When Lori Rice moved from Kentucky to Brazil, she couldn’t find grated cheese. Her city was fairly modern, yet she had to learn to do without many of the convenience foods she had been used to in America. This problem turned out to be a blessing.

“In Kentucky, I cooked a lot from packaged things,” she said. “Not necessarily bad packaged things. At this point, I get embarrassed that I got upset that I couldn’t find shredded cheese.”

What she did find was the pleasure and benefits of using what she considers real food.

“After I came back, I realized how great it was that I didn’t have access to all that stuff,” she said.

If you need a little convincing to eat healthy, Lori’s photos of food can be persuasive.

Tomato and kale pasta with goat cheese and walnuts; crispy prosciutto fig salad with lemon, chive and honey dressing; baked Peruano beans with Mexican chorizo. If the words can get the mouth to water, the proverbial picture is still worth a thousand of them.

Lori shares her photos and recipes on her blog Fake Food Free: Real Food from Every Corner of the World. Here, she hopes to inspire her readers to use real food – food cooked in their own kitchens from ingredients that are “naturally and humanely raised, minimally processed and from scratch, or pretty darn close to it,” she writes.

She also has a new book just out this month, Food on Tap: Cooking with Craft Beer. The recipes make use of the wide variety of craft beers to create such dishes as sausage crusted helles and kale quiche, summer saison tomato bisque and barleywine beef short rib stew.

Lori got her start writing about food and health working for a cooperative extension in Kentucky. Her degree is in nutrition and exercise science, and that led to her employment with a grant-funded outreach program designed to encourage people to improve their health through exercise and nutrition. She wrote articles and fact sheets translating research into language that was easily understood and usable by the public. Her writings also appeared in peer-reviewed research journals.

When her husband, Daniel’s, work took the couple to Brazil, she left her job behind and sought other ways to continue contributing through health-based writing. As time went on, her emphasis shifted more toward food.

While she was in Brazil from 2007 to 2009, and for the first few years after the couple returned to the United States, her articles appeared in online publications such as Livestrong.com.

“It was definitely small-potato kind of stuff,” she said.

She also started her blogs during this time. Her first endeavor in 2007 was a blog about her experiences as an expatriate. A year later she debuted Fake Food Free.

Her first book, published in 2011 by Adams Media as part of the Everything series, is The Everything Guide to Food Remedies: An A-Z Guide to Healing with Food. The book has more than 150 recipes (but no photos) to promote health and combat ailments such as insomnia, acne, and cholesterol.

Her first article in a popular print publication came out in 2013. Since then, she has had articles in magazines such as Plate Magazine and Hobby Farms Magazine. She has provided recipes and photos for the National Onion Association, Paramount Citrus, California Olive Ranch, and has many other clients such as the California Fig Board, U.S. Apple Association, and the Mushroom Council.

Lori also was the photographer for Madge Baird’s Simply Soup, published in August.

“My main freelance work right now is photography,” Lori said. “Part of the reason I like writing cookbooks is when I’m allowed to do the photography myself. That’s definitely a passion for me.”

Lori’s book, Food on Tap, evolved over several years. She and her husband traveled in Europe often and enjoyed the beers, which led her to become interested in craft brewing in the U.S. She pitched her idea for a book incorporating craft beers into recipes to agents. She learned that her proposal needed more work than she could put into it at the time.

“There are a lot of people who have really put a lot of time into their food blogs and as a result have written books based on their blogs,” she said. “Because they have such wild popularity, publishers are giving them contracts because they know they are going to sell.”

Her blog was not one that was wildly popular, but the topic simmered in her mind for two or three years. Eventually, a friend connected Lori to her publisher and through that she signed with an agent who sold the book to Countryman Press.

“I like the art of writing the book,” she said. “Making the recipes, testing the recipes, photographing, obviously.”

Food on Tap features 60 recipes and 75 color photographs to tempt the reader’s palate. The beers used in the recipes range from floral India Pale Ale (IPAs) to rich porters and stouts, tart Lambic ales and gluten-free options. The beers are used to give complex flavor and surprising twists to new and classical recipes.

Lori’s website, Fake Food Free, also is loaded with recipes – dishes that reflect her interest in real foods, food culture, and travel. She started the blog as she came to realize a lot of her education in nutritional science was based on fake food – food that was over-processed and included artificial ingredients, foods such as fat-free yogurt loaded with artificial sweetener, food that was touted as health food.

She feels that when she received her Master’s Degree in 2004, the consensus was just moving out of that fat-free phase.

“But there is still a lot of industry pressure that here’s this packaged food and it’s healthy, but we packaged it for convenience,” she said. “Sometimes they’re okay, and sometimes they’re not.”

When Lori was working in Kentucky, her job required her to offer advice on how to stay healthy, and her earlier articles followed that pattern. Now, she wants to be more indirect.
“I live a healthy lifestyle,” she said. “I want to encourage through example.”

Even though her focus is on good health, not everything in her cookbooks is what could be considered super healthy. She does have desserts made with sugar and flour.

“But for the most part, everything reflects what my values are – pretzels made from scratch, beans made from dried beans,” she said.

Now that she lives in Visalia, she has an abundance of fresh, local ingredients to supply her culinary creativity. Her husband works in agriculture, so when the couple looked for a location to relocate from the Bay Area, Visalia was a natural.

“I’ve always liked being close to agriculture, so that’s a big perk for me,” she said.

One thing she isn’t quite used to is the intensity of the summer sun. She is still working on growing her own fruits and vegetables.

“I have a huge herb garden,“ she said. “In the winter I try to grow kale. We have a few citrus trees.”

Once she gets used to the climate, we can be sure she will have even more ways to blend real foods into healthy and delicious meals.