Amy Chaplin is an author and chef, whose approach to whole foods and cooking is endlessly inspiring. Her cookbook is nothing short of a kitchen bible to us. We had the pleasure of meeting up with Amy in NYC a few years ago and had the best time chatting about our favorite subjects like sprouted flours, cookbook publishing, and acupuncture. Needless to say, we were excited to get a peak at her self-care routine.
In this interview, Amy tells us about the valuable self-care tips she learned from her mother, her favorite meals made with pantry staples, the skincare brand she’s been using since she was a teenager, her approach to exercise, stress, and so much more.
— Is routine important to you or do you like things to be more open and free?
I like both. I like to have a morning routine and create a work routine for whatever project I’m working on but I also like to have time for free thinking and spontaneously connecting with friends.
— What do your mornings look like? If they differ from day to day, describe your ideal morning.
I get up early, 6 am is the usual time but sometimes eariler depending on what I’m working on. I make warm lemon water, light a candle and mediate for 10 to 15 minutes. In late summer the sun is coming up just as I finish and I usually sit for a bit and often reply to messages from Austrlia (they are going to bed around that time). Then I feed our two dogs (my wife takes them out on a long morning walk) start making breakfast and make sencha tea. Sometimes I skip the sencha and have a matcha latte after breakfast but I try not to have too much caffeine, as much as I love it! If I’m working on recipes from home, I quickly shower, dress and get started right away….sometimes before breakfast but it depends on what I’m testing :)
— Do you have any bedtime rituals that help you sleep well?
I stop working on the computer before dinner and leave it closed. I leave my phone downstairs so its far from my bedroom. I get into bed and usually read cookbooks or watch an episode of any series I’m currently obsessed with :)
— Describe your typical or ideal meal for each of these:
Breakfast – soaked oats + chia (recipe is in my book) or activated grain porridge with homemade nut milk, cardamom and berries. I usually eat grains once a day and it’s usually in the morning.
Lunch – Beans of some kind —depending on recipes I’m testing. Kraut or other fermented veg, greens—salad or steamed depending on weather. I usually add some toppings too: hemp seeds, toasted seeds, sunflower sprouts, scallions anything to make it tasty
Snack – Seeded crackers and nut butter/avocado/bean pate or chia pudding or coconut yogurt
Dinner – An egg or tempeh, avocado, steamed veg and a dressing of some kind—this is often quite small as I’m not always hungry if I have a good lunch or if I’m testing and sampling recipes.
— Do you partake in caffeine and in what form? If not, what is your drink of choice in the morning?
— Do you have a sweet tooth? If so, how do you keep it in check?
I used to but I haven’t eaten sugar on a regular basis for years. If I’m craving something sweet I eat a few spoons of Anita’s coconut yogurt—it has a naturally sweet flavor from coconut with no sweetener. If I have a berry compote around I’ll have some of that with it but I never sweeten them as I’ve gotten used to just the sweetness of the berries. Of course there are times when I’m testing recipes for cakes and muffins and I do enjoy tasting them and the same goes for good raw chocolate. I’m not rigid about it as its part of being a chef but I don’t seek out sugar on a daily basis.
— Are there any particular supplements, herbs, or tinctures/tonics that you take regularly and find to be helpful with your energy level and general wellness?
I change depending on what my acupuncturist recommends in the way of Chinese herbs. I have been taking spirulina to increase protein and greens lately. I take a vitamin D. I’ve been adding maca powder to my breakfasts for years so don’t really consider it a supplement. I like adding locally grown ashwagandha (from Furnace Creek Farm) and reishi or chaga mushroom powder to hot cacao drinks. I drink nettle tea everyday because I love it, especially when you can get it fresh from the farmer’s market.
— Do you exercise and do you have a particular exercise routine that you repeat weekly?
With my job being so physical, these days I gravitate towards Qi Gong and yoga—the gentler classes. I also tend to exercise by default. Walking everywhere, long dog walks, biking and general schlepping around the city and up and down stairs with heavy bags of veggies!
— Do you find exercise to be pleasurable, torturous or perhaps a little of both? How do you put yourself in the right mindset in order to keep up with it?
I used to push myself with torturous classes and long runs but now I do less and enjoy it more. I know that I am more productive when I make time for movement but it has to be mindful. I do yoga at home and love it when I have the time for long luxurious classes…especially restorative.
— What is your idea of beauty – external, internal or both?
Beauty to me is an inner glow that comes from something beyond what and how we take care of our bodies. Mostly it comes with time and a spiritual sense of oneself, our path, the world and other beings around us.
— What is your skincare approach – face and body?
I’ve used Dr. Hauschka since I was a teenager. I have a huge respect for biodynamic growing practices and love the way they preserve their products naturally. I think its one of the most difficult things with natural skin care products—preserving.
— Are there any foods, herbs or supplements you find to be helpful to your skin/hair/general glow?
Local organic veggies, lots of greens, seeds…
— Do you have any beauty tips/tricks you’ve found to be especially useful throughout the years? Family heirlooms are very much welcome.
I notice a difference in my skin when I use a warm compress of essential oils (Dr. Hauschka calls them bath oils). You put a few drops in warm water and soak a face cloth, squeeze it out and press it into your skin. I use lemongrass in the morning and lavender at night. Then you cleanse and use the same water to wash the cleanser off. They smell so good and your skin feels really clean and enlivened afterwards. It’s my mother’s beauty secret, she looks amazing! :)
— Do you practice any consistent routines in order to avoid stress?
Mainly daily meditation and breathing. I don’t feel as clear or grounded without it.
— If stress cannot be avoided, what are your ways of dealing with it?
Hot shower and miso soup :)
— What measures do you take when you sense a cold/general feeling of being under the weather coming on?
Make miso soup with lots of ginger and scallions and I also take Woodstock C & F Seasonal Support. It always helps with a sore throat or when I’m feeling under the weather. Gargling sea salt with warm water. Colloidal silver spray. Hot lemon drink with grated ginger and turmeric. Bath and sleep.
— Do you strive to maintain a healthy work/life balance or do those things overlap for you? What is your approach?
They definitely overlap. I love what I do and have found comfort in the kitchen for as long as I can remember. Of course there are days when work completely takes over but even when my schedule is jam packed, I try and make time to spend with my partner, cuddle the dogs and see family—it just means we’ll be eating recipes that are being tested and they’re grilled for feed back!
— Describe the actions you take or mindset you try to tap into in order to stay on track with your self-care practice and being nice to yourself?
I aften find myself saying “everything is working out for my highest good” and remembering that everything is perfect as it is. I grew up with Louise Hay books.
— What do you consider to be the single most important change you’ve made to your routine or lifestyle in terms of wellness?
Over time my lifestyle and diet has improved and I have a much more balanced approach. I used to be quite strict at times and I know that its not the way to great health for me anyway. I think now I have better overall health so I don’t get thrown off on a regular basis.
— A book/movie/class that influenced your view of self-nourishment or self-care.
Paul Pitchford’s “Healing with Whole Foods” has been in my life for over 20 years and I still consult it. It always gets me in the mood for pure, simple temple-like food. My self care is also influenced by my mother. She has a deep connection to nature and a daily ritual of foot baths, lemon water in the morning and making a nightly hot water bottle (in the cooler months) I’ve carried on these rituals…but don’t seem to get the foot baths in as often as she does.
— Your recipes are so well thought out and always turn out delicious, as well as incredibly nourishing. What is your process when it comes to recipe development?
Thank you so much! My recipes all begin with what I crave, which is mostly deeply nourishing food with clean uncomplicated flavors. They have to make sense to me and not only be healthy but also be visually beautiful. Nature and beauty are what inspire me most. When I am developing recipes I want the steps to be clear and thorough. I spend a lot of time with new recipes before they are published. They’re all tested over and over again by myself, friends, family and recipe testers. I feel a lot of responsibility to readers who spend time and money and a lot of effort making my recipes…they have to work and taste delicious!
— You are a big proponent of keeping a well-stocked pantry. What are some of your favorite meals that you like to throw together with pantry ingredients?
Simple wraps with nori, fermented veggies, avocado (not really pantry but I always have a few of varying ripeness around). Barry’s tempeh, which is made from white beans and adzuki beans and sold frozen, it tastes amazing just panfried in coconut oil. In Australia you can get fresh fava bean tempeh and I’m missing it so much! Red lentil soup with lemon and spinach from my cookbook. That is perfect for right now when the weather is getting cooler and if you don’t have much in the way of veg.
Fun and Inspiration
— What do you do to unwind or treat yourself?
Drive to the country with my wife, play with my nephew, drink tea and sit in the morning sun. Have a pedicure. Travel and be in nature.
— A book/song/movie/piece of art to feed the soul:
Book – “The Power of Intention” by Wayne Dyer
Song/Album – Blue by Joni Mitchell
Movie – I recently saw Lion and was so moved
Piece of Art – Yoko Ono’s simple, whimsical pieces
— What are some of your favorite places to eat in NYC?
— We are captivated by Joan Didion’s compact travel packing list. What are some essential objects that would be in yours?
– Good tea selection + strainer for infusing
– Activated or toasted nuts
– Pajamas and cosy sox (no matter the season)
– Large scarf/shawl
— Is there anyone you would like to hear from next in this interview series?
Photos by Amy Chaplin and Stephen Kent Johnson.