From time to time, a member reaches out to us with a particular perspective and an offer to share his or her knowledge with fellow members. This was the case with Marcia W., a member and chef from New Jersey who was gracious enough to pass along some information on her experience of eating "close to the earth," along with a recipe for our readers to try. We followed up with Marcia and asked her to share a little bit more about how her philosophy regarding food relates to her Liberty HealthShare membership. Don't miss the recipe she shared at the end of our interview!

What led you to join Liberty HealthShare?

I have always felt that the third-party-payment system of paying for healthcare wasn't the right fit for us. My husband and I are very healthy. I spend a lot of time doing my own cooking. We don't eat much processed food so we don't have a lot of the health issues so many people struggle with. That meant we were often paying for services we would never need.

I always imagined something like Liberty, where people supported one another and pursued health for themselves. When healthcare started to be in the news every day, I started researching healthcare sharing. I chose another ministry at first but kept an eye on some others and ultimately decided Liberty was best for us. Of the ministries we looked at, Liberty seemed to have the sharing guidelines that best lined up with our needs. I am also a Quaker, and the stringent creed statements of some of the other ministries made me uncomfortable. Liberty's openness to a wider range of faith expressions was a good fit.

In your opinion, what is the most important facet of membership with Liberty?

Liberty encourages us to live out our values as we understand them through the Bible. What I love about membership with Liberty HealthShare is the way you encourage us to take control of our own health. Together we live into the truth that our lifestyle choices directly affect our health, our pocketbooks, our spiritual lives, and our happiness. I believe this is most true with regard to our nutritional choices and cooking.

Tell us a little about your background as a chef:

We were living in Seattle. My husband found a 300-year-old farmhouse that was for sale in New Jersey and said his whole life fell into place when he saw it. I had to approve his decision based solely on his love for it. Our kids were grown and out of the house and it felt a little ridiculous to move into a larger house after they were gone, but I decided we could open the cooking school I'd always dreamed about. I went to chef school when I was about 50 years old.

Marcia-in kitchen-wearing chef coatAbout seven years passed between the purchase of the house and when we moved in. When we arrived, I started Ezekiel's Table. It began with ladies' nights out, etc., but I started to notice that most women didn't really want to have to cook on a night out with their friends. At the time, I wasn't charging much, but someone encouraged me to raise my rates to the point where corporations would bite. Eventually, I started doing corporate, team-building events. These were often people who didn't cook, so it was interesting to watch the tension and stress of work and work relationships break down when they were in my kitchen, focused on making food together. It really humanized the corporate, team-building event atmosphere.

Eventually, I stopped hosting these events for a couple of reasons. One problem was that I found myself always thinking about how food would "play" or how to appeal to people looking to have a fun night out. The food had become too entertainment-focused (think lots of cream and butter) and because of the inevitable leftovers, I gained about 20 pounds. Secondly, my husband's work schedule had become too hectic, so we decided it was time to slow down so we could live out our values, including in the way we were eating.

Incidentally, I don't know if it's all the grains and good produce I'm eating or stopping my business, but my cholesterol dropped 30 points over the course of a year!

What values animate your relationship with food?

Well, I love to think of food in terms of providence; as something we have been given rather than a resource to be twisted into something that isn't natural. To me, that doesn't seem like the right thing to do. The closer I can get to the producers and to the food itself, the happier I am. I love to go down the street to the farmer and participate in a CSA (community-supported agriculture). I have herbs right outside my back door, I forage because that's totally thrilling to me, and my friends who are great mushroom-hunters bring me things.

I'm taking a break from Ezekiel's Table right now, and honestly, I don't know what I want to do next other than play with my granddaughters. I used to blog, but that felt wrong because it was encouraging me to think too much in terms of how others would see what I was doing. That was somehow depleting to me. I love to share my recipes, but I need to figure out what kind of writing will give me life.

What is one dietary change you would recommend for better health?

As a first step, I would recommend learning to make your own salad dressing. This way, you can use oils that are cold-pressed rather having to use shelf-stable, grocery store dressings that have been heat-treated for preservation and canning. Cold-pressed oils are best for your body in terms of the way they are processed in the gut and the impact they have on your brain health. *See below for a salad recipe featuring a homemade vinaigrette.

Here is one of Marcia's favorite recipes, which she graciously shared with us:

 

Market Greens with Warm Goat Cheese and Hazelnuts

A rustic and substantial first course. I love to serve this in early spring when the spring mix of lettuces is at its best, and if I can, I make the croutons with the slender baguettes called fiselle. It is sometimes a trick to find chervil leaves, so I’ve started to grow my own just so I can get more of this salad!

Ingredients:

Vinaigrette

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

6 tablespoons canola oil

Croutons

1 slender baguette (or fiselle)

Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

Kosher salt

Salad

½ cup whole hazelnuts

10 oz fresh goat cheese

12 oz salad greens

¼ cup minced shallots

¼ cup minced chives

½ cup Italian parsley

½ cup tarragon leaves

½ cup chervil leaves

Directions:

  • Roast the hazelnuts: Place hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake for 3-4 minutes, or until fragrant and lightly browned. Wrap in a dishcloth, and gently roll until skins come off. Cool. (You can skip this stage by buying skinned hazelnuts.) Cut half of them in half and set aside. Roughly chop the remaining nuts.
  • Make the vinaigrette: Whisk the mustard and vinegar together. Drizzle the canola oil slowly into the bowl as you whisk vigorously, drops at a time at first, then with a steady stream. When all the oil is added the vinaigrette should be creamy.
  • Make the croutons: Preheat the broiler. Cut the baguette into ¼ inch thick long diagonal slices. Place the croutons on a baking sheet, brush both sides lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Place under the broiler until lightly browned on the first side, then turn and brown the second side. Set aside on the baking sheet. Turn the oven down to 350°F.
  • Place a portion of the cheese on each crouton and top with the chopped hazelnuts. Place in the oven to warm for about 5 minutes, or until the cheese is soft enough to spread.
  • While the cheese warms, place the greens in a mixing bowl and toss with the shallots, herbs, hazelnut halves, and just enough dressing to coat the greens. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Arrange a mound of the salad on each serving plate and place 2 croutons together on the plate artfully. Serve immediately.

From Bouchon by Marcus Keller.

Marcia, thank you so much for sharing your gifts and knowledge with us. As a community of people who value good stewardship of both our health and our finances, we're always on the lookout for more tools to put in our proverbial toolboxes so we can continue pursuing our health goals. We're glad you are a member of Liberty HealthShare!