IN THE KITCHEN WITH CASSIE JOHNSTON
2019 US Wellness Meats Featured Chef Q&A
Tell us about yourself:
I’m Cassie, and I’m a wife, mom, and owner of the holistic wellness website Wholefully. My husband and I run a small hobby farm in Southern Indiana where we grow our own fruits and vegetables, raise chickens, and make our own maple syrup. I’m at my happiest with my bare feet in garden soil and a good beer in my hand!
How did you get involved in cooking?
I grew up in rural America, which meant I spent my childhood summers picking tomatoes from our garden (with a white t-shirt wrapped around my head so my dark hair wouldn’t get so hot!) and helping my parents preserve all of the bounty from our garden. I’ve been growing, preserving, and cooking food for as long as I can remember! Unfortunately, the whole food, back-to-the-earth diet I had grown up on transitioned to mostly fast food and frozen dinners during college, and I just knew I wasn’t doing right by my body. So, about a decade ago, I started my research into clean eating, nutrition, and health and was blown away with everything I found. I started developing healthy recipes just for my own family, but soon found a passion/obsession for everything healthy eating.
Describe your cooking style:
Because we produce so much of our own fruits and vegetables right here on our hobby farm, I love cooking seasonally. You just can’t beat a fresh tomato in August! About two years ago, I was diagnosed with Chronic Lyme Disease, and I had to shift my diet to a mostly paleo-style of eating to help with my recovery—and it’s been a blast exploring the world of gluten-free, grain-free, and dairy-free cooking!
How did you learn about grass-fed meats?
My journey to clean eating was happening around the same time that the documentary Food, Inc. came out in theatres. My husband and I went to see it, and I remember weeping during the movie—how did I not know this stuff? How did I not know it could be better? On the drive home from the movie theater, we decided that we were going to buy the highest quality food our budget could afford going forward. That naturally led us to learning about grass-fed and pasture-raised meats and how far superior they are ethically, environmentally, and nutritionally. We’ve been eating nothing but ethically-raised meats every since.
What is your favorite recipe featuring grass-fed meat?
In the colder months, I absolutely love my Instant Pot Swedish Meatballs with Mushroom Gravy. In the summertime, you can’t really beat a good burger! These Salsa Chicken Burgers with Cilantro-Avocado Sauce pair perfectly with a margarita.
You’re stranded on a desert island; luckily, you’re stranded with your top 5 ingredients and one must-have kitchen tool:
I have to pick my cast iron Dutch oven. Give me a fire and that Dutch oven, and I can cook you almost anything! For my five ingredients, I’d pick: sweet potatoes (such a good meal base and so good for you), garlic (we all need flavor and it’s so good for you!), pasture-raised chicken breasts and eggs, and salt! And hopefully there would be a lush patch of ground where I could grown my own little garden.
Best cooking secret/tip/piece of advice you’ve learned:
True health isn’t one diet or another, it’s paying attention to your own body and deciding what works for you. We are all individuals, and we all need individual diets. Stop listening to everyone else and start listening to your body.
What’s your favorite quote/song for culinary inspiration (if any)?
I’m a total Michael Pollan fangirl, so “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” is a huge one for me. I also have “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food” (Hippocrates) painted on a sign hanging in my garden.
Anything else you want to share?
We have an amazing, active group of health and wellness junkies on our private Facebook group, The Wholefully Village. We’d love if you’d come join us!
Enter to win our April Featured Chef Contest for a chance to win! Contest runs from April 1 – April 15, 2019.