Hello and thanks for stopping by to check out The Good Cooks Academy blog.
If we haven't met, I'm Ken Haedrich and I've been cooking and writing about food for virtually my entire adult life. I wouldn't have it any other way.
Going back to the late 1970's, the tally is something like 17 cookbooks, several hundred magazine articles, another hundred blog posts on my other website, ThePieAcademy.com, where - lest you have any doubt - I post pie recipes (sweet and savory), pie advice, and pie making videos.
The Pie Academy continues to grow and prosper; I hope you'll join us. But over the past several years I've had an itch to develop a second creative outlet devoted to the way I cook and eat when I'm not eating pie, which, let's face it, a fellow can only do so much of.
This blog - The Good Cooks Academy - is that outlet. I'll use it to chronicle my day-to-day cooking, which can best be described as delectable, wholesome, and mostly plant-based.
My hope is that you'll find it to be a helpful resource - a place to acquire and hone cooking skills, broaden your horizons, find inspiration, and have a little fun while you're at it.
I'm aware that, for some, the phrase "plant-based diet" might conjure up visions of denial and deprivation, banishment to the produce aisle, or a lonely pile of cocktail carrots on one's dinner plate.
It fact, it's none of those things, at least not on this website.
When I speak of a plant-based diet, I simply mean a decided preference for, and celebration of, fresh vegetables and fruit, whole grains like bulgur, quinoa, brown rice and barley, and legumes (bean cuisine, if you will).
For a variety of health, ethical, and environmental concerns, my wife and I eat much less meat than we once did, but it still makes an appearance at our table several times a month. Same for fish.
This approach to eating - an inclusive, common sense diet with clear benefits for one's health and creative expression in the kitchen - is a rapidly growing movement not just here but around the globe.
And I'm convinced that it saved my life.
Prior to 2016 I was doing a bang-up job of pretending I was immortal.
There was a time, as a young man, when I'd paid better attention to such things. But years of dietary negligence had dulled my awareness and blurred the connection between how I ate, and the way I felt and looked. I ate what I wanted, when I wanted, and gave little thought to the consequences.
If you think it's rather odd that someone who'd been a cook and food writer for 40 years didn't exercise better judgement, so do I. It pains me to say so, but I must have somehow convinced myself that I was entitled to professional immunity: it was up to others to eat wisely. I could eat the way I pleased.
That nonsense came crashing down on me one gorgeous morning in August of 2016 when I felt a sharp cramp between my ribs.
Soon, I started to feel nauseous and dizzy. A minute later I was flat on the floor, struggling to get a breath, an elephant sitting on my chest. I knew it was a heart attack; only later would I discover it was the sort - they call it a widowmaker - that fewer than one in ten survive.
As I lay in my hospital bed recuperating from surgery, I was in a state of shock and disbelief. I felt devastated, severely depressed by my fragile condition and the abruptness at which my life had taken a near tragic turn.
It was there, hooked up to beeping monitors and oxygen tubes, that I made a vow to unstick my head from the sand. Right then I started taking stock of my life and the choices that found me in this hospital bed, and I resolved to get on the path to good health.
I also vowed that I would use whatever skills I might have as a cook, writer, and teacher to help others get healthy too, and avoid the sort of crushing run in with sickness and disease that had befallen me.
The Coronavirus pandemic - and the fact that those who are compromised by illness or disease have been hit hardest - has only added more urgency to the promises I made back then.
My own story had a happy ending: today I'm 50 pounds lighter than I was four years ago. I get plenty of exercise, and feel better than I have in decades. The way I eat today, I'm convinced - along with the love and support of my wife, family, and medical community - is largely responsible.
In the coming weeks, months, and - God willing - years, I'll be populating this website with all sorts of my favorite healthy recipes, videos, and more. I love to cook and I love to eat, so it isn't enough for me if a dish is merely healthy; it has to taste incredible, too. (Trust me when I tell you that decades of freelance work for some of the most demanding food editors in publishing has left its mark.)
In addition, I'll be producing exclusive content - courses and a membership site - on a variety of subjects that warrant a more in-depth treatment. I couldn't be more excited about the future here and I want you to be, too.
I've just released the first of these courses - Healthy Harvest Cooking - and I hope you'll check it out. If you can do only one thing to help protect your health, eating more veggies would be one of the smartest choices. This course will provide all the recipes and inspiration you need.
Food waste is a global crisis and a concern of mine that you will read about from time to time here at The Good Cooks Academy blog, sometimes explicitly and sometimes between the lines.
The U.S. ranks second in the world for food waste, only behind Australia. Estimates vary, but according to the USDA, the typical American family of four throws out about $1,600 a year in produce. It amounts to a staggering $161 billion a year in food waste nationwide.
Think of the good a nation could do, the positive changes we could effect, if that amount of money could be diverted into improving our schools, feeding the hungry, providing shelter for the homeless, or retraining those whose jobs have moved overseas.
We've all spent enough time in the kitchen to know that when we've had to throw away food, it's typically due to poor planning. I'm no exception.
We bought too many strawberries and let them languish. We cooked too many white beans and didn't freeze the leftovers soon enough. We got lazy and didn't use up the fresh spinach before it was too late. We're all so busy, and these things happen.
Those nickels and dimes and dollars add up. It could amount to a small fortune in my grandson's college fund by the time he's eighteen.
So I plan to offer you as many tips and strategies as I can to help you avoid waste, use up ingredients you've opened, and turn leftovers into encore performances. Creating a delicious, nourishing meal from a few leftovers and pantry staples is the hallmark of a fine cook.
While I usually pride myself on being frugal, it's not just the squandered money that bothers me. It's the principle: given the massive scale of food insecurity in this country and in our world, I believe it's my duty, and our duty as family cooks, to treat our resources with utmost care.
Taking care with our food honors the farmers and field hands who plant, tend, and harvest our bounty; the precious water supply that moistens the soil; the workers who pack our food and the truckers who transport it; our neighbors who stock the store shelves and help you to the car with your groceries.
When we think of ourselves as not just cooks but as caretakers of our personal food supply chain, we shine a light on the path to greater thrift and less waste, which in turn benefits the planet at large. Food waste that ends up in landfills produces massive amounts of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that heats up the atmosphere and contributes to global warming and climate change - no doubt the most troubling of concerns for future generations.
You and I can play a key role in bringing about change - that's one of the reasons I'm so glad you're here. By virtue of the food choices we make, we can promote not just our own good health and the health of our loved ones - we can also nurture the good health of our planet.
I know: it feels like a tall order. You and I are just tiny specks in a very big world. But even tiny specks can make a difference.
If you don't believe it - like the Dalai Lama says - try sleeping with a mosquito.
I hope you'll sign up below, stay engaged, and let us know how we're doing.
-Ken Haedrich, dean of The Good Cooks Academy
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