We are so lucky to have the beautiful soul, Cindy Sherrard, as our retreat chef. Not only is Cindy an amazing cook, but she is a beautiful hoop dancer, accomplished seamstress and all around terrific person. She is so terrific, she was even featured on YEGPeople! She’ll be nourishing our bodies and souls with her delicious and nutritious meals that will certainly be made with love. We asked her a few questions to dig deeper into her passion for food as a gateway to radiant health:
When did your interest in food start? What led you to go to Culinary School?
I was drawn to cooking because I really love that you can create something functional that can nourish you, sustain you and please your senses. I took Food Studies in high school and had the same teacher for all three years who really inspired me. I won food student of the month multiple times and food student of the year in grade 12. I was totally teacher’s pet!
My teacher helped me train for 2 Skills Canada Competitions and took the whole class on a tour of the Culinary Arts program at NAIT, I decided that day I would take the program and be a Chef!
What is your food philosophy? How has that changed over the years?
My philosophy runs along the lines of the Traditional Food Movement but has a lot of influence from the GAPS diet, Paleo and the research of Dr. Weston A. Price. I believe that eating is the most intimate way you can interact with your environment because you are consuming things in the environment that become a part of you.
Choosing whole, unprocessed, fresh foods grown without modification or chemicals will ensure that you are nourishing your body’s cells to be healthy. Many modern diseases can be avoided by making these types of food choices. I believe that simple food, well prepared and properly seasoned, is the best food in the world!
I used to think of food simply as a necessity that is better if it tastes good. But now, my life experiences have led me to where I am now with “food be thy medicine”.
How/when did you decide to use food to heal?
I have always been adventurous with food and I was never a picky eater, even as a child. I have been lactose intolerant on and off all of my life but I developed more serious issues after getting food poisoning in 2007 from which my digestion never recovered.
I felt horrible for a year and even my doctor didn’t know what was wrong. I read a book on an elimination/detox diet and after 10 days of following this diet I felt much better. I had to add the eliminated foods back into my diet one at a time to see if there was any reaction. The first thing I ate was a piece of toast and it was suddenly very clear that wheat was the culprit. Celiac disease runs in my family and I have been eating a strict gluten free diet ever since.
The damage also brought my lactose intolerance on to the point where I couldn’t even tolerate butter or yogurt. Although eating gluten free helped; my digestion was always on the decline, I became severely intolerant to eggs in 2011, gluten free grains such as buckwheat and nuts followed a year after that. That’s when I started researching and learning everything I could on how to heal myself naturally with food.
You’ve been on the GAPS diet for over a year and a half now, tell me about that. (Challenges, results, motivation to keep going?)
The healing GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) diet which is based on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet was originally prescribed by doctors as a cure for Celiac disease beginning in 1921. The goal of both diets is to heal a leaky gut by eating whole unprocessed foods with a specific molecular structure that don’t need further digestion. So if the molecules of food do get through the leaky gut wall they don’t cause an immune reaction. The diet focuses on rebuilding gut flora and eating foods that help heal the gut wall. I have been very motivated by the hopes of healing, I had felt so bad for so many years and I had no other options.
It has been very challenging mostly because of the time it takes to cook every meal from scratch. The diet is also very restrictive, and it has been hard to go out for dinner or travel. The diet is supposed to be followed for a minimum of two years, I started to feel discouraged after a year and decided to come off the diet and follow my usual diet for my restrictions. I ate a few questionable things and was very surprised to have no reaction! I ended up testing my intolerance to eggs (which was always my most severe reaction) and found the diet had healed my egg intolerance! Wow! I was and still am so pleased. I eat a dozen eggs a week now when before even a tiny amount of egg baked into a gluten free cookie would hurt me for days. I decided to stick with the diet for the full two years and hopefully heal my dairy intolerance, fingers crossed for gluten!
What does a typical day of meals look like for you now?
I don’t eat grains, sugar (except for honey), dairy (except for ghee) and no starchy vegetables. Everything I eat is whole and unprocessed. I aim for fat, fiber and protein with every meal to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Typically I would eat an egg scrambled in ghee (clarified butter) with avocado, tomato and basil for breakfast. On the weekend I might make coconut flour pancakes with strawberry rhubarb compote or a vegetable frittata. Lunch could be roasted chicken thighs with butternut squash and salad with a homemade dressing made with olive oil. A nice dinner would be a lamb burger with my recipe for lentil flatbread as a bun. Snacks are typically fruit, a smoothie, nuts or energy balls; I even get to eat my homemade chocolate sweetened with honey for dessert.
What helps you feel radiant?
Above all of the self-care of diet, drinking lots of water, meditation and movement such as hoop dance, the people in my life really brighten my days. I am so grateful to have so many great people to share my life with and to be part of a great community; I really feel my most radiant at summer music festivals.
What do you have in mind for the retreat menu?
Well don’t worry; my diet won’t be your diet for the weekend! Of course it will all be whole foods made from scratch and our goal is 85% organic. I was thinking a good amount of variety to please everyone, soups, salads, meat and salmon as well as vegan dishes. I have come up with some great dessert and snack recipes like vegan banana bread, coconut energy balls and ginger cookies made with almonds. Everything will be finalized once ticket sales close and we have a full account of any restrictions of the women attending.
Do you have an easy recipe to share?
This recipe for lamb burgers may not seem healthy because we associate burgers with fattening food. All the new research is proving that fat doesn’t make you fat (google that to see for yourself), the culprit is sugar and refined carbohydrates that spike your blood sugar. Eating healthy fats (olive oil, coconut oil, animal fats, avocado, nuts and fatty fish for example) actually help you feel full and satisfied longer and are essential for your body to absorb fat soluble vitamins. Lentils are high in fiber and protein and are a simple, easy to digest carbohydrate that will help keep your blood sugar stable.
Barbequed Lamb Burgers with Lentil Flatbread
Serves 3 or 4
2 Cloves garlic minced
1 small Onion diced (or shallots)
3 tbsp Ghee, clarified butter, or coconut oil (stable oils for high heat cooking)
2 tbsp Dried oregano or double the amount of a fresh herb of your choice
1 tsp Smoked sea salt (or normal sea salt)
1/2 tsp Fresh ground pepper
500 grams Ground lamb, preferably organic/pasture raised
Lentil Flatbread, see below
My Favourite Toppings
Mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, lots of fresh dill, lettuce and thick cut tomato with black pepper
- Sautee the garlic and onions in your chosen oil until softened and translucent. Add the herbs and spices.
- Put the lamb in a medium bowl, add the cooked onion and spice mix and fully combine.
- Form 3 or 4 patties.
- BBQ over medium high heat approximately 2-3 minutes per side or until the juices run clear (but not all run out of the patty!)
- Serve with the Lentil Flatbread as a bun and your favourite toppings.
Cindy’s Lentil Flatbread
1 cup Red lentils soaked
1 1/4 cup Water (or as needed)
1 ¼ tsp Smoked sea salt (or normal sea salt)
1 tsp Fresh ground pepper
1 tsp Vinegar, can use white, apple cider or white wine vinegar
Ghee for frying
- Soak the lentils for 7 hours in lukewarm salted water at room temperature. This reduces the phytic acid which inhibits digestive enzymes and blocks mineral absorption. It also softens the lentils for processing.
- Blend all ingredients except for the ghee in a food processor until smooth. Add the water a bit at a time; it should be the consistency of a pourable pancake batter.
- Heat a tablespoon of ghee in a frying pan (non-stick works best) over medium heat. Pour about ¼ or 1/3 of a cup of the lentil batter in a circle about the size of your burger patties. (It works best if you actually make a circle starting from the outside in). Fry until browned and crispy on the edges, flip over. Make two per burger to use as a healthy bun!
- You can add different spices and herbs to this batter for many different uses.
Ghee which is clarified butter with the water boiled out is great for high heat cooking and sautéing. It has a high smoke point so it won’t burn and break down creating harmful free radicals like other oils. It is also natural and not highly processed with chemicals like canola oil etc.
1 lb Butter (preferably unsalted organic)
- Heat the butter over medium heat until boiling.
- Turn down the heat and simmer until all the water is boiled out. (It will stop bubbling).
- Strain out the milk solids on the bottom and store at room temperature for up to 6 months. It is now like an oil, and as long as you don’t contaminate it with a dirty utensil you can keep it at room temperature. It is also lactose free.