*Behind The Scenes* :: Meredith's New Book


Last week was a big week for me. I had the photo shoot for my first (official) book – although I am not a novice to the book shooting process, it is always a rather intense process. We are always trying to push the envelope for the next best thing- constantly and consistently making each book better than the last. Conceptually that can be easy, but when you start taking the photos and immortalizing your ideas – well… its tricky and kind of scary. Fortunately I have been lucky in having always working with an AMAZING team.  I was lucky enough to work again for the fourth time with photographer Adrian Mueller - who’s photography is totally a work of art and always better than I could imagine. Maybe fourth time is a charm? We totally got in to the flow. The results are stunning. When you first work with someone you don’t know their style and they don’t know yours – it really helps to have mutual respect and understanding when it comes to the creative process. Good communication helps- it makes things much easier! (duh) On the past three books our team has consisted of my good friend Jessica Acs (we missed you!), but this time it was one of my other most dear friends, Simone Powers. (I actually met both of them at Living Light Culinary Arts)  I feel pinch me fortunate to have good friends who will donate a week of their time to work their asses off. A week of shooting isn’t exactly a vacation. Last but not least of course my co-author and partner Matthew Kenney was always around for words of wisdom and guidance. He is an expert. The good thing about this team is that we are all friends so at the end of the day, we get to eat, drink and be merry!

So, I thought that I would share with you what a day of shooting a book looks like.


At the point of the shoot most of the recipes have been tested. If they haven’t been tested, I have a clear understanding of how they will turn out. Weeks (months) before we shoot I go over the outline multiple times and imagine what each dish will look like, and how it could be styled. Because we don’t shoot every recipe in the book it is important to be picky and choose the best looking dishes, what colors will fit well together etc. We also have to have the same number of photos for each chapter so it important to divided it all up so that it visually makes sense. If you have commitment issues, this can be a challenge ;-)


Props are huge. If you think that you have a lot of them, you probably don’t. Each year I am getting better and better at making sure that we have a variety of props and surfaces. We focus on a clean, modern look. Although I might be drawn to a gilded goblet to put on my table at home, I have to curb my enthusiasm. You have to make sure you can see the food, and that it looks attractive. Adrian and I always co-piolet the styling, and Jessica and Simone are always been hugely helpful in helping realize the vision.

The Day.

Each day before I plot out what dishes we will shoot. This involves coordinating ingredients, garnishes and trying not to waste ingredients. If we are doing a beet juice, we will probably do other beet dishes that day. The schedule also depends on the weather and lighting. Typically we try to shoot dishes consistently with the time of day they would be eaten. A smoothie in the evening light doesn’t have the same feeling as a smoothie in the natural lighting of the morning. (And of course we eat the leftovers so it’s nice to have things for breakfast and lunch!) All of these aspects are very important. 

So…. We wake up. Adrian brings the coffee, and we get started with the first dish by 10am at the latest. I will tell Adrian what I’m thinking and he will set up the shot while we make the food. Each shot takes about 45 min on average. Adjusting the lighting, tweeking the plating- it is all very precise. The reason that the food you make never looks like it does in a book is because you probably aren’t putting your mushrooms in your miso with tweezers. Not that the food is ever inedible or hyper styled, but you can’t make smudges, splashes or any mess. Blobs and globs of food look terrible behind the lens even if they taste good. Once the shot is set up, the surface is virgin territory and you can’t violate it. At this rate we aim for 6-8 shots a day. Some shots are easier than others.

In the midst of all of this is keeping the kitchen (and yourself) clean and organized. Super important.  

About 4-5 shots before a lunch break. We eat the goodies. After lunch we will get 2-3 shots in, but the lighting starts to fade and everyone’s eyes get tired.

Seeing the shots is the MOST fun. Gathering around the computer screen to see the days work is hugely satisfying. It actually makes me squeal with delight. HELLO. You are making food porn. How fun is that? Good times.

End of the Day

After we are done with the days shots it is back to planning for me. I go through the outline every night to make sure we are staying on target for the number of shots and how they will be represented in each chapter. We usually need extra ingredients and a few props, so this is when I’ll do my shopping. I have to stay organized. If we do 6 shots and I realize they are all from the same part of the book it is a total screw up. I’ve just wasted a lot of time and $.

Good food and wine is always on the menu after each day. We hang out, relax, look over the days work, and get inspired for the next day. It helps having 3 chefs in the house and great restaurants nearby. We usually eat dinner super late so that everyone has had a chance to unwind. 

Generally speaking it is a lot of work, and a lot of fun. Seeing published results is pretty incredible. I actually don’t look at the books much after they come out, because it is like looking at pictures of yourself, you see what you can do better. I guess that is the nature of achievement and improvement.

The calm after the storm of the book shoot is finishing all of the book writing which is a much different task- and needs be happening as we speak!

The book is titled Design Your Detox. It is about eating healthy foods as it suits your lifestyle. All of the recipes are easy and clean. I am super passionate about everything that this book is about. I promise that its not a book full of colon cleanses and starvation! I really can’t wait to share the message with everyone. It will be out Spring 2013.

{the lovely chevron rug print above courtesty of pinterest photo}

Christine Talks Fish, Marine Phytoplankton & Parenting

OK, So...Since I'm not the expert on the subject of fish and marine life, yet I think it's an important subject, I had Garden Eats' Christine Dionese address it for me! Thanks Christine. 

Reader Question #1: As a guy who surfs and lives by the sea, I have a lot of respect for what’s swimming around. I just turned 40 and am an expecting father-I want to be sure that what I eat and raise my child to is ethical and safe. Please offer some insight into ethical seafood, sushi and what I should be paying attention to when it comes to choosing fish. Thanks!

 -Grant, Almost Dad, Surfer & Safe-Fish Lover

Christine’s Thoughts: Grant, that’s a perfect question and great way to start off your parenting career! With over-fishing causing endangered species concerns, recent and continued eco-oceanic threats from all around the world, this is a timely topic that falls right in line with the philosophy of minding our food sources. I know it doesn’t thrill me to think that most American seafood is imported from far reaches, farmed in un-ethical ways (similar to massive chicken farms with antibiotic and hormone fed animals) and often caught by methods that endanger other species. Read on below for my top tips to selecting safe and tasty seafood. 

Getting Started: Here Are A Few General Rules To Go By 

  1. Choose wild-caught whenever possible. If you must select farm-raised, be sure to opt for fish that were vegetarian fed an un-treated with antibiotics.
  2. Choose fish that are caught without endangering other species of marine life, including reef and were caught with sustainably approved methods.
  3. When in doubt, consult the Environmental Defense Fund’s eco-safe seafood guide.

Don’t Exploit: There’s Plenty Other Fish In The Sea

If you’re strict when it comes to sustainable sushi, the “the big three” are going to generally be off-limits. You could be eating an endangered species if you’re consuming any type of tuna at all (unless otherwise noted by your chef, grocer or on a menu) These include:

  1. Eel
  2. Salmon
  3. Tuna: Bluefin is endangered while other species of tuna (with the exception of Skipjack according to the World Wildlife Fund) are over-exploited.

Remember, being a savvy food consumer these days is to be a responsible one- this includes what we pull out of the water. With the ecology of the oceans holding the future of valuable medicinal compounds and healing agents, how we interact with and treat the oceanic terrain means everything for our offspring.

Questions To Ask Yourself: The Best Answer To Each Question Is Yes

  1. Did my fish get stamped with a marine stewardship approval?
  2. Was my fish wild-caught, line-caught, heirloom or heritage breed?
  3. Is my fish on the World Wildlife Fund’s “YES” list?

But I LOVE Sushi

I love sushi too, no problem. The same standards that exist for your purchase should for your sushi chefs. Many restaurants engage in marine stewardship programs and have altogether boycotted exploited or un-safe fish. If salmon and tuna  are your regular go-tos, it’s time to kick up your adventurous spirit and try something new. Telling the chef about your tastes is a fun way to order-the chef creates your menu and you get to experience new varieties.

Hannah Wallace of The New York Times Magazine recently named four sushi restaurants in four locales for their outstanding eco-conscious menus. If you’re in the following areas, check out these top-notch sushi and fish houses:

1. Portland, Oregon: Bamboo Sushi. Ony US sushi restaurant certified by the international marine stewardship. They avoid using Bluefin tuna.

2. New Haven, Connecticut: Miya Sushi. Menu lists “invasive species” that threaten East coast shell-fish. Invasive can be tasty- try the crab and snails suggests Hannah.

3. San Francisco, California: Tataki. Offers fish from surrounding Monterey and sources alternative fish choices when more popular types are unavailable.

4. Seattle, Washington: Mashiko. They serve everything from Oregon, Washington and Canadian fish that come from operations that do not return waste from the ocean.

5. San Diego, CA: Harney Sushi & Catch {in Carlsbad}

Know of an awesome, ethically conscientious seafood or sushi restaurant in your area? Please share with other readers in the comments below!


Reader Question #2: Is marine phytoplankton a healthy nutritional source?

Christine Answers: marine phytoplankton is an excellent choice for many everyday health concerns, or, to say it better- preventing everyday health concerns from becoming concerns at all! So ask yourself, how’s my energy level? Do I tire easily? How’s my concentration and focus? The phyto-ceutical properties (plant containing medicinally valuable therapeutic properties) of marine phytoplankton primarily center around energy, vitality and endurance.

Think back to science class and the energy production cycle. ATP sound familiar? Marine phytoplankton is an excellent source for energy production and endurance, leaving you sustained rather than “high and dry” like most energy tonics. A true tonic is one that acts to accentuate and maintain physiological processes in an effort to mutually accentuate another. This makes marine phytoplankton an integrative therapeutic because of its multi-systemic affects.

The healthy benefits of regular marine phytoplankton use include:

  1. sustained energy
  2. boosting energy
  3. improved memory, focus and concentration
  4. marine phytoplankton has an alkaline ph making it an ideal complement to most American diets.

Some of you may have reached this point and are asking, “what is marine phytoplankton?” Marine phytoplankton is one of the most abundant life forms on earth. Producing approximately 90 percent of our planet’s oxygen, it is one of the most nutritionally dense super foods in existence containing amino acids, protein, vitamins, chlorophyll, minerals and trace elements. You’ll also love hearing that marine phytoplankton is yet another rich source of the essential fatty acid, omega-3 (DHA/EPA).

When choosing which is best, you’ll want to follow the general rules that you would when purchasing all nutriceuticals by asking yourself the following:

  1. Is it bio-available?
  2. Was it made in a small batch?
  3. Does the manufacturer offer independent assay (this second party research ensures what they say is on the label is in the body)?

Answering these questions may not be the most obvious and why I suggest you speak to your integrative health care professional who has a background in nutriceutical therapies.


Christine's Bio

Christine is an integrative health care specialist, medical journalist, food writer and business development consultant. Popularized by health care professionals and patients alike, her blog, Reaching Beyond Now features a socially conscious take on integrative medicine and the future of lifestyle design. Christine loves teaching people and families how to sustainably design health through food and organic gardening at home. Check out her latest endeavor, Garden Eats to learn more about seasonal kitchen gardening and medicinal culinary therapy.

RUG photo credit | FISH photo credit | PLATE photo credit

That's Me, In North County Times!

A great little article in the North County Times. If you feel like reading it, click here! It's my Kookie Karma story - how I got started, information on its growth, my new business partner and so on. 

Anyways, Happy Friday and have a LOVELY weekend! 

Tap Water {glass} Bottles!

My latest find was actually a Christmas gift to myself and my family: Tap Water Bottles for the unicef tap project. These bottles are glass refillable alternatives to the standard plastic water bottles - which are not reusable, made of plastic and go in our landfill!

We have been loving them because they are also easy to clean, super durable and they don't look bad either. You, of course, don't have to put tap water in them, you can put spring water, green drinks, smoothies, kombucha, tea and the list goes on. 

In fact, as shown in the photo above, you can freeze them empty and use it when you want to instantly chill any beverage. Instead of using ice.

More info about the Tap Water Project

In 2007, the UNICEF Tap Project was born in New York City based on a simple concept: restaurants would ask their patrons to donate $1 or more for the tap water they usually enjoy for free, and all funds raised would support UNICEF’s efforts to bring clean and accessible water to millions of children around the world.

Growing from just 300 New York City restaurants in 2007 to thousands across the country today, the UNICEF Tap Project has quickly become a powerful national movement.

note: i was not paid to write this or given any free products. i bought these bottles on my own and think the program is a good one. 

Nutrition Is Not About Calories {food for thought}

These past few days I have come across a few different stories that have touched me in some way or another and I would like to share them. Each totally unrelated yet also very related. They are about nutrition/food, of course but ALSO about finding our 'purpose' in this life!  

All I mainly want to say about Rush's Show is that I didn't enjoy even one aspect of it. It gave me that icky feeling I talked about before - sort of a cynical, depressed mood about where we're at on the food front in our society. Just an overall bad energy and vibe. But, on the other hand, Rush is correct when he conveys that calories in minus calories out is the equation for weight loss. Eating TONS of "health food" won't necessarily result in weight loss. In fact, it can be quite the opposite. I went from a diet of basically smoothies and salads to no sugar/fruit diet and gained 5 lbs.

SO MANY people associate weight loss with HEALTH. It's crucial to remember that optimal HEALTH is more than just weight. This is the COMMON simple-minded way of looking at health. The twinkie diet? I mean come on. But, unfortunately, this mentality is not all that out of the ordinary when it comes to most of America. { oh and cholesterol is one of my FAVORITE topics that I will tackle later on.}

This leads me to the Washington Post article and it's discussion about culture. I often talk about this idea: for our society to REALLY change its diet we would have to completely restructure the foundation of the culture and its value system. The article references the 'elitist' connotation that goes along with the idea of ORGANIC food and health food in general. We've already debunked this idea awhile ago - the truth is that eating organic healthy food can be affordable and is available to all classes.  The reality is, you'd find WAY more people out on Black Friday spending their wads on flat screen TVs than you would on let's call it Green Monday - a day when Farmer's Markets were on every corner selling veggies at a discount.

Get my drift? It's NOT important to our society the way 'conspicuous consumption' is. 

I always use this example as well: me talking to people who are in line with the science side of growing crops {those that support GMOs} about organic food and raw food nutrition is almost a WASTE of my time. This is because their entire viewpoint on WHERE food is going and the history behind it, is SO different. It's not even worth the debate because in the end THEY ARE RIGHT and I AM RIGHT! I totally see why the average American likes the idea of hybrid fruits and veggies. I GET IT. But it's totally NOT in line with my back-to-nature way of looking at life, the environment, immune system, nutrition, optimal health, etc. It's like a gay man trying to discuss abortion rights with a priest {not being offensive, just pointing out two people whose lives and beliefs about the world are SO different}. Not worth the discussion, really.

So, unless you change the entire CULTURE behind the society/people, you most likely won't change the person's budget or desire for organic fresh food despite studies showing that eating raw foods isn't an "elitist" diet at all. 

And that's a COLOSSAL task. 

This leads me to my next story: David Wolfe's great talk about missions/values and well, nutrition. I love how he ties nutrition into life's 'passions and missions.' He's a brilliant inspirational speaker. I wish I could keep him in my pocket everyday to keep me inspired and full of food/energy wisdom. {wink} Please watch the video if you have a moment right now. It's not as much about food as it is about LIFE and VALUES!

I also found this small blurb from a David Wolfe interview. I found it much more profound than Rush's Twinkie theory {which is basically a starvation diet}. But then again, I'm pretty out there myself. So maybe, Rush is brilliant and I just don't know it yet? What do you think? 

"...Another part of overeating is mineral deficiencies and the body¹s attempt to draw minerals from food. If there are no minerals in the food then the body keeps eating until it finds those minerals. The appetite never shuts off. This is one of the reasons why I believe that wild foods, superfoods, and supplements are valuable. They can be so mineral-rich and nutrient-dense (well beyond what we would find in average organic food) that they shut down the appetite and give us what our body is really looking for."

Lastly, I want to leave you with a movie suggestion for tonight - The Human Experience. I keep forgetting how this relates to my above article, but it DOES, trust me. The movie's main theme that runs throughout is 'purpose'! Like David Wolfe's lecture above, the movie emphasizes PURPOSE in life and how that is ALL anybody wants in this life. We are always looking for reasons as to why we are here. What is the point of us being here on this Earth? It is a constant quest. Something we ALL as humans have in common.

What is a 'mission' or a 'purpose'?

David Wolfe explains it as being something you get excited about doing everyday. Something you would do even if you didn't get paid for it! {ha, guess I found mine! you're reading it}

And if we are doing our purpose then we usually stay healthy. Health is a state of mind as much as it is a food choice that goes into the mouth.

Also, after watching the movie I see that just helping others can be a 'purpose'. I have decided that this, next to unconditional love, is a great lesson to give our children every day. PURPOSE gives us meaning to our lives. Keeps us fulfilled and ALIVE. And...just by helping others it can make us eternally happy and healthy. 

Phew!!!!!!!! That was a lot...hope you aren't feeling too overwhelmed or confused by this mind twister. 

Have a great Monday!

image adapted via 800cutgreens