‘Cocina Holistica’ a love letter to Guatemala

by | May 7, 2020 | Magazine

Kassia Fiedor, the founder of Infused Holistic Kitchen is a Holistic Nutritionist, Herbalist, and Private Chef from Southern California. Passionate about using plants, herbs, & vegetables as medicine, she encourages her clients to eat in harmony with their bodies and nature. She believes that eating healthy can be fun and delicious!

Can you name some people/teachers who have had the greatest impact on your holistic nutrition journey?

I have been so blessed to have studied with a number of incredibly talented and wise teachers in the holistic nutrition and medicinal plant worlds.

David Crow, the founder of Floracopeia Aromatic Treasures, has made the largest impact on me – as a master herbalist, aromatherapist, acupuncturist, and expert in Ayurvedic & Chinese medical systems, David’s reverence for plants and nature runs deep. From working with David, I have an appreciation for the vast, pranic intelligence that nature has to offer, and through his meditations, see my own divinity mirrored in this intelligence.

Rosemary Gladstar is a beautiful, radiant soul, and I was so blessed to study with her in Costa Rica in 2012. As the most loving, compassionate teacher you could ever ask for, she truly embodies her role as the “fairy-godmother of Western herbalism.”

As for my mentor in the food world, I worked under Tami Grooney, an incredible whole foods chef who taught me the value of using nutrient-dense food as medicine. I bow to all my teachers, including Cheryl Fromholzer, 7song, Paul Bergner, William Siff, Catherine Abby Rich, and Jane Bothwell.

What is your personal eating philosophy/plan?

My personal philosophy is to approach food as my medicine.

I see every meal as an opportunity to choose foods that will nourish my cells, give me energy, prevent disease, and support the environment or foods that will feed disease, promote inflammation, and harm the planet. I

have developed a way to tune into listening to what my body needs in each moment, and eat intuitively. As a Holistic Nutritionist, I believe there is no “one size fits all” for every body – my approach is to promote intuitive eating, and show people that eating veggies can be creative, fun, and delicious!

I promote a plant-forward lifestyle, eating whole foods in their original form as close to nature as possible – with a focus on nutrient-density (getting the most nutrition you can in each bite!). I also believe it is very important to support local organic farmers!

What are the top 3 things in your opinion that people can change right now to move towards a happier and healthier life?

  • Recognize your spice cabinet is medicine! Spices are packed with antioxidants and antimicrobial compounds that boost immunity and protect us from pathogens. They also support digestion.
  • Slow down and take a walk in nature. Our culture is addicted to productivity and a fast-paced lifestyle. We are not built for chronic stress! No matter how healthy you eat, how many supplements you take, how much you exercise – if you don’t manage stress, you’ll be at risk for heart disease, diabetes, hypothyroidism, and autoimmunity. When we connect to nature, we get grounded and centered, which boosts our immunity and nourishes our nervous system.
  • Eat 1 or 2 superfoods regularly:
    • seaweed – dulse, arame, kelp, nori – sprinkle on salads, add to soups for trace minerals that we don’t get elsewhere in our diets
    • fermented foods – sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, etc – to maintain digestive health
    • medicinal mushrooms – shiitake, reishi, oyster, lion’s mane, chaga – adaptogenic and immune boosting
    • spices / culinary herbs – antioxidants and antimicrobial
    • nutrient-dense greens – moringa, chlorella, wheatgrass, spirulina, etc

Have you experienced a personal health crisis and how did it transform you?

After traveling to Chile 10 years ago, I contracted 2 different parasites which led to horrible gastrointestinal issues. I suffered from bloating, gas, diarrhea, nausea, fatigue, and brain fog, and after several tests, finally was able to pinpoint the exact parasites – blastocystis hominis and hookworm.

I had just finished nutrition school and had the tools and knowledge I needed to follow a strict protocol for gut healing, and after a few months, I was feeling well again. This really gave me an appreciation and respect for food having the power to transform, and allowed me insight and compassion for any client dealing with gut issues.

What role does self love play in health?

Self love plays an important role in our wellness!

Self love to me means approaching my body with gentle kindness. I see a lot of people approach wellness with a black or white mindset, and I think this can backfire and be harmful.

I suggest moving away from all-or-nothing thinking and aiming for the grey area. I tell my clients to eat the best they can as much as they can, exercise when it feels good, and forget about perfection. Let go of the guilt around “cheating” with “bad foods.” If you really want a donut, eat it – with full joy, and no guilt!

Practice intuitive eating – tune into what your body needs, and let go of the idea of deprivation. Trust that your body has the tools to heal and regenerate! Use your intuition to guide you, and your body will thank you.

What are your favorite ways to slow down and relax?

I am a hot springs / hot tub / bath fanatic! I can soak for hours in warm soothing water, and be instantly transformed and happy! I love walking in nature, riding horses in nature, and reading personal development books. I also love camping!

Can you describe your morning routine?

Every morning I have matcha tea and read a book or journal for at least an hour. Sometimes i’ll meditate too. I like slow mornings that ease me into my day.

Can you tell us about the inspiration for your cookbook Cocina Holistica? You mention in your opening remarks that, “This cookbook is a love letter to Guatemala.”

I lived in Guatemala for 5 years where I cooked my mostly plant-based dishes, infusing native plants, herbs, and superfoods from there. I gave cooking classes and also cooked for clients going through a particular health issue – mostly food allergies.

Why Guatemala?

It’s a long story (that is in the book!), but to summarize – I was married to a man who worked for USAID doing development work, and he was posted in Guatemala. A year after we moved there, he came out of the closet, and we got divorced, which left me in a predicament – move back to the states or start my business in Guatemala!

I had a friend opening a juice bar, and they asked if I wanted to be the resident nutritionist there, so that seemed to be my sign to stay. My business as a private chef thrived there – people were just catching on to the organic, healthy movement! So, therefore, my “love letter to Guatemala” – a ‘thank you” for healing me from a very difficult time in my life.

My cookbook Cocina Holistica is a memoir that reflects my deep love for nature, travel, and true healing through food. When I travel, my passion is to infuse the native plants into my nutrient-dense dishes, creating a sense of place and connection. So while this book celebrates ancestral superfoods in Guatemala, my hope is to inspire creative use of indigenous foods wherever you are in the world!

You also create beautiful herbal tincture blends. Please can you tell us about your journey as a herbalist?

My journey as an herbalist started early on. I grew up in a remote area in the deserts of San Diego, California.

I always wondered what herbs the native Kumeyaay ancestors used for food and medicine. White sage grew all around our house, and I would hike for hours and see all the plants.

Growing up close to the earth planted the seed for my reverence for nature, and gave me an insatiable curiosity about native plants used by our ancestors around the world.

What ultimately guided me onto the holistic path was a horrible battle with acne in my teens and early adulthood. The doctors wanted to give me antibiotics, but it made me feel horrible. I started casually exploring the plants in my backyard, making medicinal teas and herbal masks to calm my skin. I had no idea what I was doing, and eventually, years later, this lead me to study herbs at California School of Herbal Studies immediately after Holistic Nutrition school at Bauman College.

I then had the honor of mentoring with an incredible herbalist, Cheryl Fromholzer, who gave me the confidence to work with herbs and create my own formulas.

What are your top three most useful herbs that everyone should have in their natural medicine kit and what they are good for?

Lavender essential oil – every kitchen should have a bottle of lavender EO for burns! Every time i get a burn, I douse it in lavender and it really does quicken the healing process significantly, without scarring!

Arnica gel, cream or salve – for bumps, bruising, muscle cramps, sprain, or swelling. It really prevents bruises from getting dark.

Chamomile – well-known for it’s sedative properties, it’s also an incredible digestive aid. It is very soothing for a tummy ache, it is anti inflammatory and antiseptic. It is also considered a bitter herb – bitters are great for the liver, and also for stimulating natural digestive enzymes. Totally safe for children.

Kassia’s favorites

Favorite plant based breakfast?

Coconut yogurt (plain) with maple syrup, granola, blueberries, chia seeds, and walnuts.

Plant based comfort food?

The butternut squash casserole with cashew nutmeg cream from my cookbook!

Plant based treat?

Kale chips (made with cashew, red pepper, nutritional yeast paste)

Plant based book?

The First Mess Cookbook: Vibrant Plant-Based Recipes to Eat Well Through the Seasons

The next plant based recipe I’d like to try is…

Non-alcoholic herbal cocktail elixirs

A plant based eatery anywhere in the world I’d love to eat at

Alchemy Bali

A plant based chef I’d love to meet and share a meal with!

Matthew Kinney from Plant Food and Wine

Thank you Kassia xo