Diane SanfilippoGrilling season is in full force and the temperatures are rising! Our July recipe page is dedicated to grilling and creating meals that will keep your guests coming back. We are honored to announce Diane Sanfilippo of Balanced Bites as our featured chef and recipe maker. She has shared with us some of her favorite recipes all grilled up and ready for some summertime fun. For more delicious recipes from Diane visit www.balancedbites.com or find her on Facebook.
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?
A: I grew up in a house with two parents who cooked nearly every single day as well as all weekend, so needless to say, it was pretty inevitable that I’d learn to cook! My parents were always the types to sort of throw food together based on some simple concepts and flavors they knew the family liked, but tried new things whenever possible, so it was never out of cookbooks or anything too intimidating. I absolutely learned to love cooking and actually opened a meal delivery business a few years ago that I subsequently closed when I decided to go back to school to study nutrition and eventually educate people on how to make better food choices for improved health. When cooking meals for that business I sourced all grass-fed beef and organic produce, which is what I recommend to my nutrition coaching clients and workshop attendees today to eat whenever possible.
Q: Why is eating grass-fed meat and sustainably-caught fish different? How does it affect your cooking?
A: I think the flavor of the meat is just more true to how meat should taste. I also feel better about buying it because I know that the animals were healthier in the lives they had since they ate what they were designed to eat. I think my cooking is affected mostly in that I don’t need to go too crazy with a lot of seasonings or fancy recipes on a daily basis since the meat tastes so great with just simple seasonings, even just sea salt and pepper sometimes!
Q: Is it just about health? Or is there more to it than that?
A: For me, it’s about the health of the animal and my own health first, but it’s also about the health of the type of economy that sustainable farming promotes. I can’t support grain-feeding of animals when I know that it’s not what they’re designed to eat by nature. It’s not the least expensive food to buy, but I also find myself not needing medications or doctor’s office visits so I think it’s well worth the extra cost in the long-run.
Q: How did you learn about grass-fed meat?
A: I think it was several years ago when I became more interested in health and nutrition and studied to become a Certified Holistic Lifestyle Coach. We learned a lot about organic food and properly raised animals at the time. Once I made the connection about diet and health for humans, it was a no-brainer that I wanted to eat animals that had eaten properly themselves.
Q: Why is it so important to have the right ingredients?
A: Often people over complicate cooking, but I think that having good ingredients is one of the foundations of being able to cook simple food that tastes great. If you start with quality ingredients, your end result will usually be better. You can ask any high-end chef and they’ll say the same thing. When you use quality ingredients, less is more — let the ingredients shine!
Q: What are the most important keys to success for the home chef?
A: I think keeping a few basic ingredients on-hand as well as a handful of tools is all you really need. Once you learn the kinds of flavors you like, buy larger quantities of spices to keep around for recipes or to play with by mixing them together. I also think that some really basic cooking skills like learning how to properly cook different cuts of meat can be very helpful. I’ve learned a LOT about technique and flavor combinations and ideas by watching cooking shows on television and by taking a handful of cooking classes locally. Of course, having cookbooks or recipes on-hand is always great, too!
Q: What are your best tips for home cooking?
- Take a knife skills class. You’ll use the skills you learn every single day and it’ll make cooking SO much easier and more fun. Plus, the food you present will all look that much better at the end.
- Always have onions, garlic, lemons/limes and some kind of fresh herbs in your kitchen or fridge. These ingredients last a long time and are useful in almost any recipe.
- Keep it simple. Start with a good protein, add some veggies and make sure you have some fat in the meal. If you want to add a spice or some herbs, go ahead. Anything more than that is fancy and, while tasty, is more than you need for an every day successful, tasty and healthy meal.
Q: What is your favorite recipe using grass-fed meat?
A: Marinated grilled flank or skirt steak lettuce tacos with my 4-ingredient guacamole — so easy, fresh and tasty! (see recipe)