Starting From Scratch

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No Cook Pasta. Photos by Rodale, Inc.

When Maria Rodale, CEO of Rodale Inc., decided to write a cookbook, she knew nothing was more from the heart than going back to the basics.

The aroma of a fresh baked pie, the crunch of homegrown garden vegetables and the juiciest roast chicken you’ll ever sink your teeth into. These are the recipes that Maria Rodale, chairwoman, cook, mother and avid blogger, wanted in her first cookbook, Scratch. It’s the simplicity of going back to the beginning that Rodale believes will help people lead a healthier, balanced and more fulfilling lifestyle.

“When I was a kid, my mom cooked a lot and I always loved to eat. I became a single mom at the age of 20, and had another mouth to feed besides my own, so I figured I should learn how to cook,” says Rodale. “I looked at the label of Bisquick one day and then decided to make biscuits from scratch, which was so much easier, more delicious and I can make them organic. That got me started on my obsession on learning to make the foods I loved organic and simple from scratch.”

On publishing her book within her company, Rodale says it was very important to be respectful of her team and the entire process was nothing short of a team effort.
“I know what is takes to make a good book, so I try and include those principles in whatever I do,” says Rodale of Scratch, which is published under Rodale Inc., a leading publisher of health and wellness. “It’s been a pleasure to work with the team here.”

Maria Rodale goes back to basics with her cookbook Scratch
Maria Rodale goes back to basics with her cookbook Scratch

Having been an avid blogger for the past seven years, Rodale has become one with her garden, one of the many topics she posts about. Although she considers herself more of a landscape gardener, she does grow vegetables, frequents farmers markets and enjoys gathering and foraging for the freshest ingredients.

“I want everybody to know that food is the most powerful healing ingredient there is, but how you raise that food is even more powerful. There are so many health and environmental problems that come back to the chemicals in food that we put into our bodies,” she says, adding that there is no sacrifice of good food in her book. “It’s all the food you love; there’s meat, cheese and even butter.”

Rodale’s recipes come from all over, but there are a lot of family recipes from both sides of the family featured in Scratch.

“I have a good foundation of Italian recipes,” says Rodale, who also travels frequently and tries to recreate dishes she comes across. “It’s become a fun game and hobby of sorts for me and my kids. But the traditional recipes are in there, like my grandmother’s molasses cake that I found written on a card in the back of a closet.”

Always aware of being healthy and how the world around her views nutrition, Rodale stressed that Scratch is not a diet book, and how food trends come and go.

“What I’ve learned is that you should just eat food that’s as close to nature as possible. If you want the majority of your food from scratch, you’ll feel a lot better and be happier,” says Rodale, who splits her time between Pennsylvania and New York City, but always makes it a priority to cook a good meal.

“Over half of the recipes in my book take half an hour, and I’ve made them dozens of times, so it’s not hard. The hardest part is doing the dishes,” she says. “Anyone can cook and these recipes are super simple. My kids love to help out and our time as a family is mostly spent in the kitchen.”

A peek inside the cookbook
A peek inside the cookbook

As for her favorite recipe, Rodale serves up her roast chicken because it’s the symbol of her whole message of Scratch.

“Instead of overly stuffing and brining and basting, just take a chicken, put it in a pan breast side up and roast it for about an hour and a half until the skin gets crispy. Then, take that out and make pan gravy on the stove top with flour and water. Some mashed potatoes from scratch and a little salad on the side and you’ve got a meal that will make everyone very happy,” she says.

Rodale’s advice for non-chefs and first time cooks is simple: have fun, don’t be afraid and start with the food you love.

“If you make a mistake, just laugh and start over because the hardest part is getting out of your own way, and Scratch is a cookbook that you can use over and over again,” she says.

Up next for Rodale, she would like to examine how people relate to one another, how food can heal families and how families in turn, can heal each other.

“That’s what’s missing in the world right now, how to get along with other people and how to love one another,” she says. “Food is often a symbol of that.”

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