The holidays are here, which usually means nummy but not-so-good for us foods. But…why does tasty have to equal bad for our health? Acclaimed author, chef, TV personality and journalist, Christianne Klein, penned Christianne’s Herbal Kitchen: Fresh Herbs for the Body and Soul ($16.05 on Amazon.com) not only as a recipe book focusing on flavorful, healthy, herb-filled foods, but also as a guide to which herbs can be used as beauty treatments and more. See her story and buy her cookbook for someone this season (or yourself!).
Who taught you how to cook?
I’ve had some amazing cooking experiences and education over the years. I was lucky enough to cook alongside chef Emeril Lagasse on an episode of his show, Emeril Green. That was definitely a highlight. But the real credit goes to my mother and grandmother. If I was getting good grades, my mom would let me sneak out of school a few times a year to attend cooking events, classes and demonstrations.
When did you realize you loved it?
The first time I prepared Bananas Foster. I was 12 years old; cooking with my mother and I knew that the recipe called for a flame to burn off the alcohol. It was so exciting in the kitchen—we were able to cook something delicious, share an incredible experience and participate in a small pyrotechnic show! I can still remember the amazing sweet smell and taste the rum and brown sugar caramelized bananas.
How did the idea for Christianne’s Herbal Kitchen: Fresh Herb Recipes for the Body and Soul come about?
I started growing and cooking with herbs regularly as a teenager. Over the years, I began including herbs in my beauty treatments, facial scrubs and serums. Friends and TV viewers were constantly asking for my recipes, and the cookbook grew organically from that small seed.
This is so much more than a regular cookbook—it’s a lifestyle cookbook filled with tips, ideas and information…including the history of certain herbs and even beauty tips! To me, there is very little difference between cooking with herbs and healthy ingredients to nourish the inside of your body, and using them as a beauty treatment for the outside of your body—for your skin. You can drink fresh mint tea to help detoxify your body on the inside or chill it down and use it as a facial toner on the outside. The properties are the same; it’s just how you use the herbs and natural ingredients. Once you realize that, you open up to a whole new world of lifestyle possibilities.
What was the experience of creating your own cookbook and recipes like, and where does your inspiration come from?
It’s been one of the best experiences of my life. I’ve had so many people tell me how much their family and friends loved the meal they cooked for them with my recipes. One well-known weight loss cookbook reviewer wrote, “I love, love, love this cookbook” and I couldn’t stop smiling for an hour.
My inspiration always comes from the herbs and fresh ingredients and my appetite. I have a spoon test where I take fresh herbs and different ingredients and go down the list combining flavors until I hit the jackpot. This is how I developed my Sangria Granita with Candied Orange and Mint, my Steak with Rosemary-Thyme Cabernet Peppercorn Sauce, and my Broiled Salmon with Mint, Mango and Jalapeno Salsa.
I believe recipes should be incredibly delicious and easy to prepare. When I’m working with the ingredients as a beauty treatment, my inspiration is always my skin and my needs.
What is the number one ingredient that you couldn’t live/cook without?
Tough question. It really depends on what I’m cooking or creating. For appetizers, I couldn’t live without fresh basil. For entrees, I love rosemary and homemade chicken broth. You can make a variety of amazing low-fat and low-calorie sauces with homemade chicken broth.
Some of my other favorite ingredients include mint (for desserts, salads and cocktails) and for natural beauty treatments: lemon, mint, grapeseed oil and honey.
If you could change one thing about the way Americans eat, what would it be?
I would love to increase awareness about ingredients. Many Americans focus on fat and calories. Meanwhile, other important aspects of healthy living; including immune-boosting foods and nutrients, are lost. There are actual ingredients that can affect your mood to make you happy or have a depressive effect.
If you know about the nutrients and health properties of your ingredients, you can create a meal that can help you prevent a cold or actually make you happier.
GIRL TALK TIME: What do you think of Christianne’s job? How do you cook healthfully? What job would you like to see here next?