12 Feb Inside the Fridge welcomes avocado advocate Rachael Hartley
I’m not vegan, but I’d be willing to go there for Rachael Hartley’s Sexy Strawberry Vegan Milkshakes. Her photos and recipes over at Avocado A Day are mouthwatering..take a look and you’ll see what I mean. As a private practice dietitian and food/wellness blogger from Columbia, SC, Rachael helps her clients optimize their health and wellbeing with a whole foods based approach to nutrition. She also collaborates with ethical, health-minded companies and brands for recipe development and communication. Oh…and she does LOVE avocados!
Where do you shop for food?
I can be found at Trader Joe’s at least three times a week. I consider the day TJs opened in Columbia one of the happiest days of my life, just slightly behind my wedding day. Kidding…kinda. Earth Fare is right down the street from me, so I’ll go either there or to Whole Foods for the bulk section and items I can’t find at TJs. I also shop regularly at our local farmers market and a small local health food store for seasonal produce and meat, cheese, and other animal foods.
Do you love food shopping or dread it? Why?
LOVE it! Or at least, now that I work for myself and can strategically go in the middle of a Monday. The weekend crowds stress me out!
What is the single most important thing on your mind when you are shopping for food?
Ohh, that’s a hard one. I think about many things when I’m grocery shopping. How long is the ingredients list? Was it produced fairly sustainably? Is it budget friendly? But first and foremost, I think about taste. I’m of the firm belief that you should love every bite of food. A food can be the panacea of health, but if I don’t enjoy it, I won’t buy it.
How often do you shop?
Usually three times a week, not counting our weekend trip to the farmers market. I would LOVE to shop just once a week. But I inevitably forget a few items and my husband inevitably eats something I was planning to cook dinner with.
How many do you shop for? Ages?
Me and Scott, my husband. But it’s hard to not count our two big, fluffy dogs – Savannah, a Bernese Mountain Dog, and Charleston, a Saint Bernard. Their food budget is pretty close to ours!
What is your weekly food budget?
It varies from week to week, but usually about $75. I try my best to spend as little as possible without compromising nutrition. That means eating mostly vegetarian/vegan and not buying things we don’t need.
How many times a week do you eat out?
We usually go out to eat with friends once a week. The rest of the time we eat homecooked meals or leftovers. Unless I’ve had a rough day, then it’s takeout Vietnamese (and a bottle of wine ).
How do you plan your weekly meals? Create a spreadsheet or fly by the seat of your pants?
I’m absolutely a planner. First, I look through the fridge and pantry to see what needs to be used. Then, I grab some cookbooks for ideas. I keep my cookbooks stored in order, so I grab whichever is next in rotation. Kind of weird, but it also keeps inspiration fresh. Then I’ll plop down in front of the TV, since I use meal planning time as an excuse to watch really trashy reality shows, and I’ll tag any recipe that speaks to me. I plan about 4-5 recipes a week. Between going out to eat and leftovers, it carries us through.
What is the most coveted food in the fridge right now for each member of the household? Why?
For me, cheese, my absolute favorite food! When I make something with cheese, I’ll hide the leftovers in the back of the fridge so Scott doesn’t eat it. Shh, don’t tell! For Scott, he’s all about nut butter. I bought a new jar, went out of town for a few days, and came back to find not even enough to make a sandwich!
What is the oldest item in the fridge right now? Be honest..it’s okay. I just ate ¾ of something that expired last year.
Well, I just opened my fridge to answer that question and discovered a jar of harissa hidden in the back with a very interesting mold growing on it. So, um, that.
Do you believe in leftovers?
Yes! I should receive an honorary degree in leftovers. I always eat leftovers from last night’s dinner for lunch and try to cook at least one meal a week I can stretch a little further, like soup or chili.
What convenience product can you not live without?
Boxed broths. I know homemade tastes so much better, but the boxed stuff is so convenient.
What brands do you swear by? Why?
Living in South Carolina, there are so many great local producers in our city! Anson Mills is one of my favorites. They’ve become relatively famous for heirloom Southern grains. I have a borderline obsession with their blue corn grits – it’s worth ordering a big batch online!
What cooking utensil/piece of equipment/appliance do you live for?
A good knife, since I chop veggies for every meal. We received a few Wusthof knives as wedding gifts and I just adore them. They’re beautiful, functional and well made.
When you hear the word “homemade” what is the first thing that comes to mind?
I think homemade food is nourishing to the body and soul. By limiting processed foods, cooking a homemade meal practically guarantees your meal will be healthy. Not only that, but the simple act of creating something delicious to share with your family (or savor on your own!) is beneficial to your body in other ways as well. It uses creativity and requires at least partial mindfulness, which builds brain strength. Cooking builds self esteem and confidence. Plus, it gets you up and moving!
What food/s are important when recalling food memories?
Most of my favorite memories involve food! I’m lucky that my parents exposed me to new flavors and cuisines from an early age. I lived in New York City until I was seven, so I’ll always have a soft spot for a good everything bagel and lox and authentic Chinese food. We also did a lot of traveling overseas and I’ll never forget my first cheese plate in France. To this day, cheese is my absolute favorite food!
How have your cooking/shopping habits changed over the last 10 years?
I was a junior in college 10 years ago, so no more ramen noodles for one. I actually did a decent amount of cooking when I was in college – my roommates will never forget my failed attempt at homemade sweet potato gnocchi! Since college, I’ve definitely shifted away from a focus on the Nutrition Facts and towards the ingredients list, seasonality and locality when grocery shopping.
What are your go to food/nutrition/culinary/cooking website, book or cookbook?
I’m a huge fan of Mark Bittman’s cookbooks. I even have a signed copy of How to Cook Everything! Each book is filled with thousands of recipes, if you count the ideas for adapting each recipe. His recipes are simple, delicious and easy to follow. I consider his cookbooks a modern day Joy of Cooking!
What was the last meal you cooked from scratch? What was the menu?
I made a Southern veggie bowl inspired by a favorite meal from Tupelo Honey in Asheville, NC. I whipped up a batch of goat cheese grits, topped it with braised greens, black-eyed peas, roasted sweet potato and salsa verde.
What was the last meal you cooked from convenience products? What was the menu?
When I don’t have time to cook, I’ll heat up a frozen meal from Trader Joe’s or the pre-made Indian food they sell in the Asian food aisle.
If one person could cook for you tonight, who would it be ?
Anthony Bourdain, mainly because I have a weird celebrity crush on him!
What words of wisdom or advice do you have for other folks who are doing their best every day to fill the fridge?
Plan, plan, plan! If you plan to cook a nutritious meal, you’ll eat a nutritious meal. Planning is the most effective way to turn your cooking and nutrition goals into reality.
What are you working on these days that you’d like to tell us about?
After a busy few months relaunching my blog, I’m not jumping into any big projects immediately. But, I have been working on some collaborations here in Columbia and working with some fellow RD friends to release an e-cookbook.