28 March 2023 · Author Profile
When pharmacist Ashley Madden was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in her early twenties, she began to make drastic changes to her lifestyle and career, and looked deeply at the relationship between her food and her health.
Studies in holistic nutrition led her to develop a tasty repertoire of vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, and oil-free recipes and to create a blog, Rise, Shine, Cook. We caught up with Ashley to discover her top healthy dishes from her best-selling debut, The Plant-Based Cookbook, and to find out how she cuts through the noise around health and food.
Ashley’s second cookbook, Plant-Based Delicious, will be published on 17 July 2023 and is available for pre-order now.
By Ramona Andrews
What ingredient couldn't you live without?
Almond, oat, soy? Which alt-milk are you and why?
Depends on the use. Coffee: oat milk. Everyday use: almond milk. For my son: organic soy :)
What is the biggest misconception people have about healthy eating?
That it is related to feeling deprived. Definitely not.
What is your go-to comfort food?
Noodles, any which way. Or stew with great sourdough bread.
What is the best thing that you have cooked in the last seven days?
B's Burgers from The Plant-Based Cookbook. This burger is out of this world delicious!
How would you describe your approach to healthy eating and what are your top tips?
I would describe my approach as health first. I am deeply passionate about making healthy food really, really delicious without compromise. My top tip is to start with just one recipe. You will acquire all the skills and learn about all the new ingredients by tackling one recipe at a time.
What is “holistic nutrition” and how or where can you study it?
Holistic nutrition is a mind-body-soul approach to wellness that incorporates wisdom from many disciplines (East and West). I like to summarize it by saying that within the scope of holistic nutrition, nutrition is a lot more than just the foods we put in our mouths. I studied at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition (CSNN), but I'm sure there are similar programs now in other places.
What's the craziest thing someone has ever said to you about being vegan?
That it was boring. It could not be further from the truth! I have to add that people think being vegan automatically means being healthy as well - this isn't true either.
If you could only eat one vegetable for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Cauliflower. So versatile. [Try Madden's Market Shepherd's Pie, Golden Garlic & Cauliflower Soup, and Creamy Romesco & Roasted Cauliflower Penne if you don’t believe her!]
Sometimes all the conflicting advice about health and food can be so overwhelming. How can we know what advice to listen to and how to cut through the noise?
First, if any "diet" or trend takes you away from eating whole foods that grow naturally, be suspicious. Second, if any diet or trend is pushing something processed that comes in a package, run away. So more whole foods, fewer processed ones. You can't go wrong with that. I'll add that your own personal needs and health status will ultimately determine what's best for you.
What are the big trends on social media on food and health at the moment? Anything out there that you particularly love or hate?
I'm actually a bit out of touch with trends! I stay in my own little culinary dreamland quite often. But I love the farm-to-table movement and I love the green trend – green smoothies, soups, juices! [Try Madden's Rise N' Shine Smoothie Bowl]. I hate the keto trend.
What's your go-to healthy snack?
Banana smothered in almond butter or hummus with Mary's Crackers.
Do you have a guilty food secret?
Hmmmm, I have a mild addiction to almond butter.
Tell us about putting your books together. How do you come up with your recipe ideas both for social media and for The Plant-Based Cookbook?
Putting the book together was the most joyful experience. It was my first time entering the state of "flow". I loved every part. Cooking, photography, writing. My journey from pharmacist to chef is directly tied to my journey with multiple sclerosis and taking ownership over my own wellness, it was so therapeutic to put it into a book and give it to the world. My inspiration for recipes comes from my own cravings and needs. I don't pay much attention to trends. For example, I am about to post an amazing, saucy 30-minute sheet-pan dinner on RiseShineCook.ca and the inspo was my need for quicker evening meals that are nutrient-dense, oil-free, and plant-based.
Which chefs or writers have most influenced your style of cooking and attitude to healthy eating?
Forks Over Knives as a whole was the biggest influence on my culinary journey. Chef and writer Amy Chaplin is my idol, she's a genius.
Have you ever pretended to like a healthy food that you actually didn't like?
No, I'm a terrible liar.
Which (if any) kitchen gadget have you come to rely on?
The Vitamix. A life-changing machine for me.
Tell us about your favorite recipes from the book and what makes them special?
The Butterm*lk Buckwheat Pancakes are one of my all-time favorites, as is the Tahini Kale Caesar Salad and the Market Shepherd’s Pie. These are just feel-good, delicious, nutritious foods. I regularly serve these meals to non-vegan guests and everyone loves them. They can't believe they're plant-based with no added oils or processed ingredients.
If you had to choose between giving up kale or giving up avocado, which one would you choose and why?
Avocado. Kale is too nutritious to live without!
It was quite a switch from being a pharmacist to studying holistic nutrition. Do you think attitudes in pharmaceutical education are changing now? If so, how?
Hm, that's a great question. I graduated in 2007 so I'm sure there have been changes and I hope there's more of an open-minded approach to healthcare, but ultimately I think it depends on the professional. If the healthcare professional is interested in and learns about the power of food and its impact on overall health, they'll likely encourage their patients to embrace it as well.
Finally, what are your plans for 2023?
To get my new cookbook out into the world, to do some traveling in South East Asia, to spend time with my husband and son, and maybe to start offering cooking classes. I love helping people transform their whole lives by transforming their kitchen.