Hi guys! I’m going to TRY (try is the operative word here, as it’s already week 2 and I’m barely getting this post together) and get out a weekly recap to you all about how schools going, as well as share with you all some helpful tips and insight as to what I’m learning, because I’m learning SO MUCH! I’m totally LOVING school, but I will admit that it’s a big adjustment, like HUGE adjustment! I’m literally hitting the pillow at 9:00 most nights and getting up extra early to get everything done before school, like dinner prep, recipe testing, working out, life admin, you get it. Oh, and did I mention the homework? Yes, there’s HOMEWORK, and lots of it! I have to remember that it’s going to take me a couple of weeks, or maybe a couple of months, to get in the groove of things, but I don’t regret it for a minute, because as exhausted as I am, I know I’m following the right path and made the right decision to go to natural chef school.
Ok, so let’s get to the fun stuff. First off, I’m in total awe of all of my teachers. They’re all so dynamic, experts in their field and have these amazing careers and businesses outside of school. They’re extreme multi-taskers, passionate entrepreneurs and they reaffirmed that I made the right decision in choosing this program.
As far as my classmates go, there are 24 of us, (we break up into groups of 12) and we all range in age, culinary backgrounds and skill levels, but one thing we have in common is that we all love good food and are super excited to learn about nutritional and holistic cooking. It’s funny when you see what everyone brings to lunch, because everything is made from scratch and uber healthy. My classmates are topping their lunch with nutritional yeast, hemp seeds, seaweed and all sorts of crazy things. I actually feel like the oddball with my cute little “normal” lunches.
I wanted to share with you all some interesting facts that I’ve picked up on from class so far. Some of these facts you may already know, but they were new to me, so I thought if they were new to me, then they might be new to some of you. Wow, that was a mouthful!
Aluminum foil: Don’t use aluminum foil for cooking. Cooking your meat or veggies directly on aluminum foil leaches aluminum into your food, so it’s a big NO, NO! Simple solution, use parchment paper instead! See, I’ve made the mistake in the past, so I just updated my “how to roast red peppers” post and told readers to switch over from foil to parchment paper. I actually just roasted a batch of red peppers on parchment paper the other day and they came out perfectly, so foil is not needed folks!
Rimmed baking sheets: Most commercial baking sheets (I think all of them actually) are made of heavy-duty aluminum, which like aluminum foil will leach into your food, so always line your rimmed baking sheets/sheet pans with parchment paper. For instance, if you’re roasting up sweet potato fries, cookies, chicken breasts or broccoli make sure to put a layer of parchment paper between the food and the baking sheet. The parchment paper prevents the aluminum from leaching into your food, so it’s basically a barrier.
I wanted to test this out because I know that certain things (like sweet potatoes) cook better on a well-oiled baking sheet, as they get crisper. I made up a batch of sweet potato fries and cooked them on the parchment paper instead of directly on the baking sheet, and I have to say that they turned out great, and the kids devoured them, so I’m a fan! Parchment paper is compostable, so you don’t have to feel too bad about using it.
Olive oil: First off, never buy olive oil in a clear plastic bottle because light destroys it and will make it go rancid, and the plastic will change the flavor as well. Also, don’t store your olive oil on the stove top because heat also destroys it. Olive oil should be purchased in a dark glass container and stored in a cool dark place. Remember this: heat + light destroy olive oil and most oils as well.
Interesting fact: Did you know that some supermarket brands of olive oil are not pure olive oil? They actually have canola oil in them? WHAT??? This totally shocked me, so read the labels carefully! I never really paid much attention to olive oil, but when I heard that, I was converted, and now I’m only going to buy and support the pure stuff. Pure extra virgin olive oil makes a world of difference, not only for health reasons, but it just tastes SO much better. I discovered an amazing local source for pure Olive Oil, Amphora Nueva. They have a couple of stores in the Bay area including a new store in San Anselmo, which is 2 towns away from me, yay! I’m noticing such a difference in my kale salad since purchasing this olive oil, and Zoe is a well. She asked me the other night if I chad hanged the recipe somehow because the salad tasted SO good, and I just told her that I changed up the olive oil.Omega-6 & Omega-3: It’s important to get a ratio of 2:1 when it comes to Omega-6 and Omega-3 (2 Omega-6 to 1 Omega-3) and the best sources are from actual food, not supplements. We tend to have a much higher ratio of Omega 6 in our diets and not enough Omega 3, which can lead to all sorts of problems, but I won’t go into detail as to what those problems are because I’m learning about it all, and don’t want to give you wrong info.
Good sources of Omega-6 are; olive oil, nuts, olives, avocado, avocado oil, grains and seeds.
Good sources of Omega-3 are; chia seeds, flax seeds, flax-seed oil (only purchase flax-seed oil that is sold in the refrigerated section and in dark bottles, as flax-seed oil will go rancid when exposed to heat and light) hemp seeds, fatty cold water fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines.
So with all that being said, I went a bit crazy the next day at lunch. I topped some toasted Dave’s killer bread (I had 2 slices incase anyone is wondering) with a smashed avocado, coarse sea salt, hemp seeds and raw sunflower seeds. Wow, it was an amazing lunch, and I was licking my plate clean! The hemp and sunflower seeds added a great crunchy texture and a salty and nutty flavor. Oats: Did you know that oats are naturally gluten-free? They don’t contain gluten in their natural form. They’re typically processed in facilities that also process wheat and other gluten grains, so there’s where the gluten comes into play. So that’s why you pay more for gluten-free oats, because they have to be processed at a certified facility that only processes them alone. Basically the only difference between regular oats and gluten-free oats is the facility where they are processed. Pretty cool!
I’ve also been topping my overnight steel-cut oats with a tablespoon or two of raw whole flaxseeds, (I’ve just learned that we need to grind them first for better absorption, (see we’re learning new things every day) but it’s better to grind them fresh with a spice grinder than to buy ground flaxseed, but do what you gotta do, it’s all good in the end) paired with strawberries and almond butter! The flaxseeds add a great crunchy texture to the oats. LOVE THEM! I’ve even been tossing in some ground flaxseed into Zoe’s morning yogurt parfait, and chia seeds into Eli’s morning oats. Both kids are digging them, and don’t mind the addition! AWESOME! Yes, I still drink a cup or two of black coffee, but it’s all about balance, right?
Speaking of balance, I ate so well last week that Eli and I treated ourselves to a cupcake from Kara’s Cupcakes in Palo Alto last weekend during his soccer tournament. Oh my gosh, those cupcakes are the BOMB! I’m so getting the recipe and making them. I had the chocolate one with the coconut frosting, so good! I’m still dreaming about that cupcake. Nuts: I’m sure most of you know this, but you should store your nuts in the refrigerator, as they will last longer. Also buy your nuts raw and toast/roast them yourself, as most store-bought toasted/roasted nuts are over-toasted. Raw nuts have a longer shelf life as well.
End note: Basically what I keep hearing is that we need to have a varied and balanced diet. It’s important for us to diversify our food (not to just eat kale all the time) and eat seasonally and organically when possible. We should also vary the way we cook our food as well. Also, it’s better to get our vitamins and nutrients from natural whole food sources that to take vitamins or supplements. The absorption rate of over the counter vitamins is 10%, which is pretty lame.
I hope to get some recipes out to you all soon, but I honestly haven’t had too much time to get creative in the kitchen, as I’ve been too busy with this whole readjustment process. I’ve been making quick, easy and healthy dishes such as these One-pan Mexican quinoa wraps.I’ve also been making and eating tons of these gluten-free healthy cookie bites, as I find myself needing a bit of a mid-day sweet while at school to keep me energized! SO GOOD!I hope you all have an amazing weekend, and for those of you that have been coming up to me in the grocery store or on the street to say hi and introduce yourselves, keep doing that! I honestly love meeting you all in person! It’s so wonderful to meet local readers! It seriously makes my day! 🙂