Functional Nutrition Chef・Culinary Educator・Herbalist・Food + Plant Nerd
Karina Hines is a total food nerd who trusts in the healing power of plants. An Australian-born farmer’s daughter, Karina grew up in the kitchen and garden of her family’s farm in Drake, New South Wales, Australia. Her connection with the earth and its bounty has been with Karina from inception, greatly informing her cooking style as a chef and her seasonal approach to food.
With over twenty years of experience as a chef focusing on healthy food, she has a diverse knowledge of the relationship between the food we eat and how it impacts our health.
Karina spent over a decade in Europe and the Mediterranean, working as a chef in homes and aboard sailing yachts before moving to Boston, Massachusetts, where she established a private chef and consulting business. A firm believer in the healing power of plants, Karina founded Botanical Kitchen, where she develops culinary programs with workshops and creates weekly menus and recipes focusing on functional nutrition. She collaborates with farms, food, and lifestyle medicine communities and currently resides in Portland, Maine.
A lifetime student of food, plants and health, she is a functional nutrition counsellor, herbalist and an avid gardener. She believes that good health and great taste begin in the soil. She advocates for regenerative and biodynamic farming practices which grow food that give us the most nutritional bang for our bite.
Karina had her own health crises at a young age that laid the foundation for her career and passion for using food as medicine. She intimately knows the vital role that food plays in restoring and maintaining vibrant health. Committed to supporting people with therapeutic diets, Karina creates sensible and affordable recipes that are adaptable to people with food allergies and dietary needs. She lists ingredient swaps and substitutions, so her recipes are accessible and honour food preferences.
Botanical Kitchen was born out of Karina’s drive to share her knowledge, passion and energy to help people obtain vibrant health through food. Karina loves eating local, seasonal, flavorful food and believes everyone can become a good cook.
“Cooking is one of the greatest acts of love and self-care. Nourishing food is the best medicine and one of the greatest gifts you can give and receive.“ – Karina Hines.
Q&A with Botanical Kitchen founder Karina Hines.
Why did you decide to become a chef?
Food and cooking make sense to me. It’s instinctual and in my nature. My grandmother was a brilliant cook. I grew up in her kitchen and garden eating farm-to-table before farm-to-table was cool. I love cooking; it is an endless source of joy, discovery, inspiration and creativity. After you have cooked, you get to eat, and I love to eat!
What led you to focus specifically on healthy food?
I was pretty sick from years of infections and stress-related illnesses treated with antibiotics in my late teens. I went to a naturopath who helped me reclaim my health with herbs and radical dietary changes. It was a potent life lesson at a very young age about the power of food and its relationship to our health and well-being.
How does eating processed food impact our health?
Processed food creates inflammation, affecting our natural ability to detoxify and regenerate. It spikes our blood sugar, causes hormonal and biological imbalances and weakens our immune systems leaving us vulnerable to dis-ease. Inflammation is at the root of all diseases.
Why is regenerative farming important?
We have a health & environmental crisis in our world today! Nutrition begins in the soil. Today’s standard farming practices pour chemicals, pesticides and plastics into our soil, water and food systems which are having a detrimental impact on our health and environment. Regenerative agricultural practices restore soil and water health to grow chemical-free, vibrant food.
Why is buying locally grown food so important?
When we buy from local farmers, we are reinvesting in our own local food security, economy, environment and personal health.
What if you can’t buy locally or do not have access to fresh food?
I think we all have to do the best that we can. Buying frozen fruits and vegetables is great; they are as nutrient-dense as buying fresh, sometimes more so, as they are harvested in peak season and immediately frozen.
Buy as many fruits and vegetables as possible and grow what you can in your backyards, containers around your home and your local community gardens.
Why is choosing our ingredients and cooking at home important?
Because what companies are putting in our food these days is crazy! You only have to read food labels; you can see there are too many ingredients, many of which we don’t really understand what they are or even how to pronounce them.
We live in a world with a silent pandemic of chronic diseases and food allergies that is partly due to how the food we eat is grown, engineered, processed and packaged. By cooking for ourselves with simple whole ingredients, we are better able to manage what we eat and have an active role in our own healthcare and strengthen our immune systems.
Our health is our wealth! What we eat has a huge impact on our body and mind. It impacts how we feel, our mood and our spirit. There is ever-increasing evidence as to just how foundational nutrition is to maintaining good physical and mental health. By cooking our own meals with simple, straightforward ingredients, we are able to better understand how food impacts our health and take steps to support and nourish our own bodies.
Why did you create Botanical Kitchen?
- To help small farm supporters and customers learn how to cook healthy, local, and in-season food.
- To bridge the gap between lifestyle medicine practitioners and patients with how-to, make significant dietary changes.
- To help people with food allergies, health concerns and dis-ease become empowered in their own healing journey.
- To help small farm supporters and customers learn how to cook healthy, local, and in-season food.
Why does Botanical Kitchen focus on anti-Inflammatory diets, food allergies & dietary needs?
Inflammation is at the root of all dis-ease. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet helps reduce inflammation and manage symptoms which is a foundational part of the healing journey. Food allergy symptoms are the body’s response to inflammation.
Change is hard, and making dietary changes is challenging; figuring out what to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner with dietary restrictions is hard and can feel punishing. “I am all about nourishing, not punishing” with my extensive education and experience, I have the skill set to really help guide people with the “how-to” of making the changes they want to make by providing menus, meal ideas and recipes with adaptations.
“ I offer practical examples of what breakfast, lunch & dinner looks like using sensible ingredients to help people succeed in their health goals.”
One of my goals is for Botanical Kitchen to make it easy and affordable for people who have health concerns to make the much-needed dietary changes they want to make so I offer my membership at a very reasonable price of $9 / month.
Tell us about your monthly memberships, weekly menus, meal ideas and newsletter.
I founded Botanical Kitchen to offer monthly memberships with weekly recipes with meal ideas that follow the growing seasons to help bridge the gap between the farmer and the consumer with “how to” cook local, in-season ingredients.
The recipes are affordable, sensible and adaptable for people with food allergies and dietary requirements. Through the membership, I share my knowledge each week to help people cook in-season with confidence and use food as medicine to support vibrant health.
Botanical Kitchen helps us focus on our health every day, cook in-season ingredients and support our local farms and a sustainable food system.
As a chef, how do you help people cook? How do you make “healthy taste great” using alternative ingredients and methods? For example, cooking without oil, gluten or refined sugar?
The recipes I create for Botanical Kitchen taste great! Dietary changes and healthy food doesn’t have to be bland and boring! Each recipe is easy to follow, with visual galleries and step-by-step instructions. The instructional ingredient boards are helpful for both kitchen novices and seasoned chefs. Botanical Kitchen gives you the “how-to” skills using lots of full flavours and textures.
I am a food nerd, and I love a food challenge; I have dedicated decades to my craft and vast amounts of time in that heady chef space of understanding what each ingredient does in a recipe and then using my creative flare to re-invent classic recipes using alternate ingredients without losing the taste, integrity, flavour and mouthfeel of the dish.
I understand cooking, ingredients, flavours and textures and how they act and react in a dish. When you take away an ingredient like oil, you must replace it with an alternative ingredient or technique to create a great dish ~ I have learnt how to do that. One of the things that constantly inspires my deep love of cooking is that I learn something new every day, there is always something to learn, and the plants are great teachers.
How do you approach creating recipes?
When I create a dish, I am thinking about getting the most “nutritional bang for your bite” and using a core set of pantry ingredients so it makes sense. I think about the plants, their benefits, and who and what the dish is for. I want to balance flavours and textures, time, practicality and affordability with nutrient density and make it taste great – it’s a multi-layered approach.
What does Eat to THRIVE mean?
It means eating nourishing food to support your body. It means eating a rainbow array of colourful and vibrant plants every day to help balance your health and wellness. Eating to thrive is intentional eating which is the opposite of just eating “whatever” processed, life-dulling foods.
It is the ultimate empowerment of each individual who wants to choose nutrient-dense food to experience the benefits of eating vibrant foods, feeling great and thriving.
What are some of your favourite ingredients?
Fresh produce straight from the farmers’ markets or gardens feeds my soul ~ sea salt flakes, black pepper, scallions, citrus, berries, passionfruit, lots of herbs & spices, tomatoes, rocket, leafy greens and beans of any kind & colour, potatoes, pumpkin, miso, chilli, salted roasted pistachios, honey, cacao, pure dark chocolate, wine – I could go on...
Beyond Botanical Kitchen – what do you like to do with your time?
I love stand-up paddleboarding! Going to yoga, barre and pilates classes and walking is part of my routine. I feel very much at home on the water, from ponds and lakes to rivers and oceans. I’m a gypsy at heart. I love road trips, travelling and discovering new places. I love plants, gardens and the natural world. I love music. Sharing great food and drinks with friends nourishes my soul.
Shared Experiences and Kind Words
Best present ever!
Taking a class with you on my birthday was the best present I ever gave myself! You have changed the way I see food!
Thank you for your inspiration
Karina’s down to earth, and relatable personality was spot-on when giving an incredibly educational cooking demonstration at my home! She takes all of those nutritional dense foods you hear about and turns them into completely approachable masterpieces that are beyond delicious; it is so motivational to try them on your own. My kitchen became a haven of piles of colorful vegetables, herbs, fruits and berries! I am happy to say whenever I repeat her recipes; they come out just as delicious! Thank you for your inspiration!!
“Eating is an event and a celebration and Karina’s layered garden salads with flower petals and herbs are the sparkling party starters.”
Note from a happy party goer
Shaking up your run-of-the-mill muffin
“I’ve cooked from several of the recipes from Botanical Kitchen and they always surprise me with unexpected ingredients pairings that make for subtle and complex flavors. Absolutely worth shaking up your run-of-the-mill muffin and cookie recipes.”
Breadth of Knowledge
“Hines’ breadth of knowledge of all things to do with healthy eating is astonishing. Everything from soil health, through sustainable growing practices, to cooking and eating delicious, health-supporting food and herbs – it’s all on her radar. Know too that Karina Hines is an artist. Not only does her food taste good, not only is it good for you, it’s also absolutely beautiful. Hines has a way of combining delicious ingredients to maximize their nutritive value while beguiling you with colors and textures that make you want to eat her food.”
“Several years ago, I woke up with mysterious pains in almost every muscle in my body, and it wasn’t going away. My doctor diagnosed fibromyalgia, but I was wary of the recommended treatments which addressed the symptoms but were not a cure. I called Karina. The fibromyalgia was brought on by stress, menopause and a chronic lack of self-care, and it resulted in insomnia and widespread inflammation. Karina cautioned me that it had taken me about a year to get myself into this state – it would likely take that long to get out. She recommended immediately eliminating inflammatory foods and using herbs and teas to detox and aid in sleep. She explained what was happening in the body when it is in a state of inflammation as well as why and how each of these dietary recommendations would help. With Karina’s advice and a variety of lifestyle changes around exercise and meditation, just over eleven months later, I was symptom-free and have continued to be so ever since.”
“I am so grateful to have experienced Karina’s approach to “food as medicine”. I have been honored to attend her classes, enjoy her recipes and have her thoughtful insight into my eating habits. I first met Karina at one of her fabulous classes hosted by a mutual friend. She is a kind person and so willing to share her knowledge, that when I faced a tough recovery after minor knee surgery I turned to her for her insight. Many months after surgery I was struggling with inflammation which was significantly slowing my healing. Karina showed me which foods would help reduce my inflammation and within a week the inflammation went down and I could move more easily which led to an increase in strength. I turn to Karina’s healing recipes and foods as often as I can and know that if I am struggling with my health Karina will lead me down the right path. Forever grateful”
Delights all the senses
“Karina’s passion for healthy, nutrient-dense food infuses her cooking, which delights all the senses. She made an unforgettable salad for a class she taught with flower petals strewn colorfully over shiny blackberries and minty cucumbers. It is always a joy to work with someone so enthusiastic and knowledgeable.”
“I was invited to a cooking demonstration last night, that was amazing! Highly recommend Karina and her cooking wisdom.”
“There is no one doing what Karina at Botanical Kitchen is doing. Her attention to detail and care with which she imparts information is at a level we don’t usually see. Karina is sought after for sound information, that while very deep, drawing on years of study, research, and varied experience is brought back to the student, and we leave with usable, practical tools for our own lives.”
One of a kind
“Karina’s cooking is colorful, seasonal, delicious, thoughtful and absolutely good for you! Watching her make magic with herbs and vegetables is joyful. The first time I took a class with her, I was speechless as I watched her casually make miracles! She is one of a kind!“
Joy at the table
“Freshly sourced ingredients and innovative recipes―all the joy necessary at the table.”
Eat to Thrive
“Karina’s holistic approach links how and what we eat to our overall well-being.”
“Your food is delicious, I love the recipes and they work!”
Private Cooking Class
“What a unique and fun experience! Thank you so much for your donation.”
Foods to Help Balance Hormones
“Karina is an amazing person and chef. She is extremely knowledgeable about food and how it fuels your body. Her innovative recipes are delicious and packed with a ton of nutrients that your body needs.”
Cooking with Medicinal Herbs
“I learned about incorporating medicinal plants in the cooking of grains and beans from Karina Hines, an extraordinary natural chef and herbalist.”
Lean Clean & Green Workshop
“I cook a lot and read about cooking all the time. I didn’t know I could have so much to learn! Your class was excellent. You introduced me to so many new foods and methods of preparing them. I also appreciated the information about the nutritional values of various foods that you gave throughout the workshop. And I’ll definitely be checking out the sources that you mentioned.Thanks so much for an evening well spent. I feel motivated to modify the way I cook and eat.”