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In The Kitchen with Cookbook Author Donna Crous

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In The Kitchen with Cookbook Author Donna Crous

In The Kitchen with Cookbook Author Donna Crous

Donna Crous is an award-winning food blogger and food photographer. A career she stumbled into when she moved to Jersey, Chanell Islands in the UK in 2014. She began a food blog – Eighty20 Nutrition and quickly discovered that it was the photography and recipe development she loved, not the writing. On a whim she entered the Pink Lady food photographer of the year award and placed third in the blogger category, an event which would open the door for her to start working with Nikon, becoming the first Nikon UK and Europe Ambassador for Food Photography.

 

For the past four years she has been carefully putting together her first cookbook – A Healthier Family for Life. A year to put the proposal together and find a publisher. Two years to write and deliver the book – a process she did while undergoing treatment for breast cancer that was diagnosed mid book writing. And a year of editing.

It’s a cookbook filled with images that beg to be eaten and features recipes for a multi-diet family and those wanting to embark on a healthier lifestyle. I’ve shared Donna’s recipe for Moussaka with Cauliflower Bechamel Sauce here. It was on this premise that I found myself on a call with Donna, talking about her cookbook, food photography, food and health.

 

Q

Where did the inspiration for A Healthier Family for Life Come from?

 

A

It started with my family – my one daughter is vegan, my other one is low-carb/banting, and my husband and I are paleo. Between the four of us we were eating different types of meals. Over the years I developed these recipes that we were all able to sit down at the table and eat together. For me it was about having recipes that everyone could enjoy, and everyone could eat.

 

Q

You overhauled your family’s diet, why and what advice would you give someone looking to change the way they eat but who doesn’t know where to start?

 

A

We overhauled our diets 11 years ago. [It] had a lot to do with my mom passing away from cancer – that was a wakeup call for me that I had to try to do something healthier for my family. We turned to a paleo diet and as my daughters got older, they started to do their own research and discover what they wanted for themselves and what worked for them.

 

[To someone wanting to overhaul their diet I would say] start with research. Hit the internet and look at the diets you’re interested in and look at recipes for your favorite foods. The hardest part of starting any type of healthy diet is the feeling that you must give up something. But there are always alternatives to what your favorite food is so you shouldn’t feel like you have to give it up. It’s about changing that mindset that you’re giving something up and are never going to be able to have it again.

 

Learn about what that diet does to your body and find people to follow. Gain as much knowledge as possible both on the food and the health side.

 

Q

What is your food philosophy?

 

A

While I was writing the book, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was treated and given the all clear. Since writing the book I’ve been re-diagnosed with secondary breast cancer. My food philosophy has changed marginally since writing the book. I have removed all plant-based ingredients from my diet. Everything about food is about nutrients and helping my body work against the cancer I’m dealing with, lifting my body up against the treatment I’m having, and supporting my cells in every possible way to strengthen them against the treatment which has side effects. For me [food is] about counterbalancing all the treatment I’m having and propping myself against that.

 

Q

How did you manage to balance writing a cookbook while undergoing treatment for cancer?

 

A

I took a break from the cookbook during my treatment, but at the same time I needed to have something that wasn’t cancer focused in my life. I needed to have the distraction of writing the book and feeling like I had sense of worth in another area other than just fighting cancer. Having that distraction from treatments was incredible.  I’m already looking at another book, and my [current] treatment is extreme but it’s about a distraction. I find cooking and photography really soothing and really calming. I loved the whole process of writing the book because it gave me an outlet to pour everything into without having to think too much about the cancer.

 

Q

What’s the biggest change you made due to your cancer diagnosis?

 

A

Taking more time for myself. I do a lot more exercise. I got so consumed by work and now I realize I need to look after myself more so. I walk on the beach a lot with my dog, spend time on my own.

 

Saying no to things, that has been a big change for me because I’m a yes person. Learning to say no to things and not taking on all things at once has been a big game-changer. It’s so empowering to say no – and it makes me feel good when I turn around and say no, I can’t do that.

 

I’ve learnt I need to spend time on my own instead of running around doing work-related stuff. My main business is food photography, and you feel like you are at the mercy of your clients the whole time and that in itself is very pressurized. I’ve started taking on the work I’m comfortable doing that is not going to stress me out that has reasonable deadlines and that I really want to do, instead of taking on any old job.

 

Q

What is your favorite lens to use for food photography?

 

A

I have two depending on the day. I range between my 85mm F1.8 which is a great portraiture lens, but it also makes for great food portraits. I love the 105 macro lens which is great for macro shots but then I can pull it right back and get really nice wider shots.

 

Q

What’s your favorite type of food to photograph and what is your least favorite?

 

A

My favorite type and everyone’s favorite type to see is cakes and cupcakes – anything pretty and that I can add nice colors to. It’s easier to photograph when you have something visually appealing. My hardest food hands down is chocolate brownies. I sweat buckets when I have to shoot brownies. They’re so hard to shoot at the correct angle and trying to get a good separational and showing the texture without them looking like a big brown blob.

 

Q

What’s your favorite recipe in your cookbook?

 

A

The date pudding – it is my favorite recipe. If anyone ever comes to us, I will always make it. it’s full proof and it’s delicious.

 

Q

What is your first food memory?

 

A

I used to travel a lot when I was little. The first time I got really excited about food was going to the cheese markets in Amsterdam when I was a child.

 

Q

What food items do you always have on hand?

 

A

I always have coconut yogurt. Kombucha – I don’t drink alcohol so kombucha is my glass of wine, when everyone else is having wine, I have kombucha. Fresh dates to make a sticky date pudding and cassava flour and almond flour. Cassava flour is easy to use and substitute for regular flour. It’s a great substitute for gluten free baking and neutral in taste.

 

Q

What do you hope people get out of your cookbook?

 

A

I hope that if they’re breaking out and venturing into a healthier lifestyle, they realize that healthier food is exciting and tasty and that they don’t get overwhelmed by all the information out there. That they see that they can replace their favorite food with an alternative and they don’t see it as something for themselves but something they can make for their entire family. Or a mom looks at it and says I can do this; I can make this for my family, and I can make a difference.

 

In The Kitchen with Cookbook Author Donna Crous

 

Donna’s cookbook A Healthier Family for Life out not and available here. Get the recipe for her Moussaka with Cauliflower Bechamel Sauce here.

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