We caught up with Jo Whitton from Quirky Cooking this month for a cup of chai. In our interview with Jo you can read about how changing her family’s eating radically changed their energy levels. She also shares her favourite recipe with us and gives us a sneak peek from her upcoming new cookbook.
What is Quirky Cooking all about and how did it start?
Quirky Cooking began as an allergy-friendly food blog in 2008 - a place to share the recipes I was developing for my family, as we worked through changing to healthier eating, and coped with food intolerances. As time went on, it became more than just a blog - it became a community for those needing help with adjusting to a new way of eating, a vibrant support group on Facebook, a Thermomix cookbook, and classes to teach how to cook this way. In the last couple of years the focus has changed from just healthy, allergy-friendly recipes and coping with intolerances, to having a healthy lifestyle, healing the gut, and moving on beyond just avoiding foods! There is now a "Quirky Cooking for Gut Health" online program and support group, "A Quirky Journey" podcast, and a new cookbook called "Life-Changing Food" coming out soon to help with improving gut health.
How has changing your diet changed your life?
Over the years my health has slowly improved as we've worked on the way that we eat; but the biggest changes came in the last couple of years when we worked through the GAPS protocol as a family. My health and energy levels are so much better than they have ever been, even when I was a child. And of course it has also changed the direction of my blog and business, as I want to share these benefits with my readers.
I read about how profound food has been in healing your son's health issues. Can you share with us a little about Isaac's journey?
Isaac has always struggled with food intolerances and being a very 'sensitive' child. We've had ups and downs with him, and always found that pulling back on the diet helped when he was struggling. But it was difficult to keep a tight rein on the diet as he got older, due to him being out and about more, and he often had foods that really didn't agree with him. Two and a half years ago, when Isaac was 13, he suddenly plunged into terrible anxiety and phobias. We had no idea what was going on, and I could only hold him while he cried, and try to talk and pray him through it. It got so bad he couldn't feed or dress himself, he wasn't sleeping much, he didn't want to go out, and none of us were coping. With the help of the doctor we worked out he had severe OCD, and he was put onto medication. I wasn't happy to have him on meds, and immediately began looking for natural alternatives - especially ways to help him heal with diet. We decided to begin the GAPS protocol to heal the gut, as the brain is very much affected by gut health. After a few weeks we saw improvements, and within six months he was so well that the doctor was astounded at the changes. Within a year he was off all medications and speaking in front of hundreds of people telling them his story. He has to stay very careful with his diet, as inflammation can cause the anxiety to flare; but he's so much better now and eager to share his story with other young people to give them hope for healing from anxiety and OCD, as it's a very lonely and frightening thing to go through.
What is your favourite family recipe at the moment?
Meatza would have to be one of the kids' biggest favourites - using mince with onion and garlic for the 'pizza' base (pressed thin and pre-baked) with lots of toppings like tomato pizza sauce (homemade), herbs, roasted pumpkin cubes, pineapple, bacon, grated zucchini, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, egg, and cheese.
What is your advice to others trying to change their eating habits?
Begin with removing processed foods and get back to the basics. When you go shopping, buy real food (organic or pesticide free where possible) - veggies, fruit, nuts, seeds, pastured meats and wild-caught fish, lots of leafy greens, bones for broths, butter, ghee, olive oil, herbs, spices... and just cook from scratch. Old fashioned slow-cooked comfort food meals are nourishing and easy to make, and really simplify your cooking. Forget the baking for a while, just have some yoghurt and fruit and nuts and simple things for snacks, and stick to basic main meals. You'll be amazed at how easy it is to cook that way, how good you feel, and how delicious the food is - we tend to overcomplicate our food and it's not always the best for our health. When we pulled back on the foods we ate and completely simplified our diet, our health improved amazingly, and it was a lot less stress because the food is easy to make - not a lot of fussing around in the kitchen.
Life Changing Food, your new book, will be released in March next year. Can you share with us what we can be cooking from it?
Our book has over 120 gluten free, wholefoods recipes, with most being grain free and suitable for Paleo and/or GAPS diets. Diet variations include dairy free, nut free, egg free and vegetarian recipes. Recipes have both Thermomix and conventional methods.
Here's a few of our faves from the book:
- Hazelnut Tabouli
- Rose & Coconut Cassava Cake
- Eggplant Parmigiana
- Pork & Fennel Sausage Rolls
- Chilli Bowl (both veg and meat versions)
- Creamy Chicken Strips with Veggie Noodles & Crispy Chicken Skin
- Slow Cooked Lamb with Red Wine Sauce
- Sweet Potato Mousse
How can we find out more about you?
You can also pre-order Jo’s new cookbook here: www.quirkycooking.com.au/preorder
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