chicken soup is a glorious thing. This version takes cues from many bowls of soup enjoyed over the years at the original 2nd Ave Deli, one of New York City's most famous Jewish delis. Traditionally, there are "golden coins," dollops of chicken fat that rise to the top of the soup and don't get skimmed off. My nod to the fatty goodness of the golden coins is to top each serving with generous dots of extra virgin olive oil.
    Author:
    Recipe type: Soup
    Serves: 4 to 6
    Ingredients
    • 2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, rinsed and patted dry
    • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the golden coins
    • 2 large carrots, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into ¼-inch-thick slices (about 2 cups)
    • 4 celery stalks, chopped (about 1½ cups)
    • 1 large onion, cut into large dice (about 2 cups)
    • 7 cups chicken broth
    • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
    Instructions
    1. Take the chicken out of the refrigerator about 20 minutes before cooking so it can come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Generously season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper.
    2. In a large, ovenproof skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over high heat. When the oil slides easily across the pan, add the chicken skin-side down and cook, untouched, for 1 minute. Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook until the chicken shows no sign of pink when pierced near the bone, about 30 minutes. Flip each breast and set the skillet aside until the chicken is cool enough to handle. Chop or shred the meat into bite-size pieces (these can go back in the skillet), discarding the skin and saving the bones in your freezer for a future batch of chicken broth.
    3. In a large pot, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the carrots, celery, onion, and a pinch of salt, and cook for 1 minute. Reduce the heat to medium, cover, and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour in the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Add the chicken (including the juices it released in the skillet) and dill and simmer for 5 minutes more. Add salt to taste.
    4. To serve, ladle into bowls and dot the top of each serving with a couple of ½-teaspoon "golden coins" of olive oil.

     Photo by Michael Harlan Turkell/ harlanturk.com

     

     

  4. Welcome to A Good Food Day

    Hey there! Welcome to our shiny, new blog. You’ll see me a lot around here. I’m Tammy, and I co-wrote A Good Food Day with Marco. It’s out in just THREE days! If you haven’t gifted it to yourself yet via pre-order, we hope you’ll pick up a copy soon. Don’t forget copies for friends and fam. They like eating and feeling good, right?

    We’ve been chomping at the bit for this day to come, so I’m psyched to tell you about our plans for this space.

    First up, a proper introduction…

    Marco and I go way back. Back to 2005, when he was still sucking on cigarettes, scarfing loads of bread, and powering through days with way too much coffee. I thought soy burgers and low-fat Snackwell’s cookies were healthy choices and didn’t think twice about my habitual need to pop back Tums and Nexium.

    We met when I was a restaurant publicist at BeccaPR, and Marco and his popular Manhattan restaurant, Hearth, became a client. I was his day-to-day contact for over six years, so we talked often. With some clients, I had to close my eyes and take a deep breath before calls or meetings, but Marco and I just had good talks and mutual respect.

    As he was starting to get into health and wellness and how to make those things a part of his life, I was making the switch from publicist to certified health coach. I spent a few years feeling like shit way too often (digestive issues, a pretty unwavering level of high anxiety, and a general case of the blahs), so I started looking for ways to heal in a familiar and favorite place: food.

    I devoured anything and everything on nutrition and the psychology of eating. I got so hooked, I wanted to make it my full-time gig. While I was going through my training at The Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Marco had the idea for a cookbook that reflected his new way of eating – equal parts healthy and delicious. He asked me to write it with him.

    Three years later, including countless hours of recipe testing and shooting the shit in Marco’s home kitchen, the book is almost here!!!

    These days, Marco is busy with Hearth and his new broth take-out window, Brodo, and I run my private health coaching practice.

    So, why a blog?

    We both fully understand the internal battle between wanting to eat healthy and wanting to drink cocktails until the wee hours and eat pizza for breakfast. The struggle is real!

    We get the confusion and frustration that comes along with sifting through nutrition advice. We’ve experienced the SOS symptoms your body starts sending out when you feed it garbage too often. We know how crappy “healthy” food can be and that if it doesn’t taste good, the health kick thing won’t last long. We think our experience, skills, and hard-earned lessons can be useful.

    Our blog is a place for us to share recipes, resources, insights, and inspiration to help you eat well and feel great.

    What does eating well mean to us? We tackle this in the 10 Principles for A Good Food Day. It’s in the cookbook, just after the introduction. If you don’t have a copy of the book yet, you can download a preview with the 10 principles right here on this page.

    What you’ll find here

    We’ll dig into food and cooking, of course, but nutrition, wellness, and restaurant industry-related topics are fair game too. Basically, the stuff we know and love.

    There may be the occasional “things that make you go hmmmm” post, but most will be the actionable sort focused on something you can cook, eat, download, purchase, practice, track, improve, or let go. In the case of this post, something we think you should read – this blog!

    You won’t find precious food with tiny spoons and checkered cloth napkins here. Nor will you find calorie counts or fat grams alongside our recipes. And the only way we’ll post stuff like “Hey, look what I ate for dinner last night!” is if it involves some truly useful nuggets of information that can help you out in the kitchen.

    We will never disappoint in the “real talk” department. We’re not into extremism or being judgy. And because we will always be genuine, occasional curse words are part of the package.

    Will we screw up sometimes? Probably. This is a new medium for both of us. Will our photos and videos be wonky at first because neither of us (okay, especially me) is a pro with a camera? Yep. But we hope you’ll keep coming back for the meat of the blog – the useful content and conversations we plan to have here.

    Questions and feedback are always appreciated and welcomed. Bring on the thoughtful comments, even if you want to respectfully disagree.

    We’re psyched you’re here and hope you’ll visit often! To keep up with the latest, follow along with us on Twitter and Instagram. You can also sign up for our email newsletter, which will have exclusive goods and the occasional giveaway (don’t worry, we won’t be an inbox-clogger by any means).

    Now, we’d love to hear from you in the comments…

    • What topics or types of recipes would you most like to see here?
    • What’s your biggest struggle with making healthy food choices day in and day out?

     

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Marco

Tammy