Eating “naked” foods—nutrient-dense, additive-free whole foods— helps you lose weight and improve the way you look and feel. The Naked Foods Cookbook (New Harbinger Publications, 2012), by Margaret Floyd and James Barry, makes it even easier to prepare naturally tasty naked meals you can feel good about. This excerpt from the chapter “In the Naked Kitchen” will teach you how to set up your "naked" kitchen—from stocking a healthy fridge to self-grinding spices. Also included are four healthy, additive-free whole food recipes.
You can buy this book from the Mother Earth Living store: The Naked Foods Cookbook.
Healthy, Additive-Free Whole Food Recipes
Make Your Kitchen Come Alive
If you’re like us, then you know: If it’s in the kitchen, you’ll eat it. Take a look at your kitchen in its current state. Open the cupboards. What do you see? Are there rows of cans, packaged foods, bags of chips, soda pop? Now open the refrigerator and freezer. Are there microwave dinners, cartons of skim milk, margarine?
Now imagine your kitchen naked. A naked kitchen isn’t bare or boring — it’s alive. A bowl of fresh fruit on the table, nuts soaking in glass jars on the counter, a pot of broth brewing on the stove. There’s a window box with fresh herbs growing in it, ready to be trimmed and added to your naked meals.
Opening the cupboards reveals rows of glass jars filled with a variety of whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds. The only cans you have are ones that contain ingredients like whole coconut milk.
The fridge is bursting with fruit and veggies. A carton of pastured eggs from the farmers market, some homemade condiments, and cultured butter rest in the door. Covered glass dishes with last night’s leftovers sit on the shelf, alongside some raw milk and a few homemade sauces and dressings.
This is an active kitchen. There’s no hint of a TV dinner here; in fact, there’s not a microwave to heat one if you wanted to. It feels clean, abundant, and light. The fresh smells emanating from it are nourishing and inspiring.
Sound idyllic? It is. Sound difficult to set up? It’s actually not that hard. Much of it is an exercise in simplifying. Let’s look at some of the basics.
Your fridge is the center point of your naked kitchen. Eating naked means eating fresh foods, which means having the proper refrigeration system to store all that natural goodness.
If you’re lucky enough to have the opportunity to choose a new refrigerator, then choose a naked fridge—an energy-efficient model with the freezer on the bottom (we never did understand the logic of the freezer on top, since heat rises). Remember, naked isn’t just about food, it’s also about healthy living and sustainability. Of course, you can make do with what you have as well.
A naked fridge is also a clean fridge. It’s important to clean your fridge at least once every two weeks. We use a 10 to 1 mixture of water to rubbing alcohol as a natural sanitizer. The magic temperature for your refrigerator is 38 degrees F. This is the temperature at which food will last the longest without danger of freezing and at which most bugs and bacteria can’t survive. Fridges have temperature dial settings but most don’t have gauges showing the actual temperature.
Opening and closing your fridge door causes the front of the fridge to be warmer than the back. For this reason, store anything that’s highly perishable at the back of the fridge. You can also buy a small thermometer that attaches to the inside of your fridge to ensure that it’s a maximum of 38 degrees F. Thermometers designed for wine cellars work well for this purpose. You may have to adjust the temperature dial a few times until you find the right setting.
Fridge Door Essentials
• Tamari gluten-free soy sauce (the naked version of soy sauce)
• Miso paste (great for soups and dressings—there are several varieties and they all taste different, so try a different one each time until you find the kind you like)
• Store-bought or homemade cultured butter ideally from grass-fed cows (not margarine or any other butter substitute)
• Store-bought or homemade basic grain or Dijon mustard, made with only naked ingredients and no sugar
• Delicate unrefined seed oils (toasted/untoasted sesame oil, hemp seed oil, pumpkin seed oil, flaxseed oil)
• Maple syrup (grade B or C, for maximum nutrient content)
• Vinegar (apple cider, balsamic, brown rice)
• Nuts and seeds (the oil in nuts and seeds will cause them to go rancid over time; if you’re eating them infrequently, store them in the fridge for lasting freshness)
Things that don’t need to be refrigerated: ghee, lard, basil, garlic, onions, potatoes, olive oil, coconut oil, and honey. Best to keep these items in a dark, cold cabinet.
Stocking a Healthy Fridge
Start with the largest shelf, the one that normally has ready-made canned drinks, soda pop, and cartons of juice. Replace these overly processed drinks with a couple of big pitchers, one with some homemade iced tea and another with water infused with cucumber and mint (fill a pitcher with filtered water and add four slices of cucumber, two slices of lime, and a couple sprigs of mint—voilà!).
If you choose, have a bottle or two of mineral water on hand, and, if you have access to raw dairy and like it, a quart of raw milk. Smaller shelves will be for leftovers, sauces, cultured veggies, and other such products. It’s also good practice to keep flours in an airtight container in the fridge. Once grains are milled into flour their nutritional life shortens. Keeping them in your fridge will help them stay fresh longer. Also in the fridge, store your fresh herbs and asparagus in similar fashion to flowers: stem side down in a jar with enough water to immerse the bottom where they've been cut. Use a drawer for cheese and meat. Keep these products well sealed and separate from your produce and fruits.
Produce keeps longest unwashed and uncut. Any bins or shelves holding produce should be lined with a clean cloth or unbleached paper towel. If there’s enough room, keep fruit separate from vegetables.
Fruit is best with the heavier, harder fruits on the bottom and tender fruits like peaches at the top. To make berries last longer, put them in a single layer on a plate with a clean paper towel, uncovered. Don’t leave your fruits or vegetables in the thin, flimsy bags you got from the grocery store. These bags trap moisture, which increases spoilage. If the produce is in the crisper drawer, it doesn’t need to have a bag, but produce left on the shelves will last longer in a thick, resealable bag with a dry, unbleached paper towel to absorb condensation. Before sealing the bag, push as much air out of it as possible.
The foundation of any naked meal is an abundance of vegetables, so fill the bottom drawers and shelves with fresh vegetables and fruit. Yet, it’s also important to be able to see what you have so you can get creative about how you want to combine it all. Buy only enough fresh produce to last you one week.
The naked fridge doesn’t have a lot of condiments or store-bought dressings and sauces. Those that are store bought have few ingredients, all of which are recognizable. The fridge door is a great place for your homemade dressings, perishable oils, butter, miso pastes, and condiments.
The freezer might be your biggest challenge. Many of us have items in our freezers we can’t even recognize anymore from all the frost buildup. Get rid of all those prepackaged frozen meals. It’s time to restock your freezer with your own, naked foods. Buy a bunch of bananas, peel them, and place them in a sealed container for smoothies or a sweet-treat alternative to ice cream. Frozen berries and certain vegetables like peas, corn, and green beans are picked at their peak season and flash-frozen to be eaten off-season.
As long as these items have no added ingredients or preservatives, these are perfectly acceptable naked foods. Also stow fresh ginger in your freezer in a plastic bag to keep it fresh longer and make it easier to grate.
If you’re not a vegetarian, you’ll also have some frozen meat: maybe a whole, pastured chicken, grass-fed beef, some fish. If you have the space for it and can make the investment, buy a separate freezer unit that can be kept in a basement or garage and is big enough to hold large quantities of meat. Naked meats can be pricier, and the most cost-effective way to buy naked meat is in large quantities like a quarter or half cow. Your freezer is a great place to store your meat, which is easily perishable.
The Naked Kitchen’s Stove, Oven, and Toaster Oven
When cooking in a naked kitchen, we use the stovetop, an oven, or a toaster oven. No microwave. Microwaves use electromagnetic energy to create molecular friction, heating food from the inside out, which is the opposite of how a stove, oven, grill, or fire would cook it. Several studies have shown that microwaving food causes a significantly higher proportion of antioxidants and vitamins to be lost, and negatively affects proteins. This happens even if you’re just reheating a meal that was previously cooked.
Ultimately, it doesn’t take that much more time to reheat last night’s dinner in a small saucepan on the stove or on a tray in the oven, and the nutritional benefits far outweigh the convenience factor. Turn the oven to 395 degrees F and put the empty tray in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes to preheat it. Put the food on the hot oven tray, and reheating your food will take only about 5 minutes.
If you’re in the market for a new stove, pick one that fits your needs best. The two basic categories are electric and gas, with many choices in each. We prefer gas stoves because they heat up quickly and the temperature is easily adjusted, cooking things evenly and predictably.
Electric induction stoves are easy to clean and heat with extreme precision. There are pros and cons to both, so do your research and find what works best for your space. We don’t recommend the coil-element electrical stovetop. They heat up and cool down slowly, the temperature settings aren’t accurate, and they use a lot of electricity.
A toaster oven is a good compromise between heating your whole oven (which isn’t all that energy efficient) and using a microwave oven. The toaster oven heats up quickly and takes up even less space than a microwave. Convection ovens and convection toaster ovens use a fan to distribute heat within the unit more evenly, speeding up cooking time at lower temperatures. The fans allow the hot air to reach foods on all rack levels evenly.
The Naked, Healthy Pantry
Your pantry is where you store nonperishable ingredients. The naked pantry has no prepared canned or packaged meals. Here you’ll find jars of dried beans, grains, nuts, and seeds. This is also where you store your dried seaweeds, chiles, and other dried spices and herbs.
You want your pantry to be dark and cold. Don’t use doorless cabinets or kitchen closets with heating vents. Light and heat can affect your stored items like extra-virgin olive oil and other items like potatoes, onions, and garlic. If you use generic jars or bins, label them with the name of the contents and the purchase date. If you’re using a see-through container, cut the name from the packaging of the food you’re storing and place that visibly in the container.
When you refill a container that’s not completely empty, don’t put new on top of old. First empty the old contents into a bowl, then pour in the new contents and put the old back on top. This reduces waste and ensures your supplies will never be stale or old.
How to Organize Your Cupboards and Countertops
When it comes to cupboards and countertops, clean and uncluttered is the name of the game. A clean environment is inspirational and allows for creativity. You want to be able to move around freely, make a bit of a mess, and then clean up easily. Keep dishes and cups you use frequently within easy reach. Keep appliances in the cupboard or on a shelf, not on your countertop. In our household, the dish rack is the only item always out.
Leaving dishes to dry on a rack takes far less time than towel drying, so we take the easier route. There’s also a big bowl with fresh fruit on the table. Next to the stove we keep a utensil holder with the tools we use most frequently when cooking (see list of basic kitchen tools below), but otherwise, the counters are bare.
One thing that’s notably absent is the set of oils and spices that some people like to store next to, or even on a shelf above, the stove. This is a big no-no for a naked kitchen.
Oils are very delicate, and constant exposure to sunlight and heat will damage them.
Produce Every Healthy Fridge Should Have in Stock
• Salad greens (eating at least one mostly raw meal daily is optimal; salads are an easy way to do this)
• Dark leafy greens (chard, kale, collards, cabbages, bok choy, spinach, broccoli—mix it up, you choose)
• “Snackable” veggies (cucumber, bell peppers, celery, carrots, snap peas, zucchini—anything that’s easy to munch on)
• A few lemons and limes (these will come in handy with your mineral water and add a ka-pow to your meals and dressings)
The Naked Spice Rack
It’s best to buy unground spices. Similar to flours, once spices are ground they start to lose their potency.
Buy a small coffee grinder, but instead of using it for coffee use it exclusively for your spices. Clean it between uses with a lightly dampened towel. Follow the manufacturer’s directions closely for safe and proper care. Not only are spices more naked when they’re freshly ground, their flavors will be far more vibrant. Nothing beats freshly ground spices. To increase their fragrance even further, put the whole seeds in a dry skillet and lightly toast them over medium heat. Once the potent fragrance reaches your nose (about 2 minutes or less), pull the pan off the heat and grind the seeds or pods to add to your meal of choice.
This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from The Naked Foods Cookbook by Margaret Floyd and James Barry and published by New Harbinger Publications, 2012. Buy this book from our store: The Naked Foods Cookbook.