We have been given the opportunity to interview the very well respected and admired Canadian nutrition expert, Ricki Heller. Her lengthy blog press page speaks volumes about her work, yet she is as down to earth and humble as she is accomplished. And Ellen Degeneres would surely agree (The Ellen Show has recommended Ricki’s cookbook Sweet Freedom!). Ricki holds a PhD. She is a college instructor, holistic nutritionist, award winning cookbook author, and very popular food blogger – and yes, we are surprisingly referring to one person! She even knows a thing or two about canines! Her recipes are mostly gluten-free, sugar-free, egg-free, dairy-free and vegan. Knowing what Ricki’s recipes are not, certainly begs the question, “What are they?” To find out (and much more), check out our interview below.
GlutenFreeFind.com: Can you share some info about yourself so we can get to know you better?
Ricki Heller: I’m a holistic nutritionist who has a passion for dessert—especially chocolate-based desserts! Before I studied nutrition, I was a baker and a caterer; I grew up in a house where my mom always had a home-baked treat on the counter. Because of my love of sweets, I ended up with candida (an overgrowth of yeast in the system) and had to adopt a very restricted diet for a while (and there are certain ingredients, such as white sugar or wheat, that I will never eat again). These days, I eat a whole foods, natural and mostly organic vegan diet that is free of sugar, gluten, dairy, eggs, yeast and most fermented foods. I’m also a dog lover (my dogs feature prominently on my blog—they even pipe up on occasion with their own commentary!).
GFF: How did you land in the world of food?
RH: I’ve been baking since I was about six, and have always loved baking and cooking (and good food!). After catering for a few years in my 30s, I decided to study holistic nutrition when I became ill because of the poor quality of my diet (I was quite the junk-food junkie). After graduating, I continued with my foodie pursuits, but in a healthy and whole-foods way. I started teaching cooking classes and eventually opened an organic bakery, which I ran successfully for a few years. Because I am also a writer, I decided to start a food blog, Diet, Dessert and Dogs, in November, 2007. But I didn’t go gluten free until I embarked on the anti-candida diet in March, 2009.
GFF: What food-related ventures have you pursued?
RH: I’ve been a dessert caterer, a baker for a vegan restaurant, the owner of a vegan bakery, a cooking class instructor, a food writer and a cookbook author. I also present food demos at various events in the Toronto area, teach nutrition at a local college, and have appeared on various Toronto-area television shows to talk about healthy eating and thriving with food restrictions.
GFF: What foodie job is your favorite?
RH: I love, love, LOVE creating new recipes, especially recipes that reconstruct a conventional favorite, but using whole-food, sugar-free, non-allergenic ingredients. When I’m on a roll, I can easily spend 12 hours in the kitchen just playing. If I’m trying to re-create a recipe in a more healthy way, it’s not unusual for me to try out 10-15 versions in order to make it perfect. I think I re-tested my Soy-Free Whipped Cream around 50 times!
GFF: What sets your cookbooks apart from others?
RH: My first cookbook, Sweet Freedom was quite unusual at the time it was published (April 2009), as it was the only one on the market that eliminated all refined sweeteners along with eggs, dairy and wheat (though not 100% gluten free). I also incorporated a lot of unusual ingredients in my baking, like puréed spinach in brownies, avocado, chia seeds, or whole oranges. My more recent ebooks are all completely gluten free, as well as free of most common allergens. They are also filled with low glycemic recipes suitable for anyone on an anti-candida diet or for Type II diabetics.
Check out one of Ricki’s all-time favorite recipes here.
For more information about Ricki, her cookbooks, and her recipes, please visit her blog here.