IN THE KITCHEN WITH MANDY PAGANO
May 2020 US Wellness Meats Featured Chef Q&A
Tell us about yourself:
I’m a homeschooling mom of two, an auto-didact, a church cantor/singer, and the current food blogger for Ketovangelist. I spend most of my day with my children reading through great books together, helping them learn about interesting things grammar, math, science, and ancient history (we’re studying the Greeks right now!), and in my spare time I write low-carb and keto recipes.
I found the ketogenic way of eating five years ago this month (May), and it changed my life. I was overweight with some serious respiratory problems, and spent a lot of time tired, angry, and terrified I was going to die early. Changing my eating and cooking style reversed all of that, and now it is my privilege to share recipes, as well as tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way with others on their keto journey.
How did you get involved in cooking?
I have always loved to cook, and in fact, that’s a big part of how I ended up overweight and unhealthy in the first place. I learned when I was kid, mostly from my maternal grandparents. As an adult (and a voracious reader), I devoured as many books on the subject as I could. My favorite TV shows were all on The Food Network. So, it’s been a personal passion of mine, even before I came to the keto community.
Describe your cooking style:
I am definitely a family-style cook with a strong flair for the Southern. While gourmet dishes can be gorgeous and take great skill, in my opinion the most satisfying food has always been plain old home cooking. With a husband and two kids to feed, keeping things family-friendly is a must in my house!
How did you learn about grass-fed meats?
As someone who has followed the health and wellness community for many years, the grass-fed and pastured meat movement has been on my radar for at least the last decade. I’ve been excited to see an increasing availability of high-quality meats that’s stemmed from the development of being able to deal with farms and ranches directly via the internet is a meat revolution. Just a few years ago, I was limited to whatever I could find in the rinky-dink “organic” section at my local grocer. Now, because of the ever-increasing utilization of technology in food sales, I love having such a wide variety of quality animal products from which to choose.
What is your favorite recipe featuring grass-fed meat?
Sous vide steak, medium-rare. Hands down.
You’re stranded on a desert island; luckily, you’re stranded with your top 5 ingredients and one must-have kitchen tool:
This is such a hard scenario for a cook! If I absolutely had to choose, I would pick a well-seasoned cast iron skillet, butter, garlic, onion, salt, and pepper. You can make just about anything you hunted or foraged into something tasty with those things, and they’re probably what I use most often besides.
Best cooking secret/tip/piece of advice you’ve learned:
Keep it simple. I think people spend so much time looking for something fancy or the next trend, and because people go from rarely cooking at all to trying to do something insanely difficult it most often ends in disaster and wasted time and ingredients. “Nailed It” is a meme for a reason, y’all. I think if you take the time to learn the most basic cooking skills and keep your meals simple, you will have the most success at home.
What’s your favorite quote/song for culinary inspiration (if any)?
I’m a HUGE Sinatra fan, so I would say “Nice and easy does it every time.”
Anything else you want to share?
I have observed that those who have the most success on their health journey tend to be those that focus on eating whole and nutrient dense foods, and not so much on fancy recipes. Don’t get me wrong! I think creating fancy food is fun sometimes; a good keto cake is great on birthdays or anniversaries, and there’s nothing wrong with having something extra special upon occasion. But remember that “upon occasion” is the important bit.
From my own experience, I would tell people to spend less time chasing fancy, complex recipes and replacement goods, and spend more time eating quality whole foods. Take the time to introduce these healthy habits to your family!
Enter To Win!
Enter to win our May 2020 Featured Chef Contest for a chance to win $150 bundle of farm fresh food! Contest runs from May 1 – 13, 2020.