Last week, I spoke with New York Times’ bestselling author Kim Barnouin about her new book, Skinny Bitch Ultimate Everyday Cookbook: Crazy Delicious Recipes that Are Good to the Earth and Great for Your Bod. This week, we get down to business: The genesis of the Skinny Bitch brand—including six bestselling books and the Healthy Bitch Daily website—and Kim’s current favorite recipe, which was inspired by baby food.
Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff: So let’s back up a little bit. I’d like to know why you started writing the first “Skinny Bitch” book, which is now translated into like 20 languages. Do they have platinum for books?
Kim Barnouin: We were a number one New York Times bestseller, so that was pretty effen cool.
RLS: Wow. So how did it begin?
KB: The whole start of it was just me going on a journey to heal myself. I was suffering from low energy, anxiety, panic attacks, “brain fog,” headaches and hypoglycemia. I did a food journal for two weeks and realized I had a horrendous diet. In retrospect, the amount of sugar, caffeine and simple carbs that I was eating were a major contributor to my health issues. I wasn’t eating any complex carbs or fiber to help slow down the digestion of my food and to keep my blood sugar levels even, I was constantly crashing after all of my sugar highs so I would end up eating more sweet foods to keep my energy levels up.
After reading “Potatoes Not Prozac” by Kathleen Des Maisons, I knew I was a sugar addict. I started to eat healthier forms of protein such as lentils, quinoa, beans and nuts, and switched from white breads and rice to whole grain breads and brown rice. I added leafy greens and fruit to my daily meals and gave up fast food and the tons of sugar, caffeine and white refined foods that were making up the bulk of my meals.
I realized that food has such incredible powers to change your health. I was so naïve to food, I had no idea that it could be so powerful. I didn’t have health insurance, I didn’t have a lot of resources, but with food I was going to do a little test, and see if it worked. And it did, it worked amazingly well.
Rory [Freedman, co-author of the previous books in the Skinny Bitch series] and I had been friends for a long time, we co-authored the beginning of series together. And she was always on me to go vegetarian, to go vegan. I thought, “Okay I’m changing my diet so much, I might as well push it a little bit more.” I learned about how animals were treated at factory farms and I thought, “I don’t really want to be part of that anyway.” So over the years I switched from a disgusting, gross 7-11 eater to vegetarian—and then vegan.
At the beginning I was just giving up meat and chicken and fish but I was still really unhealthy, just eating crap. So it was an evolution for me. But it all stems from needing to change my health, having amazing results, and then wanting to share that with other people what works for us. And then being completely disgusted that our country is so overweight and disease-ridden, and wanted to do something about it.
RLS: When you’re reading the first “Skinny Bitch” book, you don’t realize that you’re reading a book about veganism until about a quarter of the way through. Was that your intentional? Was that something that you set out to do?
KB: It was very intentional. When the book first came out, people were kind of pissed off about it. A lot of people were like, “Oh my god, I thought this was going to be a novel. I had no idea that it was a vegan propaganda book!” It was just nuts. And then everyone sort of calmed down, and they were like, “Oh, it’s funny. And I’m kind of learning a lot.” So that kind of died down after the first few months.
But yes, it was intentional. It’s not going to sell, to have a book that’s like “Your New Vegan Diet.” Three people will buy it. And you’re not going to hit the rest of the country and I wanted to hit everybody. I didn’t want it to just be geared towards vegans, I wanted other people to say, “Wow this is what’s in my food? Holy shit. Maybe I can give this a try, even if it’s just part time.” So it had to be done in a very slick sort of way to get people hooked, make ‘em laugh and then—they’re already into it, they don’t want to put it down—have them realize what it is. It was pretty sneaky.
RLS: And it definitely works. I’ve met so many women that your books have touched. And it’s not like everybody went vegan. I’m not a vegan. But there are parts of your book that really made me think. Like I gave up coffee mainly because I was getting really bad stomach pains and weird mood swings but also because I read in “Skinny Bitch” that it makes your breath—and I quote—“smell like ass.” And it does! All the things that you say about green tea are right as well. It really has made a difference in my life. You changed my life, Kim.
KB: That’s so awesome. And that’s the crazy thing. It wasn’t just vegans who read the book. And it wasn’t just people who we were converting to veganism, either—although that happened. It was just so widespread that it hit everyone, and everyone took it in such a good, light way that people said, “You know, I’m not going to go all the way but I’m going to take parts of it.” And that, ultimately, is exactly what I wanted it to do. So I’m really grateful that people were open-minded enough to not get freaked out by it but to just choose parts of it. That’s great. I’ve done my job, then.
RLS: What’s one of your favorite recipes from the book?
KB: I’m really into soups. And a lot of the soups that I put in the book are the fall and winter vegetables. Like butternut squash, cauliflower soup. There’s butternut squash ravioli.
KB: I love butternut squash. I was making it a lot for my son when I was pureeing his food. And that got me hooked on it all over again.
Without further ado, here’s the recipe for the mouth-watering butternut squash ravioli pictured on our home page. For more on “The Skinny Bitch Cookbook.” And for the rest of our exclusive interview with Kim—including more of her favorite recipes—check back here next week!
2 cups (455 g) frozen butternut squash, thawed
11/2 sticks (170 g) Earth Balance, divided
1/2 cup (120 g) panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup (40 g) vegan Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 package wonton wrappers*
*The recipe for homemade wonton wrappers is in Kim’s book.
1 bunch fresh sage, stems removed
Place the squash and 1/2 stick (55 g) of the Earth Balance in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in the breadcrumbs, vegan cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. Place 1 tablespoon of the squash mixture into the center of each wonton wrapper. Brush the edges of the wrapper with water and fold one corner over to create a triangle. Press on edges to seal tightly. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the ravioli and cook 5 to 6 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon.
Meanwhile, melt the remaining Earth Balance in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sage and cook three minutes. Remove from the heat and toss with the ravioli before serving.
Makes 24 Ravioli. Serving Size: 1 Ravioli (48 g); Calories 130; Fat 7 g; Saturated Fat 3 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Carbohydrates 13 g; Fiber 0 g; Protein 3 g