[01:31] About Flavia Del Monte
[03:59] Flavia's Cooking Story
[11:48] Coconut Sugar, Coconut Oil & Coconut Aminos
[19:08] Negative Effects of Soy Sauce
[21:29] On Using Potato Starch
[25:05] On the Microplane
[27:47] How To Cook The Perfect Steak
[34:17] Healthy Food For Toddlers
[36:05] Avoiding High Blood Sugar & Weight Gain For Dessert
[42:12] End of the Podcast
In this episode of The Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast:
“I come from a family of seventeen kids, so I have sixteen brothers and sisters. Same parent, seventeen separate births.” “You're not going to have that huge fluctuation in your blood sugars, and it's because of a fiber contained in coconut called inulin.” “So cornstarch, it's very high in carbs and it's a grain, so it's not the best product to use.” “I make the most of my baked good with coconut flour or almond flour, and you don't have the spike in your blood sugars.”
Ben: Hey folks, it's Ben Greenfield, and today, I have a guest named Flavia on the show, and the reason I think that's kind of funny is she actually wrote a book about flavorful cooking called “The Flavalicious Cookbook”, and so she's got the perfect name to be in the whole cooking and food sector, but I didn't just randomly decide to interview somebody named Flavia. About I would say probably a decade ago, and I don't know if I told you this, Flavia, I met your husband, Vince, Vince Del Monte, and for those of you listening in, you may be familiar with Vince if you’re in the fitness world because Vince is well known in the fitness world as the go-to expert for skinny guys to build muscle. At least that's what he was doing back in the day when I met him, and I believed that when I met him, he was going by the name Skinny Guy Savior or something along those lines. Is that right, Flavia? Was that one of his titles?
Flavia: Yes, he's still famous for that, yup.
Ben: And Vince was actually the guy who I was able to hang out with at a few fitness conferences, and he actually taught me a lot about how to do things like start a fitness website and write e-books, and when I saw that his wife had written a cookbook, I'd figured I'd check it out. And it turns out it's not actually your stereotypical, cut-the-calories, fat phobic mumbo jumbo. It's actually jam-packed with some pretty delicious recipes, and also what I really like, some outside the box thinking and even a lot of kitchen tools that I think a lot of people aren't really familiar with, but that you should definitely have around. So in this episode, we're going to talk about Flavia's book, about how she got into cooking in the first place because apparently, she didn't know anything about it before she got started into this and as we were discussing right before we started Flavia, if you guys hear any kind of screaming or children crying in the background, it is because Flavia has a nineteen-month old? Is that right, sixteen, or nineteen?
Flavia: Nineteen months.
Ben: Okay, cool, and she's been having nightmares, so that's the story if you guys hear screaming. We'll try and edit it out, as much as we can. So Flavia, so I just want to jump right in here, and actually before I do, the name of the cookbook that we’re talking about just for those of you listening in is called “Flavalicious Cooking”, and I'll put a link to it over in the show notes which are going to be at bengreenfieldfitness.com/flavor. That's bengreenfieldfitness.com/flavor, but early in the book, Flavia, you say, “I was so sick of eating salt and pepper tilapia, steamed broccoli and raw nuts to see my abs come out of hiding”, and that quote actually struck a chord with me 'cause I used to be in the bodybuilding industry where we'd pretty much make Tupperware containers with rice, broccoli and chicken, and that would be what you'd take everywhere you went just in case that any food that was served was not something that passed mustered. You'd eat your rice, broccoli and chicken until you were extremely sick of it. So it sounds like you were in the same boat. I'm curious what happened, and how you learned to expand beyond tilapia, broccoli and nuts?
Flavia: Yeah, that's the story with my old life. I actually died it down on salmon for one photoshoot, and when I was working out, you could smell salmon coming out of my skin. It was disgusting, and I haven't been able to eat a lot of salmon since. Vince and I were living the extreme lifestyle, and we knew exactly how to train and what to put in our bodies in order for us to have nice shapely bodies and a nice six-pack going on for us, but I never really learned how to cook, and my mother would be ashamed. She knew I was telling everybody that, but I come from a family of seventeen kids, so I have sixteen brothers and sisters.
Ben: Holy hell.
Flavia: Same parent, seventeen separate births. So my parents didn't really have a lot of time to teach us things like cooking. I entered into my marriage, I actually felt really insecure a fact that I was marrying an Italian, and I didn't know how to cook, but lucky for me at the time, we were just eating salt and pepper tilapia and steamed broccoli. So it was quite easy to make.
Ben: It's lean, and it's also relatively fat-free, right?
Flavia: Exactly, and at the time, that's all that we knew, and I was just really sick of eating that way. I remember meeting one of Vince's friends who is a bodybuilder, and he told me that he doesn't feel like he's dieting because his wife knows how to cook, and I remember that opened up an entire conversation with Vince and I and how he was saying how lucky he is and me feeling insecure as a wife, and so I just decided that it was time for me to start to learn how to cook, and if there was a way to make tilapia taste good, I was going to find it because we wanted to keep eating healthy foods, but I wasn't willing to continue down this path, and I was definitely not willing to sacrifice looking good for results.
So I hired a chef in Toronto after a lot of research who was specializing in cooking meals and delivering them to their house of people that had special diets, so most of them were diagnosed with some sort of medical condition like diabetes, and they needed food that was prepared for them, and they, probably like me, didn't know how to cook, and that's what she was doing. So I contacted her and asked her if she would be willing to teach me how to cook, and she thought it was a fabulous idea. She was trying to transition out of that space of delivering meals, and she wanted to get into more of one-on-one cooking, so her background was she had a lot of experience in the Asian culture. She had traveled the world, and so she cooked with a lot of light ingredients. Everything made from fresh herb and spices, she made everything from scratch, and so that was how I started to learn how to cook. I would come home, and everything that I learned, I would make over and over again that entire week until I basically perfected the cooking lesson for that week, and it continued on for about nine months I was with her, and it was definitely one of the best decisions I've made for sure.
Ben: Yeah, and at that time you were a fitness model, right? Or were you a bodybuilder, which were you?
Flavia: I was neither, I guess more of a fitness model. I never competed, I started online, and I did provide workouts for women, so I did a lot of photo shoots, and I did a lot of workouts, so I had to look the part obviously, but I never did compete.
Ben: Now at the same time you were eating more bland foods prior to hooking up with this cook, and I believe the cook is Chef Amy, is that who you talk about in the book?
Flavia: Yeah, it is.
Ben: Okay, before you hooked up with her, and you were eating more of this bland stereotypical fitness world foods, were you also experiencing anything that you would consider to be nutrient deficiencies or hormonal imbalances or a lot of the other things that go hand in hand with not having a very broad or diverse diet? Or for you, was it more flavor fatigue?
Flavia: No, I definitely was experiencing hormonal changes. My hormones are out of balance almost every time I died it down for a photo shoot. I would go through the crazy crying, having all these different emotions, and I mean it does play a part in your marriage as well. When Vince and I were dieting for certain things, we would not treat each other well, so that was another big lifestyle change that we wanted, and another thing was when I met Amy, I actually became pregnant. We were trying to get pregnant, and another reason that I wanted to hire a chef was that I wanted to cook for my children, and I wanted them to have nutritious foods, and I wanted to create an experience in the kitchen where my kids will carry on a tradition like Mama's Cooking.
Ben: Yeah, the tried and truth family recipes.
Flavia: Yeah, and I just thought what a shame it would be if she didn't get to take that on to her children and leave that legacy.
Ben: Right, that I have a similar story in a way. When I was a bodybuilder and I was at 3% body fat and looked really great, it actually did affect my relationship with my wife because I was so hormonally depleted. I was basically just like a piece of meat who'd lie on the couch at home, and I'd drink my ABB Bodybuilding Protein Shakes and have rice and broccoli and chicken and my tuna fish out of the can and just had very low intake of nutrients and because I was fat phobic, a low intake of fat soluble vitamins and a lot of the hormonal deficiencies that just sucked the happiness right out of life, and it really was when my wife started making fantastic home cooked meals that I really started to tap into the life that can go beyond steak and stir fry. So yeah I hear you. I had some similar things going on myself.
Now in the book, I want to jump into some of the cool practical things that you get into. If I could ask you some of the questions that I had that I think people would benefit from as I was going through the book. So one of the things that you talk about is you have a lot of alternatives to sugar and a lot of alternatives to artificial sweeteners, and a lot of them we're familiar with like stevia and agave and all this stuff. One of the things you talked about is coconut sugar, and I don't think we've talked about coconut sugar before on the show. Can you explain what that is and why you like to use that?
Flavia: Sure. I'm coconut crazy, I call it in my book because coconut is so versatile, and it has anti-viral and immune boosting elements which is amazing for such a little power food. So coconut sugar, you'll probably hear it referred to as palm sugar because it comes from the palm tree of a coconut, and more specifically the flower bud on the palm tree. So what happens is they cut, make an incision, it's my nursing background coming in now, into the flower bud of the palm tree, and they collect the sap out of it, and then all that they heat it until most of the water has evaporated and that's it.
So it's very minimal processing that goes on. It's almost like maple syrup, how it comes from the tree, only it's much lower on the GI index, so you're not going to have that huge fluctuation in your blood sugars, and it's because of a fiber contained in coconut called inulin. So I love it for that aspect, so you're going to have less of a blood sugar spike, and it's also rich in a ton of minerals, iron, zinc, calcium, potassium, and it also comes along with fatty acids, so it's a great, great sugar.
Ben: So the actually sugar itself, if you buy coconut sugar from let's say Amazon for example. When you're purchasing the sugar, it actually has inulin and the fatty acids in it. Those haven't been stripped out of it in the same way that table sugar from sugar cane has a lot of the benefits of sugar cane stripped out of it?
Flavia: That's right because it's such a minimal heat that is required to evaporate the water, and it's so naturally sweet. So yeah, it's wonderful, and it tastes very similar to ground sugar. I have a European father-in-law and a European father, and they're both espresso junkies, and I replaced their sugar with coconut sugar, and they never complained. They said it tastes just like the regular sugar.
Ben: Did you say they were espresso junkies?
Ben: So they're using coconut sugar in their espresso?
Flavia: In espresso, yeah.
Ben: Isn't it called a Cuban coffee?
Flavia: I'm not sure.
Ben: Okay, I seem to remember that's what that is when you mix some kind of a sugar with a shot of espresso to make a syrupy flavor. That'd be interesting to do that with coconut sugar. Not that I endorse high amounts of sugar and caffeine mixed together, but that's interesting. This was one I wasn't really familiar with, coconut sugar. I think I've even seen my wife cook with it before, but I hadn't really read about it much, and that's interesting about the inulin, the fatty acid component. So do you have any particular brands you adhere to? Have you found one brand to be best, or is every coconut sugar created equal?
Flavia: I think you do have to do research. I don't know the brand, but I actually do get it from a health food store here in my hometown, but you do have to make sure that you look on the package because sometimes it is mixed with cane sugar. So just making sure that it's pure coconut sugar.
Ben: Okay, gotcha. Now another thing you talk about, and this is another new ingredient that some folks might not be familiar with is coconut butter, and I'm curious if you could explain how that's different if it is different from coconut oil and how you would use coconut butter.
Flavia: Sure, so coconut oil is extracted from the meat of the coconut, so that's the white part whereas coconut butter contains the meat. So coconut butter still is made up of 60% oil, but it's much richer. So if you were to take a bag of shredded coconut and just put it in a blender to puree it, you'd have coconut butter.
Ben: Now does that also go by the name coconut manna?
Flavia: It could but I don't know.
Ben: Okay, because I've purchased some of this made by a company called Nutiva. Coconut manna before, and it's like a hard, thick coconut oil that has this very coco-nutty flavor and almost breaks apart in chunks, and you could almost eat it like a snack. From what I understood, it's like a coconut oil but has the actual flesh of the coconut included in it, and I don't know if it's the same thing as butter. So how do you use coconut butter because all I really did with the coconut manna was I would just mix it in with some protein powder as some chunky goodness, but I'm sure that life goes beyond that. So how do you use it?
Flavia: You can use it in your baked goods to replace butter. It's fabulous, and Melia, my daughter, she has a habit of sticking spoons in jar that I have opened while I'm baking. She loves just to scoop it out and eat it just by the teaspoon full. It has a lot of fiber, one tablespoon actually has three grams of fiber and that has the proteins, the vitamins, the minerals that you won't get in coconut oil.
Ben: Interesting. So you use it as a snack, do you have any particular go-to recipes that you included in?
Flavia: I do, I have it in some cookies in my “Flavalicious Cooking” cookbook.
Ben: Okay, do you just add it to the actual cookie batter before you bake cookies?
Flavia: Yup. Yeah, you basically just replace butter with coconut butter.
Ben: Nice, and for those of you listening by the way, I'll be sure over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/flavor, I'll include a link to some of these products and also Flavia's cookbook. So we've got coconut sugar and this coconut butter which I think might be the same thing a coconut manna, but I'm not sure. I'll research it after the show, and let folks know in the show notes if it is, and then you also, while we're in the coconut bandwagon, you talk about coconut aminos. What are coconut aminos, and how do you use those?
Flavia: So coconut aminos are my new best friend. I love stir fry and teriyaki sauces, and when I discover that soy sauce is not good for you, I was quite sad, but coconut aminos taste exactly like soy sauce. So it's made from the sap of the coconut, and all that's added to it is natural sea salt, and that's it. It is naturally sweet, so it doesn't have to go through any processing. They just tap the coconut, add the salts, and put it in a container.
Ben: Now what is your beef with soy sauce, just for people listening who might still be on the soy sauce bandwagon?
Flavia: Yeah, so it's been linked to increasing carcinogens. It also wreaks havoc on hormones. Mainly it increases estrogen, decreases testosterone and also negatively affects your thyroids, so it decreases thyroid function and it's just because of the processing that it goes through, makes the protein impure.
Ben: Now, what about Bragg's Liquid Aminos, have you ever used that before?
Flavia: You know I used to think that it was healthy, but I discovered that it's not. They talk about how the processing is different because it's fermented, but yeah. As I dug more into my research, I discovered that it’s just good just to avoid it all together.
Ben: Interesting, it's still derived from soy beans, the Bragg's Liquid Aminos whereas this coconut aminos. That's derived from coconut, and then they've got sea salt added to it.
Flavia: That's right, and it has seventeen amino acids and B-vitamins, potassium and vitamin C, so you get a lot more bang for the buck, if you will.
Ben: And is it heat stable? Can you use it in pretty much all the same ways as you would use a heat sauce?
Flavia: Yeah, it is, and it doesn't require a lot of heating to make them unlike maple syrup and the agave cactus, so it is. I use it in a lot of stir fries, and I use it in some dressings as well. I actually just made a pad thai with it.
Ben: You made a pad thai with coconut aminos?
Flavia: Yeah, it was fabulous.
Ben: Yeah, I'm going to have you talk to my wife because every week, we try and make our pad thai just a little bit more perfect, and the kids get on board, and we started thins when we were preparing for a family trip to Thailand, and she's always experimenting with different ingredients, different kinds of fish sauces, different combinations of eggs and chicken and different soak times for the noodles, so I may need to hook her up with you to talk a little bit about how you're using coconut aminos in your pad thai.
Flavia: Yeah, of course. Vince asks for it at least once a week now.
Ben: Nice. Okay, so you also talk about ways that you're able to make sauces and soups thicker without actually using cornstarch which is usually the go-to ingredient for thickening. First of all, why wouldn't you want to use cornstarch, and what have you found as a good alternative to cornstarch?
Flavia: So cornstarch, it's very high in carbs and it's a grain, so it's not the best product to use. I do think that the research that's coming out that grains cause a lot of inflammation in the bodies, so I try to stay away from a lot of grains. I'm not grain-free, but because of that, I'd rather just use something different instead of the cornstarch, and there are some better alternatives, and I think a lot of people use cornstarch because it's very easy to make. Whereas when you use things like potato starch, which I use in my cookbook, even arrowroot, you really do have to experiment with it because they can thin, and once they thin, you can't reuse them. They will never thicken again, so potato starch I find is great because it's a quick thickener, so when you were in a hurry, which a lot of times I am, I only have 15 to 20 minutes to cook dinners most nights, it's a really, really great way of thickening up your sauces really, really fast.
Ben: Now are you talking about the same kind of potato starch that a lot of people in the health industry have been referring to as resistant starch?
Flavia: I'm not sure.
Ben: Okay, because the reason I ask is a lot of folks are experimenting for example Bob's Red Mill Potato Starch as something that they'll actually consume as a starch that's very either resistant to digestion, a.k.a. the resistant starch, or else it's something that gives a very slow bleed of carbohydrates, like a low-glycemic index type of starch, and people are using this to increase the amount of good bacteria in the gut to assist with stable energy levels, and I've even heard about people using it to do things like get lucid dreaming at night by somehow modifying bacterial activity in the gut during sleep.
Ben: Yeah, you should look into it sometime. It's called the resistant starch diet, but you're using potato starch as an alternative to cornstarch as a thickener as well?
Flavia: That's right, and I do use Bob's Mill.
Ben: You use that same stuff, the Bob's Red Mill?
Ben: I'm addicted to for my morning smoothies, the Bob's Red Mill Unsweetened Coconut Flakes. The big thick coconut flakes. I make a kill smoothie in the morning and dump a bunch of coconut flakes into them for added texture, so I'm a fan of the Bob's Red Mill stuff, but haven't done a lot with the potato starch before. So that can pretty much be used as a complete replacement for the cornstarch?
Flavia: Complete replacement, it just takes a little bit of playing around with it if you're used to the cornstarch 'cause cornstarch is essentially easier to use. But once you learn how to use it, it's simple. You just really have to wait until the end of your cooking.
Ben: Okay, got it. So few of the things so far that we need to add to our cupboards are coconut sugar, coconut butter, coconut aminos, some kind of a potato starch, and then you get into tools to, kitchen tools that you like to use, and one of the things that you talk about that I think maybe a lot of people don't really use much is a Microplane. What's a Microplane, and how are you using that in your cookbook, in your cooking?
Flavia: Yeah, my husband, Melia and I, we all went to Florida. We spent our winters in Florida, and this was one tool that I brought with me 'cause I just knew that the condo that we were renting wouldn't have one, but this is something that Chef Amy taught me about, and it's just a fine grater. It's great for zesting citrus fruits and to garlic and ginger and nutmeg. I use it a lot for zesting lemons. It just either adds a beautiful flavor or just for appearance sake. Even if you have company over and you just zest a little bit of anything, even an orange and you just place it on top of your plate. It just makes it look fabulous, but garlic for vinaigrette because you always want to use fresh garlic for your vinaigrette. Unless you're cooking, you really should be using fresh garlic, so use in a Microplane for garlic and for ginger, ginger for stir fries is great. And I do put a lot of ginger in my vinaigrette. So one thing that I've been using in my Microplane lately for our fresh chilis for sauces and salsas because it keeps the seeds out which are the really hot parts of the chilis, and it just creates a really well balanced flavor throughout the whole sauce or salsa.
Ben: So how exactly do you use a Microplane? Do you actually draw across the chili to break it in to almost like a zest?
Flavia: Yeah, you would cut it open, and you would just take the seeds out, and then just use it just like you will like Parmesan. You just rub it right on the Microplane.
Ben: Okay, gotcha. And you can pretty much use that with a lot of these fresh herbs. What about something like turmeric? Can you use it on turmeric to make almost like a curry type of zest?
Flavia: Not sure, I haven't tried turmeric before.
Ben: Interesting, have you cooked with turmeric at all?
Flavia: Yes, I have.
Ben: Okay, gotcha. That's a fantastic one, especially for athletes as a really, really good anti-inflammatory. I'm a really big fan of juicing turmeric and also using it in cooking.
Flavia: Yeah, you know I always just have ground turmeric at home, so I've never tried.
Ben: Now another thing you talk about is an interesting that you have of preserving your herbs. On page 29 of the cookbook, you talk a lot about herb preservation. Can you explain what you're doing with your herbs?
Flavia: Sure, I found it annoying, I guess, to get rid of fresh herbs that I didn't use. I was just travelling or I just didn't use them in time 'cause I find that they don't last as long as you would like them to. So whenever I see that it's withering or if I'm going away on a trip, I freeze my herbs, and what I normally do, I do three things. So I will make a pesto, so using oil, so let's say that you take some basil, you add some olive oil, and you just puree it and you store as a pesto in a glass container in your freezer.
Another thing that I do every week on my Sunday, my Sundays are my batch cooking days, so on Sundays, I always fill up ice cube trays with pureed herbs, and I just add a little bit of oil, so it's almost like a pesto or even water, if you will. And then you just pour them into ice cube trays, and cover them with some saran wrap, and you just pop out the ice cube once you're ready to cook, and they melt so fast that you can literally just put it out. Three minutes later, you can base your kebabs, I do this with chicken kebabs. Base your kebabs with pesto, and stick them in the oven, and your dinner's done super, super fast. And then the third way is just stuffing them into a freezer bag or a small freezer jar, and just freeze them until you need them.
Ben: That's really interesting about the ice cubes. You can just use an ice cube tray, you can literally just put a little bit of water or oil in there, and you can put the herbs. Do you do anything with the herbs first? Do you blend them or mix them before you put them in the ice cube tray?
Flavia: Yeah, I would puree them. At oftentimes, I do grate some ginger or some garlic, and then I put that in, so it's really a pesto that I like to make into ice cubes.
Ben: Okay, that's a great tip because a lot of times, I've noticed that we've had some herbs that I get concerned about going bad in the refrigerator especially. You get your cilantros and your parsleys and the things that tend to degrade a little bit. That's a really interesting tip. I didn't realize that you could freeze the herbs, and do you know if they retain all of their antioxidant properties and anti-inflammatory properties and some of the medicinal properties when they're frozen?
Flavia: As far as I know, yeah they do.
Ben: Cool. Now another thing that you talk about, and this is actually something I asked on another podcast recently, I was interviewing a butcher and asking them about their method of cooking a perfect state, and you actually talk about your method of cooking a perfect steak. So it'll be interesting to compare the two, but can you go into how you make the perfect steak because you've got what appears to be a really good recipe in the book.
Flavia: Sure, so the term that I use is Three-Three-Three-Three Method, four threes which isn't actually something that I came up with. I think a lot of people use this method, so I'll go through what that is. Basically you just cook the steak for three minutes with the lid down. You want the grill to be nice and hot, and you want your meat to be in room temperature which is actually a really good tip for cooking sort of meat or any food, bringing all of your food up to room temperature before you cook will ensure your meal will have a beautiful, even consistency.
Ben: So even if you're marinating it, you don't want to just take it right out of the refrigerator, and throw it on the grill. You want to have it at room temp for about how long does it take?
Flavia: About thirty minutes usually? That one tip was a game changer in our house for use.
Ben: And then you’re putting it on a barbecue grill?
Flavia: A barbecue grill or an indoor grill, as long as it's heated. So you put it on for three minutes, if you were using a barbecue, you would close the lid. Leave it for three minutes, don't touch it. After three minutes, you go in and you flip it in a 90 degree angle, and what that's going to do is just going to make a beautiful grill mark. Close the lid, leave that on for another three minutes, and then you do the same thing. You flip it over for three minutes, and then after three minutes, you flip it again for a 90 degree angle, and you cook that for three more minutes, and so that's just to have that beautiful, well looking and well-cooked steak, but a lot of times, I will coat my steak with butter, and I'll add sage, rosemary and thyme fresh, and you can just tie them up with a string, and tie up all the beautiful fresh herbs right on top, and you can coat it. So what you do is you string all the herbs together, and you dip them in [33:07] ______ kinda wash or brush over the steak, and that's the way that I like to do my steaks. Fresh herbs and some butter, and then every time that you flip it over, you re-base it.
Ben: So you're keeping butter right beside the grill, and every time you flip, are you using a brush to re-base it with butter?
Flavia: No, I just dip the actual herbs, and I use the herbs as my brush.
Ben: Okay use the herb as your brush and you're dipping those in butter, so every time you flip that steak, you're just basically re-brushing.
Ben: Okay, and so you go for three minutes on hot surface of the grill, you flip 90 degrees, and then you go another three minutes on the other side. And you go Three-Three-Three-Three, so you're basically getting a crisscross pattern?
Flavia: That's right.
Ben: So the steak is on there for a total of twelve minutes approximately?
Flavia: Yeah, and if it's not done, then you just repeat the method.
Ben: Does twelve minutes give you about a medium rare or is that a well done.
Flavia: A medium rare exactly which is how I like to do my steak.
Ben: Yes, I've got a couple of big rib-eyes up in the freezer right now. I may have to thaw those bad boys out and give this one a try. So as far as your daughter goes, she's nineteen months now, and do you have any little tips you want to throw out there for people who have kids as far as some of the go-to healthy recipes that she actually likes?
Flavia: I find that anything I make, I just cut into shapes or French fry shapes, and she will eat anything. So I think just making them something that she can just finger pick really helps, but I do also like to make rubs just out of coconut flour and a whole bunch of herbs, and I make chicken fingers out of those. That's really what she loves to eat.
Ben: So you'll dredge a cut-up chicken breast in coconut flour and herbs and then just basically grill that or fry it or do you use the oven?
Flavia: Normally I will bake it, so I'll cut them up into French fry shapes and coat each one separately with the rub, and stick it in the oven, and I make them small enough so I'm really only cooking for fifteen minutes, so it's super, super fast, and I have the rub always on hand, so I just put it on a plate, and I just rub the fingers. Just coat it all with the breading and then bake it, and she loves that.
Ben: Gotcha, and then as far as the sweet tooth goes, a lot of people can wrap their heads around chicken fingers and coconut aminos and steak, but then they just fall to pieces at night, and they get their sweet tooth, and they crave the desserts, and I'm curious what you've found as a good go-to that doesn't spike the blood sugar and perhaps 'cause a weight gain. Blood sugar won't roller coaster ride that type of thing, but that still tastes better than cardboard for dessert.
Flavia: I make the most of my baked good with coconut flour or almond flour, and you don't have the spike in your blood sugars. I'm not a sweet tooth, believe it or not, but my husband is. So oftentimes, he'll have me make him some cookies for after dinner, and he stays nice and lean. So yeah, I put a lot of nut butters in my baking as well and my cookies, and I also make a lot of muffins. Melia and I use a non-dairy chocolate, so I'll do care rub, and I'll add those into the muffins, and then I just make a little tiny, mini muffins, and she loves those.
Ben: Now are you adding a lot more fats to those? I know some people will use protein powders in their baking as a replacement for some of the carbs. You doing anything like that, or are you primarily just relying upon coconut and almond flours and nut flour as an alternative to wheat flour?
Flavia: I do sometimes put protein powder. I find it hard just 'cause I'm trying to do vegan proteins with Melia especially, so what I find are very easy to cook with. So if I'm doing anything for events, I will add some protein powder, but usually I stick to the almond, and yeah, I would be putting in essentially more fat.
Ben: Why are you doing vegan proteins?
Flavia: I just don't feel well when I have whey, it's just I'm sensitive to it.
Ben: Yeah, I actually get it. I get the same thing. I'll have a lot of people do a whey protein isolate rather than a concentrate or rather than a casing and whey mix because you avoid a lot of the potential allergenic proteins when you stick to an isolate versus a casing, but I know that for me personally, I still feel way better when I do pea, hemp or rice blend rather than a whey protein, and I'm still not quite sure why because there aren't a lot of the allergenic proteins in there, but I just know that I feel better when I do a vegan protein. Obviously it's not as anabolic for post-workout, but I think it's one of those things where with protein, it's ultimately the complete proteins you've consumed by the end of any given day that has a greater influence on your anabolic status than necessarily whether or not you grab whey protein within 20 minutes after the workout, so that's interesting that you're experienced the same thing.
Flavia: Yeah, I just started researching Go Whey, so I'm interested to see what I find on that 'cause I never put Melia on any calsillica. It was just I made my own Go formula, so I'm experimenting a lot with Go.
Ben: My kids grew up after breastfeeding, we switched to goat milk, and the protein that I use is actually a goat-based protein. I've done a couple of podcasts on it with the goat farm that actually makes the whey protein that I used to use before I switched to vegan, but it's more thermodynamically favorable for the human body because it's a smaller protein, right? The size of a baby goat is more similar to the size of a baby human, and the size of an adult goat is approximately the weight of an adult human. And so the protein size is just more absorbable and better utilized by the human body. So it actually is interesting when you look into the hypoallergenic potential of goat versus cow protein.
Flavia: Yeah, for sure.
Ben: And that I know for a lot of people who don't have access to raw goat milk, organic goat milk in liquid form, there are powdered forms out there too that actually aren't too bad, even for kids.
Flavia: Yeah, they're pretty good. Yeah, we were in, I think it was Barbados, and there were different goats in the field, and [40:31] ______ for some reason I said to Vince, I said I feel so connected to goats right now because I've just been researching them so much, and I just love all the research that I'm finding, so it was quite hysterical that he thought I was connected to these goats.
Ben: Well maybe cookbook number two can be about goats.
Flavia: Yes. [laughs]
Ben: The Flavalicious Goat Book, so you've got “Flavalicious Cooking”. I know you have over a hundred and fifty recipes in here, some cool stories about how you hooked up with a chef, learned to cook and changed their entire approached, and merged from tilapia and rice and nuts into something a little bit more dynamic, so I'll put links to some of the things that we talked about today over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/flavor. It sounds like your daughter was well behaved; I didn't hear any screaming in the background during today's episode, so that's great.
Flavia: It's good.
Ben: I don't know if she was chewing on chicken tenders or sleeping. And anyways folks, if you are listening in, this is a good one to add. Obviously I know that the number of cookbooks out there can be dizzying, but one of the things I do is I review some of these cookbooks and make sure that they have my stamp of approval, and this one definitely does. So hopefully you picked up some good tips today from Flavia. And Flavia, thanks for joining us today, and giving us these tips.
Flavia: No problem, it was a pleasure talking with you.
Ben: Alright folks, well this is Ben Greenfield and Flavia Del Monte from bengreenfieldfitness.com/flavor, signing out. Have a healthy week.
Meet Flavia Del Monte (pictured above).
She kinda has the perfect name for a book about flavorful cooking, eh?
I didn't just randomly decide to interview Flavia. Nearly a decade ago, I actually met Flavia's husband Vince Del Monte. Vince is well known in the fitness world as a go-to expert for skinny guys to build muscle (I believe when I met him he was going by the name “Skinny Guy's Savior”), and he's a guy who taught me a lot about how to do things like start a fitness website and write e-books.
So when I saw that his wife Flavia had written a cookbook, I figured I'd check it out, and it's actually not your stereotypical cut-the-calories, fat-phobic, mumbo-jumbo. Instead, it's actually jam-packed with some really delicious recipes and outside-the-box thinking. So in this episode, I interview Flavia about her book – which is entitled Flavalicious Cooking – and you'll discover…
-How Flavia broke out of the stereotypical fitness model diet of salt and peppered tilapia, steamed broccoli and raw nuts…
-The versatility and benefits of coconut sugar as an alternative to regular sugar and artificial sweeteners…
-The difference between coconut butter and coconut oil…
-How you can use coconut aminos as an alternative to soy sauce…
-How you can make sauces and soups thicker without using corn starch…
-How to use a microplane and why you should use one…
-How you can use your freezer to preserve your herbs…
-Flavia's 3-3-3-3 recipe to cook a perfect steak…
Resources we discuss in this episode: