by Michelle Boudin
Pharmacist and cancer survivor Cheryl Hoover creates colorful, plant-based dishes that promote healthy eating.
When Cheryl Hoover and her husband first moved from Charleston, S.C., to Charlotte in 1993, their real-estate agent desperately tried to discourage them from buying the then-101-year-old Dilworth house they had fallen in love with on Euclid Avenue.
“It was in such disarray,” Hoover says. “We lived in the house without plumbing for nine months. We had one spigot that had cold water in the front that we used to brush our teeth, and we showered at the YMCA. It was basically like camping for a while, but we were young, and we didn’t have any kids.”
Almost 30 years later, Hoover says the now-renovated house is her haven. The home also serves as the backdrop for the stunning photos that fill her Instagram feed — photos of the food she eats as part of the healthy lifestyle she espouses.
Hoover, a trained pharmacist who studied at UNC Chapel Hill, started Pharmacy in Your Kitchen two years ago. Through her website and social media, she shares her own recipes and teaches people how to eat right for their bodies. Pre-Covid, she taught in-person cooking classes and even took people to grocery stores to learn how to shop for healthy meals. (Pro tips: Hoover says it’s important to stay on the perimeter of the store, and to buy food that doesn’t have an expiration date — if it does, she says, you shouldn’t eat it!)
The blog grew out of Hoover’s own quest to be healthy.
“A little over five years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. We did traditional treatment, but after it was over, I felt like I wanted to know that I was doing the best I could to keep the cancer from coming back.” The 59-year old mother of two started researching food and eventually got certified in plant-based nutrition.
“Originally, I was just feeding myself and my family that way, but I was passionate about helping cancer patients like me. And it’s not just about cancer — it’s about all chronic diseases. Everything is affected by our diets, and we can change the outcome by choosing what we put on our plate.”
Last year, Hoover teamed with local physician Hayes Woollen, chief medical officer at Healthgram, to write Healthy Living for A Sharper Mind. The book, released in May, features many of Hoover’s recipes. While the book focuses on using food to fight Alzheimer’s disease, she says the recipes are ideal for healthy living in general — even for her two daughters, who are 19 and 24.
“It’s kind of a wonderful thing — we don’t talk about carbs or calories. All we’re concerned about is where are the nutrients and the colors on the plate,” Hoover says. “When you load the plate that way — eating real food with fiber — you don’t have to worry about eating healthy, it just kind of happens. It’s so freeing.”
Hoover says she’s technically not a vegan or a vegetarian. Instead, she calls herself a “nutritarian.” A typical breakfast is a combination of nuts and berries and toast. Lunch is often a broth-based soup loaded with veggies and a salad topped with as many colors as possible. For dinner, she often cooks salmon and at least two vegetables.
Now in remission, Hoover says she feels great and considers her cancer diagnosis as something of a gift.
“I feel fantastic, and in a weird way getting cancer changed my life because I would not have started to pay attention — I was not paying attention to what I was eating.”
Follow Pharmacy in Your Kitchen on Instagram @pharmacy.in.your.kitchen and at pharmacyinyourkitchen.com. Healthy Living for a Sharper Mind is available at Paper Skyscraper, Park Road Books, Barnes & Noble and Amazon.
Recipe: Butternut squash salad
by Pharmacy in Your Kitchen
There are so many wonderful fruits and vegetables in the fall and winter seasons, and this salad showcases some of my favorites. The butternut squash is rich in color, fiber and phytonutrients (compounds believed to help prevent disease). The dressing uses the natural sweetness of dates, and the addition of a small amount of goat’s milk cheese adds a wonderful flavor that’s easier to digest than cheese made from cow’s milk. Top it off with pistachios and pomegranate seeds, and this salad will keep you focused all day.
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
1tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 cups salad greens of choice
2 cups sliced cabbage
2 Medjool dates, pitted and diced
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup pistachios, chopped
2 oz. goat cheese crumbled (optional)
For the dressing:
5 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 Medjool date, pitted
1 small clove of garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons water
Place the butternut squash on a large baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil over the squash, toss and season with salt and pepper. Bake at 450 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until browned around the edges. Set aside to cool slightly.
In a small bowl, mix the cumin, coriander, cinnamon and cayenne and set aside. Once the squash is cooled toss it with the spice mixture.
Make a dressing by mixing in a blender the remaining olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, date, garlic, cumin, salt and water. Toss the greens, cabbage and squash with about ½ of the dressing or to taste. Then add the remaining dates, pomegranates and pistachios, and lightly toss. Drizzle with more dressing if desired. Serve immediately with the goat cheese on the side, if desired.