Stephanie Brandt Cornais is the Founder and Creative Director of MamaAndBabyLove.com , once a brick and mortar yoga studio and eco-friendly boutique for new parents and now a thriving, real food, natural lifestyle and parenting website and online business. She cares deeply about nourishing and loving herself so that she can nourish and love her family and loves sharing helpful information with other mothers. She is the author of two books, From Your Freezer To Your Family, Slow Cooker Freezer Recipes and the Mama and Baby Love Guide to A Conscious Childbearing Year.
Q: How did you get involved in cooking to begin with? Was it something you learned to love early on or did you come to it later?
Oh gosh! I did not learn to cook growing up — so I had to teach myself. Cooking was and still is a huge process for me. But before I had the courage to venture into the kitchen, food always fascinated me. From very early on, I viewed it as an art form. A work of art that not only looked pretty, but tasted good, smelled good and nourished you on an emotional level. I wanted to learn how to cook so that I could cook for my family. I missed out on homemade meals and the feeling of someone loving and taking care of me through food. I wanted to be able to nourish my husband and daughter. I have been chronicling and sharing my experiences on my website Mama and Baby Love since 2009.
Q: Why is eating grass-fed meat and sustainably-caught fish different? How does it affect your cooking?
It lets me be conscious of the environment and conscious of my health at the same time. I was a vegetarian for years before I knew that grass-fed, humanely raised, sustainably caught, etc., was an option. Morally, I thought my only option was to opt out of the industrialized meat industry completely and not eat meat at all. My health suffered a lot from years as a vegetarian and not getting my nutritional needs met. I was so relieved when I found out about local farmers and companies like US Wellness Meats where I could buy and eat meat and not feel bad about it. It also just tastes better!
Q: Is it just about health? Or is there more to it than that?
For me it’s health and sustainability. I have a degree in Environmental Science and I was "green" way before it was cool. Taking care of Mother Earth is something that has always been important to me.
Q: How did you learn about grass-fed meat?
My friend is the local Weston A. Price Foundation chapter leader and she told me about the book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.
Q: Why is it so important to have the right ingredients?
Ingredients make or break a meal. Once I started cooking with home grown food, or from the farmers market, immediately everything just tasted better. Not only that, I was getting more nutrients in. And what I think is so great about natural, organic cooking is that that things that were traditionally unhealthy — say, fried chicken — are really not bad at all when you use quality ingredients, like lard from grass fed beef, instead of Crisco. All your cherished family recipes can stay the same, just swap out the fake junk for stuff that’s real.
Q: What are the most important keys to success for the home chef?
Be organized. Early on I realized that my skills of being efficient and organized would help me in kitchen. I may lack a formal chef education, and I will probably never win a Top Chef contest in my life, but I bet I could win any organization contest. My kitchen, from every drawer, to every shelf, to the freezer, you name it, is a well oiled machine. Everything in it’s place, everything serving an efficient and systematic purpose. This helps me save time, keeps me from wasting anything and keeps me from feeling overwhelmed.
Q: What are your best tips for home cooking?
Be brave, and realize that all cooking is basically an experiment. There is no one perfect way to make anything. That took a lot of the pressure off. For me, teaching myself to cook was terrifying. I literally would be standing in my living room, hands on knees, deep breathing, mentally pumping myself up and forcing myself to get in the kitchen and try — even if I started a fire. Even if my dog won’t eat it when it’s finished. I gave myself pep talks and would not let myself get away with eating a bag of chips for dinner, like so many of my dinners as a child and teenager consisted of.
Also: buy a deep freezer. Your freezer is your best friend. Whether I am assembling a freezer specific recipe (like my slow cooker freezer recipes from my cookbook From Your Freezer To Your Family or just doing a double batch of a meal (making one for dinner that night and putting away one in the freezer for later) I am always utilizing my freezer. If I have some green peppers that are about to go bad, or I just harvested something from my garden but don’t need it right away, I chop them and put them in my freezer. Nothing goes to waste and there is always something homemade I can pull out on nights I am exhausted and keep myself from ordering pizza.
Q: What is your favorite recipe using grass-fed meat?
I really like my Orange Beef Stew, Fall Chili, Stephanie’s Goulash and my Chicken Curry recipe. All those are some of my husband’s favorites. And my husband is an very picky man, he is an only child of an Argentian woman who could cook extremely well, and fed him well. He has high expectations and standards for his dinner, so if he likes it, I know I have hit the jack pot.