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Author Interview: Linda Hafner

Today we're talking with Linda Hafner, author of Simple, Fresh & Healthy: A Collection of Seasonal Recipes

FQ: In the 1970s the Hafner family had a small farm stand. You talked about how people who once bought "produce by the bushel" changed to the pick and choose method of selecting their produce. What are the benefits of buying locally grown fruits and vegetables and how do you feel this has enriched the health of your own family?

The benefits of buying locally grown fruits and vegetables begin with the environmental impact. Local produce does not have to be transported very far so the transportation costs are minimal, there are no packaging costs, and no plastic containers. The benefit to the local farmers is obvious. And of course nutritionally, the sooner you eat it after it's picked the more vitamins are retained. Local fresh produce came in to our farm stand every day off our farm and from local farmers. I planned my meals around that produce, brought it home and cooked it that night. Health wise, you can't beat fresh fruits and vegetables!

FQ: Many people talk about detoxing and purging things like sugar from their diets, yet you include it in several of your recipes. Take for example, your recipe for "Apple Country Cake." You definitely don't skimp on the sugar! What is your reasoning for keeping things like sugar and some higher fat contents in your recipes?

The idea of my cookbook was to get people to cook local fruit and produce from scratch! It's a start because this is surly lacking from the American diet! That being said I did cut the sugar from every dessert in the book, as much as I could without compromising the recipe! In the Apple Country cake, I offer advice NOT to use sugar in the apples.

I believe all the fats in the cookbook are either canola oil or olive oil. I don't believe in dessert every night....but for those special occasions! I don't think deprivation works! I'm trying to get my reader to cook simple meals from prepared mixes with chemicals and preservatives....if you make it, you know what you put into it! I think we need to take "small steps" to get people to change their eating habits.....not radical changes. So many people I talked to either hated to cook or didn't know how or felt it was too time consuming. I wanted to dispel that myth and get people to start cooking from scratch again and to involve their families in it. What great family fun to have their children help them plant a small garden, then harvest and cooking the food! You just might get your kids to eat those vegetables!

FQ: Oftentimes first time cookbooks used a simple ring binder format with pages that look as if they are fresh off a copy machine. Your cookbook is totally professional and the WOW factor is evident on each and every page. Can you tell us briefly how you went about producing a cookbook that could rival some of the best on the market?

I had an idea for a cookbook that was done in seasons using our local produce to coincide with the opening of our new garden center....One of the best food photographers just happens to live in Syracuse, his name is James Scherzi. His wife is a very talented graphic designer, Holly Scherzi. My book is the 3rd cookbook they've done. I loved the first book they did... so I went to them with my idea! They really liked the idea and found a writer who they thought might be able to work with me. The 4 of us clicked, and so began about a 3 year project! Denise Harrigan came to my house 2-3 times a week and listened to me talk as I cooked, and she recorded my words. We all knew everyone likes to see a picture of the recipe! So I cooked and we photographed as many as we could, some in the studio, some in my kitchen, some in my backyard. I am not a food stylist, I just love to cook! I wanted the recipes to be easy for anyone to duplicate if they could see them finished. And so they say, the rest is history! We all are pleased with the book and the response we've had from it. We've continued our relationship as Jim and Holly have done photography and graphic design we are using in the garden center.

FQ: The recipes in your cookbook will appeal to people of all generations. There are recipes like "Sage Turkey Burgers" that the twenty-something crowd will gravitate toward, but there are recipes like "Crock Pot Beef Stew" that have that homey appeal their grandparents would marvel at. How and why did you decide to include some of your recipes? Any method to your madness?

All the recipes in the book are my recipes or from my Mom. Cooking changes with the seasons. I never thought about them appealing to different generations! I was trying to use what's available in each season and use recipes that would be available then.

FQ: You mention in your brief confessional in the beginning of the book, that you had "never grown a vegetable from seed to harvest." Perhaps you'd like to revisit that garden and tell people about how easy (or difficult) it is to grow your own.

I really wanted to include a garden in my cookbook! We are a garden center....and I wanted everyone to know how simple and rewarding it would be to grow some of your own produce. Lettuces, herbs, tomatoes and peppers are easily grown in containers if you don't have space. Lately the media has focused on growing your own produce to save on the food bill, not to mention the health benefits. I wanted to prove how easily this could be done. So, I set about to prove my theory. In my 6X10 ft. garden I put about $35.00 worth of plants and seeds and calculated I was able to harvest about $400.00 worth of produce. I was amazed at how little time I spent weeding and watering my garden, then when I harvested my first crop, spinach, I couldn't believe how easy it was and how wonderful my spinach was!

FQ: If I had my druthers, I would probably select "Fresh Strawberry Pie" as one of my favorite recipes in this book. If you had to pick just one, which one would that be and why? Oh, and perhaps you'd like to say why the strawberry pie is sooooo scrumptious!

I think my favorite recipe is the "Pure Plum tomato sauce!" It illustrates my cooking philosophy, simple, fresh, and healthy. Shrimp or chicken can be added for a great addition. And this recipe is best with homegrown tomatoes!

FQ: Food is obviously a very important part of Hafner family life. Would you like to talk a bit about your family and your business, the "Chuck Hafner's Farmer's Market?"

Yes, food is important to the Hafner family! All 3 of my children cook, although my daughter's are better at it than my son. We all appreciate healthy simple food, it dominates many of our conversations. As far as the business, Chuck and I have been married for 40 years. We've grown this business from a small produce stand to a state of the art 67,000sq. ft. garden center farm market. It's been an amazing journey.

To learn more about Simple, Fresh & Healthy: A Collection of Seasonal Recipes please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.

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