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Behind Closed Doors: Tonya Papanikolov

Like most of our wellness crushes these days, we found Tonya, also known as The Well Woman, on Instagram, scrolling endlessly over her beautiful (and hunger inducing!) shots of raw vegan cheese and vibrant plates of plant food. With her inspired food and artful photos, it’s not surprising Tonya picked up her culinary skills at Mathew Kenney’s institute after switching careers from fashion to food. Read on for a glimpse into her high health habits and kitchen discoveries.

To me, a happy refrigerator is one bustling with action and food experiments. I go to farmer’s markets a few times a week to pick up local and organic produce and to see my friends, farmers and growers. This brings me endless happiness and connection.

I’ve been on a personal quest to minimize my plastic use and my hope is to go zero waste soon. I use as many reusable mesh bags as I can, you can see a few in my fridge, I bring a handful to the market every time I go.

There is a lot happening in my fridge right now! I’ll take you on a brief tour. Starting from the left, I have a bottle of hibiscus cherry kombucha that I fermented, bee pollen, local cherries and a variety of local and organic greens (snow peas, garlic scapes, kohlrabi, asparagus, sea asparagus, sunflower sprouts, pea shoots, kale and mint). There are also some sprouted chickpeas back there, sauerkraut, along with a kefir milk I’m experimenting with. Friends made me their delicious Meyer lemon preserve that I’m adding to every salad dressing lately (recipe below). Summer means eating raw majority of the time (usually two of my meals).

Towards the right, there’s citrus, miso, Blue Majik, royal jelly, probiotics and that tiny white container is filled with ozone from my biological dentist! I add a tiny dollop to my tooth brush in the evening.

Ozone is a powerful antioxidant and brushing with it promotes healthy oral hygiene and gum tissue. Ozone has been said to decrease gum inflammation, heal wounds, prevent and heal cavities and absorb harmful free radicals. I’m big on oral health because its state is a good indication to overall health inside the body.

Food doesn’t just start and end in its physical form. We cut the conversation too early. Food in its lifespan tours the entire digestive cascade, from mouth to bum. Each stage is so important and I really encourage my clients to tune into the whole process. So oral health and colon health are always topics of conversation in my kitchen.

But, back to the food! I usually have a bunch of other things in my fridge; I make vegan cheeses so those are often wrapped in cheesecloth toward the back. I’ve been experimenting with rejuvelac and usually have legumes, grains and seeds soaking in bowls too.

Being plant based has taught me a lot about the time, love and effort that goes into food prep. Soaking legumes, grains and nuts is required to break down phytic acid (the anti-nutrient that inhibits the absorption of minerals and nutrients which are most often lacking in plant based diets: iron, zinc, calcium and the B vitamins). Soaking and sprouting is a must for increasing nutrient content and making foods easier to digest.

Below is a go-to salad dressing of mine which is nutrient rich, delicious and zingy. Sometimes recipes can stifle creativity, I encourage you to blend a combination of the below ingredients to find a taste that suits you. But I will say, a small dash of the Blue Majik will go a long way!