From Restauration to Restoring Health

Bare Organics

For those reading this who loved and missed my restaurant, Restauration, I want to explain the trajectory that takes me from Restauration to my new business, Small Wonder Food.  Many have asked why I am not reopening as a restaurant and I want to explain why.  When my husband and I opened Restauration, the guiding vision was my personal life goal of changing the way people eat.  Our tagline was “restoring authenticity to food from the ground up” and our hashtag #eatrealfood.  At Restauration, my team and I followed my approach to food developed after years of studying it as a farmer, a consumer, a patient, a restaurateur, and a nutrition professional.   The principles that make up my approach are as follows:

  • Inspiration is seasonal and local.  Well-raised local food is healthier, fresher, and more sustainable. We designed dishes seasonally and often to showcase an amazing artisanal product.  Examples of this include the lamb sausage we had custom prepared for us by St Adrian’s Meat and Sausage in Lebanon that was so good that we built a burger to showcase it and a spring time appetizer featuring a Tulip Tree Creamery cheese so sublime that we had to give it a dish on the menu.
  • Food should be “veggie-forward.”  Instead of creating dishes based on restaurant norms and standards, we created dishes around questions like “what is the most amazing way we could prepare swiss chard?”  We had amazing proteins, but the produce was always the star.
  • Creativity reigns.  There is nothing interesting in serving what everyone else serves. Fresh foods, prepared simply, but imaginatively were a big part of our attraction to diners but also the part most satisfying to me and the chefs.  Much of this creativity toward food was born out of my need to “think outside the box” in feeding my family with our many food allergy issues for so many years.
  • Support local farmers and food artisans.  Investing in our local economy was not just the right thing to do and made for sublime food, but it kept us creative and inspired. This is a big part of restoring authenticity to food.  We made seasonal menus and jumped on fleeting opportunities to include local foods like paw paws and chicken of the woods mushrooms in specials whenever they arose.
  • Serve real food.  That seems straightforward but was the most difficult and vital principle.  I think it was also the hardest to convey to the casual customer.  Here’s an example:  As we prepared to open, we needed a ketchup.  We looked and found Local Folks ketchup.  Not only is it local and fantastic, but it is real food.  If you made ketchup at home, it would most likely have the same real food ingredients that Local Folks puts in theirs.  No highly processed high fructose corn syrup that would be found in the industry standard– Heinz ketchup.  Multiply that decision by 1,000 and then run a restaurant with those standards.  No easy feat.  No corn syrup, no food dyes, no nitrites, etc.  Just real food.  The sad thing is that serving real food in a restaurant is revolutionary.
  • Food should be transparent and accessible.  This meant a detailed menu and lots of educating of staff.  It also meant that we as we approached every dish, we asked ourselves if we could make it free of the 10 top allergens that we tracked and make it just as delicious.  For example, if we were going to serve lasagna, we prepared it with brown rice lasagna noodles.  That means the product is just as good and it is now accessible to our gluten free customers.  If a menu item was just as tasty dairy free we either served it that way or constructed it in a manner that the diner could specify no dairy.  For every dish on the menu, we told customers what allergens it was free of and if they could modify it to be free of even more.
  • Cater to special diets.  This means whenever we were creating menus, we made sure to have plenty of choices that were vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, Paleo, low carb–you name it.  It was very important to me to create a welcoming, safe restaurant where everyone could eat something delicious regardless of health restriction and eating philosophy.  The flexibility and accessibility of our dishes were only possible thanks to our commitment to serve real food.  Every single product in the restaurant was checked for common processed ingredients that introduced allergens like corn, soy, gluten, etc.. Of course, this meant that we often made from scratch.  Items like mayonnaise, salad dressings, and sundae toppings were handmade by us every time.  It also meant they were unique, tasted better, and were real food.

I went back to school (again) to study nutrition formally 6 months before we started the process of opening Restauration.  I finished my studies a few months after Restauration was forced to close due to a disaster.  All along, my plan was to use Restauration as the location to do group and individual nutrition consulting and to teach culinary health education classes.  We even had plans to add an outdoor garden to supplement the restaurant beyond what I was already growing at our farm and to use as a demonstration and teaching urban farm.

After the disaster, we took a step back and regrouped.  Owning 2 restaurants was not just insane, but taxing on us as a family to nearly a breaking point.  No industry is harder than the restaurant industry and doing it times two left room for little else.  I decided to move ahead with my plans to offer nutrition and culinary health education but not reopen as a full-service restaurant.   Small Wonder Food may someday have a food service aspect, but not in the immediate future.

So, Restauration and Small Wonder Food have the same goal–to change the way that people eat.  They also share my food approach as laid out above.  Same goals, different vehicles.  Food should be real, creative, local, seasonal, accessible, produce driven, and safe.  The fact that food is not easily and readily available like that already, shows how unauthentic, unhealthy, and profit-driven our food culture is.  In fact, Small wonder Food is a more efficient delivery model of what I have to offer my community.  I get to concentrate on education and not keep restaurant hours and deal with restaurant headaches.   Small Wonder Food is a food literacy company that uses nutrition and culinary health education to reconnect people with real, authentic food. Kirsten empowers you to use food and lifestyle habits to improve and regain health.  You can deftly navigate our distorted food landscape where convenience reigns at the cost of flavor, health, economics, and individuality.  The ability to feed ourselves well and to fuel ourselves to fully enjoy life are skills every person needs but many lack.

I can help you harness these principles to take charge of not only your food but so that you become the most important member of your healthcare team.  If you are interested in my first group class, please fill out this form.

Please read on if you are wondering about my own health story and how my approach to food developed.  It explains everything you need to know about my passion for this work.

Hello! I am getting ready to schedule my first group class series. This series is the best place to start and is entitled “Eat Like a Nutrivore.” The class series is 6 once-a-week 75-minute sessions. Read on for more information about what the class covers and to fill out a survey signaling your interest and availability.
Small Wonder Food is a food literacy company. Food literacy is the knowledge you need to take control of your health. Group classes are the best way to get a firm foundation in food literacy. I am happy to start working with someone one-on-one, but highly recommend starting with a group class so that you understand the fundamentals and get the “big picture” that will allow you to see the possibilities and where you may need one-on-one help. For many, the group class will give you the tools you need to proceed on your own. For others, you can continue by meeting one-on-one so we can customize help to meet your specific needs.
I also recommend starting with this series if you want to continue on to the group series “Diet and Lifestyle Intervention for Autoimmune Disease” which will be offered following the “Nutrivore” series.
About the class:
A nutrivore eats to nourish their body. It’s about promoting well-being (not pant size) with nutrient dense foods. This 6-week series will cover everything from the basics of macro and micro nutrients to figuring out how to maneuver the slick marketing and contradictory nutrition advice that we encounter on a daily basis. This course will empower you to make confident choices about how to fuel your body and eat delicious food. Classes will include lecture, time for discussion, and always include a tasting element and a recipe. The series cost is $300. This is a savings of over $260 compared to individual counseling.
Here are some examples of questions you may have that will be covered in the course:
Why is the fat ratio of grass-fed/pastured protein a game changer in terms of health?
Why were the vegetables your grandparents ate when they were kids more nutritious than those you are eating now? What can we do about it?
Is low-carb the answer? Is low fat? What about veganism or the Paleo Diet?
What do the bacteria in our gut have to do with our brain?
How are diet and lifestyle being used to reduce autoimmune disease symptoms, fatigue, pain, inflammation, etc?
What’s a leaky gut and do I have one?
What do I need to do to detoxify my life?
How do I prioritize my spending so I can eat clean and not break the bank?

Please fill out this online survey to signal your interest in the class and when you would be available:





Changing The World

Food has changed the world many times over and will continue to do so. Food is health, but also culture and tradition.  From the earliest forms of cultivation, to nomadic lifestyles, to crushing poverty, to the obesity and disease epidemic—food is front and center.  We have to eat to live and many of us live to eat.

Food, when championed by people, can change the world.  In my lifetime, Big Ag and food processors changed the world by changing food to amalgamations of food-like products comprised of highly processed chemicals and food parts and pieces.  I am certain history will look back on this period of time with wonder that we could be so gullible and easy to seduce.  Lambs to slaughter. Chemical farming; GMOs; fractionated and overused foods like wheat, dairy, sugar, soy, and corn; and blatant disregard of nutrition and seasonality, have gifted us with a revolution of disease (autoimmune in particular), malnutrition, behavior and mental disorders, environmental degradation, and mind-numbing indifference.

My purpose in life is to use food as a tool for good.  To me, it is THE TOOL.  We have to eat. Doing it well gives us our health, our families, our communities, our humanity, and our planet BACK.

Yep.  I’m that much of a zealot.  I think food is the key to EVERTHING.  Like Margaret Mead, I do think that a small group of committed individuals can change the world.  I think it happens all the time. I know that the groundbreaking work being done on reversing autoimmune disease with diet and lifestyle alone is and will change the world.  Dr. Terry Wahls has reversed her MS with diet and lifestyle.  Really think about that.  Have you ever heard of ANYONE going from a tilt-recline wheelchair to jogging when diagnosed with a progressive and devastating illness like MS?  No, you haven’t, because no one ever believed it could be done. She is not the only one.  Returning to a whole foods lifestlyle and removing inflammatory foods has changed the lives of many, including me.  It’s miraculous.  We seem to be beginning to come out of our fast food collective coma and caring again about what we put in our bodies.

Let’s change the world…and save it too.

Good News About Chocolate


Check out this handout I created about Theobromine–a phytonutrient abundant in chocolate.

Theobromine–The Good News About Chocolate

‘Tis the season to overindulge. Instead of overindulging with coffee and chocolate, I propose a much healthier alternative.   If your body tolerates chocolate well (it can be iffy for some folks with autoimmune diseases,) then here is the good news for you.  I gave up coffee last January to help with my thyroid issues and switched to drinking either brewed cocoa or a combo of dandelion root and chicory root. I will save my recipe for chicory & dandelion root coffee substitute for another post, but I really encourage folks to try brewed cocoa.  Brewed cocoa is a hot beverage made from ground cacao beans.  That’s it.  Nothing added.  Just chocolate in it’s pure unadulterated form. Brewed like coffee, it is best made in a french press.  You simply add enough ground cacao beans to give you the strength you want (I like it strong), let it brew for about 10 minutes, press, and enjoy.  Since this is just ground cacao, you get the health benefits of the cacao without added sugar, dairy, and fats.  The handout goes into depth about the health benefits of cacao and theobromine in particular.

I use the Crio Bru brand, but there are others.  I usually have a cup or two in the afternoon or before bed. It’s warm and indulgent without disrupting my sleep.

The Amazing Ordinary


I happened along this poem recently and it sums up my philosophy of life.  It certainly is the heart of the farm and the reason why I work so hard to connect children and nature. It’s everything. It’s the joy, the work, and the meaning of life.  It’s everything I want for my daughter.   The magic of life is in the Small Wonders of it–whether they be joyous, ordinary, or tragic.

I am thinking a lot now about the joy and sadness of every life.  We have a dog, an Australian Cattle Dog, that came into our lives 2 1/2 months ago.  We are his permanent foster home and he is a hospice patient.  We are his family.  The family he took 13 years to find.  We call him Spots.  I will write more about him soon.

Now, I am ending a long day of planting seeds and plants, working soil, and finding joys in all the details—from the little garter snake in the greenhouse to Spots napping in the sun, to my daughter squealing with glee as she swings so high that “it makes her tummy feel funny.” It was a perfect day.  I’m bone tired and content. We had a good day. There was nothing extraordinary about it–other than its complete ordinariness.

Make the Ordinary Come Alive

Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is a way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples, and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.

By William Martin, The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents.

It’s Summertime and the Cooking is Easy


Now that the harvest is rolling in, dinners get very easy.  A few evenings ago I went out to the garden and harvested leeks, tomatoes, Swiss chard and basil.  Along with our farm fresh eggs and a little feta cheese, I made lovely omelets.  I used our favorite (and healthiest) cooking fat, coconut oil, and paired the omelets with a cold beet salad (our beets) with a homemade citrus vinaigrette.  Yum.  Fresh ingredients make simple meals so flavorful and satisfying.  Low quality-processed foods make up for lack of taste with high amounts of sugar, salt, and fat.

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The Onion Queen of Westpoint, Indiana

I am unapologetically declaring myself the 2012 Onion Queen of Westpoint, Indiana.  My onions are big, beautiful, delicious, and plentiful.  I have been harvesting over a month now and still have the majority to pull.  I have potato onions, 4 kinds of storage onions, 3 kinds of bunching onions, 5 kinds of garlic, and Egyptian walking onions.  Perhaps I got a bit carried away….Good thing I can send the surplus to the restaurant.

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Frida’s First Farm Summer

Frida is one now and enjoying her first summer on the farm.  This is what she loves: strawberries, Tinsel (the border collie) chasing her, and picking up dead things and eating/toting them around (ugh!).  A few weeks ago she came in with a dead mole.

She is learning to love swimming.  She now willingly gets held in the water and will swim short distances.

What more could a dog want than a farm and family?

A Better System

Last year we took the problem of tomato cages head on and solved the dilemma once and for all.  Paco made me 30 welded wire tomato cages.  This year we used every one of them.  The size of the tomato plants in their sturdy cages quickly eclipsed the markers I had placed near the bases.  This year I transformed some thin kitchen cutting mats, cable ties, and a garden marker into some nice eye level tags that will last the season. I hope to reuse them if I can find something to strip the marker.

Every year the garden gets better and better because we learn and innovate.  We know we still get some things wrong, but we get a lot right now too! More on this upcoming posts.

Natural Pest Control

Today’s survey of the main garden highlighted a little natural pest control.  The first picture is of a Colorado Potato Beetle larvae.  Potato beetles showed themselves early this spring and I have been battling to keep them under control.  I squash all that I find, but was very happy to see a Northern Leopard Frog lurking in my potato patch.  Nice juicy potato bug larvae are the perfect entrée for this frog.  

Architecture and Strawberries

It was a wonderful Sunday on the farm.  The weather was perfect.  Paco and I got up early and focused on adding some functional scaffolding for the crops.  We completed placing and securing our homemade welded wire tomato cages on all 29 tomatoes.  We also used wooden trellises to create structures for the Zucchinno Rampicante.  We have grown this behemoth for 5 years now and know it needs some serious support.  We put in trellises for most of the cucumbers as well.

When I wasn’t helping the chef with architecture (yes that’s him in his Grinch pj’s), I was harvesting new purple potatoes, soft-neck garlic, and potato onions. I pulled all the pea plants in the main garden and the goats feasted on them happily.  I also snapped pictures to give a visible update on the farm.  Time flies in the garden and before we knew it it was 12:30.

I also dispatched about 60 lbs of strawberries this weekend.  That’s a lot of strawberries.  I will post separately about what happened to all of them, but there is a picture included here of a very happy girl enjoying some homemade strawberry lemonade.

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Summer in March

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I am not very happy about this already summer weather because I believe it to be man-made, but it sure has brought the farm to life.  So much is happening and I think it can be best summed up by photos.  Peaches are blooming, asparagus is starting to come, the high tunnel looks and feels like late May, and planting is well underway.  All these pictures were taken yesterday evening.  We grilled local pastured chicken on the grill, dined al fresco, Lily and Paco enjoyed their first popsicle of the season on the porch (raspberry hibiscus), and ,while they played basketball, I did the chores and walked the farm taking pictures.  As I came back up toward the house, I was overwhelmed with the joy of it all.  There is nowhere on the planet I would rather be.

Pleasing the Ladies

We are starting our 4th year with chickens and one of the things that I find interesting about them are there preferences as far as produce.  This morning when I did chores, I stopped in the high tunnel and grabbed a handful of mizuna.  My plan was to stick it in my smoothie for the day, but on a whim I decided to give it to the hens.  Of course, there was a mad dash to see what lovely green had made an appearance.  It was quickly apparent that mizuna was not to their liking.  Everyone wanted to try it, but no one came back for another bite.

So far, these are the items our chickens would rather do without:

Anything citrus

Onions, garlic



Squash (will eat eventually)


Our gals are lucky to get all the ends of the lettuces used at the restaurant.  That is about all the produce waste there is there. The goats love the lettuce ends as well.  When I come in with a bag, they work on picking it apart before I can even get the bag open.

This weekend we will be cleaning up the high tunnel beds so there will be some weeds for feasting on by the lovely ladies.

Just in Time

The organizers of the Dark Days eating local blog challenge have given us some challenges.  The first was the One Pot Meal challenge that I filled with pot roast, but this next challenge was A LOT harder.  I thought about it off and on for weeks.  The challenge—make a sweet treat for your Valentine using all or nearly all local ingredients.  That coupled with my little Valentine’s allergies to corn, soy, dairy, gluten (and those are just the pertinent ones to sweets), made this seem like a challenge deadline I might just have to let slide by.  A few days ago, stopped at a red light, it came to me–meringues.  Finally, I was saved.

I beat 4 egg whites (ours) stiff, added a pinch of cream of tartar, about a 1/2 cup of Longhouse Farm maple syrup, and a few drops of red food color (I could not help myself).  It worked like a dream.  Pink heart shaped meringues that melt on your tongue.   I  did it!  The cream of tartar and food color were not local of course, but they were minor additions.  As I type this, it occurs to me that I could have thawed some frozen raspberries and used a bit of those for color and flavor.

My seven year old Valentine was very impressed.