Jen Wooster from Peel with Zeal (Transcript)

Nicole S.:                                 00:00                     Welcome to BFF with the Chef. I'm your host, Nicole Schwegman.

                                                                                          Aloha, friends and foodies, and welcome back. Today, I'm getting the chance to interview Jen Wooster, the creator of the healthy food blog, Peel with Zeal. Both Jen and her husband, who she affectionately calls Mr. Peel, suffer from different autoimmune diseases. She has Celiac Disease, while Mr. Peel suffers from a more serious diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. They both follow the Wahl's Protocol, a functional medicine diet, which Jen blogs about each week. Both she and her husband invite their readers to join them as they create healthy recipes that focus on healing your body through food. They believe that food and life should be fun and that a little bit of humor makes each dish taste just a little bit better.

                                                                                          Hey, Jen, welcome to the show.

Jen Wooster:                          00:55                      Thank you so much for having me. I'm thrilled to be here.

Nicole S.:                                 00:58                      Oh, I am thrilled to have you. Look, your blog looks like you decided to make meal choices based on a 64 box of Crayola Crayons that I used to get as a child because it's one of the most colorful and vibrant blogs that I've seen thus far, and I love it. So, you're not kidding when you say that you want to eat the rainbow. I don't know if you say that, but it looks like you want to eat the rainbow, and your blog is so gorgeous to the eye and it's such incredible, beautiful photography that I can't wait to dive right in and talk about it. So, let's just do it. You ready?

Jen Wooster:                          01:29                       I am excited. Thank you so much for the compliments.

Nicole S.:                                 01:32                       Oh, well it's all well deserved. I was like, "Wow, the blog looks really colorful and really beautiful." So, girl, you've inspired me to eat more vegetables. So, let's do it. Alright. Tell me about the last meal you cooked for yourself.

Jen Wooster:                          01:48                       Okay. So the last meal I cooked for myself was a dairy free, gluten free, spicy shrimp bisque. I had two pints homemade shellfish broth sitting in my fridge, because we had like a chop style date night at home, and Mr. Peel accidentally thawed out, not one, but two pints of broth trying to find the frozen chicken broth in our freezer for his chopped course. And so it was sitting in there and needed to be used up and it was pretty fabulous, I must say.

Nicole S.:                                 02:19                       Oh. Tell me about when you say, so you say a shrimp bisque. That's right. And so tell, how do you make the bisque, bisque because, usually, that's a dairy and I know you don't eat dairy, so what are you using instead?

Jen Wooster:                          02:31                       That's a great question. So, we start off with some vegetables. Instead of onion, I like to use a little bit of fennel. I just think it's a good way to get a different vegetable, some carrots, some celery, and then we use a peeled, like a waxy, a good waxy yellow potato, get that kind of sauteed up with just really basic tomato paste, a little bit of cayenne, and then you put it in the broth and let it cook until that potato is nice and soft, and then you puree it, and that potato will give you the same texture as a rue so you don't need the whole flour, dairy thing for the bisque.

Nicole S.:                                 03:07                      Get out, really?

Jen Wooster:                          03:08                      Really.

Nicole S.:                                 03:09                      Wow.

Jen Wooster:                          03:09                      And potatoes are vegetables. They're A-okay on the Wahl's Protocol.

Nicole S.:                                 03:15                       That sounds delicious, especially what was surprising was the fennel. I hadn't thought about putting fennel. What a surprising ingredient to put into a shrimp bisque. Wow.

Jen Wooster:                          03:24                      I think it's very traditional, like in a very traditional classic lobster bisque you might see that, although not many people use it that way anymore and I find that fennel can be a little much sometimes. So, when you kind of put it in the bisque like that and you're just using a little bit of it, it adds some flavor, but it's not overwhelming and if ... Some people I know like their shrimp bisque a little sweeter, you could even use a sweet potato instead of that yellow waxy potato.

Nicole S.:                                 03:50                      Oh, that's good. I like that. That's really good. Oh. Okay. Well, go ahead. What else did you put in that shrimp bisque? So, you just put shrimp and like you had the bisque, did you put like any other vegetable in it that was chunky? Because I know you talked about using a potato as sort of like the dairy substitute, but what about other vegetables in it?

Jen Wooster:                          04:07                      Nope. You just do it. You puree it smooth, then you put the shrimp in, just kind of cut up fresh shrimp, and just let those cook in the broth, and then I just kind of garnished it with a little bit of olive oil, some scallions, and then we just kind of had a salad on the side. Nothing fancy on the salad.

Nicole S.:                                 04:25                      That whole meal sounds fancy. Man, that's a food blogger for you. Like, "Not that fancy." But that sounds completely fancy. 

Jen Wooster:                          04:32                      It only took about 20 minutes, if you can believe it.

Nicole S.:                                 04:35                      No, I can't, but that sounds amazing. Now, is that a recipe that's on your blog or did you just make that up?

Jen Wooster:                          04:40                      Nope. I just ... I am the lucky recipient of a case of lobster tails every year from my mom for Christmas, and so we got in the habit of making shellfish broth from all the leftover lobster tails because, when do you ever have that many lobster tails if you don't live in Maine. So, I've just, overtime, made lobster bisque so many years in a row and just kind of have a general idea, and I'm like, "Ah, this seems like it'll work."

Nicole S.:                                 05:06                      Well, that's a great idea and, since it's not a recipe, you should make it into a recipe. Is that-

Jen Wooster:                          05:12                       I will try to get it up on the blog. I will do that.

Nicole S.:                                 05:15                       Oh, my goodness. That sounds amazing. Yes, like especially for winter. My gosh, that sounds like a perfect January recipe. Mm, mm, mm. Okay, sorry. I went off on a tangent. Everybody knows I do this. Whenever somebody says something delicious, I'm going on a tangent. That just happens. Alright.

                                                                                          What is a meal that brings you back to your childhood?

Jen Wooster:                          05:32                      So, my sister and I were those quintessential like early 1980s latch key kids, so she made me dinner almost every night, and somehow, in our great cooking skills, my mom definitely did not enjoy cooking and neither did my sister because she was like 12, would make me grilled cheese and Campbell's Tomato Soup, and so when I think about something that is comforting and it is always a gluten free grilled cheese with some homemade tomato soup. I will splurge, I will eat the dairy, it is so worth it. 

Nicole S.:                                 06:02                      Everybody has that one meal that, no matter what, it just, the minute you eat it, you're 10 years old again. Yeah, that sounds so good. So, you're using gluten free bread, right?

Jen Wooster:                          06:12                       Yeah. I can't, that's the one thing I can't. I cannot eat any gluten. We typically eat dairy free at home, but that is, if I'm going to eat that meal, it's going to be real cheese, but it's going to be gluten free bread. There's no-

Nicole S.:                                 06:26                      It's going to be gluten free bread, but you're going for the real cheese.

Jen Wooster:                          06:27                       Absolutely.

Nicole S.:                                 06:28                      Have you ever found anything that has gotten close like maybe cashew cheese, could that work? Or-

Jen Wooster:                          06:35                      I don't eat it very often, so if I'm going to eat it, I'm going to eat what I want to eat.

Nicole S.:                                 06:38                      Got it. 

Jen Wooster:                          06:39                      You know? So, it's something to ... It's totally worth it for every now and then. So, there are some good dairy free cheeses that melt really well, but they just don't have kind of cheddary flavor that I associate with grilled cheese and tomato soup.

Nicole S.:                                 06:56                      Good, and with your childhood. I mean, sometimes you just want what you want from your childhood. 

Jen Wooster:                          07:00                      Sometimes, you need to eat your feelings and that's okay.

Nicole S.:                                 07:03                      Exactly. I completely agree with that. Not every day, but some days. Yes. Okay, and give me an ingredient you cannot live without.

Jen Wooster:                          07:11                         Okay. So, I know that everybody says salt and butter, and I totally agree with the salt, and in my case-

Nicole S.:                                 07:16                        You would be surprised. A ton of people say garlic.

Jen Wooster:                          07:20                      But I, for us, I think it is definitely laughter. I look at it as cooking isn't someone's job in the family. It's a family activity so it should be fun, and I would also say wine, because my inner Julia Child just thinks that you should have a glass of wine when you're making a nice meal just because.

Nicole S.:                                 07:37                       Aww. That is so cute. I bet you, you guys are like lovely, dovey and cute too. People are like, "We can't with the couples." Someone's screaming in their car right now. "I live alone." Like, you can laugh about yourself, it's okay.

Jen Wooster:                          07:54                       You know, get a dog. Our dogs, like when we remodeled our kitchen, we put two, like a lounge area in our breakfast nook instead of a table, so the dogs could be in there so we can be together as a family because-

Nicole S.:                                 08:07                      So, the dogs can just be tortured by watching you make all this delicious food?

Jen Wooster:                          08:11                        They don't beg for food and they don't clean up after us. I really thought like the purpose of having dogs is so you didn't have to vacuum as often in the kitchen. Like, they would like clean up after you, but they don't. They're completely worthless.

Nicole S.:                                 08:26                      They're just sitting there. You're like their live version of the Food Network.

Jen Wooster:                          08:30                      Yeah, they're not, yeah, they're not helpful at all when it comes to cleaning.

Nicole S.:                                 08:38                      I mean, that is hilarious.  What kind of dogs do you have?

Jen Wooster:                          08:40                      We just have a mutt from a shelter and then we foster dogs as well. So, we've had a special needs foster. He's been with us about 10 months and he's a terrier mix and he has, his name's Rocky and he has an underbite so we call him Rocky the Underbite, or the Underdog.

Nicole S.:                                 08:54                      Oh, and he's like, "I'm not doing anything except sitting here and watching you."

Jen Wooster:                          09:00                     Yep. They just follow us around and hang out. They're pretty easy.

Nicole S.:                                 09:03                      That's adorable. Alright. So, I want you to take us back to a time to before you had the food blog. And then, kind of like walk us right up to the place where you're like, "You know what? I'm going to start a food blog."  Because, I think, there's like BFB, before food blog, and then right up to that point where you're like, "Yeah, I think I'm going to do it."

Jen Wooster:                          09:25                      So, yeah. I think when I didn't grow up learning how to cook and I wish I did. I learned how to cook from watching the Food Network, so back before the Food Network was all competition shows, it used to be teaching you how to cook back in the 90s and so that's how I kind of started learning to cook and becoming more adventurous with food. And so, when I got married, Mr. Peel loves to cook. In his family, he grew up learning how to cook and he is a much better chef than I am, by far, but we always kind of would put food that we made and put pictures of Instagram, and this is kind of fact about blog is, I don't use a camera. I take all those photos with my phone.

Nicole S.:                                 10:05                       Wow.

Jen Wooster:                          10:06                       So, if I can do it, you can do it too. That's what I tell people. And so, just cooking is something that we did together, and when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis was about the same time I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. So, we both went gluten free and that was kind of about it for a while, and then my sister, who runs a health coaching business in Colorado, it's called Purpose and Plenty, she kind of made us aware of the Wahl's Protocol.

                                                                                          So, we did some research about it and decided that it's purpose, it's being expanded to other autoimmune diseases, but it really started out as something you can do to help kind of slow the progression of MS and so it was kind of like a why not. You feel like, when you have an autoimmune disease, that you have no control and it is a very frustrating feeling too. We were two professionals, really good jobs. We felt very in control of everything, except for this, and this gave us an opportunity to kind of take some control back and there is something very comforting about that, I think.

                                                                                          And so, we started this diet, almost two years ago, and it was, one, we kind of eased ourselves into it. It isn't like a hard, you have to stop doing this today and you can never eat these things again, and so, for us, it was kind of we eased into it, which made it much easier and it made it much easier to kind of embrace it as a lifestyle change. And so, we just kind of kept putting photos up and people were like, "You should write a food blog." Or, "You should that up, the recipes up."

                                                                                          And I was thinking about it. I felt too busy, and then eventually, I was like, "You know what? I have some free time. I'm going to start this." And you can always tell how busy I am because I'll either post a lot up for a month and then there will be nothing for a month. So, I'll post a lot one month and then there will be nothing. And so, I'm getting more consistent as we kind of get into the groove a little bit, but it really just kind of started off with us putting pictures on Instagram and everyone saying, "You should start a food blog." I'm like, "Oh, that's something young people do."

Nicole S.:                                 12:09                       You sound young. 

Jen Wooster:                          12:10                        I do. I sound like a Minnie Mouse is what I sound like, but no. I thought it was a millennial thing, but apparently gen-xer's can start blogs too. There's no moratorium on that. 

Nicole S.:                                 12:22                        So, y'all were the original blog starters. It was just called Angel Fire.  I brought one back the from the dead, didn't I?  Angel Fire, remember that?  Yeah. Like I am a child of the 80s as well. I grew up as a latch key kid, but instead of having like, I was the older sister and so I made a lot of Hot Pockets, a lot of Hot Pockets, too many Hot Pockets. Can there be too many?  Yeah, there can be too many Hot Pockets, but yes. I remember, there was a time in my life. You bring up a couple of points like you're like, "Oh gen-xer's can start blogs." You can probably remember a time where a computer, like that was a pain in the butt. Like, I didn't-

Jen Wooster:                          13:03                       I didn't have a cell phone until I was 24.

Nicole S.:                                 13:05                       It was, and I remember being annoyed at having a cell phone. I was like, "What is this thing going to do for me? Nobody that I know has one." It was annoying. My mom used to have to beg me to take it and she, my mom is a baby boomer and she used to beg me to take it with me because she was afraid she couldn't get a hold of me. She was like ahead of me than I was and I'm like, "This thing is ridiculous."

                                                                                          I want to the Naval Academy and it's just one big old solid brick building, a stone building, so no signal gets through. So, I remember just hanging out of my window trying to use this dumb thing and I'm like, "Why can't you just a phone that's connected to the wall?"  Wow. Who knew, right?  So, yes, I remember when like you'd take a picture with your cell phone and I was like, "Why bother?"

                                                                                          My first camera was a camera with film. So, I think it's amazing that all of those pictures on your blogs, I just told you how colorful and beautiful I think it is, are taken with a cell phone. So, hear ye, all people who say, "I can't start a food blog because I don't have a fancy camera." Well, you've heard it from Jen, cell phone pictures, baby. That's the way of the future. Fun fact, I also don't have a fancy camera. All of the pictures you see on my Instagram are from my iPhone.

Jen Wooster:                          14:21                         Perfect. That's all you need.

Nicole S.:                                 14:23                        Yeah. I mean, after a while, you just ... The technology's getting so good that you don't .. I mean, I guess eventually, I just like gadgets so I've been trying to like convince my husband to like get me a camera, but that's because I want a gadget. That's not because I think I actually really need, if he hears this, he's never buying me a camera by the way. He's never going to get me one, but I just like new stuff. I just like gadgets, but yeah.

                                                                                          I mean, you can totally do it without a camera and I love ... I want to touch on something that you said. I love the fact that you're like, "Well, we had good jobs and we're used to controlling everything else." And this was frustrating to you that you couldn't control this aspect about your life. And ain't that-

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Nicole S.:                                 15:00                       ... to you that you couldn't control this aspect about your life and ain't that the truth? That's there's always just something that comes up that you can't ... You weren't expecting it, you weren't planning for it but this was your way to try to feel some sort of control out of something that quite, frankly, that's hard to deal with.

                                                                                          It's hard to find out one day you're not sick, and the next day you find out, oh, you're living with this disease and you have to change your life and there's a part of you that doesn't want to do that. So I think this is really inspiring that you decided, "Okay, I have to change, for not just me, but for my husband and we have to change together so this is gong to be our way that we try to wrap our heads around how to change our lives and deal with this new reality.

Jen Wooster:                          15:45                        Yeah, I think that you can't control everything that happens to you in life, or how people treat you, you can only control how you respond to it. I think it's something ... It's a skill that we develop in life as we get older and have new experiences.

                                                                                          That's kind of where the website name came with, Peel with Zeal. It was kind of like, "We're just going to dive in to all these vegetables with a good attitude and just go for it because that's how we ... This is how we're going to choose to respond to the situation."

Nicole S.:                                 16:14                         Yeah, I think that's really inspiring, I will say that. A good friend of mine, she also had celiac disease. And I can remember a time when I knew her before we knew she had it. And some of the things, that's why I was reading your blog, some of the things you were saying, it was always seems like you're grouchy or you're tired. You know something is wrong but you don't know what it is. You just think that's just how people feel. And the you're told you have this disease and you're like, "Oh my gosh, this makes sense for most of my life why I felt this way."

                                                                                          She describes a very similar feeling about before she knew she had celiac disease, she always feel bad, but she thought that's just how people felt. Then afterwards, she was able to kind of, at least, in a way that helped her to feel a lot better.

                                                                                          I think what I've learned as I've listened to people who've have gone into food blogging, is a lot of people do it, not because they think that they're going to become famous or make it to the level of the Pioneer Woman, they do it because it's this way to share this love that they have and how they're dealing with through life. It's just their lens of how they view life and how they can share this love and the way that they cope in this unique way.

                                                                                          So I love that you decided that you were going to attack it with zeal head on and be like, "Okay, I can't change this, but I'm going to start eating in a way that at least helps me to feel the best that I can.

Jen Wooster:                          17:41                         Absolutely. And I think attitude is 90% of it.

Nicole S.:                                 17:44                        Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yes and attitude on your blog is in spades, girl. I love it. So I want to talk about ... You said something else that I want to touch on. You said you didn't start ... you didn't go ... So I think what people see on your blog or whenever they see someone who has a healthy food blog, they think, oh, one day you found out you had celiac disease and by the next you were eating fistfuls of kale and not gluten. And that was that.

                                                                                          I want you to bring us back to when you first found out okay, and you're eating habits. How did you start to shift? You know, how did your transition period happen? And are you still in that transition period? What were those things that you did right from the get go to try to get yourself on this new track?

Jen Wooster:                          18:37                        So, when we went originally gluten free, that was a cold turkey. It was throw out the toaster, it's contaminated, go through the cabinets and anything that's opened is in the trash, donate the rest of the food. It has to be a full on you are totally gluten free if you have celiac.

                                                                                          That's was sort of a cold turkey but nothing else really changed. There's a lot of trial and error. What of the things, you know, I think ... Two things about being on a gluten free diet. One, the gluten free diet does not make you healthier. There are gluten free cookies and gluten free cake. It doesn't really ... I just reduces inflammation for people who are not celiac is kind of the common thing I've heard. Then obviously, if you are celiac, then there's other issues so that it assists with.

                                                                                          Going gluten free is one thing. When we went on the Wahls Protocol though, for those who are not familiar, it is very similar to a Paleo diet. But we can eat rice, legumes, just in limited quantities. And the big part of it is getting the nine to twelve cups of vegetables a day. I will say it is hard eat that many vegetables.

                                                                                          So what we did, is we just really focused on, there's all these other parts to it about eating wild game and you have to eat offal which is organ meat. Which, I'm not such a fan of. That's the part-

Nicole S.:                                 19:57                        It's liver y'all. She's talking about liver.

Jen Wooster:                          19:58                        We're still working on that. Going dairy free, things like that. No refined sugars. For us, the first thing is, the big thing is, get the vegetables. So we just started with okay, how are we going to get ... And it's divided into categories. Leafy greens, colorful vegetables, and then sulfur vegetables, which are like onions, mushrooms, garlic, and things like that.

                                                                                          We just kind of started and we just did one category at a time and when we felt like we were consistently getting that one, then we focused on the next one. We just did it incrementally and I would say it was much harder to go dairy free than gluten free.

                                                                                          Every day isn't perfect and I don't get the exact right amount every day, but over the course of time, we get closer and closer, so that's the goal. And eventually, I will somehow develop a love of organ meat. But for now, we don't eat that as much as we should. We're all a work in progress.

Nicole S.:                                 20:51                       I think that's important for people to hear. Even, you know, let's say you're listening out there and you're like, "Well, I don't have MS and I don't have celiac, so what's the deal?" But you do want to eat healthier. I think it's unrealistic, I mean for you, you had to be gluten free from day one because you're like, "This is how I'm going to not have stomach ache in three days. I want to stop feeling terrible."

                                                                                          But for everything else, I think it's important that people hear you say that, that it wasn't an overnight transformation. You did go from, and I don't want to say unhealthy, right? Because I don't ... I believe gets to feed their body in the way that they choose. But you went from a regular just not really thinking about maybe what you were eating, to a more thoughtful approach based on your diagnosis, but it wasn't an overnight thing for you going into the Wahls Protocol. It wasn't like, "Alright, back up the kale truck please. Yes get all of the cookies out and oh, by the way, you mean I can't eat all gluten free Oreo's and call it a day?"

                                                                                          I have this picture of myself if I had celiac disease just being like, "Just load up the gluten free Oreo's. Just bring them all into the house, I'm fine." That would not work. But I think that people saying to themselves, "Well, could never do this." You can, but you just have start somewhere. Don't expect to change everything overnight. You'll get there.

                                                                                          And I think you saying that Jen, it makes it easier for someone to think, "Well, I want to eat this way. I should eat this way, but I just feel like I could never give up dairy. Or I could never give up this." You will be surprised at what you can do if you go about it in a deliberate and thoughtful manner.

Jen Wooster:                          22:40                      You know, every meal is one choice. But it's just that, it's just one choice. I know on Thanksgiving, I'm beating mashed potatoes with butter and milk and I'm okay with that. I'm eating pumpkin pie on a gluten free crust with real sugar. And that's okay too. But I know the next day, I'm going to still have my green smoothie for breakfast. And my extra helping of green beans.

Nicole S.:                                 23:02                      Yes. That's a fantastic message and I think that's something that a lot of people need to hear. It's not that you're striving for perfection, you're just striving to make good choices.

Jen Wooster:                          23:12                        Yep and I think that's all we can do and don't beat yourself up. I mean, there are days that I'm like, the gluten free bakery is ... We're going to pay a visit. It's just going to happen. I've having one of those days. And I just don't feel bad about it.

Nicole S.:                                 23:26                       No, that's great advice. Tell me ... I want to shift over into your blog, because I can't not wait to talk about it anymore. Alright, I want to know, what are some of the popular recipes on your blog?

Jen Wooster:                          23:38                       This is somewhat embarrassing about my cooking skills, my most popular single recipe is our Peanut Butter Pup Cakes. So they're cupcakes for your dogs. By far.

Nicole S.:                                 23:53                       I don't care about that. Do you know that I thought that was for humans and it sounded amazing?

Jen Wooster:                          23:57                       No, the pup cakes, they're little ... I made a birthday cupcake for my dog, Fritz. And I was like, "Oh, this is really cute." I took a couple photos and put the recipe up and it is by far, the most popular.

Nicole S.:                                 24:09                      Well, okay, because there are a lot of people out there who have dogs. So let's walk through this recipe. Can you go into it a little bit. Hey dog lovers, if you want to make a cool cake for your dog, listen up, this is for you. So walk just through this recipe.

Jen Wooster:                          24:23                       Okay. Dogs love peanut butter as we all know. So it is a peanut butter cupcake. You make it just like you make regular pupcake, regular cupcake. We used a gluten free flour blend, but you can use a plain, brown rice flour. We use pumpkin puree because pumpkin is really great for dogs. Then it's they typical egg, a little baking soda, a little vegetable oil, peanut butter, throw it in a cupcake pan and bake it just like you would any regular cupcake.

                                                                                          Then you can do a ... There's a dog safe frosting you can do. It's Greek yogurt and peanut butter mixed together that you can put on top. It's totally optional. However fancy your dog is, you decide. So it's really-

Nicole S.:                                 25:05                      Well, I couldn't [inaudible 00:25:05] these pupcakes.

Jen Wooster:                          25:07                       And they are human safe, so you can absolutely ... We have some pupscicles also. So they're watermelon and carrot juice and I actually think they're delicious. I make them for the dogs in the summer, but I actually put them in a glass with some club soda. It's a super refreshing drink.

Nicole S.:                                 25:27                       Both of those things sound like things I would eat.

Jen Wooster:                          25:31                        So yeah, my dog-

Nicole S.:                                 25:32                       Is that terrible? That the pupcake made me jealous? I'm like, "Why is the dog getting this?"

Jen Wooster:                          25:37                       And I would say the most popular human recipes is I have a post about seven healthy, no-cook sauces. So they all take less than five minutes. They're mainly in the blender. Some them require a little bit of chopping and you can put them on grilled fish, chicken, steaks, vegetables. You can throw it on pasta. They're completely versatile.

                                                                                          There's a no-cook cook, a tampenade. I did a Paleo version of a Thai peanut sauce, an avocado sauce. Those are all extremely popular because I think it's something adds a lot of flavor, takes no time, the ingredients are really common and it makes ... You're like, "Ugh, I don't know what to make for dinner and I have this chicken." Just grill the chicken and throw it on and you're good to go.

Nicole S.:                                 26:25                       Alright, we're going to talk about this Paleo peanut sauce. Can you walk us through that? Well, because first, I love a peanut sauce. I love anything related to Thai food. Thai food is one of my favorites and anytime someone has a peanut sauce recipe, I want to try it because you can put that on everything. Like a peanut sauce taco, girl, shoot. You didn't even told about it. Tell me about this. What makes it Paleo? Is it almonds? I think I saw that it was almonds, but I want you to walk us through that recipe.

Jen Wooster:                          26:53                       Okay, so fun fact, Thai food is prominently gluten free. So if you're having someone over for dinner and they have a gluten allergy, Thai food is the way to go.

Nicole S.:                                 27:02                       Oh, good.

Jen Wooster:                          27:04                       So that's first. So this is, you can absolutely use peanut butter and make it just a regular Thai peanut sauce, but to make it Paleo, we just subbed almond butter for the peanut butter and you have to use tamari for soy sauce. Another fun fact, soy sauce, it's not made of soy. It's made of wheat and therefore, not gluten free.

                                                                                          So if you use tamari, that is ... alls it is, it's right next to the soy sauce at every grocery store and alls it is, is a 100% soy, soy sauce. But they have to call it some different because it's very confusing like kind of soy sauce, actual soy sauce.

Nicole S.:                                 27:41                        That's good to know.

Jen Wooster:                          27:43                       Really just ... A peanut sauce is so ... Thai peanut sauce is so easy. It's peanut butter, it's soy, ginger, garlic, some crushed red pepper if you like it spicy, a lime and some rice vinegar. And if you don't have rice vinegar, use a cider vinegar, use a champagne vinegar. You just need some acid, it really doesn't have to be rice vinegar. Then you just-

Nicole S.:                                 28:03                      Okay. Great. What have you used this on?

Jen Wooster:                          28:07                       I use this all the time as a dip. So I just dip carrots into it because it's so good. I use it on zucchini noodles to do kind of like a Thai noodle dish. Then my favorite thing I use it for, also on the blog, is our Paleo Swimming Rama. I know some people who call it Rama Thai.

                                                                                          This is my fake out the take out dish. I don't have time to cook. I don't want to get take out. It's a rotisserie chicken, a bag of frozen broccoli, a bag of pre washed spinach our peanut sauce. And you just throw it all together. It comes together in the time that it takes you to just reheat the broccoli.

Nicole S.:                                 28:47                       Also, shout out to rotisserie chicken. It's like, if you don't have time to cook, or you're just tired, you have a rotisserie chicken in your fridge, you got a meal. You've got a really quick meal. I am not ashamed that I buy a rotisserie chicken every other week. Because it's helpful. It's easy and you can do so many things to make that chicken better.

Jen Wooster:                          29:09                      Absolutely. Our grocery store, has one, it's just a naked chicken. There's nothing on it but salt. So if you have any allergies or things like that, it's totally perfect for that. It doesn't have any flavors on it. So you can kind of use it for whatever you want. Throw it in soups, make it into tacos, eat it plain. It's just versatile.

                                                                                          I think that people think that when you're eating healthy, that means that you have to make everything from scratch. And that is so not true. I will never, ever, ever again rice cauliflower. I did it one time. It makes such a mess, it's a giant pain, you have to clean the food processor. And I calculated, it's somewhere between 25 and 50 cents more a serving, just to buy it pre-riced. We eat rice cauliflower like three times a week. I will ... I absolutely refuse. That is not happening in our house.

Nicole S.:                                 30:01                       I love that you're like, "No. I draw-"

PART 2 OF 3 ENDS [00:30:04]

Nicole S.:                                 30:00                     I love that you're like, "No. I draw the line, and it's ricing my own cauliflower."

Jen Wooster:                          30:07                      I'm, like, the only food blogger who does not own a spiralizer. We eat zucchini and sweet potato noodles, cucumber noodles, all the time ... no. That's also not happening in our house.

Nicole S.:                                 30:19                       But you're getting the meals that you want done, you know? I always say, first of all, if you ever scroll through Instagram and you're seeing a food blogger, and they've put this beautiful meal up there, do not be fooled. That was hours and hours of painstaking work of them just futzing with it, and making it right.

                                                                                          Even food bloggers want shortcuts, because at the end of the day, you wanna get dinner on the table. When you're doing pictures and stuff like that, it's like when you see people and they've got that family ... just imagine it's you and your husband, and you've got the dogs, and you're all dressed up, and you look great for your Christmas photos, and they seem really nonchalant, but actually, it's probably taken you hours to get that one shot. Same thing, except for food.

                                                                                          So it's okay to use shortcuts, and Jen is not about to rice her own cauliflower, y'all.

Jen Wooster:                          31:16                         Absolutely not.

Nicole S.:                                 31:20                       Okay. Tell me, of all those recipes that you have, what's the one recipe that you recommend people try if they're just getting started with the Wahls Protocol?

Jen Wooster:                          31:32                        You know, I do think that any of the sauces, just because you do have to eat so many veggies, and you do wanna jazz them up and make them taste better. And then, I would say, there's probably two that I really love as full meals.

                                                                                          One is the charred cauliflower steaks with curry sauce. It's just taking a cauliflower, slicing it into giant pieces, and grilling it, and you can have that as a side dish or a main course, and I just think it's bright and colorful and has a lot of flavor, but it's really simple to make.

                                                                                          And then for lunches ... you know, you have to take your lunch every day. That's just kind of part of this diet. It's really hard to eat out every day for lunch on the Wahls Protocol ... I really love our spicy Thai pumpkin soup, 'cause again, Thai food, yummy. And you get a lot of bone broth that way, and a good amount of veggies.

                                                                                          So those are the two that I probably think ... They look really beautiful, and you'll feel very accomplished when you cook it, because they're simple to make, and it comes out spectacular-looking, and you're like, "Wow, I did that, and that was not hard!" Build some confidence!

Nicole S.:                                 32:34                       No, that sounds—

Jen Wooster:                          32:34                       Build some confidence!

Nicole S.:                                 32:36                       No, that sounds really good, and the reason I asked that is, I hope that people have found this podcast, and have found it inspiring, and also funny, and also that they've found something delicious that they would otherwise not be inspired to cook, because they've heard you talk about it. This is a person who's a food blogger, who is a self-proclaimed person ... it's not that you don't like to cook, but you are self-proclaimed, like, you are not a gourmet chef.

                                                                                          I mean, your pictures look doggone gourmet. They are very beautiful pictures, and you are someone, yourself, who is like, "Okay, I learned to cook later in life," but I think when people hear you recommend recipes they should try, that it inspires them to want to try to do this as well, and to say, "Well, I have a disease that could use help from maybe how I eat," or maybe they're just trying to eat healthier, but it feels so daunting, and so hearing you say that ... you know, that it's easy to make, that you can get more vegetables, that this is a great started recipe ... I mean, I'm gonna try it.

                                                                                          That sounds good, and I'm a person who's ... I didn't come from a family who was, I would say, super good cooks, but they always tried to teach me at least to feed myself. That was always something they always put into me, but this just sounds so good. If I was a person who didn't love vegetables already, I would definitely be inspired by your blog to try to eat more vegetables, 'cause it just looks too good not to try it, you know what I mean?

Jen Wooster:                          34:14                        Oh, thank you! I appreciate [crosstalk 00:34:16]

Nicole S.:                                 34:16                        Yeah. Well, it just does.

                                                                                          What would you say is your husband's favorite recipe on the blog?

Jen Wooster:                          34:22                       Well he created the roasted cranberries, so I know he loves that one. And then I would say, probably the wild cauliflower rice pilaf with grapes. What it is is actual wild rice, cooked rice, mixed with cauliflower rice, and then it's kind of turned into a pilaf with some grapes and parsley. Not real fancy, but it looks pretty.

                                                                                          We always think that you have to be totally low-carb, and that's not really true. I do 50/50 rice and cauliflower all the time, and I like it with the wild rice, just 'cause I think wild rice has a better texture and a little bit more interesting flavor, and it contrasts really well with the cauliflower rice, so he definitely likes that one quite a bit.

Nicole S.:                                 35:04                      Okay, great. That sounds really yummy. And you can use that as either a main course or a side, or ... wow.

Jen Wooster:                          35:11                         Yeah, we typically use it as a side. I like it with just a steak, 'cause it kinda comes together really quickly. You grill the steak, maybe steam some green beans, and you're good to go. Quick meal.

Nicole S.:                                 35:21                        That sounds really good.

                                                                                          And you know, you mentioned there you could have green beans, and you can have half rice, half cauliflower rice. You say on your blog, it used to be that you thought of a meal as a starch, a veggie, and a meat, and now you just think of it as a meat and two veggies, albeit one might be more complicated than the other.

                                                                                          When you say "more complicated," do you just mean, like, maybe one's steamed veggies, and the other one's, like ... there's maybe three or four more steps to it? Can you talk to us about that?

Jen Wooster:                          35:51                        Yeah, absolutely.

                                                                                          I typically ... one, I don't like doing dishes, so ... this is also, as I'm thinking about what I'm making for dinner, it's how many dishes do I have to clean, and so typically we will do either a roasted or a steamed vegetable ... really easy clean-up ... and then the other one might have a saute at the end with a sauce, or some extra herbs, versus the steamed veggies, I'm just gonna squeeze on some lemon juice and some salt and call it a day. Because there's only so much time, and the more complicated dishes, recipes, take more ... there's not just more time to make it, but there's more time to clean up, as well, and I'd rather be spending time doing something else. So that's kind of just how I think about it in my head, is, "Okay, I need something quick and simple, and then I'll spend some time making something a little bit more flavorful to go with it."

Nicole S.:                                 36:45                       That sounds good. And also, I like the fact that you're thinking in terms of, how many dishes is this gonna take? 'Cause I think that's another thing, you don't need to dirty 5500 dishes ... although if you ask my husband, he will tell you that I try to dirty every dish in the house, because we have this deal where I cook and he cleans, and so he's like, "I think you're purposely just dropping stuff in the dishes just so I have to wash every dish in the house." I'm like, "That's not true!" Maybe it's a little true, but it's not true!

                                                                                          So I think that's another reason why people don't wanna cook, is that they don't want to dirty 1000 dishes and then ... you know, 'cause it's like ... my mom used to be like, "Ugh, all that work for five minutes, and then now I have 1000 hours of dishes to do. Not worth it." But that's neat that you're thinking about that, so that when people go to your recipes, they can also know that Jen also does not like to do dishes, nor does she have her own personal, private dishwasher, a.k.a. maybe her husband. She's thinking about how many dishes that she has to clean as well.

                                                                                          So yet another reason why it would be cool to try some of your recipes.

                                                                                          All right, Jen, well, I've been talking your ear off for quite a long time. I wanna ask you. What is that one tip that you can give to that home cook out there to make their meals more delicious today?

Jen Wooster:                          38:02                      I think that when you are looking at a recipe, or when you're gonna try to cook off recipes ... so you're gonna make something from scratch, on your own, no recipe ... remember that all recipes need three things: salt, fat, and acid. If a recipe has that, you know it's gonna be good.

                                                                                          So, salt is salt. Fat can be bacon fat, olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, but something to help ... whether it's meat or vegetables ... brown and give them kind of a supple texture. And then acid really always balances out a dish. That can be any type of vinegar, citrus, wine. If you see those three things in a recipe, or if you're cooking from scratch and you have those three things, you're gonna be on the right track.

Nicole S.:                                 38:46                       Girl! You spoke to my heart. That is a great tip. She is exactly right! Salt, fat, and acid. Yes. Yes. I'm 100% with you on that. That makes any recipe taste good. Wow. Wow.

                                                                                          Well Jen, you have been such a pleasure to talk to. Where can people find you on the internet?

Jen Wooster:                          39:06                      I am at ... that's P-E-E-L with zeal, Z-E-A-L, and I am on the same handle as on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. Peel with zeal.

Nicole S.:                                 39:20                      Peel with zeal, y'all.

                                                                                          Jen, I have had such a great time talking to you. Not only that, you've inspired me. One, because I don't need a gadget to take really beautiful food photos. Two, because you are somehow trying to fit nine cups of veggies and fruits into your diet a day, which you should be knighted with sainthood. And three, that you are a person who did not come out of the womb learning how to be a gourmet cook, but your meals, and your recipes, feel and sound, and probably taste like they could be gourmet.

                                                                                          So thank you for sharing your knowledge with us, and say hello to Mr. Peel for us.

Jen Wooster:                          40:01                       I will. Thank you for having me, and I'm so glad the dogs did not bark the entire time.

Nicole S.:                                 40:07                      I know, although it would've been okay, because they would've been barking for those pupcakes, and I am now going to maybe go make myself a pupcake, too. No judge, #nojudge. Bye.

                                                                                          Okay, so you've just finished hearing me talk with Jen from Peel with Zeal. She was such a delight to chat with, and I learned so much from her. First, she really inspired me to do more to add vegetables into my daily diet, and I love the fact that she was not only committed to working on her health issue, she's doing it in a really fun and delicious way.

                                                                                          So I'll be honest, I like vegetables, and this January I even did a month of going vegetarian, because I wanted to learn how to add more vegetables, and a variety of foods, into my weekly meal rotation. I had kinda gotten into a slump, and I would see all these beautiful vegetables at Whole Foods and I just would feel a little bit intimidated, actually, about trying to figure out how I could use them, so I challenged myself to try to use more vegetables in my diet.

                                                                                          And I'll tell you that I did eat a lot of vegetables in January, but I still sort of slumped off, 'cause you kind of fall back into your normal meal rotation of things you know how to make, that are easy, but I do want to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, not only 'cause I think they're good for you, but they taste good, and I'm missing out on a lot of different flavors by not incorporating those things into my life.

                                                                                          You know, maybe you want to add more fruits and vegetables into your weekly meals, too, and the fact is, you can make it a gradual life change, just like Jen said. Maybe you're trying to increase the quality of your dietary choices, and if so, don't expect to change everything overnight. Just take it slow. Incorporate things over time, and use shortcuts.

                                                                                          I cannot tell you how much I love the fact that Jen talked about not wanting to rice her own cauliflower. She's right. I've done it, it's a pain in the butt. Cauliflower goes everywhere. You've gotta clean the food processor. Sometimes you have to rice it two or three batches. It's a lot.

                                                                                          I had a friend who never bought a butternut squash because she was intimidated about cutting it up. She was just afraid that she would cut herself, she didn't know how to tackle that butternut squash. So if buying pre-cut veggies is the way that's going to get you to eat more of them, then do it. Don't hesitate. Even if it's a dollar more, just think, you're investing in yourself, and you're cooking good meals for yourself, and there is such a satisfying feeling that comes from nourishing your body.

                                                                                          And look, if you don't have a clue of where to start ... you're like, "Yeah, I do wanna put more fruits and veggies in my diet, Nicole, but I don't know what recipes to start." Start with Jen's blog. Her approach is really simple. You would think that it's really complicated, but it's not. She tries to take the simplest route possible, because she understands you don't want a bunch of dirty dishes, you don't want to destroy the kitchen, and she, too, is into using shortcuts of how to fit this new way of eating into your busy life.

                                                                                          So I'll put a link in the show notes to where you can find out more about the Wahls Protocol, if that's something that interests you. I'm also linking to her sister's health coaching site, Purpose and Plenty. She mentioned that, and I just wanna give a shout-out to her sister for being a good health coach.

                                                                                          And finally, I wanna remind you about the Facebook group. There's some extra things in there that I share only in the group, and it's a great place if you wanna connect with me. I do answer all of the comments. You'll see me talking to folks in there. If you ask me for advice, or you need a recipe, I'll happily go find that for you. I try to give extra tips, and put all sorts of food information and things that I find on the internet there. It's just a place where, if you wanna hang out and chat some more, that's a great place to connect with me.

                                                                                          If you like this podcast, please consider giving me a review. Those reviews really help the podcast be found by other people who also wanna listen to me figure out, "What the heck am I gonna do with some Okinawan sweet potatoes. I recently just got them, I'm ashamed that I have not cooked them yet. I want to do more than just mash them up, although they are beautiful, so yeah. My struggle is real this week on that.

                                                                                          All right, so, until next week, this is BFF With The Chef, wishing that you have a great week, and hoping that you've been inspired to go and make something delicious.