Friday, September 12, 2014

Get to Know: Nancy Fuller of “Farmhouse Rules”

Nancy Fuller has spent the majority of her life on a farm, so the trendy farm-to-table restaurant movement that’s sweeping the nation is nothing new to her. 
Courtesy Food Network

The host of “Farmhouse Rules” lives in New York’s Hudson Valley in an authentic 17th-century farmhouse, which is where she films the Food Network show and draws inspiration for her recipes from. She’s a firm believer in preparing wholesome, simple foods for her family and always prefers using fresh ingredients to boxed ones. 

Which sounds wonderful, but how do you make hearty food healthy without spending hours in the kitchen? So I caught up with Nancy on the phone earlier this week and she was nice enough to share her secrets. 
Courtesy Food Network

Belly of the Feast: How do you feel about the farm-to-table movement, which so many restaurants are now adapting? 
Nancy Fuller: It’s been my way of life for 65 years! (laughs) It’s a great thing. It’s going to keep the agricultural industry in this country alive and benefit a lot of people in this country. 

BOTF: How do you make simple ingredients into something so delicious? 
Fuller: I like to take a basic recipe — I know what flavors are prevalent, I’ve been doing it for so long — add a base of carrots, onions and celery, and sauté in some butter. That’s a great base for anything. Add fresh herbs to that. Fresh is best, less is more, that’s my adage. I like to take whatever protein/vegetable and embellish it. That’s the easiest way to make it simple. People today are so busy, they need the simplest, most nutritious way to feed their families.
Nancy's roast chicken with chestnut dressing (courtesy Food Network)

BOTF: How long does it usually take you to cook dinner for your family? 
Fuller: When I had all the kids at home [she’s a mom of six], it took a little longer. Now, if I’m having a piece of salmon and fresh veggies — about 20 minutes. You don’t need to spend two hours creating a meal — it shouldn’t take that long. 

BOTF: What are your tips for cooking whole foods quickly instead of reaching for the pre-packaged or boxed meals? 
Fuller: Take mac and cheese — it takes just as long to make the boxed stuff as the fresh stuff. When you put the pot on for the water for the pasta, pull out some milk, some cheddar and parmesan cheese, and stir it up. Add in some pepper, butter, and you’re good to go. So easy!

BOTF: What’s your advice for getting the freshest ingredients? 
Fuller: It’s important to eat seasonally. Now with pumpkins and squash coming into season, there are tons of easy recipe for them. The other night I made butternut squash: I cut it in half, put it upside down on a pan with a little water, roasted it in a 400-degree oven, and served it with butter, salt, and pepper. Just so simple and so healthy.
Nancy's hearty butternut squash soup (courtesy Food Network)

BOTF: What’s your favorite thing to cook with pumpkin? 
Fuller: I like to make pumpkin soup. You can make it sweeter or more savory, whatever your family tastes are. It’s a way to get the kids to eat something healthy. For spices, I add a little sage, because I prefer savory over sweet, so I’d go light on any sugars and add sage.

BOTF: What’s a good way to spice up a pumpkin dessert? 
Fuller: I use molasses, brown sugar or dulce de leche.

BOTF: What’s your biggest challenge when filming the show? 
Fuller: What I’d like to overcome is the fact that when I’m talking to you, I have to tell you how many cups or teaspoons I use. That drives me nuts, because I’ve never cooked that way! It’s like patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time. Hopefully in time, I’ll master that. 
Courtesy Food Network


Nancy’s show, “Farmhouse Rules,” airs on Sundays at 12:30 p.m. ET on the Food Network. It’s back for its third season this Sunday, September 14, with recipes like fish & chips, a simple succotash side, and honey pear icebox trifle.