If the names Lisle and Goldhamer sound almost as familiar to you as Rogers and Hammerstein, it may be because they are  co-authors of the brilliant and popular The Pleasure Trap.  This visionary book could be considered the foundation of the practices and principles set forth at the True North Health facility in Santa Rosa in Northern California.  And truth be told, it is through The Pleasure Trap that I first heard about True North Health several years ago.

Breakfast at True North with Dr. Goldhamer.

Breakfast with Dr. Alan Goldhamer at True North Health

Since that time, it has been my intention to visit True North in person. When Chef Aj and I met up at Vegetarian Summerfest earlier this summer in Johnstown, Pennsylvania and she told me she would be at True North late summer and why not come over and hang out together, I saw it as the perfect excuse to  scoot on over to Santa Rosa and visit with my friend as well.  Plus, Aj was going to be doing some cooking demonstrations – and as a lazy cook, I can always use the inspiration.  Her demo did not fail to inspire – but I get ahead of myself.

True North Health- the facts

TrueNorth Health Center was founded in 1984 by Drs. Alan Goldhamer and Jennifer Marano. The integrative medicine approach they established offers you the opportunity to obtain evaluation and treatment for a wide variety of health problems. The staff at True North includes medical doctors, osteopaths, chiropractors, naturopaths, psychologists, research scientists, and other health professionals. True North is now the largest facility in the world that specializes in medically supervised water-only fasting.

The Food

Chef Aj's boundless energy inspired us with 10 recipes in her Unprocessed cooking demo - every one of them a winner.

Chef Aj’s boundless energy inspired us with 10 recipes in her Unprocessed cooking demo – every one of them a winner.

I arrived for my stay at True North just as Chef Aj’s cooking demonstration class was getting underway.  This was the beginning of what turned out to be no less than three hours of an energetic, informative and delicious afternoon where Chef Aj prepared – and served samples from – no fewer than ten recipes true to Chef Aj’s cooking principles of unprocessed, as set forth in her book of the same title:  Unprocessed.  Red Lentil Chili, Quinoa Pomegranite Salad, Summer Watermelon Salad, Cherry Nirvana cookies – each dish proved the full flavor of a whole foods, plant-exclusive diet without added salts, sugars, or oils. At True North, the prevailing dietary guidelines are:

  • no animal products
  • no S.O.S. –  standing for salt, oil, and sugar

These principles played out beautifully not only in Chef Aj’s recipe demonstrations, but with every single meal I ate at True North.  The breakfast, lunch, and dinner buffets all demonstrated how well you can eat with these guidelines in place.  If you need a place to clean your palate and reset your tastes – while eating of bountiful and delicious whole plant-based food –  True North is a good place to do it.

The Lectures

Aj and I had cooked up a plan to meet up at True North - here we are in the beautiful courtyard at TN..

Aj and I had cooked up a plan to meet up at True North – here we are in the beautiful courtyard at True North

I was fortunate to be at True North on a day when Dr. Goldhamer was giving the afternoon lecture.  His topic:  The 10 Most Important Things You Can Do to Get Healthy.  This presentation went on for over two hours – I had to leave for a the long drive home before the session closed and Dr. Goldhamer was staying put to answer every single question that came from those in attendance, making this session full of content and personal value for attendees.

In brief, here they are:

Dr. Goldhamer’s The 10 Most Important Things You Can Do to Get Healthy

1. Avoid chemicals, including the use of drugs and exposure to environmental toxins. This includes alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, other recreational drugs, over-the-counter and prescriptions drugs whenever possible, and environmental toxins including radiation, pesticides, herbicides, volatile organic compounds, heavy metals, etc.

2. Adopt a health promoting vegan diet, avoiding  meat, fish, fowl, eggs and DAIRY products.

3. Avoid the use of highly refined foods.  This includes added oil, salt, sugar and refined flour products.

4. Engage in regular whole body exercise.  20-60 minutes of moderate aerobic activity most every day is ideal.

5. Insure plentiful high quality sleep.  This means 7-9 hours of high quality sleep that is sufficient to allow you to wake spontaneously, feeling refreshed.

6. Obtain appropriate exposure to sunshine and fresh air.

7. Create a supportive social network with  the people you like and love.

8. Insure adequate vitamin B12, 1,000 mcg/day.

9. Fast when appropriate with guidance from a certified professional.

10. Educate and inspire yourself using the best quality materials available:  read, attend lectures, listen to audios – stay connected with the healthy message.

I don’t claim to be 100% on Goldhamer’s list, but I’m running pretty close at about 95%.  I’m still working on the sleep, getting enough sun in winter for the Vitamin D, for starters.

The Fasting

There were about 40 people in residence at True North when I visited, some of them undergoing supervised juice fasting, some water fasting, some doing a combination of juice, fruits and vegetables, and several people just like me – who came to enjoy some great eats and full meals while someone else did the kitchen prep.  Yes! I don’t claim to be any kind of expert about fasting, though I’ve done my share of water and juice fasting, primarily years ago.  At True North the emphasis is on supervised fasting and each person undergoing a fast goes through an extensive intake process to assess their need, take important bloodwork, and work closely with the staff to optimize the fast experience and benefit.  There is more information about fasting at the True North website.

The Experience


Humorr andd laughter come easily at True North. Here my friends Chef Aj and Lynda Kluck serenade Dr. Goldhamer with an original song prior to his presentation.

The True North experience is nothing short of excellent.  First, the staff went out of their way from the beginning to make sure I  was comfortable, had what I needed, and knew where everything was.  The accomodations are really nice and quite the bargain – for only $139 you can get a private room with a shared bath and that includes all meals during  your stay as well as program.  While there I attended the three hour cooking class, two hour long yoga classes, and Dr. Goldhammer’s presentation.  And when I left for the long drive home, the kitchen even prepared a take-out dinner for me of eggplant lasagne and pasta with pesto. For more about True North, or to book a stay, go to:

The Top Recipe Takeaway

OK, so there were several.  As a matter of fact, none of the ten dishes that Chef Aj prepared during her class would I leave at the table.  But I wanted to pick one to share with you.  Red lentil chili is a winner that I made easily at home in my Instant Pot, then froze to take on our trip to Lassen National Park for a perfect quick and satisfying dinner.  It breaks my ‘no more than 5 ingredients’ recipe rule – but then you have to realize that this makes a giant pot and carries the two of us for four meals.  I didn’t have chipotle powder and the recipe certainly didn’t suffer because of it!  Don’t feel you need to have an inventory of all ingredients to make this excellent concoction work.

Chef Aj’s  Red Lentil Chili

Serves 6-8.  This recipe has been published previously at Forks Over Knives and other locations all over the web, so I’m sure it’s fine to publish here as well – all credit to Chef Aj.


  • 2 ounces dates (approximately 9 Deglet Noor)
  • 1 pound red lentils
  • 7 cups water, divided
  • 2 14.5-ounce cans salt-free diced tomatoes (fire roasted preferred)
  • 1 6-ounce can salt-free tomato paste
  • 10 ounces chopped onion (approximately one large)
  • 1 pound red bell pepper, (approximately 2 large), finely chopped*
  • 8 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1½ tablespoons dried parsley
  • 1½ tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1½ tablespoons salt-free chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika (different than regular paprika)
  • ½ teaspoon chipotle powder (or more to taste)
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
  • scallions (for topping at the end)


Blend the dates in one cup of the water until smooth. Place all remaining ingredients in an electric pressure cooker and cook on high for 10 minutes. Alternatively, place all ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours. Sprinkle with chopped scallions and serve with baked tortilla chips or over a baked potato.

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